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Panama City Campus Annual Dinner

Good evening. It’s great to be here in Panama City!

This is an exciting time for our Panama City Campus — a new dean, new academic programs, and we hope a new residence hall on the way.

This campus has been providing educational opportunities for Bay County area residents for more than 30 years, but I truly feel this campus is on the verge of a new era.

In August, we welcomed our third freshman class to Panama City, and we expect the total enrollment here to continue to grow.

We have impressive facilities, terrific faculty and staff, and students who are excited about pursuing their education and advancing their careers.

Now Dean Edwards will build on the great work already under way on this beautiful campus.

Carol is an FSU alumna who has a love for Florida State University and a passion for providing quality educational experiences to students.

She has an outstanding record of success in university administration and community leadership, and she is an exceptional fundraiser.

She has been on the job only 10 weeks, and already I can see that she is using her considerable skills to further the mission of FSU Panama City.

She has met with many faculty and staff members as well as her fellow FSU deans. She has listened to their input, and she is working with her team to develop campus priorities.

These priorities will become part of the university’s strategic plan, which we are currently developing with input from all of our stakeholders.

This process is a critical piece of FSU’s ongoing accreditation and will help us shape our initiatives for the next five years and provide a roadmap to achieve our vision.

I want to assure you that Florida State is invested in the success of this campus. We are providing additional funds to support Dean Edwards’ strategic initiatives, including graduate student growth. We also are providing more funding for additional faculty and maintenance.

We have plans for a residence hall that will bring new life to this campus and is the next milestone for growth. In addition, we are working on several other initiatives that will bring growth and prosperity to this campus AND to the community.

FSU Panama City is an important part of the university, and with Carol at the helm, I expect it will become even more integrated with the daily life of FSU.

We are one Florida State University, and everything you do on this campus feeds into our goals to reach higher levels of excellence and national recognition.

Student enrollment, retention, graduation and achievement as well as faculty excellence, increased grants and annual giving are just a few of the metrics that we all work on every day that will pave our way to the Top 25.

When it comes to rankings, we have made significant gains in several of these areas. In September, U.S. News and World Report ranked Florida State University No. 43 among public universities.

And it ranked two of our undergraduate programs in the College of Business in the Top 10.

  • insurance was ranked No. 5 among public universities
  • real estate was ranked No. 6 among public universities

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 9 percentage points above the graduation rate that U.S. News predicted for our 2008 cohort. Only three institutions in the Top 100 exceeded their predicted rate by more than FSU did.

Still, moving up in these rankings will take time. The formula is based on a complicated set of metrics, some of which we have little control over.

We are especially challenged by budget pressures — a combination of low in-state tuition rates and state fiscal constraints.

We also need to continue to work to make sure that our peer institutions across the country, as well as high school guidance counselors, know how good we are. These are completely subjective assessments, but they are key to improving in these rankings. Our data suggests we should be ranked higher than we are.

We are addressing this issue, and we are asking for your help in spreading the word about the excellence of this university.

Earlier this month, we received good news about another ranking. We were ranked No. 32 among public universities in the United States in the “Times Higher Education” World University Rankings.

This ranking looks at teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income. Our high ranking really is a credit to all of our faculty researchers.

Our faculty have distinguished themselves in many disciplines and have gained the high regard of peers around the world. That’s why one of my top priorities when I became president was to address salary compression and market inequities of faculty pay. Their pay needed to reflect their preeminence.

I’m pleased that I was able to accomplish that goal by working with our faculty union to implement increases for eligible faculty.

This investment in compensation, as well as additional hiring, is expected to be reflected in the rankings in the coming years.

Private giving also will allow us to advance in the rankings by implementing bold ideas that will continue to distinguish Florida State as a preeminent university. It will allow us to strengthen our most successful programs and lift other areas to higher prominence.

In October 2014 — just a few weeks before I took office — we launched the public phase of our billion-dollar capital campaign called “Raise The Torch.” Back then, we had $610 million in gift commitments.

In the past year, I’ve traveled across the country to meet with alumni, boosters and friends. Everyone I meet is excited to make a difference in the future of Florida State University.

And I know that everyone here tonight is supporting Panama City’s fund-raising efforts. Thank you! It’s great that you are more than halfway to your $5 million goal for the “Campaign for Our Community’s University.”

All of those funds are counted as part of Florida State’s capital campaign. That’s why I’m pleased to tell you that — in all — we have raised more than $100 million in the past year for a total of $718 million!

And we have a couple of big gifts in the works that will take our total even higher before the year comes to a close. That’s success we can all celebrate!

Because it doesn’t matter if you wear your garnet and gold in Tallahassee or Panama City, we are all part of the same family.

Being here with all of you tonight, I can really feel the energy and the eagerness to take this campus to even higher levels of excellence.

The support from all of you in the community — our donors and friends — is just tremendous. And with Dean Edwards leading the way, I have no doubt that this campus is about to embark on an incredible journey. Thank you for joining us!

And now, it’s my pleasure to introduce Dean Carol Edwards. Carol?