‘I thought I knew a lot about USF’

Though he has served many roles at USF in the past, Mike Griffin is now in new territory leading consolidation efforts. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ PORT TAMPA BAY

He is no stranger to USF. In fact, he served as a two-term student body president and was an instrumental figure in getting the financing approved for the current Marshall Student Center. However, Mike Griffin said his new role as chair of the USF Consolidation Task Force is furthering his knowledge of the university system as a whole.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Griffin said in an interview with The Oracle. “Certainly, I’ve learned a lot through this process. I thought I knew a lot about USF. I’ve been heavily involved with USF since I was a student, but I’ve learned a lot and it’s all been very, very good.”

Griffin, who is currently the senior managing director for Savills Studley Occupier Services — a commercial real estate services firm specializing in tenant representation — served as student body president from 2001-03.

Since earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Griffin has served in numerous positions at USF and in the Tampa Bay community, including as a former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, a charter member of the USF Board of Trustees and as a guest lecturer at USF and Hillsborough Community College, according to Savills Studley’s website. Griffin also assisted USF with creating an inaugural master’s degree program in Real Estate.

Now, as chair of this significant task force that is leading USF’s three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee — to operate under a single accreditation by 2020, Griffin said the forward momentum will not be interrupted, despite his abrupt appointment.

“There’s been no hiccups thus far and I do not anticipate there being any largely because this has been such a task-force-member-driven initiative … So the good news is that we’re able to seamlessly continue and it just so happens that I shared one of those three subcommittees that was heavily involved with some of these major items that we’re working on right now,” Griffin said.

The three subcommittees — student access, shared governance/transparency and student success/academic programs/campus identity — were all tasked with handing in recommendations to the overall Consolidation Task Force last year, who also have a deadline to turn in final recommendations to the USF Board of Trustees by Feb. 15.

“The task force has been hard at work for quite some time,” Griffin said. “A very large and, I would say, unprecedented, amount of outreach to the community has been happening. So, really it’s a culmination now of taking all of that feedback from the community, from stakeholders, from our three subcommittees and putting them into these final recommendations and delivering them to the Board of Trustees next month.”

Griffin formerly served as chair of the Student Success/Academic Programs/Campus Identity subcommittee before being appointed to his new position on Dec. 13. According to a press release announcing the change, Debbie Sembler, has taken over Griffin’s former role.

The former chair of the task force, Jonathan Ellen, promptly resigned in early December following revelations of major safety issues at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where Ellen served as CEO.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Ellen’s resignation occurred after its investigation that revealed the mortality rates for patients having heart surgeries increased dramatically, becoming this highest in the state.

Within the same week, after this vacancy was left in the task force’s highest leadership position, the Board of Governors named Griffin as the chair.

“My goal is to continue to find ways where this (consolidation) is a benefit to all and a benefit to each campus and I’m confident we’re moving in that direction,” Griffin said.

Griffin, being a former student himself, said that some of these benefits include an increased degree value, more course and degree offerings and the accessibility of a USF education with pathways through other state colleges even as USF’s admission requirements become stricter.

“This is all about students,” Griffin said. “This is all about student success. That’s why we’re here.”