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Video/Text of the 2017 Fall Address by USF President Judy Genshaft on Sept. 6, 2017

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining me today, and thank you Dr. Garey for that kind introduction.

I would like to welcome the students, faculty and staff here at the Oval Theatre, as well as those who are watching online. And thank you to our friends across the Tampa Bay community, to our members of the USF Board of Trustees, the State University System’s Board of Governors, our partners in the Legislature and Governor Rick Scott. We have so many supporters and friends who want to see us succeed, and we do not take it for granted.

I would also like to thank every member of the faculty, staff and student body for the way you’ve helped to usher in the new school year with such care and respect for one another.

With these challenging times across the country, it is gratifying to know that our university stands on such a strong foundation of civility, inclusion and the free exchange of all ideas and viewpoints. It has never been more important for us to stand firm in these values and for us to make sure that everyone feels welcome here.

I am also proud that so many of you have stepped up to help our neighbors along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Harvey. I’ve contacted my colleague President at the University of Houston, whom many of you know, to offer USF’s help if needed. The USF College of Marine Science has also been in communication with their counterparts at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute with offers to send scientists and supplies, and I know so many of you have done the same.

When others need us, USF is there.

Last year at this time, on this stage, I stood before you and asked you to join me on a path toward unprecedented levels of excellence at the University of South Florida.

We embarked upon a path to preeminence, one that required us to dig deeper, work smarter and go further than ever before. This was how we would bring to life the vision upon which we were founded.

With this clarity of purpose, we have climbed faster toward our goals than ever before, at every level, at each of our USF institutions. This past year has been truly extraordinary.

We have achieved higher levels of student success and scholarly activity, and as a result, once again we are a leader in performance-based funding at the state level.

Each member of our System, USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee plays an important part in our performance.

This semester, the USF System has welcomed the most accomplished freshman class we have ever enrolled.

This is extraordinary in its own right, but especially when you consider that about 40 percent of our students are Pell Grant eligible and many are the first in their families to go to college. Some are first in their families to graduate from high school. Think about that… 40 percent of our now over 50,000 students come from circumstances that traditionally make it more difficult for them to attend college. Yet they are here, with academic performance that rivals – if not surpasses – any of their peers.

We are also attracting more graduate students than ever before, with now more than 700 doctoral degrees awarded annually. Three quarters are in programs of strategic priority for the state of Florida – the highest proportion of any state university.

We continue to recruit premier faculty from all over the world. We now have 11 National Academy members, the second-highest number in the state. Like our students, talented faculty recognize: “there is something special happening at the University of South Florida and in Tampa Bay, and I want to be a part of it.”

Once again, we’ve broken our own record in research, with now more than $475 million in Grants and Contracts in the fiscal year that just ended. This impressive level of research by our faculty is reflected in ourclassification by the Carnegie Foundation as a “Doctoral University with Highest Research Activity,” a distinction attained by only two-and-a-half percent of all post-secondary institutions in the country.

But it’s not just the dollars attached to our research productivity that’s so extraordinary. It’s also the way we harness it -- applying our creativity to real-world problems and finding practical solutions that have a major impact. Over the past three years, USF was awarded 314 patents. That places us in the top 10 universities granted U.S. Utility Patents, alongside institutions such as Stanford University, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia.

We’re also breaking records in fundraising. This November we will celebrate, incredibly, reaching ONE BILLION DOLLARS in our Unstoppable campaign. This is not only extraordinary – this is extremely rare. It says a lot about the passion of our supporters… our university, our staff, our students, our alums and our community, and we are extremely appreciative.

Our endowment continues to steadily climb – now at $441 million. This is the highest our endowment has ever been. This is an extremely difficult metric for any university, especially one as young as ours. There are only two public universities in the country founded after 1950 that have endowments higher than USF’s – the University of California San Diego and University of California Irvine. This is a metric that takes time. It takes decades.

Finally, amazingly… we have reached preeminence. USF Tampa now meets 11 of the 12 metrics required in the 2017 laws of the State of Florida to be designated as a Preeminent State Research University. This is incredible.

Since our first student enrolled in 1960, we have turned a well-regarded regional university into one of the top, preeminent, public research institutions in the nation. We have become the university that other institutions look up to as an aspirant peer.

We can already see it happening.

This year, the Chronicle of Higher Education, named USF the No. 1 public university in America for improvement in six-year graduation rates.

The Education Trust, one of the nation’s most highly regarded non-profit advocacy organizations, ranked USF No. 1 in Florida and No. 6 in the country for eliminating the completion gap between white and black students.

And we’ve just learned… hot off the press… The Times Higher Education World Summit Series has selected the University of South Florida as the site of its Young Universities Summit in June. This attracts education leaders from around the world, but it has never been held in the United States before. Last year this conference was held in Brisbane. The prior year -- in Barcelona, and the year before that -- Dublin. This group looked all around the world, on every continent, and chose USF.

These accomplishments are indeed extraordinary – a word that means unusual, unprecedented, unheard of. But the truth is, extraordinary at USF is no longer unusual. This is our new normal. By reaching this level of performance, extraordinary is now expected.

It takes each of us.

It starts with you.

If we want to be great, we have to choose to be great over and over again, year after year. Each of us has to ask ourselves: what more can I contribute? How can I take one more step forward? How can I help those around me move further, faster toward our common goal?

During last year’s fall address, I asked a series of questions intended to focus us on our goals. I even gave each member of my leadership team a printed, laminated copy of these questions, reminding them they can’t just be asked one time. They must be asked every day, throughout the years:

These questions belong to everyone at this university – every member of the faculty, every member of the staff, every adviser, everyone… including me. Just like our success belongs to everyone.

