A confluence of circumstances provides the context for the Academic Affairs strategic plan. Through a recently implemented strategic planning and budgeting process, we are presented with an opportunity to assess the growth of UNF's academic programs and to determine how best to direct growth into the university's foreseeable and exciting future. The SACS re-accreditation review required that the university be purposeful in its intentions and certain about its strategies for achieving those intentions. Finally, a newly launched capital campaign provides us with an opportunity to solicit resources for well-defined programs that promise to address the evolving needs of the First Coast Region.
From its inception UNF has defined itself as an institution very much dedicated to meeting the educational needs of the citizens of Jacksonville and the surrounding communities. It has done so historically by emphasizing its commitment to quality undergraduate education. Given its relative intimacy in comparison to the older and larger institutions in the State University System, UNF's size was conducive to individualized student attention, and despite the subsequent growth of the university a clear focus on the learning needs and ambitions of the individual student has remained and will continue to remain a hallmark of a UNF education.
Perhaps as a result of this enduring commitment, what sometimes gets obscured is that when UNF first opened its doors it enrolled only upper-level and graduate students. Lower-level students were not admitted until the early 80s, and their number only recently exceeded the “non-native” population of the student body. In the meanwhile, graduate education has continued to flourish at UNF, which now offers approximately 27 master's degree programs and three doctoral degree programs.
The Academic Affairs strategic plan anticipates a steady trajectory of enrollment growth, primarily at the undergraduate level in response to the burgeoning population of the state, but steadily as well at the graduate level in response to the burgeoning population of the region and the increasing need for advanced educational opportunities for its citizens. Toward this latter end it is likely that the university will expand its offerings at both the master's and doctoral levels, at the latter level most likely with a particular emphasis upon applied programs.
As UNF grows in size and complexity and quality it will fulfill its mission as “North Florida's University,” providing knowledge to the region in the form of informed, professional, and civic-minded graduates.
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