Incoming Florida Senate President’s Listening Tour Visits USF
State leaders met with USF System President Judy Genshaft, Provost Ralph Wilcox, university trustees, faculty members and students to discuss a variety of key issues.
Florida Senate President-Designate Joe Negron visits USF as part of a four-day “Listening Tour” at universities around Florida. Photos by Matt May.
TAMPA, Fla. (April 26, 2016) - Led by Florida Senate President-Designate Joe Negron (R-Stuart) , several state legislators and a member of the Florida Board of Governors visited the USF campus on Wednesday, April 20 to discuss key issues for the USF System and State University System of Florida. As part of a four-day “Listening Tour” at universities around Florida, state leaders participated in a roundtable conversation with USF System President Judy Genshaft, Provost Ralph Wilcox, university trustees, faculty members and students.
The senators briefly toured a number of student innovator exhibits and met with students who explained their patented inventions and student-developed companies.
The discussion touched on a variety of issues, including student graduation rates, the value of advanced placement in high school curricula, scholarships, student debt and the degree to which students need employment while going to school, and faculty retention.
Negron began by remarking about what a “powerhouse delegation” the Tampa Bay area is fortunate to have representing them, one that has “delivered for this community year after year.”
Negron noted that the USF System leads the state in student applications but has the lowest acceptance rate, a testament to the university’s talent pool and that USF is a “school in demand.”
He expressed his interest learning more about the current students’ need to juggle education and employment.
“We are interested in how students afford their college experience,” said Negron. “We want to do what we can to make sure there is not financial insecurity, which is one of the leading causes of students not completing their degree.”
Several students in attendance volunteered to discuss their work schedules, class load and funding experiences.
Genshaft and Wilcox fielded a number of questions from Negron and other senators about the USF System’s goals and challenges.
Among the challenges, said Genshaft, were USF’s efforts to attract and retain ‘crème de la crème’ faculty who were attracted to the university by the resources USF provided, suggesting that to retain top faculty the university system needed to maintain top facilities for research.
Negron, who noted that USF’s research funding tops $440 million, asked Genshaft which projects she would like see supported. Genshaft spoke on the need for further funding for the Morsani College of Medicine and the continued development of USF’s downtown Tampa health facilities, along with other critical capital infrastructure needs across the USF System.
“We also need to invest in our students, and we could use your help,” responded Wilcox, who told the delegation that USF students have access to intensive advising and that every effort made at engaging students in campus life, an effort that aids their success.
“Who do you consider your peer institutions?” Negron asked Genshaft, mentioning that on occasion state leaders informally categorize Florida’s universities as regional or metropolitan, but that there appeared to be a different way of thinking at USF.
Reiterating that USF is now ranked 25th among all public universities nationwide in research, Genshaft replied that the USF System’s goal remains becoming a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of leading comprehensive research universities distinguished by the breadth and quality of their research programs and graduate education. Membership in the association is by invitation and there are 63 AAU members, explained Genshaft, and includes both private and public institutions. As examples of peer universities she listed the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Louisville as examples of universities that, like USF, are in an urban setting and also have a strong medical and research components.
Negron concluded the meeting and Genshaft thanked the Senate delegation for helping the USF System grow.
“We could not have done it without you,” Genshaft told the visiting senators.
Senators: President-designate Joe Negron (R-Stuart); Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers ); Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg ); Oscar Braynon (D-Miami ); Anitere Flores (R-Miami ); Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton ); Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa); Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater ); Tom Lee (R-Brandon ); John Legg (R-Lutz )
BOG Member: Dan Doyle, Jr.
BOT Members: Mike Carrere; Scott Hopes; Brian Lamb (Vice Chair); Hal Mullis (Chair); John Ramil; Jim Stikeleather ; Greg Teague; Nancy Watkins
USFSP Campus Board Member: Judy Mitchell