It will take everyone to maintain this momentum.

We must be one team. We must keep moving.

Because remember – others are now looking to US as the example.

They are now asking themselves, what can we do to create an atmosphere like USF’s?

How can we harness the combination of will and of vision that has propelled USF into a league of universities at least twice its age and experience?

We must continue to ensure that our students have the resources they need to succeed.

We must continue to build academic programs worthy of our name. Having “the University of South Florida” on our students’ resumes means more than ever before.

What can we do to make sure students are prepared not only for graduation – but for everything beyond it?

How can we leverage the strengths of the USF System so that each member institution has the support it needs to excel in its own areas of distinction?

As one example, earlier this year we established the USF System Collaborative for Health-Related Programs. This group brings together Health experts from across the system and challenges them to work together to meet education and workforce needs. As a result, the USF System is leading a coalition of hospitals, state colleges and community leaders that is already making an impact. One of the first programs is now generating needed nurses in St. Petersburg and will generate more for Sarasota and Manatee counties.

We know there are other areas of the System that could similarly benefit from this kind of collaboration. How else can we work together? How else can we benefit from each other’s strengths?

One way is by actively engaging with the communities we serve. This year we have opened a new Office of Corporate Partnerships that will proactively seek out practical business and industry connections. We have so much to offer, and also so much to gain. Private enterprises who want to work with us will now have a single point of access. Meanwhile, we will gain new avenues to practically apply our research, leading to new discoveries and best-practices. This collaboration is mutually beneficial, creating new economic opportunities and real-world problem solving.

How can your colleges, programs or projects benefit from added perspectives and experiences of those beyond the campus?

Now let’s look internally at each of our USF institutions. Within our walls, we must also continue to cultivate a vibrant student life. Part of this includes building world-class facilities and encouraging our students to get involved in the hundreds of clubs, organizations and activities available to them. USF’s campuses are completely different than the USF of even five years ago. But how can we make it even better?

Hundreds of students have now moved into our new housing village on the Tampa campus, and soon they will shop at a new campus Publix Supermarket. USF St. Petersburg expects to follow suit with its own housing project, made possible by another public-private partnership. They’ve already opened their new Kate Tiedemann College of Business – which may be the only college in the world supported by – not one – but three women philanthropists.

USF Sarasota Manatee just opened its new campus dining facility, operated by its own College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, where students work alongside their professors in a real-world learning experience.

We now have shovels in the ground at the new site of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa – which continues to attract the most accomplished incoming classes in all of Florida and some of the leading researchers in the world.

We just completed a feasibility study of a new on-campus football stadium. We’re also considering new indoor practice football facilities that will give our athletes the resources and support they need to win.

Meanwhile, our Research Park buildings are now completely filled. Students, faculty, researchers and inventors are all working together on some of the most innovative projects ever to come out of the university. We are now in the beginning stages of planning for new buildings in the Research Park to accommodate even more activity.

Every space on our campuses reflects the world-class institutions we are. It’s about more than just aesthetics. To the maximum extent possible, our facilities should be equipped with the best technology, they should be open and inviting to encourage collaboration, they must represent efficient uses of space, and they must be built as sustainably as possible.

This year the State Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott dedicated more dollars to state universities than ever before. Much of this important additional funding will go toward needs-based aid for our students, which is especially critical at USF. All of our actions must ensure a good return on these investments.

In every area, we must continue to be good stewards of our resources.

We must work together, as one team.

That means working together as a system. Earlier this year our Board of Trustees approved a new USF System Strategic Plan that focuses on three areas: first, leveraging the USF System as a force-multiplier for each member institution; secondly, strengthening community engagement – especially with corporate partnerships; and third, creating a nationally and globally recognized brand. This has never been more important.

As we gain momentum in every area of our university system, more and more people will take notice. We are no longer satisfied with the University of South Florida being a “best kept secret.”

I know you share this sentiment. I have heard from so many of you who wonder why USF is not as well-known as some of our peers. The truth is – we have always prioritized accomplishments and achievements that get us closer to our goals rather than talking about where we want to be before we get there.

Now, we are ready to tell our story in a bigger way than ever before.

We now have the results of an all-encompassing brand study that has given us invaluable insights into how we can better differentiate ourselves. In the next few months, we will take what we’ve learned and apply it. It’s about time our reputation is as strong as our objective performance.

Our branding and marketing efforts will be more targeted. Our messaging will be clearer. We will be more disciplined in our visual identity, including the use of our logo.

Today there are countless variations of the USF logo being used across all of our campuses and all of our units – more than we can even count. While I know these were created with good intentions, this doesn’t send the message that we are united, and speaking with one voice.

Our brand must represent the disciplined focus that exists in every other aspect of the university. And just like our efforts to advance student success, grow our research, and strengthen our academic foundation – elevating our brand identity will require each of us to take this effort personally. To ask: what can I do to ensure that USF’s brand depicts the world-class institution it stands for?

You deserve to be represented in the best way possible. Your accomplishments deserve to be represented in the best way possible. You’ve earned it.

And there’s so much more we can do…

The history of human progress includes countless examples of others like us who found purpose in a pursuit. Who pushed beyond what was expected and set new standards that others would later measure themselves against. They were never satisfied.


“Because,” as President John F. Kennedy said, in announcing his intention to send the first person to the moon… quote: “that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because the challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

Our drive isn’t any different.

We’re proud of what we’ve done. But our drive is about what we can do next. We are creating history.

We are depending on each other to build something greater than ourselves, to keep pushing this university system further than it has ever gone. Remember – extraordinary is our new normal. Now… we have to reach for the moon.

We have the energy, we have the vision, we have the momentum…. and we’re just getting started.


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