Wilcox Addresses Faculty
Provost cites USF’s accomplishments and faculty’s commitment to excellence and strategic initiatives in Fall Address.
By USF News
TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2011) – University of South Florida Provost Ralph Wilcox delivered his Fall Address to faculty Thursday afternoon, urging “nimble action” to be innovative and succeed in tough economic times that are challenging public universities across the country.
“While budget shortfalls and continuing economic uncertainty are a reality in Florida and beyond, we must accept responsibility for taking public higher education to the next level,” Wilcox said, addressing the group at the university’s new Interdisciplinary Science Teaching & Research Facility building.
State funding has fallen from 72 percent in 2007, to 59 percent in the current academic year. Tuition increases do not offset state funding cuts, and USF remains committed to aggressive budget planning, including being efficient and seeking out new revenue streams.
“Our laser-like focus and discipline around strategic priorities, combined with fiscal belt-tightening, has resulted in a remarkable record of institutional progress over the past three years as we held true to recruiting, retaining and rewarding our most precious asset – our students, staff and faculty,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox pointed to accomplishments USF has garnered in the recent past – prestigious awards to faculty and students; its ranking as a global research university; and USF being ninth in the world among universities granted U.S. patents last year.
The university’s focus on the Student Success initiative has gathered steam under the leadership of Vice Provost Paul Dosal, Wilcox said, but ownership of the initiative must be embraced by all to make it part of the university’s fabric.
On Friday, Wilcox said, he’s welcoming in the charter class of Provost’s Scholars, exceptional students who have signed on to complete college in three years, resulting in cost saving to students and an accelerated track to wage earner.
“The good news is that we’re making a real difference in the lives of our students,” Wilcox said. “Student academic profiles, retention and graduation rates all show signs of significant improvement and we expect to see lower student debt and higher levels of student satisfaction as this important work continues.”
As the country continues to deal with a stagnant economy and choking recession, it’s more important than ever that students receive the education needed to make a difference in their communities and the world. Studies show students with advanced degrees are higher wage earners and are more employable.
“You are more than twice as likely to be unemployed in Florida today if you have not earned a university degree,” Wilcox said.
“Like it or not, more and more students and parents are investing in higher education with a singular purpose in mind, that being a well-paying job,” he said. “Our role ought, in part, to be that of job creator rather than simply graduating job seekers.
“Although we understand the worth of a university education and strive hard to improve scholarly attainment and completion rates, the value of a degree appears to be increasingly under fire. We must tell our story more effectively.”