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Transcript: President Genshaft's Fall Address


Fall address 2018: United we Shape the Future

Good afternoon. Thank you, Dr. Michael, for that kind introduction.

I would like to welcome the faculty, staff and students here at the Oval Theatre, as well as those who are watching online. And thank you to our friends across the Tampa Bay community, our alumni, our members of the USF Board of Trustees, State University System Board of Governors, our partners in the Legislature and the Governor. We are stronger because of the collective power of the many supporters around us.

Welcome to the new era of the University of South Florida.

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After years -- decades -- of working to raise the profile of our research, student success, teaching and community impact, we are making major strides across every unit, in every measure. We are being recognized by everyone from local supporters to state leaders to national and global higher education influencers. We are coming together in a closer way than ever before, as one united university. And with our new Preeminence designation, we are not only able to share in valuable new state resources…. we can say to the world:

We, USF, are elite.

We, USF, are Preeminent.

We, USF, have arrived.

According to the Statutes of the State of Florida, the purpose of creating and rewarding Preeminent universities is to “elevate the academic and research preeminence of Florida’s highest-performing state research universities.” The goal is to strengthen the foundation of the state as a whole, as Florida’s most elite universities attract more talent, more research dollars, and more creative energy from around the world.

This means the expectations for USF, Florida’s first metropolitan Preeminent university, are greater than ever. The entire state -- from our top legislative leaders to the Board of Governors to the more than 20 million Florida citizens -- have a stake in USF’s continued success. We are in a new league, with new peers and new standards.

Preeminence doesn’t give us the right to excellence. It gives us the responsibility to continue to earn it… again, and again, and again. It isn’t something that can be accomplished in a single year or by just a few individuals. It takes a team -- from staff at every level to faculty to administration -- to keep moving in the same direction toward the same goals.

We are on this trajectory because of you and all you have done. Thank you.

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This year will also be remembered as when USF was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most esteemed liberal arts honor society in the nation. We have been working to join this group for at least 30 years. Where Preeminence signals to the state of Florida that USF is among our most esteemed institutions, Phi Beta Kappa helps us plant our flag on the national higher education landscape.

USF has also never been more visible on the global stage.

Hosting the Times Higher Education Young University Summit earlier this year introduced USF and Tampa Bay to higher education leaders from around the world. It was during that conference that we learned of our ranking on the Times Higher Education’s Golden Age Universities list, which recognizes the best universities globally founded between 1945 and 1966. USF is fifth on the list of public universities in the United States -- and the only Florida university ranked among the top 100 publics nationwide.

Being recognized with prestigious designations like Preeminence, Phi Beta Kappa and Times Higher Education’s Golden Age Universities puts USF on a new playing field. It helps us hire and recruit the best talent, helps us to influence our reputation-based rankings and shines a spotlight on all of the Tampa Bay region.

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This year we also broke an astounding record in fundraising, reaching our ONE BILLION dollar goal for our Unstoppable campaign.

The spirit of giving to USF is especially impressive for an institution of our age. USF is one of only three public universities in the country founded after 1950 that has raised more than $1 billion dollars, and the other two are in California.

We are fortunate to have so many alumni, state leaders and members of our community around us who are invested in our success.

One example can be seen in the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute rising in downtown Tampa.

This project is staggering in its impact -- in terms of academic, research and economic significance. It is so much more than a landmark building; this project symbolizes who we are and where we are headed.

Already, it has helped us attract the top students and researchers from around the country.

First-year medical students entering our Morsani College of Medicine this August scored the highest average Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores on record for USF and in Florida, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. For the last four years, our incoming medical classes’ MCAT scores place the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine at or above the 90th percentile of all students taking the exam nationwide.

This theme is echoed in our admissions numbers across the USF System, with this year’s freshmen class again the most academically accomplished in our history. Our more than 3,000 new freshmen across the System had an average two-part SAT score of 1283 -- up from 1266 last year -- and an average high school GPA of 4.09 -- up from 4.07 in 2017.

While we celebrate our student academic profile, we remain committed to building and supporting a diverse student body. This is our responsibility as a metropolitan public university -- to provide not only access to higher education, but to ensure students have the tools, all the resources, and all the support services to succeed.

