Text of the 2014 Fall Address by USF President Judy Genshaft on Sept. 24, 2014

President Genshaft
Fall Address
Sept. 24, 2014


Good afternoon and welcome students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University of South Florida System.


Thank you for your kind and generous attention on an afternoon that is one of my favorite traditions of our academic year.


This is the 14th Fall Address I have delivered as President of the USF System, and I always look forward to this opportunity to be with you here in the Oval Theater as well as with those watching online. 


We'll take a look back at what we've accomplished and also look  forward to  what's in store for the USF System.


I know in this busy world of class schedules, publishing deadlines and committee assignments, we lose the ability to stop and appreciate what all this hard work means.


So having this time to reflect   as a USF community is an opportunity to not only celebrate this strong and vibrant university system, but to renew a commitment to each other as we continue pushing toward greatness.


The success we celebrate today is success that each of you have earned through your dedication, your vision, your commitment, your ability to accept risk in the process of discovery and innovation; and your ability to rise to meet challenges.


Quite simply, the USF System is thriving like never before.


Consider this, in the last 12 months:


  • We've had our best legislative session in easily a decade.


  • We ranked second  in the State University System in Florida in performance funding, based upon student success and other key measures.


  • We made a healthy nine-point jump in the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges Rankings, but more important our students won a large number of national scholarships, including several  firsts  for our university.


We've celebrated three Goldwater Scholarship recipients, USF's first Pickering Foreign Affairs Undergraduate Fellowship recipient and USF's first Scoville Peace Fellowship recipient.


  • We also have USF's first Frost Scholarship Programme Recipient, a student who was accepted into Oxford University in England.


  • We surged all the way to #7 in the Sierra Club  Cool Schools  ranking and remain a national leader as a veteran-friendly campus according to Military Times Edge magazine.


  • Our graduate entrepreneurship program is ranked 13th in the nation, and the only top program in Florida.


  • We've had our best year in fundraising in the USF Unstoppable campaign with a record-setting, incredible $113 million dollars in a single year.


We are well on our way to meeting our $1 Billion dollar goal!


Also, our critical bond rating was reaffirmed on Wall Street by Moody's, an important marker of managerial quality for our university's financial future. 


Only three public universities in Florida have this  AA2  bond rating.


And of course as a research institution, it's always a highlight to announce our new research totals for the year.


I am pleased to announce that the USF System has set a record in winning new grants and contracts:


$428 million, 257 thousand and 788 dollars


This is an absolutely phenomenal achievement a nearly $15 million dollar increase over the year before.


High-impact research is what makes the USF System special. 


Academic excellence is what makes us valuable to the future of our students and our region.


The optimism and energy among USF System students, faculty and staff is what makes being a part of this community a unique and special experience in higher education.


Every one of you has a significant accomplishment that makes me proud.


I wish I could highlight them all.


I have always believed that public research universities hold a special responsibility in our nation and even more so for universities such as USF, where our location in  the 18th largest metropolitan area in the United States  positions us as an engine of economic growth, a provider of vital healthcare and the instrument by which education becomes empowerment. 


And our mission, vision and values are integral and essential in everything we do, and are embedded in our strategic plans. 


Today when you came into the theater, you were handed a copy of our mission, vision and values statement from the USF Tampa Strategic Plan approved by our Board of Trustees last year.


This is the core of our identity as an institution.


This is a living document that guides us as we shape the future. 


The laser-like focus of our Strategic Plan has been extremely beneficial in this era that demands high performance and accountability.


We have a great privilege - and a great responsibility - to build the best university system possible for those who depend on us.


Our first important goal is Student success.


Now, more than ever before, it is clear how critical our institutional focus on student success is helping transform the lives of our students and their families.


We see the amplification of their education, their training and their skills throughout our community.


Just a few weeks ago, the influential Center for American Progress in Washington DC issued a report identifying the University of South Florida as one of three standout universities nationwide in our commitment to need-based financial aid, successful student support programs, and institutional leadership.


These have been the pillars of USF's student success initiative led by Senior Vice President and Provost Ralph Wilcox and his team.


The Center lauded USF for accomplishing what has proven to be an elusive goal nationwide:  Closing the achievement gap between rich and poor and staying true to the promise of America's public universities to serve as a vehicle of opportunity.


Our work is making a difference, both in the collective achievement of our large and diverse student population and in the lives of individual students who are supported in their ambitions, their goals and their dreams for a better future.


Let me tell you about three of them:


This summer, Alicia Billington became USF's first MD/PhD graduate.


She earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering at the College of Engineering.


