One of many enjoyable responsibilities as president is greeting each of our graduates at commencement ceremonies. Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting 690 degrees to some wonderful men and women, including one to Katelyn Tierney, a health administration major, who was recognized as the Senior Service Award recipient. She has distinguished herself by establishing the Dance Marathon at UNF, raising $75,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network and Shands Jacksonville. She also served as the Student Government senate secretary and vice president of Zeta Tau Alpha.
Katelyn is one example of the many UNF students who volunteer on campus and in the community. It is an honor to have such talented students going out into the community to make it a better place for us all.
We are tremendously honored that UNF was recently recognized in a number of national publications placing us among the nation’s elite universities. Last month, UNF was recognized as one of the top colleges and universities in the country in the annual “Top 100 Best Buy Colleges” published by Forbes Magazine. The survey was compiled by looking not only at price but measures of quality, such as graduation rates, student debt load and faculty pay. UNF is among only four Florida universities to place in the top 20. We join such top-notch Florida schools as the University of Florida, Florida State University and New College. A similar honor was bestowed on us by The Princeton Review which designated UNF as one of the best colleges in the Southeast. These prestigious recognitions affirm the tremendous on-going effort UNF has put forth to build one of the finest universities in the country.
I’m particularly proud of another designation by The Princeton Review in its “Guide to 311 Green Colleges.” This guide was created in cooperation with the U.S. Green Building Council and ranks UNF among the outstanding universities and colleges nationwide that are leading the “green” movement through special programs and initiatives.
One of the reasons for these prestigious rankings has been the emphasis on quality academic programs. We have done that through designating certain programs as Flagship programs. Over the past several years, we have selected four such programs. They are given this designation to signal they go beyond being strong programs and are recognized as national models. I’m excited to share with you our decision to designate two additional areas of study. The Department of Music and the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics are now UNF’s 5th and 6th Flagship programs. These departments will receive additional funding to build new advanced degrees and improve their already strong academic reputations nationally and internationally.
UNF’s music program pulls students from every state and its Jazz Studies Program, led by our own Bunky Green, is recognized around the world. The department plans to add master’s degree programs in both conducting and jazz studies.
UNF’s Nutrition Program will expand its distance-learning program allowing new internship opportunities, especially in rural areas without easy access to higher education programs. It will also allow students in the program to do more service and volunteer work with local schools and charities.
In 2005, we selected our first Flagship Program, the School of Nursing. The next year, three more programs were selected; Coastal Biology, International Business and Transportation and Logistics. These areas are achieving outstanding success in a variety of important research and academic areas.
An exciting development in our Power of Transformation Campaign has been the recent announcement by the Bernard Osher Foundation making a second $1 million gift to the University. The gift makes it possible for the Division of Continuing Education to continue to offer the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNF. These institutes are located at 120 colleges and universities across the country with the UNF institute being among the fastest growing. More than 1,200 residents are already participating in programs made possible by the first $1 million gift. Since the curriculum is determined by members, it is varied. Classes range from serious discussions of foreign policy and investing to more leisurely pastimes such as beginning Bridge, Wine 101 and Gentle Yoga. With $2 million for the institute’s UNF endowment and occasional grants directly from the Osher Foundation, the outlook is indeed bright for a program only in its fifth year.
The gift has been instrumental in pushing the campaign beyond the $100 million level. The response by the community to this campaign has been gratifying. As of the end of the last fiscal year (June 30), more than 22,000 donors have donated or made pledges to the campaign. Of these, about 5,500 have been first-time donors to UNF. We hope to reach our $110 million goal sometime next year.
For more information on the campaign go to: www.unf.edu/wetransform.
The greater Jacksonville community has given a warm welcome to our newest dean, Dr. Mark Tumeo who was selected to lead the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction. Mark comes to us from Cleveland State University where he was the vice provost for research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies.
We are thrilled UNF was able to attract this talented individual because he shares with us our commitment to working with the private sector to serve as a hub of innovation and creativity. This is important as we work together to stimulate growth and economic development in Northeast Florida. For more information on Mark visit: www.unf.edu/ccec/dean/.
Another indication of UNF’s critical role in the economy of Northeast Florida is the Small Business Development Center. In the 18 counties the center serves, they have counseled nearly 1,900 individual entrepreneurs and trained more than 2,900 workshop participants over the past year. The Center calculates the economic impact of that work as creating access to $13 million in capital, stimulating 113 business starts and creating or retaining 910 jobs. These are not extrapolated numbers but only those reported by the center’s clients so the actual economic impact is undoubtedly greater than these numbers indicate. We are proud to serve as their home-base of operations for Northeast Florida.
We all know the construction industry was hit hard during the recession. However, UNF is doing its role to maintain those skilled workers in Jacksonville. We have several major projects underway on campus.
A two-story, 16,000-square-foot addition is being completed to the College of Education and Human Services. When finished it will house the Disability Resource Center, the Military and Veterans Resource Center, the On-Campus Transition Program and the Institute for Values, Community and Leadership.
The Biological Sciences building is nearing completion. This beautiful three-floor, 116,000-square foot building is a major asset to our campus and will include 16 teaching labs as well as 27 faculty research labs for everything from aquatics to molecular biology. It will also feature a roof-top greenhouse for maintaining plant specimens, living corals and marine life for use in the labs.
The Student Wellness Complex will open to students in 2012. The striking architecture of this signature building will complement our recently completed Student Union. This dynamic facility will provide top-notch exercise and conditioning facilities for our students. The Dottie Dorion Fitness Center will be incorporated into this complex and will be three times larger than the original facility. It will also provide labs and classrooms to promote health awareness.
In 2012, a new Osprey Café will open in the location of the old campus cafeteria. The new facility will offer several amenities including many food preparation areas scattered among the eating sections. The intent is to create an atmosphere in which the majority of fresh food is cooked in front of the customer and not in a hidden kitchen. It will definitely enhance our students’ experience on campus.
Funding for these construction projects does not come from UNF’s general operating budget, but from a state trust exclusively used for the construction of academic facilities, through building fees paid by students for student recreation facilities, through auxiliary revenues and through generous private gifts.
Much of the progress we have made comes despite recent budgetary challenges. These accomplishments also reflect the help of so many donors and community leaders who are assisting us in offering our students a truly transformational experience.
John A. Delaney