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State of the University Address 2007

FSU President T. K. Wetherell
FSU President T. K. Wetherell

In just a few months I will have completed five years in this office. It seems like the right time to step back, look at our original goals and assess our progress. In 2003, in my inaugural State of the University address, I opened with the words of my predecessor, Sandy D’Alemberte:

In summarizing his nine-year presidency, Sandy had said, “Florida State University is now at a tipping point in its history—on the very edge of entering the ranks of the great research universities in this country.”

I recalled that Sandy’s years in office were characterized by growth—growth in the state and growth for Florida State University. The state’s mindset was that universities were important academic, cultural and economic engines in both Florida and the nation. State funding was available to match that mindset.

But the world had changed significantly in the year since Sandy had spoken so optimistically.

Between 2002 and 2003, throughout the country, higher education was losing ground, both financially and substantially with certain decision makers.

With national budget woes, the passage of the class-size and Board of Governors amendments in Florida, as well as other economic difficulties, by the time of my inaugural address, higher-education funding in this state was in far worse condition than during Sandy’s years of service. For the first time in state history, the Legislature had not fully funded enrollment growth.

In contrast to Sandy’s optimistic words, I was forced to say, “Quite frankly, the university system in this state is in peril. Nevertheless, Florida State University was not willing to back away from its historical commitment to quality. As a result, we launched a campaign that we called “Quality and Access.”

We based that campaign on the truth that Florida State University is—and must continue to be—a place where opportunities are open and dreams come true. Each year thousands of students enroll in this university with high expectations and a sense of energy that deserves our greatest commitment. Their experiences on this campus will shape their lives, the lives of others and the lives of generations to come. Accordingly, we owe them nothing less than our best effort, regardless of political or economic circumstances.

Even though we were dealing with a changed climate for higher education, there was still a lot of good news to report from this campus. Good news about growing our faculty, about the Mag Lab, progress our fledgling College of Medicine was making, about record levels of contracts and grants. Good news about our support for online courses and other technology, about construction and new facilities. And good news about our efforts to raise private funding.

We also offered an optimistic five-year forecast. At that time I said, “In five years (2008) I see an FSU:

  • That has accepted a leadership position in becoming the university system’s most vocal advocate for quality, access and fairness-regardless of the political consequences
  • That has set the tone for higher education to be required rather than denied
  • Fully re-accredited by SACS and with a fully accredited medical school
  • Having a fully funded enrollment plan and enrollment growing beyond the national average, especially at the graduate level
  • With a world-class faculty and a great proportion of full professors
  • With the most qualified support staff in the state
  • Enrolling a highly qualified student body that, like the faculty and staff, reflects the state’s population
  • As a totally wireless campus-each student with a laptop and classes online
  • Winning another five-year extension (through 2013) of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
  • With $200 million in research grants and contracts
  • With new chemistry, life sciences, human science and psychology buildings and two new general-purpose classroom buildings.
  • With 3000 new residence spaces on campus, 5000 new parking places, 50 acres of intramural fields, a Seminole Retirement Village, the Greek Park fully occupied and Legacy Walk extended from Westcott to the University Center, highlighting both Heisman winners and Nobel Laureates
  • That has completed a $600 million Capital Campaign
  • With significant improvements in its graduation rate and becoming a leader in the state and the nation
  • Winning five more national championships-one per year
  • Supporting the Seminole Tribe of Florida and all Native Americans so that they clearly get the respect they so naturally deserve
  • With 100 per cent of FSU employees contributing to the United Way and annual fund drive
  • With the Board of Trustees and President having the same administrative authority that the local community college enjoys

In 2004, after reporting the progress we’d made on these goals and the year’s many successes, I formally broached the idea of an additional goal:

  • Membership in the elite Association of American Universities and a plan of action to get there.

At that time I said, “We are already a state flagship university. FSU can, should and will lead this state into a new era in higher education.”