At the same time she was earning her medical degree at the Morsani College of Medicine.


Dr. Billington is a trailblazer: She has already developed a new method of analyzing pressure points in the body so that health care professionals can do a better job preventing and treating bed sores.


Her research has the potential to impact the lives of more than one million Americans each year.


Another student I want you to know is LaChiana Hamilton, who is one of our student veterans and one of USF's newest Tillman Scholars.


LaChiana was a rising star in the Army - she was a Major with a goal to become a battalion commander.


At the peak of her career, her son was born with a heart defect that required constant care. 


LaChiana did not  give up her dream of having a high-impact career. 


She came to USF's College of Nursing in a new ground-breaking program that gives veterans credit for their military experience.


She is now working on a doctorate while raising two healthy, happy children while her husband is deployed to Afghanistan.


And Marcos Gonzalez is someone who is becoming well-known on campus - not just because you see him in his green USF ambassador jacket but because his journey to USF is nothing short of inspiring.


Marcos grew up in a family of migrant farm workers, and even though his parents were committed to his education the nature of their work required him to change schools often. 


Working side-by-side with his father in the fields, Marcos will tell you about his Dad's wise words of advice:


He said: Marcos, You can be working in the hot sun for the rest of your life, or you can get an education and work in an air conditioned office someday.


Marcos chose the accountancy program in the USF College of Business and was admitted as one of our Provost Scholars in the Honors College.


Since then, Marcos has traveled to China and Europe, and this summer, he interned with one of the

world's largest financial services companies on Wall Street. 


But before the start of each school year, he returns to the fields and spends a few days picking tomatoes  - side by side with his father.


Marcos  journey has made such a powerful impression on people that he's been invited to speak at an upcoming Florida Board of Governors meeting.


When we think of our mission, vision and values, we should think of these students and the tens of thousands of other USF students who pursue their dreams with passion, resiliency, determination and excellence.


Alicia Billington could not be here today, she's busy caring for veterans at Bay Pines VA hospital, but please join me in recognizing LaChiana Hamilton and Marcos Gonzalez!


When a student enrolls in the USF System, we make a promise to them to help them succeed. As a public research university, we ve also made a promise to the people of Florida to make a difference in their lives as well.


Our success as a research university is recognized by the world, in our Top 43 ranking among all universities both public and private and in our standing as a global leader in producing new U.S. patents.


Since the beginning of America's land-grant universities to the evolution of today's higher education system, universities have always served as an economic catalyst.


The economies might have changed from agriculture to technology, but not the public imperative that knowledge drives economic growth.


Last year, USF Research and Innovation set a new record with 113 new patents; 91 new licenses and options executed, and 11 new startup companies.


At USF Connect, for the first time our student entrepreneurs can develop their new products at the Student Innovation Incubator.


On your way out of the theater today, have a taste of AquaMelon water, a healthier alternative to sugary juices and sports drinks which was developed by USF graduate student Dez Williams.


 It's just one of the incredible projects that grow from the creativity of our students.


The Student Innovation Incubator already has 24 student companies working through it, and they have another 56 student entrepreneurs applying to be a part of or their programs.   


Invention and innovation, our energy and a can-do attitude increasingly defines the personality and personae of the USF System.


This year, we were so proud to see the National Academy of Inventors  - now a global organization founded by Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Paul Sanberg grow in prestige.


The first class was inducted into the Florida Academy of Inventors.


USF Health's Dr. Shyam Mohapatra, a pioneer of applied biomedical nanotechnology, was among six inventors announced recently as the first inductees. 


A Distinguished USF Health Professor he has contributed to innovations in diagnostics and therapeutics for cancers, asthma, viral infections and traumatic brain injury.


Dr. Daniel Yeh from the College of Engineering and his team built the NEW Generator, which this year won the prestigious Cade Museum Prize for its promising approach to converting wastewater to nutrients, energy and reusable water.

In the coming year, this new technology will be put to real-world use in India.


Dr. James Mihelcic also from engineering - leads an international team of researchers on water sustainability in a project  that includes dozens of faculty and more than 100 undergraduates from institutions in the United States, the Caribbean and Europe.


He also leads a second project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a national research center to tackle a dire issue plaguing waterways:   nutrient pollution from wastewater and storm-water runoff.


The power of our research capabilities is that they can reach around the world.


That is one of the many ways USF researchers represent our institutional mission, vision and values.


Please join me in recognizing  Drs. Shyam Mohapatra and Daniel Yeh and while Dr. Mihelcic could not be here today, his research team is.


Great research informs great teaching.


