Text of the 2013 Fall Address by USF President Judy Genshaft on Sept. 18, 2013

President Genshaft

Fall Address

Sept. 18, 2013

I’d like to welcome the USF family, students, faculty and staff and our extended circle of friends.

Each year, we come together at this Fall Address to celebrate our accomplishments, take stock of our achievements and talk about the road ahead for this incredible institution of higher learning.

We come together as a unique and vibrant system, linking arms with our campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, who continue to forge regionally-relevant identities while upholding the USF standards for academic excellence, research and community engagement.

This year we’re going to go a little further than the newest rankings and awards. Impressive as they are, I think they only tell part of the story about what’s happening here at USF.

Today we are going to celebrate what makes the USF System dynamic and exciting, and what can be accomplished when nearly 48,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff work in concert with common goals.

As our region has emerged out of the recent recession, at USF we have refined our vision of a new, sustainable knowledge economy.

I firmly believe – and I hope you do as well – that education and innovation is the antidote. And this year, it was especially gratifying to hear from so many corners just how powerfully the University of South Florida has emerged in its influence on the future of the Tampa Bay region.

This summer, when pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb announced it was bringing hundreds of new jobs to Tampa, the company’s director of community affairs listed USF Health’s close proximity for a potential partnership as a top reason for the company’s decision to come to Tampa.

A few months ago, United Airlines writers interviewed business leaders in our community about Tampa as a commerce destination and asked what made this area prime for new endeavors? Their response: The University of South Florida.

And when international trade leaders from around the region travel overseas to pitch the Tampa Bay Region, the single most important asset they cite is USF.

The University of South Florida.

A top research university.

A top producer of Fulbright Scholars.

A global leader in producing new U.S. patents.

One of the nation’s leading veteran-friendly universities.

One of the coolest of the cool green schools in America is making big things happen.

We are seeing the dividends of our carefully-crafted strategic plan and a strong system of institutions that has leveraged its talents in academics, research and community engagement to empower our region.

And we are doing this at exactly the moment when our region needs us the most.

At USF St. Petersburg, we will soon set forth a new strategic planning process for that growing institution.

St. Petersburg has been quick to seize upon the potential for USF-St. Petersburg to be part of a vibrant academic and entrepreneurial hub that is unique to that city’s needs. This effort has only been strengthened with the $5 million dollars appropriated by our state lawmakers for the USF St.-Petersburg College of Business.

We also welcomed the first-ever freshman class at Sarasota-Manatee and opened wonderful new facilities in collaboration with our good friends at Mote Marine Laboratories.

Not only will every student at USF Sarasota-Manatee have great new labs in which to learn, they also will get the benefit of the combined expertise of our two institutions and the expansion of critical STEM programs on this growing campus.

The USF global brand is indeed reaching far and wide. With our growing study abroad programs and expanding international student population, our global connections become stronger every day.

This year, USF World was one of only five institutions to receive the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization, and I am looking forward to traveling to Washington later this fall with our USF World leadership team to accept this high honor.

We are creating this agile university system that is constantly looking for new and better ways to move forward.

USF Health’s partnerships with The Villages and Lehigh Valley Medical Center is creating new models to deliver excellent medical care. Across campus, our departments and colleges are collaborating in delivering courses to our students and forging interdisciplinary research relationships.

And our willingness to explore new approaches to old academic traditions opens doors of opportunity all over campus – and even all over the world.

That’s why I say without hesitation that the University of South Florida is uniquely positioned to succeed in an era that demands fresh ideas and a fearless spirit.

We’ve had a challenging but great year, one where we’ve had to work hard for every success because - as you well know - no one hands you anything these days.

We have met those challenges with resilience and a focused strategic plan that serves as our roadmap to the future.

The plan is clear and concise. We have four major strategic goals. Let me discuss each of them.

Our first goal is STUDENT SUCCESS.

A few weeks ago, I joined our Latino Scholarship Program for its annual celebration. Of the 40 students who earned scholarships, 10 students are the first in their families to graduate high school.