In 2005, after reviewing our excellent progress on the 2002 goals, we fleshed out the 2004 goal—AAU membership—as a specific five-year plan of action—the Pathways of Excellence initiative—to become one of the top research and graduate education institutions in the United States.

Our Pathways goals would be to:

  • Support a net growth of 200 tenure-track faculty at Florida State University over the next five years (from approximately 1,100 in 2005 to over to 1,300 in 2010). The focus would be on hiring that is likely to yield substantial returns in increased scholarly and grant activity, particularly in the fields of science, including engineering and medicine
  • Increase our number of Ph.D. graduates toward a target of 400-450 per year
  • Double our annual federal research expenditures in the next five years
  • Triple our annual grant awards from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the next five years
  • Increase scholarly productivity, as measured by citations and program reputation. By 2010 no less than one-third of FSU’s doctoral level programs will rank among the top 15 public universities nationally, based on such measures

We knew that these goals would require us to invest both new and existing resources more wisely. We knew that we must focus our investments and better diversify faculty productivity.

In order to do this we knew that we had to take a unique approach to building our faculty through faculty-initiated cross-disciplinary cluster hiring.

Last year at this time I was able to report good progress on these Pathways goals, with the first clusters being organized and with significant increases in federal grants, in the number of Ph.D. graduates and in increased scholarly productivity and distinction.

We also had some good news to report on the 2003 goals, with an active construction program, enhancement of our scholarly reputation, and continuing growth in the academic qualifications of our students.

Which brings us to 2007—the 60th year since the establishment of Florida State University. There is good news, and I’ll provide an inventory of outstanding accomplishments of the past 12 months.

But first I want to take a moment and go back to 2003 and recall that Quality and Access were major concerns. Today, even more than four years ago, they continue to be very troubling—concerns that can shadow if not totally darken our potential for a bright future.

Funding for general support of this institution has continued to dwindle. Unfunded enrollment growth is getting larger, rather than smaller. We still do not know the full implications of decisions about property taxes and declining general revenues.

At this point you have already started to experience the start of budget cuts we are being forced to institute. More cuts are to come. Whether it’s less comfortable temperatures in your office or shorter library hours, a one-time nominal salary “bonus” instead of a general raise, the cancellation of library publications or even the Admissions Viewbook, we are foreseeing painful cuts.

Unfortunately, these cuts could affect many qualified students who could do well at Florida State University. In order to maintain and build quality, we are being forced to limit access. I want to assure you that this kind of action is absolutely unacceptable to us, and we will challenge the governor and the Legislature to do better for all Floridians who depend on our state universities for the highest quality higher education.

Along these lines, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that the original five-year plan for Pathways of Excellence must be extended. Although we had hoped to be able to fund seven new clusters this year, we could only afford to fund two. This action isn’t one we wanted to take, and I want to affirm that we will not retreat from the important initiative.

We have pledged that, despite budget cuts, we will maintain our quality. We owe it to our students, to our faculty, to our community and to the State of Florida.

Pathways of Excellence (pdf 882.19 kB)

Pathways of Excellence continues as a major element of our commitment to quality. And even though revenue problems are making the time it takes to travel our Pathway longer, and it could take up to 10 years to build our faculty by our original goal of 200, we are determined to succeed. We’ve made a good start. Since the beginning of the Pathways program, 56 new faculty hires have been authorized, and I’m pleased to tell you, that as of this month, 13 are on board.

The moving vans have been busy in the past few months as we’ve welcomed new faculty members to clusters ranging from our first, History of Text Technologies, to Neuroscience, Experimental Social Science and Advanced Materials. They’ve come to us from all over the world. Four are full professors; four more are associate professors.

We anticipate that these new faculty members and others who will be joining us over the years will join our current faculty and have a dramatic effect on research, external grant funding and training of doctoral students.

Contract and Grant Funding

Doctorates Awarded

There’s already progress to report:

Our research funds, which hit a record $190 million in 2005-06, hit another record this year: $194 million.

