Welcome to the Inaugural Class of UF’s Innovation Academy
Women and men of the very first class of the Innovation Academy, welcome to the University of Florida. We have been waiting for you! And welcome, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family and friends. We know your love for these students helped them reach this first day of college, and we are glad you are here to enjoy this moment with them.
I want to begin by sharing the same sentiments that I share with all of our entering students. Congratulations! You made it. You are members of the Class of 2016 and our newest Florida Gators!
Could I hear some applause for these new students? Thank you.
Students, you have earned every right to be proud of your achievement and excited about your future at UF. Yet, it’s understandable if you feel a few butterflies.
Unlike generations of 18- or 19-year-olds before you, you begin your first semester in the spring rather than the fall. And, out of this year’s enrollment of 49,955 traditional students, you are among just 331 brave souls who have elected to participate in this spring-summer Innovation Academy – a new program that is unprecedented in this country.
I want to assure you that our faculty and staff support the Innovation Academy and are fully committed to making it a success. I also know that it’s never easy to choose a new and different path. So, let me try to calm down those butterflies by sharing the sentiments of a true authority on new and different paths, the late Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder.
“It’s more fun,” Steve Jobs once remarked, “to be a pirate than to join the Navy.”
No one doubts that the traditional college experience … the “Navy” as Jobs would see it … is overdue for radical change. We can see the seeds of this change in the outcry over student debt, the growth of online education and new demands for universities to prepare students for successful careers.
Old ideas about what defines college are on the way out. Here at UF, you are what Steve Jobs would describe as the “pirates” – the people who will shape the new ideas.
One of those ideas is the spring-summer schedule. If you and your class prove this concept a success, it will encourage other universities to remain open, active and filled with students for more of the calendar year. Today, because of the limited number of spots for students attending in the spring-fall semesters, many qualified students are turned away from public universities. Because of you, we will admit more students with no sacrifice to our quality.
The emphasis on innovation may also bring needed change.
Many of the nation’s most famous college-age entrepreneurs … Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to name just three … only became successful after they took a non-traditional path. They left the traditional college experience to strike out on their own.
Gainesville’s innovation community is thriving, with dozens of fast-moving startups headed by UF graduates. This is the right time, and Gainesville is the right place, to begin a new page in this history.
We expect you to get involved with these innovators. You will have the opportunity to take the classes needed to graduate and become innovators.
With the Innovation Academy, we have the chance to make sure the next generation of successful entrepreneurs are current college students … Innovation Academy students … I hope many of you!
As I wrap up, I want to note that the Innovation Academy will not be the first new program with the capacity to reshape college for the better. In fact, UF started another new program nearly a century ago that proved to have exactly that influence.
That program was summer school.
Launched 99 years ago this fall, summer school was unique in one very important respect beyond its summer schedule. In 1913, only men were allowed to attend regular college. From the outset, however, UF’s summer school program admitted women.
Because of summer school, UF graduated its first woman all the way back in 1920. That was a full 27 years before the university officially became coeducational and began admitting women to its regular fall-spring academic year.
Today, of course, women outnumber men at the University of Florida and on most college campuses. Equal access and opportunity are foundations of our public universities – and our state and society are much the better for this transformation.
Who knows what antiquated conventions and traditions you, our Innovation Academy “pirates,” will overturn? Who knows what new ideas you will establish … or innovate? I, for one can’t wait to find out! Thank you and have a great first year!