Consider that for a minute: Consider what it took to get that student to THAT moment when they get that acceptance letter from the University of South Florida.

It’s not just the student who is forever changed. Their family is forever changed.

One young woman in this new class of scholars told us about growing up the child of migrant farm workers and what it was like to miss too much school and always feeling behind everyone else. But she earned her high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time in a dual-enrollment program.

Whatever she lacked in stability, she made up with her unwavering focus and her rock-solid work ethic.

What a privilege it is now for our university to guide her through a new phase of her remarkable journey.

We know our support as a university and as a community makes a difference. This is an incredible statistic: The graduation rate for the students in the Latino Scholarship program is 95 percent!

Please join me in welcoming some of these incredible students!

Today our freshman class has set another record for academic achievement. On the Tampa campus. This fall’s incoming freshman class in Tampa is the best qualified scholastically, boasting a highest-ever average GPA of 4.0.

There is equally good news at the other end of the spectrum: In the past four years, USF’s graduation rate has shot up a full 9 percent.

And In the last five years, our six-yeargraduation rate is the third fastest growing rate among all research institutions nationwide.

Our intense focus on student success is a success story in its own right. Last year we opened the SMART Lab on the second floor of the library so that we could redesign College Algebra and other gatekeeper courses.

The results from the first semester were as impressive as we expected when we opened it last fall. The passing rate for the 1,040 students enrolled in College Algebra rose by 22 percent as compared to when the course was taught in the traditional format.

We’re also getting students to their goals faster: Our Provost Scholars program allows highly-qualified students have incentives and necessary support to graduate in three years.

This year we also launched a new partnership with Stetson Law School that allows our extremely capable and motivated Honors College students to complete their senior year at USF at the same time they start their first year of law school. This program saves our student time, tuition and put them on the fast track to success.

We take pride in being one of Florida’s most cost-effective producers of new graduates.

At a time when people are genuinely questioning the value of a college education, USF stands as a very strong argument that higher education is the best investment a young person, their family – or this state – could ever make.

We are proving that point so much so that USF was tied for first place in the new performance funding metrics system created by the Florida Board of Governors and were awarded $2.6 million for meeting these new difficulty standards.

USF graduates students who are getting jobs or pursing advanced degrees. Our graduates are earning some of the highest average wages among all Florida university graduates, and we are accomplishing this at very efficient cost per degree.

Mind you, these standards are just the first of many more performance-based funding measures to come. This is the future of how universities will be funded.

So thank you to every corner of this campus who works so hard to make our university a center of student achievement.

All of us are vital to helping fulfill our students’ dreams.

You are the ones keeping alive the promise that every generation should do better than the one before it.

Our second goal is high-impact RESEARCH AND INNOVATION. USF is a university of big ambitions, and I am in awe at so much we manage to accomplish. Research is what differentiates USF as a lead institution in the state of Florida, and nationally.

It is who we are. It is part of our DNA.

Today, I could not be more proud to announce that the University of South Florida surpassed its previous year’s research with a total of $413 million, 631 thousand, 188 dollars in new contracts and grants for 2012-2013 fiscal year!

This is spectacular and a true testament to just how focused, strong and determined our faculty and researchers are.

We are defying the conventional wisdom by being more competitive in a year when federal budget cuts have made grants more difficult to win.

But we are harnessing our strong and powerful culture of interdisciplinary collaboration, and sharpening the focus and goals of our research. The difference shows.

But equally important to that impressive dollar total, I want you to think of another measure of our success in research: What we do with those resources and how that also defines us.

Take for example, Erin Kimmerle – a professor of forensic anthropology – who read a newspaper article about the sad and tragic story of Dozier School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle, and a largely forgotten cemetery where some of the boys were buried called Boot Hill.

It seemed as there was nothing anyone could do for those poor souls who had endured unspeakable treatment at Dozier, only to be left in unmarked graves overgrown with shrubs and strewn with garbage.

Except Erin, who thought: “I can do something.”

