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
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.