It is my pleasure to greet you to the start of a new academic year. Even if you were unable to beat the heat, I trust that you are nevertheless returning to UNF rehydrated by whatever enriching and invigorating activities you engaged in over the course of the summer.
You are returning to a university with full enrollment, approximately 35 new colleagues (for whom we had a lovely reception at MOCA-J), robust programs, a sound budget (at least for as far ahead as we can see), a great many ambitions for the future, and a measured road map for how to achieve those ambitions so that, regardless of the pace with which we achieve them, we will remain on course.
That road map was something that the president and I had an opportunity to present, along with our colleagues from the other 10 SUS institutions, at a Board of Governors meeting in June. The UNF “work plan”--the title given to these road maps--required us to identify both immediate 1-3 year and longer 5-10 year goals, all in the context of the BOG’s New Florida initiative which calls for a reinvention of the Florida economy grounded on education rather than the traditional pillars of tourism, agriculture, and growth. UNF’s vision--“to be a preeminent public institution of higher learning that will serve the North Florida region at a level of national quality”--is fully consonant with the New Florida initiative, as are the specific objectives put forth in the work plan which derive from UNF’s commitment “to offer a singular undergraduate experience, strengthen its commitment to relevant and needed graduate programs, and purposefully intensify research activity in support both of undergraduate and graduate education and the discovery and application of knowledge.”
The approval at the June BOG meeting of the university’s request to raise tuition will enable us to restore all the lines that had been frozen over the past few years so departments can look ahead to a year of active hiring. Differential tuition will also enable us to add a significant number of new advisors to bring our student-advisor ratios into a more desirable range than they are currently. Academic Affairs has its own searches underway for a new Dean of Undergraduate Studies and a permanent dean of Computing, Engineering, and Construction. They will join our new Dean of the Coggin College of Business, Dr. Ajay Samant, and our new Director of the School of Engineering, Dr. Murat Tiryakiouglu, both of whom started at UNF during the summer.
The budget, as I alluded to above, looks quite sound for the year ahead. With regard to additional resources, we will very soon be submitting applications for a one-time allocation of New Florida funding for this fiscal year in three prescribed areas: to support the potential commercialization of products developed by members of our STEM faculty; the recruitment of STEM-related faculty; and inter-institutional research in STEM areas. It is readily apparent that STEM areas are being prioritized in this first round of funding but the promise is that New Florida funding eventually will extend to all areas of the university. We also have submitted a legislative budget request for the 2011-12 fiscal year that would enable us to increase the size of our student body, fund a proportional increase in faculty, and support the enhancement of academic programs and our research capability.
In addition to the BOG-related work described above, this past summer I also devoted time to a number of other system-wide conversations pertaining to the Florida Institute for Oceanography (which is heavily involved in researching the effects of the oil spill, and on which we are represented by Dr. Courtney Hackney); the future of academic libraries (the subject of a task force co-chaired by Dr. Shirley Hallblade); academic enhancement fees (the subject of a BOG subcommittee of which I am a member); and finally, the issue of academic efficiencies. This latter issue results from the fact that Florida’s institutions of higher education must anticipate that they will have to educate more students while depending upon fewer state dollars but with the availability of ever more sophisticated and ubiquitous forms of technology. Not coincidentally, UNF’s own commitment to “e-learning” will be advanced by the creation of a new technology fee that students will be paying beginning this fall. I was very glad to join the CAVP subcommittee that will be exploring the impact of technology on educational delivery as the long-term and local implications of this issue are likely to be profound. My intention is to recruit a number of UNF colleagues to join me in giving consideration to this complex matter so that I can provide the subcommittee with a broad and informed perspective that represents the best thinking of the UNF community.
I stand to benefit from that same kind of best thinking as I meet regularly this year with Dr. Adam Shapiro, the chair of the Council of Chairs (whom we fondly refer to as the “chair of chairs”); the president of our Faculty Association, Dr. Pat Plumlee, and the president of our Faculty Union, Dr. Henry Thomas. I hope that I will benefit from your best thinking as well at the open conversations with faculty that I will be scheduling periodically throughout the year. While you may of course opt to have coffee with the president I trust you might wish to temper the jarring effects of caffeine by joining me later in the day at a more civil hour for wine with the provost.
In the meanwhile I wish you a rich and fulfilling semester.
Mark E. Workman
Provost and VPAA