Convocation, Fall 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

I would like to echo President Delaney’s sentiments by expressing my own gratitude for the admirable dedication and fine achievement of our faculty, both those whom we are here to honor today as well as all those others whose talents and accomplishments are no less deserving of acknowledgment and praise. And to those of you who are new to the university, I too would like to extend a warm welcome and, along with President Delaney, encourage you to take a long view of UNF’s current fiscal circumstances. We know with certainty that they will improve.

Because our circumstances will improve, and because it is incumbent upon us to be purposeful and deliberate in good times and bad, it behooves us to be forward-looking. It is for that reason that I am especially pleased to be leading our newly constituted planning council charged with laying out our agenda for the five years ahead. As the president indicated, the responsibility of this council will be to transform the vision and mission statements developed last year by the provost’s task force into a fully developed, institutional-level strategic plan.

To that end we have assigned to individual committee chairs responsibility for each of the five strategic goals delineated by the task force. Those committee chairs have identified colleagues from across the university who are well positioned to assist them in their efforts to elaborate on the five goals as they pertain to the activities of the units most appropriate to their execution. If they have not already done so, those colleagues soon will be receiving invitations from the president to join this effort. Such broad participation will allow for an inclusive process that will be made even more inclusive through opportunities for community dialogue about the strategic plan. In addition to the five committees that will be addressing the strategic goals, we have formed one further committee that will be critical to the overall success of this effort. This committee is charged with the responsibility for identifying appropriate peer and aspirational institutions against which UNF can be measured in order to determine how effectively UNF is carrying out its mission and what kind of progress UNF is making toward realizing its vision.

I wish to remind you of what that vision commits us to. It is nothing less than becoming a regional institution of national quality. Rather than lament the fact that our current budget setback is undeniably slowing us on our course, what I prefer to focus on are the especially fine qualities that already distinguish UNF—prominent among them its exceptional faculty, its Quality Enhancement Plan, its commitment to transformational learning—and the fact that, with determination, temporarily diminished resources will merely slow our progress toward our goal but they will not alter the trajectory toward true excellence which UNF already is traversing. With your help I am confident that, if not today then tomorrow, we really will achieve this elevated ambition.

I also am confident that what will remain intact at UNF, through this period of fiscal austerity and into our future as a larger, more complex university, are the strong sense of community, the custom of civil discourse, and the deep and discerning commitment to quality that together have characterized the ethos of this institution since its founding. Indeed, it is adherence to these very values that will assure that we will weather the moment and achieve the excellence that we aspire to.

I would now like to recognize the faculty whose efforts are contributing to the realization of our collective goal.