4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 — Oglesby Union, State Ballroom
Good afternoon, parents and family members! It’s great to see all of you here today!
How many of you are alumni? Wonderful. I’m a Florida State alum and two of my daughters graduated from FSU. I’ve got my fingers crossed that some of my grandchildren will continue the Seminole tradition, and I love seeing others with a Florida State connection that spans the generations.
For the rest of you, when your children decided to attend Florida State University, you became part of our extended family. So it’s great to welcome ALL of you back home for the weekend!
Let me start by telling you that you have some fantastic kids! As a parent myself, I know how proud it made me to brag about the successes of my three children. Now as a university president, I get to brag about 42,000 students. And nothing makes me happier.
This fall, we enrolled a class of nearly 6,100 freshmen. Their average high school GPA? A 4.0. Their average SAT score? 1856. That’s pretty impressive. It’s certainly much higher than the standard when I came to FSU in 1961.
This high level of academic achievement in high school has prepared our students very well to be successful here at FSU.
I know that because this year’s freshmen followed in the footsteps of several high achieving classes who had similar high school GPAs and SAT scores. And now they are sophomores, juniors and seniors who are doing amazing things.
You probably already know that Florida State offers its undergraduates a wide range of research, creative and engagement opportunities so they can have the best student experience possible.
In fact, the Council of Undergraduate Research has named FSU one of the top schools in the country for undergraduate research. More than 25 percent of our students conduct research at the undergraduate level.
I recently attended a showcase where these students had the opportunity to present their research, and let me tell you the work they are doing is remarkable.
DNA sequencing in cancer cells, developing new techniques to analyze ancient skeletal remains and studying art education in rural India are just a few examples of the kind of work that these students are doing.
We are now putting an emphasis on getting undergraduates involved in research early in their college experience instead of waiting until their junior or senior years.
In fact, FSU is the only school in the state, and one of the few in the country, that has a structured, university-wide program for getting 1st and 2nd year students from majors across the university involved in research.
My office is providing additional funding to support the growth of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program for freshmen and sophomores, and it should have nearly 350 students next year.
It would be great if your kids were among them. I encourage you to talk to your student to see if he or she would be interested in getting involved in research in their area of study.
The benefits are clear: Students who conduct undergraduate research have higher GPAs, higher graduation rates and higher rates of admission to graduate schools than those who do not conduct research.
In addition, our students are winning top national scholarships, studying overseas, working amazing internships and volunteering in the community.
Not only are we preparing career-ready college graduates, we are producing good citizens who care about making the world a better place — students like Jason McIntosh and Mitch Nelson.
Jason and Mitch are two entrepreneurship majors who started a business as part of their sophomore experience program. But they didn’t just want to make money — they wanted to give something back to the community. After doing some research, they learned that homeless shelters have a huge need for clean socks. With that discovery, a business was born.
Divvy Up sells fun, designer socks with a mission of giving one pair of socks to a shelter for every pair sold. Jason and Mitch are now seniors who have given more than 3,500 pairs of socks to homeless shelters in Tallahassee, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.
And, on Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott presented them with the Governor’s Young Entrepreneurship Award.
Jason and Mitch happen to be in the College of Business. But no matter what your student’s major, they can take advantage of this entrepreneurial culture on campus. We have eight entrepreneurs-in-residence who are working in colleges across campus to teach our students how to turn their ideas and innovations into practical enterprises.
With this kind of experience, it’s no wonder our students are so successful after graduation. I was honored last week to recognize “30 under 30” with our Young Alumni Awards.
Among them were doctors, researchers, educators, military officers and opera singers. One of them worked at the White House and another worked at the United Nations.
Although their careers are very different, every one of them contributes to society in their own way. And that’s what Florida State grads are doing all over the world every day.
I know your student will make a difference as well. Our curriculum puts a heavy focus on helping our students to learn how to think critically, solve complex problems and communicate effectively.
When students develop these skills and couple them with a passion for their work, I have no doubt they can change the world.
At this age, many students are still searching for their passion. Our Career Center can help. From identifying a major to building a resume and developing interview skills, the terrific team of career counselors can help your student from the time they set foot on this campus to graduation and beyond.
You might be interested to know that more than 70 percent of our students have one or more job offers before they graduate. And the No. 1 way in which they say they found their job is through the Career Center.
Our students owe much of their success to our outstanding faculty. They have distinguished themselves in many disciplines and have gained the high regard of peers around the world.
Thanks to them, we have top-notch academic programs, and many of our colleges and schools are already recognized among the nation’s Top 10.
Last month, U.S. News and World Report released its new rankings. Overall, FSU ranked No. 43 among all of the public universities in the country.
Many of you might know that FSU aspires to be ranked among the nation’s Top 25. That’s because, in truth, we think that is a more accurate reflection of the education we offer. In terms of the quality of our students, we are already there.
In other areas, we have made significant gains as we pursue even higher levels of excellence.
A particular point of pride is our outstanding graduation and retention rates. Our retention rate is 93 percent, and our 6-year graduation rate is 79 percent – that’s the second highest in the state university system.
Moving up in the overall rankings will take time. The rankings formula is based on a complicated set of metrics, some of which we have little control over.
We also need to make sure that our peer institutions across the country, as well as high school guidance counselors, know how good we are. The assessments of these two groups are completely subjective, but they are weighted quite heavily in the rankings.
We are addressing this issue, and you can help by spreading the word in your communities about the excellence of this university.
There is another ranking that I think is undisputed: Florida State University is one of the most beautiful college campuses in America! That’s according to House Beautiful magazine, which rightly noted that dorm living isn’t so bad when you’ve got palm trees and flowers outside your window.
Earlier today we had an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for our newest residence hall complex — Dorman and Deviney Halls. About 900 lucky students get to live in the brand-new suite style rooms.
This is just the first phase of a $120 million, multi-phase residence hall project that will include a new dining hall. It’s all part of a goal we set several years ago to provide more on-campus living experiences for students that would contribute to their success.
So during your visit this weekend, I hope you take some time to look at the excellence all around you. We have beautiful grounds and new facilities, talented students and outstanding faculty, caring staff and lots of opportunities for student growth and leadership.
This is an exciting time for Florida State University. We are on the threshold of a new era, and we are so glad you and your son or daughter is a part of it.
We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that every student is successful, and we appreciate your support in that endeavor.
Thank you for visiting this weekend. Have fun, and please know that you are welcome to come back and visit anytime.
I’d be happy to take your questions.