Our heralded leadership in this area is setting the national standard. This past year we celebrated being named by the Education Trust as the number-one school in Florida and sixth best in the country for black student success, as well as the number-one public university in the country for Latino student success. Uniquely, we graduate our students at the same rate -- regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. This is a rare achievement in higher education.

Just last week, we celebrated a significant gift to support student access and success. The Helios Foundation awarded the USF Black Leadership Network a first-of-its-kind, $2.1-million-dollar endowed grant that will provide scholarships and create mentorship opportunities to help minority students graduate faster and with less debt. This gift will ensure that USF maintains its commitment to student success among our entire diverse student body.

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Today, we have more students living on campus than ever before.

Three new residence halls on the Tampa campus bring our total housing capacity to 6,300 beds. These new facilities represent the completion of The Village, which opened in fall 2017 and includes a state-of-the-art wellness facility, The Fit, and our newest dining location, The Hub, in addition to several new restaurants. The Village will also soon be home to a Publix supermarket -- a first-of-its-kind to be located directly on a college campus.

In addition, we are working actively as a USF System to create more housing capacity on the St. Petersburg campus, with renewed plans to support a 375-bed residence hall and dining facility at USFSP that would open in the next two years. And we continue to study housing needs and other new facility needs for our USF Sarasota-Manatee campus -- understanding how important it is for all of our students to have the resources they need to succeed.

We are also committed to enhancing the USF experience for our graduate students. This fall we will begin a comprehensive assessment of our master’s and Ph.D-level programs to strengthen graduate recruitment, advising, instruction, progression to graduation, as well as access to post-graduation employment and career-advancement opportunities.

These and other efforts to support student success are vital to our mission, and we will never stop working to maintain our leadership in this area.

Another way we keep our students engaged is through USF Athletics. With new vice presidential leadership, a strong team of coaches, staff and student-athletes, I have no doubt that this will again be a record-setting year for the Bulls. The prioritization of fundraising for our new indoor Football Center will help us to further attract and train the best athletic talent, enriching the university experience for all of our students and fans. And our continued commitment to supporting student-athletes will ensure excellence both on and off the field. This past year, our nearly 500 student-athletes posted a record combined spring term GPA of 3.1.

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USF differentiates itself by being a research university. It is our research enterprise that will continue to set us apart as we climb even higher among the nationally and internationally elite. Even the Preeminence statute recognizes this, with seven out of the 12 required metrics directly relating to research productivity -- specifically, maintaining high annual research expenditures, NSF research rankings, and production of patents.

We already have tremendous momentum.

We are in the Top 30 of public research universities nationwide, with annual research expenditures of $568 million dollars. We rank fifth among public universities in generating new United States utility patents, and 12th worldwide among all universities.

This is the eighth year USF has ranked in the top 20 globally. We are also now ranked in the top 16 percent nationally for facilitating university startups -- with 10 startup companies in the past year alone. And we are home to the globally recognized National Academy of Inventors, which now has more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning 250 institutions worldwide.

During last year’s fall address, I announced our intention to create a new Office of Corporate Partnerships to be the one-stop-shop for any outside entities to engage with our faculty and researchers. A joint venture with USF Research & Innovation and the USF Foundation, this office promotes industry partnerships for sponsored research and educational programs, supports student internships, and helps recruit more companies to the USF Research Park. We have also set up a web portal called “Partner with USF” to provide common resources and contact information for outside organizations. This office has already made hundreds of new connections with various stakeholders in the community, which will lead to productive new partnerships and projects. We want to be a user-friendly, welcoming environment for anyone who engages with us.

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As we celebrate our accomplishments, please understand -- these are simply mile-markers along the way. We must keep moving forward.

For the past two years, I have asked a series of questions in my fall addresses intended to focus this thought process. Again, I urge you to use these questions as tools for setting priorities and making decisions:

1. Are we raising our standards to reflect a Preeminent institution?

The standards we held ourselves to in the past may no longer apply… because we have surpassed them. We must raise our game to meet our new designation and move to an even higher level.

2. Are we surrounding ourselves with the best talent?

Do our faculty and staff represent a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, made up of professionals who are top of their fields? Often this means hiring people smarter than us who may challenge us to see and do things differently. This builds strength and creates new knowledge among all of us.

