On Thursday, I will deliver the annual State of the University address to the Faculty Senate. This address typically covers the university’s milestones and accomplishments in the past year and opportunities and challenges for the current year.
I often have charts and graphs showing trends and projections. However, this year, I’m taking a different approach. I’m simply asking the question “What’s next?”
We have reached a number of significant and transformational milestones:
- Our philanthropic campaign crossed the halfway mark toward its $3 billion goal. Only six public universities have ever had a $3 billion goal, and UF will blow past its goal ahead of schedule.
- We had 41,000 applications for 6,800 positions in this year’s freshmen class, up 18 percent from the record year before.
- The university grew its faculty by 250 last year and is on schedule to add a total of 500 faculty. This will allow smaller class sizes and bring UF even greater prestige through faculty accomplishments in scholarship, research and creativity.
- Numerous current faculty members won international acclaim last year, including a Pulitzer Prize. Research awards reached an all-time record of $837 million, up over $100 million from last year.
- Finally, the university now owns a place among the top-10 ranked public research universities.
In light of such milestones, I am asking, how should our university change?
Certainly, we have staked our future on becoming ranked as a top-five public research university. We know what that will take and have a plan to accomplish it.
In addition, in 2015 we established a set of seven university-level goals and an overarching aspiration that we are working to achieve: “The University of Florida will be a premier university that the state, nation and world look to for leadership.” (The “Decade Ahead” strategic plan is available on the UF president’s website.) We also track dozens of metrics against our peers and have plans to enhance UF’s position in those metrics – for example, increasing the size of our endowment, four-year graduation rates, compensation for employees and the number of significant awards won by faculty.
Even with extensive efforts, significant change often occurs slowly. In 1947, UF President J. Hillis Miller proclaimed for the first time that UF was destined to “take its place among the ten or twelve great state universities of the country.” It took 70 years to reach that goal.
What do each of us want our university to accomplish or change in the next year, the next ten years or even the next 70 years? And what should NOT change about our beloved university?
A few things I love about UF and don’t want to change include that the students, faculty and staff care about and love one another. I want that support and love for each other to grow, even as UF adds to its stature.
I appreciate that we have both world-class athletics and academics – and that UF is intentionally and intensely comprehensive, with a major academic health center. With our land-grant heritage, we were founded with a vision of making a difference in the lives of all people. I also value that we have goals, aspirations and dreams for the future.
If you are new to our university family, then I extend my warmest welcome. For both new and returning students, I ask that you consider what you want to accomplish this academic year, as well as your goals for the next 10 years, and even the next 70 years. I believe UF is a place where our greatest dreams and aspirations become reality.
If you have thoughts on what you want UF to accomplish or even your own aspirations for the future, I would love to hear from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is, and always will be, great to be a Florida Gator!