Today as we stand here, Erin and her colleagues Professors Christian Wells and Antoinette Jackson are leading one of the most significant forensic projects ever undertaken in the United States. Their goal is to return the boys buried at Dozier to their families. They also hope to explain why there are 19 more grave shafts in the cemetery than there are known burials at the school.

It took some of the world’s best technical expertise to win state and federal funding for the project.

Now, this remarkable team of scientists, attorneys, communications and government affairs professionals is accomplishing what more than 100 years of investigations have not at Dozier – providing a last measure of justice and humanity to children who died there.

I’d like to introduce to you, the Dozier research team!

It’s this kind of bold research that has captured the attention of other universities. In the latest edition of the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges, USF is ranked as a top “up and coming” institution among the country’s national universities.

Many of our graduate programs are also recognized at the top of the rankings, such as:

  • USF’s interdisciplinary graduate entrepreneurship program is ranked by Princeton Review as one the top 25 in the nation.

  • At USF - St. Petersburg’s Entrepreneurship Program in the College of Business was named an outstanding emerging program.

  • Also at the top of the graduate program rankings is Industrial and Organizational Psychology; Public Health; Library and Information Studies; and Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering.

  • They are joined by Audiology, Criminology, Rehabilitation Counseling, and Speech-Language Pathology as our most admired programs.

The USF College of Nursing has become a true magnet for emerging talent in health care, ranking 24th in National Institute of Health research funding.

I am so proud of our faculty.

This past year, USF faculty members were awarded 73 highly prestigious awards, including a record 15 AAAS fellowships, the only two Sloan research fellowships awarded in Florida, three National Science Foundation CAREER awards, and 4 Core Fulbrights.

USF St. Petersburg Art History Professor Sheram Bundrick was awarded the Rome Prize, a national fellowship.

And of course, this year we celebrated our CASE/Carnegie Professor of the Year Autar Kaw, who was recognized for his tremendous work in teaching engineering students all over through world through his innovative use of online tools and social media.

Dr. Kaw is not with us today because he is teaching – but we all wish him well!

Just last week, another one of our faculty members joined a very exclusive list: USF College of Marine Science Professor Mya Breitbart was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s Brilliant 10!

Mya was recognized for pioneering a technique to map the genomes of unknown viruses. The Breitbart Lab is not just a leading marine science lab, it is changing the way other scientists think and work – and in doing so might just change the way we fight dangerous disease outbreaks.

Another high-energy, go-getter team comes from Public Health, where for years Program Director Jodi Ray has been on a mission to make sure children in Florida who needed health insurance got it.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded her team a total of $5.2 million dollars to connect Florida’s uninsured with the new health coverage marketplace.

That’s one of the largest awards in the country to any single state, and the largest award to any university nationwide.

Please join me in recognizing these fearless forces for change: Mya Breitbart and Jodi Ray and her team!

Our third goal is to maintain USF’s leadership as a major ECONOMIC ENGINE and PARTNER FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.

We have achieved a great balance here at USF: we are both academic and entrepreneurial. USF Health continues to serve as a national model for how to do things differently, do them better and take great care of people in the process.

We were grateful that the Florida Legislature stepped up to fund the new USF Heart Institute, which will revolutionize care in a disease that is the leading cause of death.

You hear quite a bit of talk about STEM education as imperative to economic development – but I like to add the extra “M” of medicine to drive home the point that health-related research, education and innovation is particularly key to our economy here in Florida.

It’s not just providing better care that’s important, but connecting young people to careers in health care. A new transfer agreement between USF’s College of Public Health, Hillsborough Community College and Lake Sumter State College is one way we’re creating a sensible yet rigorous path for students to follow for high-paying careers.

We know this new thinking is a strength that differentiates USF – we have created these natural clusters in medicine, nursing, public health and pharmacy that unites academics, research and innovation with the goal of taking better care of people.

That work reaches across campus – to engineering, to the natural sciences, to business and economics. It even reaches to the arts and education.

