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Convocation 2019

This is always a fun time of the year. It is the time when we get to honor people for excellence, and we have a lot of excellent people in our faculty and our staff. We are particularly pleased to honor David Jaffee, who is winning the most distinguished award we have at the University - a real testament to his scholarship and his involvement with students.


Before I launch into presentations, I want to take a minute to talk a little about what we are doing here at UNF. It is a new day here at the University of North Florida, and when we talk about a new day, it is about change. It is about change in a positive way. It is about doing the things we do really well, but also exploring: What can we do better? How can we take things to the next level?


All these things we do - which are possible through your support, your commitment, your dedication - really make us uniquely UNF. We want to be the institution people look to for success and leadership. We are also part of the best system in the country. The State University System of Florida has been rated the No. 1 system in the country.


Earlier this month, an appointee to the Board of Governors from our area was announced, and it is really important to us. Kent Stermon is the Chief Operating Officer of Total Military Management, and we are thrilled to have him as part of the Board of Governors. Although he graduated from Georgia State, for two years he took classes here at UNF, so he is one of ours. We will call on him to help us be successful, and he is going to be a phenomenal addition to the Board of Governors. It really is going to be great to have representation from our area and also someone who knows us well, because he is passionate about UNF.


One of the things that makes us leaders in the state school system is we are No. 1 in terms of jobs. Our students get jobs. We are known as "the jobs university." And there are a lot of reasons why. First of all, our students are really bright; they are really talented. Our fall freshman class had an average high school GPA of 4.32 and an average ACT of nearly 27. Those are honors numbers.


Our students have experience and nearly 90 percent of our students have some sort of job experience, real-world experience by the time they graduate. And one of the things that also makes our students talented and well prepared is they study abroad at more than twice the national average. In fact, we are No. 8 in the country in terms of short-term study abroad and No. 12 in terms of long-term study abroad in the nation, which is a real testament to our students and also our International Center.


Our facilities are also excellent. Every dean anywhere will always tell you they need more money and more facilities, but our facilities are phenomenal. You are on our campus and you have seen it. It really is one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, and you cannot refute that. We have an opportunity to showcase who we are and what we are all about.


The last thing we want to think about is the fact our students are taught by instructors and not by teacher assistants. More than 99 percent of our students are taught by instructors, and that is a differentiator when you are thinking about undergraduate education in particular.


The greatest thing that makes us unique is we have people who care. And that is the real key to our overall success. I like to say "We are in the opportunity business," - focused on doing our jobs really, well to create opportunities for other individuals.


You all know education is one of those great equalizers. It opens doors, and so we want to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure student success, and we are.


These are some promises I will give you. A promise we are committed to focusing in on student success. It is not rhetoric, but it is who we are and what we are about. Students are at the forefront of everything we do. All of our thought processes and the strategic planning process we are going to undertake is going to be about student success.


We are committed to:

  • student success in the classroom through instructional support outside of class;
  • student success through affordability and access by increasing scholarships, ensuring 120 hours to degree programs and reducing costs of textbooks; and
  • we are going to provide our talented students with graduate degrees in the UNF-Plus degree program. Bright and talented students who come in have the opportunity to go through and get an undergraduate degree plus get a master's degree in four years, and that is the key to success moving forward.

I also promise you we will remain firmly committed to serving our students, as well as our faculty and staff, exceptionally well. We will be ambitious in a very positive way, a very respectful way.


We will talk about integrity, we will talk about respect, but we will be ambitious. We want to be the best. We do not want to be just pretty good, not just okay. We really want to be the best, and we will work on that. We will seek perfection. We will try to be a 10. The reason why we need to be a 10 is people have choices. If we are not a 10, they will go somewhere else - faculty, staff, and students. We need to be a 10, not only in terms of choices but also to make sure we are serving our students well.


We will create a more diverse campus through our new Community Alliance for Student Success program. You are going to hear a lot about this program in the coming months and the coming years.


We will also create pathways to jobs through business and community partnerships. One of the things that makes us unique is being in Jacksonville. We have opportunities to create pathways. When we think about jobs, when we think about placement, and when we think about starting salaries, it is important for us to integrate people into the classroom and into the curriculum - it is an experiential learning experience.


So finally, we will be uniquely UNF. We are going to be uniquely UNF because we will be leaders. I am so grateful for the work everybody does, and I am excited to be here on this special day to congratulate people for all the work they have done, and to recognize them for their excellence.


Thank you for being here. Thank you for your support. Thank you for everything you do to make UNF great.