As we gather here today, we know that the hard work that will fuel future points of pride is taking place in our classrooms, our libraries, our laboratories and in offices across the USF System.


Our faculty are passionate about their research, and passionate about bringing their findings to the classroom.


There are thousands of stories across campus of how far our faculty will go to pursue their research and bring that knowledge back to their students.


For example, this semester the chair of the School of Geosciences Professor Jeff Ryan is aboard the world's most advanced ocean coring ship with an international team of researchers in the Pacific Ocean trying to understand the deepest secrets of the Earth's formation.


He has been far away from his students, but is still holding class via satellite uplink.


USF St. Petersburg Professor Mark Durand stays close to home, but that is where he makes the biggest difference in the lives of families whose children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.


Dr. Durand is the recipient of the highly regarded 2014 Princeton Lecture Series Fellowship and has been ranked as one of Florida's top psychology professors. 


His book, Optimistic Parenting, is helping thousands of families work effectively with their children.


This year, one USF professor in particular capped a remarkable journey to teach us all about one of the darkest chapters in human history.


Carolyn Ellis, a distinguished USF Professor in the Department of Communication, has worked tirelessly to document the stories of Holocaust survivors including Jerry Rawicki , who as a teenager escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto and made his way to America.


Mr. Rawicki was the only member of his family who did not perish during the Holocaust.


Together, Dr. Ellis and Mr. Rawicki   who is now 87-years-old - traveled back to Poland to film his first trip home in 70 years.


Their journey is captured in the documentary, Behind the Wall, which debuted this year.


I'd like to introduce you the remarkable team of  Dr. Carolyn Ellis and Mr. Jerry Rawicki.


This is the power of what this university system can achieve when our mission, vision and values are reflected in the work we do every day.


Our institutions live our values... and that is so apparent in the work of the USF System's staff who are dedicated professionals deeply committed to their institutions and found in every corner of our campuses.


Two individuals on my leadership team have distinguished themselves this year:


General Counsel Steve Prevaux and his superb team of attorneys and paralegals bring years of experience to guiding our institutions.


This year, Mr. Prevaux was chosen as the Top Chief Legal Officer in the area by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.


And a new face on our campus has been instrumental in building Bulls Pride and a new culture throughout campus and across the community with great enthusiasm.


Athletic Director Mark Harlan came to us from UCLA.


His focus on student success both on the field, court, track, and in the classroom sets an example for our campus and the entire community.


Bulls Pride means high standards and discipline in all we do.


As you know, I always like to reward employees with some extra time to reconnect with their families and friends at the end of the year.


So I will take this opportunity to announce that the USF System will be closed from

December 24th.  through January 1st., with the exception of our clinics and some essential functions.


This end-of-the year break will include the two additional floating holidays  and three additional days as a reward for the hard work so visibly demonstrated this year.


The 2013-2014 academic year was a successful one, but it wasn't an easy one.


Last year, the USF System devoted considerable energy to reconfiguring our spending practices so we could create a sustainable economic base.


Our goal was to bring our spending in line with recurring revenues so that we could ensure the long-term stability of the USF System and strategically invest in our institutional priorities.


This effort was guided by Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Long and his team. 


They also helped secure an important endorsement of our fiscal health:   the reaffirmation of our bond rating.


In fact, the USF System was one of a select group of American universities that bucked a wide-spread trend:   the continued climate of downgrading the bond ratings of colleges and universities that are struggling to adjust to the new financial landscape facing higher education.


Among the strengths Moodys cited in its outlook for our university system is the strong performance of USF's Unstoppable Campaign - which met its $600 million dollar goal and this year was extended to $1 Billion dollars.


This is remarkable and rare for an institution founded less than 60 years ago.


Under the leadership of Senior Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Affairs Joel Momberg and with the great work of his team, the Foundation set a new one-year record for fundraising of more than $113 million dollars.


Just this month, USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska was very proud to announce the largest single gift to that institution when entrepreneur Kate Tiedemann donated $10 million dollar to the USF St. Petersburg College of Business - which will now be named in her honor.


With gifts large and small   and in strong partnership with those across the community who share our values - I know we will reach our $1 Billion dollar fundraising goal.  


When we have the right resources in our hands, we can transform our campuses and impact the world beyond.


USF's strong student demand and bright future means the USF Tampa campus will be able to embark on an exciting project that will transform a large area of campus just north of the Marshall Student Center.


In a public-private partnership, we anticipate more than 1,000 beds of outdated housing will be replaced by a new campus village that will be home to 2,000 students and retail outlets when it is completed in 2017.