Interdisciplinary collaboration has grown and inspired a culture of innovation defines USF on a national and global level.

It makes us the leader in when innovation and new technologies are needed to solve emerging problems – which is why USF was selected by the Florida Legislature to be the Florida university to advance cybersecurity. Already, more than 100 faculty are working to build a program that looks at every aspect, from advanced training and education to new security systems to forensic psychology to understand cyber criminals.

Last year, we had a record year in technology transfer, with nine new startup companies and 75 licenses and options executed - a 44 percent increase over last year.

The National Academy of Inventors, founded right here at USF just a few short years ago by Paul Sanberg, has gone global with more than 2,000 individual members and fellows and more than 100 institutional members.

Next spring, the Academy will have its annual conference in Washington D.C., where the U.S. Patent and Trade Office has eagerly embraced this partnership as a revival of the American spirit of innovation.

The National Academy of Inventors is all about celebrating the academic inventor – and in October that celebration will take two of our more well-known inventors straight to the Smithsonian for the Innovation Expo.

One of these inventions to be featured is the dance chair developed by Merry Lynn Morris in College of the Arts working together with students at the College of Engineering. The other invention you might have seen zipping across campus, Alex Novitzky on his Skatecase skateboard.

While these two devices couldn’t be for more different types of users, they represent the same essential human need for free movement.

Please join me in wishing them well in their journey to the Smithsonian, Merry Lynn Morris and Alex Novitzky!

If you’ve noticed a theme in all these wonderful achievements it’s in our partnerships and collaborations with our students, our colleagues and other entities that gives our work such magnitude.

Take for example, the partnership created by USF-St. Petersburg, C1 Bank, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Workforce Pinellas which has created a new Banking Institute to be run by USF. St. Petersburg’s College of Business.

Our partnership with Jabil Circuit Corporation allows our students to work and learn in China, an essential skill for new graduates in high-technology fields. Another important employer, the Nielsen Company, has set up an office on campus to better connect with potential new employees.

Tampa Electric Company is a longtime partner, involved in academic and research efforts from the College of Engineering, the Patel College of Sustainability and even in our sports medicine programs.

In the University Area neighborhoods, USF Health students volunteer to provide primary care to more than six thousand people every year. And few relationships have been as enduring as USF partnerships with both the Haley and Bay Pines VA Hospitals.

Looking ahead, one of our most hopeful an inspiring partnerships is in veteran’s reintegration.

We need to look no further than the two thousand student veterans who attend USF to know what can be accomplished when people come together to support each other and the powerful asset our country has in these extraordinary people.

Our veterans are committed young leaders with experiences and knowledge that make our campus a richer, more diverse and a more grounded learning place for all.

Today, I want you to meet two veterans from USF whom America came to know this summer.

USF St. Petersburg education major Dwayne Scheuneman has redefined the power of veterans in his own extraordinary way. In this summer’s VA Wheelchair Games, Dwayne won four gold medals and inspired us all with his mantra of “game on” – which happened to be the first words he uttered in the hospital upon learning he had lost the use of his legs.

Another student veteran who captured our hearts this summer is Kiersten Downs – a USF anthropology PHD student and Iraq War veteran who biked across country to raise money for fellow student veterans.

Kiersten kept a blog on her journey, and I want to read a passage she wrote after crossing a mountain range in Colorado.

She wrote:

“I can see it. The final push on this climb! I can see where the road begins to flatten out. I can see that blasted sign! I can see that truck that almost blew me off of the road parked at the top! I am almost there!

“I move up out of the saddle and dig for every ounce of energy that I have left. … I am climbing mountains… Perched at the top of the mountain I turn around and admire my progress. I won’t be going back that way. Those are roads I have already conquered. Now, for my reward. Now, I get to fly…”

I’d like to introduce to you, Kiersten Downs and Dwayne Scheuneman!

That’s what we do here at USF – we climb mountains and then we get to fly.

Sometime we do it alone. Sometimes we do it together. It’s never easy.

The important thing is we don’t stop moving. We don’t let circumstances limit the size of our dreams.