Our training of doctoral students has also hit new records—up 26 per cent in the past two years, and this year we established a Ph.D. program in biostatistics.

We also have established the Pathways of Excellence Distinguished Lecture Series, a new FSU forum to examine the quality of higher education. Our first lecturer is James Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan, a recognized national authority on higher education in this country. Through this lecture series we hope to bring the nation’s experts in higher education to FSU to offer their thoughts and take a look at our campus and our approaches to 21st century academics and research.

There are many other indications of progress. In the past year we have welcomed Billie Collier as dean of Human Sciences and Lisa Plowfield as dean of Nursing. We also have a new library director, Julia Zimmerman.

Our faculty members have continue to excel. During the past 12 months we’ve seen significant new faculty honors. Among them:

  • Alan G. Marshall, was selected to receive the 2007 Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists
  • Eliza Dresang, the Eliza Atkins Gleason Professor in the College of Information, received the 2007 Scholastic Library Publishing Award
  • Michelle Bourgeois, a professor in Florida State University’s department of communication disorders, was named the recipient of the prestigious 2007 Barry Reisberg Award for Non-Pharmacologic Research, Theory and Clinical Practice
  • Associate Professor of English Nancy Bradley Warren won a prestigious fellowship to support research at the renowned National Humanities Center for the 2007-2008 academic year
  • Professor Tom Anderson was named higher education’s Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association
  • Alfred Mele, the William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, received a 2007-08 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to write a book that combines recent data in neuroscience and social and cognitive psychology with the philosophy of action
  • Law School Instructor L. Clayton “Clay” Roberts was appointed to succeed the retired Judge Richard Ervin III on the 1st District Court of Appeal
  • Professor Mark Messersmith and Associate Professor Lilian Garcia-Roig—both known for their lush landscapes—garnered coveted Joan Mitchell Awards for artistic merit and the accompanying Painters and Sculptors Grant
  • Professor of chemistry and biochemistry Rafael P. Brüschweiler was elevated to the rank of Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Alec Hargreaves, director of Florida State University’s Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, was named a Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor), an elite order created by the masterful French general and emperor Napoleon in 1802 to honor outstanding service to the French nation
  • David Larbalestier, the director of FSU’s Applied Superconductivity Center, received the Cryogenic Materials Award for Lifetime Achievements from the International Cryogenic Materials Conference
  • Engineering Professor Steven Van Sciver was named a fellow of the Cryogenics Society of America. He is just the fifth member of the society to receive that honor since its founding in 1964
  • Timothy A. Cross, the Earl Frieden Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the National High Magnetics Field Laboratory’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Program was one of only five scientists honored this year as a fellow of the Biophysical Society
  • Five professors won Fulbright awards: Tarek Abichou, engineering, Jeffrey Brooks, education, James Cobbe, economics, Patricia Yancey Martin, sociology, and Dan Klooster, geography

With the opening of the new Office of Faculty Awards we anticipate providing support so that even more faculty members can gain this kind of recognition.

The quality of our colleges was also confirmed with the re-accreditation of the College of Information (master’s) by the American Library Association; accreditation of Golf Management (master’s) by the Professional Golf Association of America; accreditation of Public Administration (master’s) by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration; and accreditation of Rehabilitation Counseling (master’s) by the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

The College of Medicine continues to expand through clinical learning sites to Immokalee, Panama City, Daytona Beach and Ft. Pierce. Crossing state lines, but staying in the community, the college continued developing a clinical learning program at Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville, Ga.

Once again, major publications and organizations have recognized the quality of FSU’s programs. Rankings of note include the College of Education’s Program in Higher Education being ranked 18th in the United States among all higher-education administration programs in the U.S. News & World Report publication, “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2008,” and the law school’s environmental law program being ranked 12th in the nation (up from 14th) and, for the first time ever, the tax law program being specially ranked, at 21st, tied with Columbia University.

In the College of Arts & Sciences, The Atlantic magazine has listed FSU’s graduate-level Creative Writing program among the nation’s top 10 and the Ph.D. program in the nation’s top five.