This partnership is the first of its kind for our campus and when it comes to fruition will add to the quality of life on the Tampa campus as an exciting destination that gathers bright, energetic, creative and ambitious people to live, work and play in a center of learning and innovation.


The USF System also is energized by the incredible support we received from state leaders and the governor this spring, which was easily one of our most successful legislative sessions in a decade.


USF entered the legislative session with five top priorities identified. All five were supported.


 Our priorities were to:


  • Establish and invest in the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, located at USF, where it is taking shape in the top floor of the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building.


  • Provide funding toward completing construction of the USF Health Heart Institute.


  • Provide funding toward completing construction of the USF St. Petersburg College of Business facility.


  • Invest in continued development of USF Sarasota-Manatee's STEM programs and STEM faculty hiring.


  • Guarantee all U.S. military veterans the right to pay the in-state resident tuition rate.


This was just part of a deep, well-funded legislative package for the USF System.


We also welcomed a new era of cooperation among Florida's three urban universities:  USF, the University of Central Florida and Florida International University.


Our universities alone produce 48 percent of the college graduates in the total State University System and 44 percent of the STEM degrees.


In addition, our three institutions graduate 60 percent of the state's African-American and Hispanic baccalaureate students.


As part of this new partnership, our three universities have been working closely together to share best practices, policies and programs to efficiently increase the number of graduates in high-demand areas and maximize career development opportunities.


We have already begun developing a database for sharing internship and job opportunities in Tampa Bay, Miami and Orlando.


We are also looking to share predictive analytics technology so that our students will benefit from targeted support at the moment they need it. 


With new state investment, we project we can collectively increase the number of baccalaureate degrees awarded by our institutions by 12 percent and increase six-year graduation rates by 4 percentage points.


This partnership already produced the first-ever TEAM grants from the Florida Board of Governors.


Two grants worth a total of $8.5 million dollars will fill the education gaps in vital fields of information technology and accountancy.


That now brings me to the subject you have undoubtedly seen in the newspapers recently and one I'd like to address while we are thinking about the future and where the USF System fits into our changing world.


There have been news reports discussing the possibility of the Morsani College of Medicine moving to downtown Tampa.


We are currently exploring various options to determine the optimal location for our facility as USF Health continuously strives to strengthen its connections to the wider Tampa Bay community.


We know of the exciting developments downtown and have a great friendship with Mr. Jeff Vinik and his organization, who are partners in our very successful sports and entertainment management MBA program.


We admire the excellence Mr. Vinik and his team demonstrate and represent in our community.


However, I want to be absolutely clear:   Whatever decision is made about the location of the future USF Health facilities, it does not mean that USF Health is leaving the Tampa campus.


In fact, USF Health needs to grow on this campus too.


We remain fully committed to working closely with our longtime partners at the Hayley Veterans Hospital, Moffitt Cancer, Florida Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children who all value our close proximity.


The Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare will absolutely continue to be a facility where thousands of patients receive the highest quality care each year.


We continue to build the concept of the Tampa Innovation Alliance which has forged strong ties between our neighbors Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center and Florida Hospital and will influence the reinvigoration of the commercial areas around us.


With more than 450 doctors in the USF Physicians Group and the continuing demand for high quality healthcare all across our community, there is room for us to grow without taking away from what currently exists.


Our reputation in health care has been enhanced by the recent arrival of Dr. Charles Lockwood as our new Senior Vice President of Health and Dean of Medicine.


Dr. Lockwood is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and comes to us from the Ohio State University.


He has worked closely with the USF Health deans in looking at new possibilities for USF Health's Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health and the School of Physical Therapy to expand their excellent programs. 


I want to extend my thanks to Drs. Harry Van Loveren and Donna Petersen for serving as interim Dean and Senior Vice President this past year.


The USF Health Heart Institute and the Byrd Alzheimer's Center are poised to be global leaders in treating devastating diseases.


Our veterans  healthcare initiatives and research will go on setting national standards for caring for our war wounded.


We can never fully know what the future will hold, but we do know the quest for a better future requires that we step out of our comfort zone.


It requires us to always think about the world around us.


We must ask ourselves constantly:   What do we want to achieve not just for ourselves but for our community?


We know those answers: Good health, financial security, culture and art, a sense of purpose and contribution; an understanding of others and ourselves that recognizes the world stands at the edge of an exciting future that we have the power to shape.


Before we end today, I'd like you to watch a new short film that illustrates what our university system is all about.   Not just the rankings, not just the impressive achievements, but the work we do together that has meaning and how that work supports the principles for which we stand.


We have a very big year ahead and I thank each and every one of you for your support as we continue to build a great university system.


Good luck in all your endeavors and Go Bulls!