Q&A: A USF president’s first two months in office

1.How would you describe your first summer at USF?

I continue to be inspired by the audacious aspirations of this university. USF has emerged as the most promising public institution in the nation. I’m honored to lead the university into the next chapter in its evolution and to build on our momentum.

My wife, Cheyenne, and I are very grateful to the community for such a warm welcome to the Tampa Bay region. We have received many wonderful recommendations of fun things to do from USF students, faculty, staff and alumni – many of which can be found in the summer issue of USF Magazine. Tampa Bay, and USF, are fantastic and we are looking forward to getting to know the community even more closely in the year to come.

2.How are you liking the Lifsey House thus far?

Cheyenne and I are thrilled to be living in the Lifsey House. We are grateful to be able to be so immersed in campus life. For me, the presidency is more than just a job. It is an all-encompassing, personal life mission that requires devoting all of my time and energy to this university. I want to be engaged in the campus in every way possible.

3.Can students approach you on campus and take pictures?

Of course, I look forward to engaging with students often. I want our students to know that their success will always be a top priority for USF, and decisions are made with their interests in mind. I am also active on social media, which I hope will provide additional opportunities to engage with students on a day-to-day basis.

4.What were some challenges in your new role that you’ve overcome?

The reunification of our three campuses into a single accredited university is a very significant task to tackle right away. But to me, it’s something that presents far more opportunities than challenges. Reunification gives us the chance to reimagine what USF can be and the impact we can make on the broader Tampa Bay region. We’re making important progress as we move forward in the process.

5. What are you excited for in the fall?

I am eager to get to know more members of our community and hear everyone’s ideas, especially from our students.

I’m also excited about the many student activities I have the privilege of participating in as president, including our homecoming celebration, athletic events, arts performances, service activities and so many others. At USF, there are so many ways to engage with our community.

6.How has it been working with students on all of the campuses?

My first interactions with our students have been wonderful. I have been deeply impressed by the levels of intelligence, engagement, enthusiasm and excitement our students have for this university.

On my first day, I visited with the student governments on each of our campuses.

7. Are there any memorable moments that stand out this summer?

In early August, I had the honor of leading our summer commencement ceremonies in Tampa and St. Petersburg. We conferred more than 3,000 degrees, including graduates from 48 states and 79 nations. Earning a degree is a goal shared by all of our students, and our graduation ceremonies can serve as a joyous reminder of how our university community is comprised of a fascinating and diverse fabric of individuals who inspire each other to reach even greater heights.

I also had a unique opportunity recently to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. It was a memorable experience shared with our passionate alumni who were in attendance to celebrate USF Day at the Rays. It took me back to my days playing baseball as a young person, something that instilled in me the values of teamwork, commitment and self-discipline. See my Twitter page for the video recap of the first pitch. 

8.What can students look forward to this school year?

Since 2013, USF is the fastest rising university in the country on U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of best colleges. We could not have achieved this distinction without the dedication of our students and our world-class faculty. We are only just beginning.

I encourage every student to take advantage of all the activities, programs and resources offered across the university. Whether it’s by living on campus, joining a student organization, or attending USF athletic events, students are more likely to be successful if they are engaged and experience a sense of community. Helping you succeed is the reason why faculty, staff, and administrators work so hard every day. I wish to thank each of you for everything you do to contribute to USF’s mission. Have a terrific year.