The College of Business undergraduate program has secured U.S. News & World Report’s 2008 ranking of 29th best program in the nation among public institutions. In the same assessment, the risk management/insurance program ranked fourth best, the real estate program 11th best, and the department of management information systems 14th among public institutions.

In the College of Social Sciences, the political science department, already among the Top 10 public universities in terms of research productivity, has been ranked 22nd among all U.S. universities and 8th among public universities based on the success of its Ph.D. graduates in the academic job market, according to PS, an official journal of the American Political Science Association.

Based on the excellence of our College of Education, FSU was chosen as the site of the new Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The center, which received $2 million in state funds this year, with more promised in future years, will use an interdisciplinary, evidence-based approach to improve mathematics and science teaching and learning in Florida’s schools.

Our Film School has also continued to break records. Its 2007 top-three finish at the 28th Annual College Television Awards makes 22 times in 16 years that works written, produced and directed by FSU film students have beaten hundreds of entries from other prestigious film programs across the country to claim a first, second or third-place Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Along the way, FSU set an Academy record by winning five of the College Television Awards in 2004 alone, the most ever for one school in a single year.

Grade Point Averages

SAT Scores

Our students are also doing remarkably well, coming to us with higher and higher GPAs and test scores. This fall’s freshman class brings a 3.8 grade point average, an SAT score of 1218 and an ACT score of 27, high standards, indeed, compared to national average scores of 1,021 for the SAT and 21.1 for the ACT.

Our new Office of National Fellowships, which last year helped produce our first Rhodes Scholar in three decades, has continued to support our students in their quest to successfully compete for more than 75 different fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Truman, Gubernatorial and Goldwater scholarships.

In the past year alone,

  • Priya Pal, a student majoring in biochemistry, chemistry and biomedical mathematics, won a renowned Goldwater Scholarship, awarded each year to some of the nation’s most talented college undergraduates
  • Student Body President Joseph O’Shea was selected as a 2007 Truman Scholar, one of the most prestigious honors an undergraduate can receive. He is also one of just 20 undergraduates across the nation named to USA Today’s elite 2007 All-USA College Academic First Team
  • Ten students and alumni have received the prestigious Fulbright Award, representing a single-year record for FSU

More and more students are choosing to participate in our honors programs and in research, and to support them, this fall we have opened our Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors.

GRE Scores

Enrollment

Not only are our undergraduate students arriving better prepared, our graduate students are also coming with increasingly higher qualifications. For Fall 2007, the average GRE score was 1098, compared to 1039 for Fall 2000. Further, the top 10 percent of new graduate students had an average GRE score of 1330 for Fall 2006.

In line with our Pathways goals, our graduate enrollment increased by 7.2 percent over 2005-06. This year graduate enrollment is up another 4.1 percent. Enrollment in our College of Law and College of Medicine is also increasing. In line with our goal of being recognized among the elite of graduate education research institutions, graduate enrollment is growing much faster than our undergraduate enrollment, which is up less than one percent this year.

Our student athletes continue to shine in the classroom and on the playing field. We congratulate our track and field team on their back-to-back national championships.

A school-record 204 Florida State student athletes, including 16 members of the Seminoles’ football team, have been named to the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Roll. This is a 27.5 percent increase in the last five years, allowing Florida State to rank as one of only seven schools in the ACC with 200 or more student-athletes named to this year’s academic honor roll. It also marks the first time the Seminoles have surpassed the 200 mark on the ACC’s annual list of the best and brightest student-athletes.

At Florida State University we take very special pride in our warm, welcoming atmosphere. This year our incoming students have experienced that welcome both with our newly restored Convocation ceremony and with a shared reading program.

Both of these programs are intended to convey to new students the intellectual and historic significance of their new home.