3. Are we recruiting the highest level of professionals in our unit?

Are we attracting competitive faculty members with research profiles that fit a Preeminent institution? Do they come from other Preeminent or AAU institutions? Do they have projects or ideas that bring something new to the university?

4. Are we the national model in our areas of expertise?

Are we setting national best practices in all of our individual units and organizations? If not, why not? And how can we get there?

5. Finally… What are we going to stop doing that doesn’t contribute to our mission as a Preeminent institution?

There is so much happening at this university and across our networks… so many opportunities that call for our attention. But we have to be selective, which means letting go of things that may distract us. We must focus on what truly contributes to our mission, whether it be time, attention or dollars.

It is so important that this kind of disciplined attention has become a part of the operating rhythm at USF and made us successful. These tough questions are critical to guiding hiring and promotion decisions, to refining practices in student success, to inspiring new research, and to reorganizing departments to ensure collaboration and productivity. We must stop doing what takes us off focus.

We have only just begun. And we must remain united as one team.

Another significant development for USF this year is an action by the Board of Governors, Florida Legislature and Governor to consolidate the separately accredited institutions of the USF System -- USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee -- into one integrated university.

Consolidation will remove the walls that now too often divide us. Not only will each USF campus benefit from being a part of a Preeminent Research institution – students will benefit from a simplified admissions process, access to more degree programs regardless of campus location, increased efficiencies that result in graduating faster and with less debt, and expanded opportunities in research.

We are looking forward to receiving recommendations from our diverse 75-member, multi-campus internal consolidation committee. Together with an independent, nationally regarded consultant and the Legislatively-mandated USF Consolidation Task Force, we will develop a plan to ensure accreditation and Preeminence for the USF System by the year 2020. This process is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff, communities, and the long-term strength of our institution as a whole.

We can already see evidence of how working together makes us stronger. Earlier this year we announced an expansion of the USF College of Nursing partnership between USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee. This program helps meet the needs of one of the highest-demand workforce fields in Florida. It allows eligible students to complete two bachelor’s of science degrees -- one in biology and another in nursing -- in five years. This kind of seamless collaboration is just one example of what makes the USF System such an asset to our community.

In these and so many other ways, USF will continue to defy the notion of what a relatively young university should be able to accomplish. Now, more than ever before, it is time for us to tell our story -- the right way.

Last year, I shared with you my desire to see the university coalesce around one clear brand, an especially important priority considering our System consolidation. Since last year, we have taken significant steps toward this goal:

Let’s take a look...

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Like any great organization, we now have a clear, consistent brand to guide us as we continue to evolve in the future. The proud new full-size Bull logo is intended to represent all of our academic units and departments, while the traditional “Bull U” logo will remain for USF Athletics.

This brand will officially launch during Homecoming in October. The Office of Communications and Marketing will share this brand with your departments, along with clear guidelines covering a wide range of uses to ensure we maintain a united look and feel without losing individuality.

Remember - our brand isn’t just our logo or words on a billboard -- it is reflected in everything each of us says and does, and how we say and do it.

It tells the world: we aren’t just talking about a new era…. We are actively shaping one.

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In my position, I have the privilege of talking about USF out in the world all the time. I hear the praise, the ideas, and all the varied opinions about where USF is and where we’re going. Over the past few years, more than ever before, there has been a common refrain among all the people I talk to about USF. They cannot believe how far we’ve come. They are, quite frankly, amazed.

Think back to your first impression on the first day you arrived at USF. Maybe it was a year ago, or 10 years ago, or more. Think back to your expectations of what this university would achieve... I’m willing to guess that even the most ambitious among us did not predict all of what we are celebrating here today. We are in a new era of Preeminence. And so much more.

We rally around Preeminence because it is such a clear, unbiased indicator of our university’s progress… but the truth is, our Path to Preeminence represents an experience many of us can relate to on many other professional and personal levels. It’s what being a Bull is all about -- having the grit, the determination, the tenacity, the competitiveness, the boundless energy and optimism to charge into any challenge. To push the limits of our own potential.

Nothing has ever been handed to us. We’re not entitled by land grant. We’re not bound by storied traditions. Everything we have achieved, we have earned.

It’s up to us to determine what this new era will bring. We must move faster, better, and smarter than ever before.

At USF, we shape our own future.

And there are no limitations.

GO BULLS!

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