The long decline of state financial support and now federal sequester cuts means we have to work smarter to climb that mountain. We have to be strategic in how we use our resources.

That’s the reality. This is the “new normal” in higher education.

It means that universities in general, and USF in particular, have to be more innovative about new revenue sources.

Last year, I stood on this very stage and talked about how challenging keeping the university on its course would be in the coming years. Recently we’ve had some even more pointed discussions about what it’s going to take to keep USF strong.

This is a challenge facing all universities – particularly public universities - whether they are talking about it or not.

The reality is that there will be less public financial support for higher education in the future and very likely fewer students who come from families who can afford costly tuition.

The institutions who have focused strategic plans, right-sized operating budgets and have rebuilt their financial reserves will be the ones best positioned to thrive in the future.

It is my pledge that USF will be one of those universities – we will be the role model for higher education on how to thrive in this “new normal.”

In recent years, we have faced a storm of financial challenges. Out of necessity we spent down our reserves to shield our people, our programs and our students from state budget cuts. The severing of Polytechnic took $30 million in cash reserves off our balance sheet. The state budget cuts of 2012 further forced our reserves into their lowest levels in a decade.

We have to restore the reserves – it’s not optional – and I believe we have a solid three-year plan to do so. Our AA2 bond rating is one of the three best in Florida and is a marker of our high standards of excellence in managing a public institution.

Across the nation, the entire higher education sector has been downgraded because of the financial challenges it faces.

But it’s my goal that USF sets the standard as a university with a bright financial future - one that both public and private sector partners can trust.

We also have to be self-reliant, and we’ve proven we can be.

In 2009, USF launched the “Unstoppable” fundraising. Why did we do that? Because we knew that, regardless of the economy, nothing is more important than education.

And this year, we just didn’t meet our goal – we surpassed it in June with a total of $621 million dollars.

So many of our signature programs are direct beneficiaries of the Unstoppable campaign. Our campus landscape changed through the incredible generosity of our friends and alumni.

The USF Athletics program raised nearly $40 million dollars during the campaign and completely remade our athletics district befitting our hard working student-athletes, including our league champion men’s golf and women’s softball teams.

In the campaign, more than $75 million dollars was raised for student scholarships and another $34 million dollars for faculty chairs and professorships. Benefactors donated more than $325 million dollars to support academic programs and create better opportunities for teaching, learning and research.

Our community has invested in us because they know we are willing to invest our talents, our hard work and our expertise in them.

As I’ve described to you throughout this afternoon, my emphasis in leading the university through the next year is on two essential components of our System operations: our people and the underlying stability of our institutions.

I believe in protecting both, and that’s why part of our plan going forward is to include meaningful raises for our best-performing faculty and staff.

We value you and that’s why I am reinvesting funds and making available $8 million for performance or merit-based increases to base salaries effective January 1st.

This is in addition to the state of Florida’s raises effective October 1.

And just as an additional thank you to everyone for their hard work, I am announcing that the university will be closed this year from Monday, December 23rd, through Wednesday, January 1 – except for our USF Health clinics and essential personnel, including safety and lab operations.

I am hopeful that this extra time off allows our employees to send some relaxing and peaceful time with their families and friends during the holiday season.

In the end, there is nothing more important than the value we hold for each other.

We have worked hard and we know what we are capable of achieving. Our strategic plan with its strong and clear direction is going to take us there.

The passion and drive to succeed is up to us. That’s who we are – we bike up mountains, we shout “game on”! We dig for the truth and we dig some more.

We pound the pavement to make sure children have health care. We think of ways to solve problems that no one’s ever thought of before. We do something!

You may start off working alone, in a lab or in a workshop, or sitting quietly with some books. But you have a whole university behind you and a whole community to inspire you.

Yes, we are Unstoppable!

Before I leave you today, I want to share with you a short video we show to potential students. I think it captures our energy and our optimism just perfectly.

Thank you – it was wonderful being with you! And as I always say, Go Bulls!