USF World Takes Shape

Karen Holbrook, Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Global Affairs, talks about her vision for USF World.


By Amanda Gilmer

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (May 12, 2011) – In November 2010 Karen Holbrook was charged with heading up international initiatives for the University of South Florida. With the addition of this role she now oversees the Office of Research & Innovation and USF World (formerly International Affairs) to create an integrated, system-wide global research strategy for the university.


USF is one of the fastest growing research universities in the nation, classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in the top tier of research universities, a highly selective distinction for any university. Under Holbrook’s leadership, the Office of Research & Innovation has seen tremendous growth and multiple successes that include creating a more faculty centric support system for identifying funding, grant development, international travel, grant management and overall support. TRAIN ™ (The Research Administration Improvement Network) was created to teach professional competencies and skills to administrators who are involved in research related enterprises, but it is also designed for faculty to gain skills to pursue and manage their own research activities. Other successes include the founding of the National Academy of Inventors™ and the USF inaugural chapter.

As Holbrook begins the exciting task of reorganizing and building the international structure for USF several changes have already taken place. First, the departments under the USF World umbrella now include: Education Abroad, International Services, the Confucius Institute, the Center for India Studies, the Peace Corps Office, the Institute on Black Life, the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC), and the Africa Initiatives Faculty Group.

Secondly, Holbrook has appointed senior leadership to oversee USF World. Reporting directly to Holbrook are two Associate Vice President’s, Roger Brindley overseeing Global Academic Programs, and María Crummett who will oversee Global Affairs. Crummett previously served as Dean of International Affairs. Holbrook has also identified Kiki Caruson, Research Administration Faculty Fellow, to be a liaison between Research and World.

USF World has begun this new transition by adding new positions including an International Risk and Security Analyst who will serve as a resource for students, parents, faculty, staff and administrators regarding safety, and security abroad. This position will fall under the Office of Education Abroad. Another change for Education Abroad is the designation of space in the Marshall Center for a ‘store front’. This space and visibility will help Education Abroad reach out more effectively to their target audience, students.

Over the last six months USF World has started work on several new initiatives including a special collaboration with Academic Affairs and MacDill Air Force Base to provide additional opportunities between USF and MacDill. The collaboration is spearheaded by Lt. Gen. Martin Steele, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.).

In the works are several projects including creating an international student recruitment strategy and developing stronger partnerships with internationally engaged offices across campus like INTO USF. Holbrook and her team are thinking big.

Below is an interview with the Senior VP which gives more insight into USF World.

What is USF World?
Holbrook: USF World is the unification of research and our international agenda. The connection between the Office of Research and Innovation and USF World is easy to make as research partnerships underpin the majority of our international collaborations. It is through our strengths and our unique capabilities in research that we “sell” our university to partners abroad; it is through our faculty connections that we forge our strongest relationships, and it is through our research credibility and output that attract international students. Education and research are a combined enterprise…not one or the other, and together they are USF’s strategy to help maintain U.S. competitiveness

What is the first step for USF World under this new structure?
Holbrook: We need to get more intelligence about what we are already doing. USF has exceptional connections and activities throughout the world; we must become aware of what our faculty does overseas and emphasize the extraordinary contributions our students and faculty make in research and scholarship across the globe. Getting our arms around our current international activities and relationships – truly understanding the depth of our global interactions – is crucial to USF being a Global Research University.

What is the vision for USF World?
Holbrook: Global research universities build their futures by being fiercely competitive, but they are also committed to collaboration and cooperation. In addition to the traditional study abroad, student and faculty exchanges, curricular offerings with an added international component, and joint and dual degree programs, USF World will include collaborative research, joint research, internships, service learning experiences and outreach and engagement beyond our state and nation.

What are some of the key projects USF World will tackle?
Holbrook: We’re currently looking at the development of housing for international visitors, hiring an international attorney, ways to enhance faculty services, a global scholars certificate for students who have completed a certain number of hours in international programs/activities, the development of databases to use as a resource – for example a database of international faculty research and contacts, development of a person or office that can provide information about funding sources for working internationally, programs to help faculty and students who want to work abroad, identify new funding mechanisms to help seed internal research programs (in addition to GAP). The list continues to grow.

How does faculty fit in to USF World?
Holbrook: Faculty have been engaged in research, innovation, commercialization, partnerships and collaboration outside of our country for as long as faculty have been involved in research, but what is new is adding research as a primary driver for our international programming overall. It is the research problems that are integrating, that provide real world experiences that bring together people from different cultures with ease. The collaborative activities of faculty and their graduate students are perhaps the best way to continually grow our international relationships. USF World aims to find ways to support these ever-critical faculty initiatives. The faculty are our strength.

How do you see USF World’s role in the University System?
Holbrook: USF World will provide assistance to international students and faculty studying and working at USF System institutions. Currently many of the departments in USF already provide some measure of support for initiatives like study abroad, signing international agreements and facilitating international scholars. Each of our regional institutions has important international connections and each adds to and broadens our diverse activities.

How will USF World and Research work together?
Holbrook: Research experiences typically take students (and faculty) outside of the large university and the urban environment, into small communities where there is a real opportunity to experience the culture – where students and community members alike become teachers and learners.

USF has recently created an Office of Innovation Partnerships with the goal of connecting our investigators and students with the businesses and enterprises world-wide. There are opportunities for students to engage in international internships and for students and faculty to connect with multinational companies. The office of Research & Innovation is also thinking with us as to how to support “World.” Our goal is to hire some senior research administrators who will specifically focus on how to enhance and support our global research activities.

Paint a picture of USF World in the next 5 to 10 years.
Holbrook: To be truly competitive, USF World must include the talent in our Offices of Research and Innovation, Communications, Information Technology, USF Libraries, Governmental Relations, Business and Finance, Legal Counsel, Development, and even Athletics. Essentially USF World will play a role in every unit on campus.