We also take pride in our diversity, which has been recognized nationwide. This summer, the publication, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education reported that Florida State University is among the very top schools in the United States at producing minority graduates. FSU ranks fifth in the country in degrees awarded to black undergraduates. Even more significant, FSU is the No. 1 producer in the United States of African-American baccalaureates among Doctoral Universities with Very High Research Activity.

Recognizing the growth of the state’s Hispanic population, and the proportion of Hispanic students at FSU, Admissions created a new Web site in Spanish for parents of new students.

In other affirmations of FSU’s appreciation of diversity, Hispanic Business Magazine has again ranked the College of Law among the top 10 in the nation for Hispanics. This year, like last year, the magazine named the law school the sixth best in the nation. It’s the fourth year in a row that the law school has been ranked in the Top 10. The FSU College of Medicine, founded in 2000, made the Top 10 list for the first time this year, ranking ninth. The rankings appear in the September issue.

New Construction (pdf 726.63 kB)

It has been a great year for construction, too, and we are certainly on track with our five-year goals. The campus is really changing and the following projects are either in planning, under construction or recently opened:

  • A new classroom building, Phase 1 of the Psychology Building and the College of Medicine have been completed
  • Our new Chemistry Building, Life Sciences Building, Phase 2 of the Psychology Building, the Marine Science Research & Training Center, the Materials Research Building, the Student Success Center and the new Center for Professional Development, which includes a new parking garage, are under construction
  • Renovation of the Stone Building and expansion of the track are under way
  • Renovation of Ruby Diamond Auditorium will begin at the end of Spring semester, and Phase 2 of the renovation of the Johnston Building is in the programming stage
  • With the opening of Ragans, DeGraff and Wildwood Halls, we have added a total of 2000 residential spaces, for a total of 7000 on campus.
  • We have added 1567 new parking places in two new garages, with a fifth garage at CPD site with 981 spaces under construction
  • The largest single outdoor collegiate recreational facility in the country, the FSU Rec SportsPlex, opened September 14, with 21 recreational fields totaling nearly 50 acres of playable space on a 108-acre site
  • Heritage Grove is 95 per cent occupied with Greeks and independent students
  • Our Westcott Lakes “Life-fulfilling Community” is on track and scheduled to open in 2010
  • Legacy Walk Phase I is complete; Phase II is near completion; the other phases are under way. Sculptures of Presidents Sliger and Murphree are in place

Last February we celebrated the opening of the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing at the Ringling Museum—the fourth new building to open on the estate in 14 months. This marked the completion of the Museum’s successful, five-year Master Plan transformation. The Ringling also saw the dedication of John M. McKay Visitors’ Pavilion.

On the Panama City campus, the Barron Administration Services Center opened last March, and the Alfred and Mamie V. Holley Academic Center is under construction, for a total of $30 million in projects.

Even further away, the Valencia Study Center for our International Programs in Spain is in a new home in the heart of Valencia—two historic buildings that have undergone renovation while carefully preserving centuries-old artifacts.

In other news of campus construction, for more than 60 years, the 14-acre site across Tennessee Street served just one family—the President’s. Five years ago, when former President Sandy D’Alemberte and his wife, Patsy Palmer, moved out of the 1890s-era McIntosh house that was suffering from a leaking roof, termite-eaten foundation and faulty electrically system, things changed, not just physically but substantively.

Today the 14 acres provide faculty, staff and student parking; a modern Alumni Center for our more than 350,000 alumni; and a new university home that allows us to entertain and host events, offering the highest level of hospitality. The 14-acre site is no longer detached from the main campus; rather, it is integrated into the very fiber of Florida State University.

We have also changed a number of street names in response to requests from the post office, and we have new road signs all over campus. In addition, we’ve installed new emergency warning systems, and we’re using the new public address speakers to chime the hours.

This seems to have been a big year for anniversary celebrations. Not only is FSU itself marking its 60th year, we have also been celebrating the 50th anniversary of our International Programs and the 25th anniversary of our Panama City, Florida, campus, along with the 60th anniversary of the Flying High Circus and the 25th anniversary of the College of Engineering.

Beyond the achievements of faculty, staff and students, many others have made a difference to this institution, and it is important to recognize them. One of the ways we do this is through honorary degrees. In addition to today’s honorary degree for Dr. Kitty Hoffman, we have designated three others with honorary degrees this year: two alumni—Mary Lou Norwood and President Mark Wrighton of Washington University in St. Louis—and generous contributor Al Dunlap.

We also know the vital importance of private giving to the future of this university, particularly in these days of cuts in public funding. In the past year we have welcomed Charles Rasberry as president of the Foundation.

  • For fiscal 2007 the University’s endowment increased from $500,637,000 to $522,803,000.
  • The Foundation achieved a 17.5% rate of return on endowment investments.
  • During fiscal year 2007, the Foundation transferred over $50 million to the University, compared to just $7.5 million in 2000.
  • The University fundraising total for 2006 was $60,810,242.
  • Cash gifts increased from $30,480,916 in 2006 to $35,553,806 in 2007.
  • The number of donors increased from 26,659 in fiscal 2006 to 35,516 in fiscal 2007, a growth of 8,857. The largest increase was among alumni donors, from 12,558 in FY 2006 to 18,117 in FY 2007.
  • Significant gifts during the year included $7 million from NCH Healthcare System, Inc., for the College of Medicine, $2.5 million from Ulla Searing for the Ringling Museum to fund its first curator position, and $1.4 million for the College of Information.
  • The Seminole Boosters are also enjoying a record year in their annual fund, reaching $14,196,016, compared to the 2006 record of $13,588,464. Membership also increased 14 percent.
  • The Legacy Campaign, which aims to fully endow the athletic scholarship fund, had raised $79.3 million by August 2007. With a goal of $110 million, the campaign aims to conclude in January 2011.

In other important signs of progress, we have continued to reach out to our community in many, many ways. Just a few days ago we unveiled the lineup for the tenth anniversary season of Seven Days of Opening Nights, scheduled for next February, and we think it will be the best ever.

We have further strengthened our ties with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I think it’s fair to say that the tribe now stands at unprecedented heights in the public eye. Here on campus we have worked with the tribe to develop and offer a course on tribal history through the History Department.

We are continuing to work with the tribe to develop the Seminole Cultural Center and Museum at Florida State University, which will serve as a point of reference in Native American recognition throughout the country. A first of its kind—as a partnership between a major Native American tribe and a major research university—the Center and Museum will be an integral element of the university’s academic endeavors through housing its history department. It will also be a showcase for tribal artifacts, documents and history. Further, it will serve as a home for the Seminole Tribe of Florida in the state’s capital, a potential conference center, and a point of pride for Seminole students on campus.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s constitution, which saved the tribe from being abolished, we have launched what we call “The Unconquered” campaign. Through this campaign we are building on the fact that for six decades, Florida State University has proudly identified itself with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and its unconquered spirit.

Through this campaign, FSU is honoring our ties to the tribe and affirming our commitment to The Unconquered spirit of confidently moving forward, persevering, and striving for excellence—in the classroom, in the game, in life.

The Unconquered campaign is also designed to heighten awareness of the institution’s distinguished academic programs, esteemed faculty and accomplished students and alumni.

We find this campaign particularly appropriate at a time of challenge. Given the goals I have set and our progress since 2003, we can see significant progress in many areas; in other areas, much work awaits us.

Key to addressing these areas of concern is the issue of resources. Governance issues have created significant obstacles to meeting a number of the goals set in 2003 and beyond. Today we are seeing attempts to clear the road of some of these obstacles. Yet others remain, including the Legislature’s lack of commitment to fund higher education adequately, even as we raise tuition rates, increase private funding, implement budget cuts. As at the beginning of my administration, Quality and Access remain our aspirations. Indeed, we are challenged, but Unconquered.

Our Pathways of Excellence are still open ahead. Indeed, I see our Pathways becoming even broader as we allow ourselves to think even more creatively and use our limited resources even more wisely. That is why I am asking the faculty to review and comment on a new concept.

For decades we have marched in lockstep with Florida’s public universities. Semester after semester, we’re on essentially the same calendar. But is that the best way? What if we had some flexibility? What if, instead of returning to campus and classes immediately after New Year’s Day, Florida State revised our schedule so that classes ended the second week of December and resumed the first of February?

Think of what our students and faculty could do with three to six weeks for exploration, for self-directed study, for research projects, for mini-terms abroad or at other universities, for mini-sabbaticals. Students and faculty at universities around the country do just this. They call it Jan Term, or Winter Term or mini-mester.

At the University of Virginia, it’s January Term. Its stated purpose is “to provide U.Va. students with unique opportunities: new courses that address topics of current interest, study abroad programs, undergraduate research seminars and interdisciplinary courses. The intensive format of January Term classes encourages extensive student-faculty contact and allows students and faculty to immerse themselves in a subject.

They describe their program as intense, rigorous, focused, unique, engaging.

It’s J-Term at Williams College and MIT in Massachusetts. Even Harvard’s new academic calendar allows implementation of a J-Term if individual schools choose to adopt the concept.

At Ohio’s Oberlin College, the purpose of Winter Term is to enable students to pursue academic interests outside of regular course offerings. During the month of January, students complete individual or group projects of their choice, either on or off campus. For the student, Winter Term is an opportunity to spend full time on one intensive project or, alternatively, on two half-time projects. According to the college’s description, during Winter Term, an Oberlin student might:

  • Pursue a subject related to a first-semester course
  • Work with a particular faculty member
  • Study a musical instrument
  • Take an intensive foreign language course
  • Explore a potential career field through an internship
  • Volunteer with a community group
  • Participate in a theatrical or musical production
  • Explore a field of inquiry that is new to the student
  • Pursue a hobby or physical skill

For faculty members at Oberlin, Winter Term is known as “an excellent opportunity to direct special research projects, to invite specialists for intensive courses, to teach courses or offer guidance in subjects that do not fit into the regular curriculum, and to support students pursuing self-directed educational projects.”

DePauw University in Indiana says their Winter Term reflects DePauw’s serious commitment to non-traditional, experiential learning. They call their Winter Term “a time of adventurous, intellectual exploration.”

These are just a few of the many colleges and universities across the country where innovative thinking and creativity are adding to the excitement and value of the higher education experience. We can do it, too.

The advent of differential tuition will open up this kind of option at Florida State. It will allow us to broaden our Pathways of Excellence, engaging more of our students and faculty.

Jim Smith, Chairman, FSU Board of Trustees, responding to Winter Term concept:
view online videoJoe O’Shea, FSU Student Government president, responding to Winter Term concept:
view online video

While the ideas and specifics need to be fleshed out, an FSU Winter Term might offer options like engaging in independent research, taking on a community service project or having the opportunity for study abroad. Whether it’s a reading project, building a Habitat for Humanity house, or undertaking a cutting-edge scientific research project, this new, broader Pathway will allow more exploration, more valuable life experience. With this concept we will continue to move along our Pathways of Excellence, offering different, challenging forms of engagement.

Every degree program could have the flexibility to see how this option could better serve “their” students.

Winter Term would give students more opportunity for independent study tied to current or future courses. It would provide more self-determination. It would allow our students to go beyond their classroom experience and to apply their academic experience to real life. It would add great value to FSU experience. Many colleges and universities across the country have already adopted this concept, and I see it as the next logical step to broaden our Pathways of Excellence.

Even at difficult times like these, we know we can depend on the dedication of you, our faculty, your innovation and creativity to help us make the most of limited resources and to meet the challenges ahead.

With your support, I can affirm that we are going to make it through these tough times. We will not be deterred by cuts. We will forge ahead, looking at what we can do, not just at what we can’t do.

We will not back away from our mission of quality and access; we will move forward confidently on even broader Pathways of Excellence.