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State of the University Address 2004

FSU President T. K. Wetherell

When I came before you about a year ago to deliver my initial State of the University Address, I had three goals in mind.

First, I wanted to review the many positive accomplishments of this University and its very talented faculty, staff and students.

The second goal was to publicly suggest that Florida State University and this state university system were in peril. Economic issues and the professional perceptions of Florida’s system of public higher education were being seriously challenged at all levels.

These challenges were threatening to affect the quality of education we could offer students at Florida State University. We were facing a gap in funding for everything from the National High Magnetic Field Lab to the most basic freshman classes.

The need for classroom space, research facilities and faculty for programs like chemistry, biology, psychology, the arts and our professional schools had to be addressed if the university were to continue its drive to become an even more respected Carnegie Doctoral Extensive research institution.

In addition, the trend of the previous two years of decline in general revenue needed to be reversed. Matching dollars needed to be made available for gifts pledged by many generous donors to Florida State and other state universities.

The third goal of last year’s address was to articulate a five-year plan of action designed to move Florida State University to the next level.

At this time I can report to you that we have made considerable progress, and we are on schedule to meet all of our objectives. However, there is still much work to be done.

Florida State University is all about students—more specifically our students. This year’s freshman class is the strongest in our history. The average SAT score of students accepted for this fall is 1219, with a 3.9 GPA. On average each student will bring 19 credits to Florida State University.

We will receive five applications for every opening in the freshman class. More than 30,000 students will apply for entry into Florida State University. This is almost three times as many applicants as 10 years ago.

At the graduate level, each of our programs have now met their enrollment goals. They are no longer operating from projected enrollment, but rather with real students who do outstanding research.

We expect over 4000 students to apply for 220 spaces in our law school. At least 1800 will apply for 80 spaces in our medical school. The 30 graduate and undergraduate openings in the new class of our film school will be some of the most competitive slots on campus. Other schools and departments will turn away far more students than they can admit.

Florida State University now recruits from the most successful schools/colleges and universities, both nationally and internationally.

However, as we celebrate our success based on student enrollments and their accomplishments, we must be mindful of the work to be done if FSU is to continue as a flagship university.

The goals articulated last year were not only a challenge for this university but a “call to arms” for higher education in Florida. Last year’s address concluded that the limitations of the past two years should not force us to slow down, but rather to keep pressing ahead toward our goals and this university’s quest for greatness.

My speech today is devoted to the future. I will focus my remarks on four topics.

  • Access and Excellence
  • Governance
  • Capital Construction Programs
  • Florida State University Economic Impact

Access and Excellence

Florida State University has set a tone of inclusion rather than exclusion for the state’s higher education system. We are an institution that continues to see stronger and stronger academically talented freshmen classes. At the same time about 40% of each graduating class will be the first member of their respective family to graduate from college. This is a continuing university commitment we, as professional educators, can all be very proud of.

The SACS Commission on Colleges will meet and vote on our official 10-year reaffirmation in December. Dr. Dianne Harrison and her team did an outstanding job leading the university though the process. During their exit interview Dr. Robert Witt, president of the University of Alabama and site team chair, said, “FSU has done an outstanding job and gets an ‘A’ on its materials and reaffirmation process.”

An outcome of the SACS accreditation process was a new leadership development program called “LEAD.” SACs committee members stated that LEAD was one of the most impressive programs in the nation. Dr. Laura Osteen has joined the Seminole family as director of our new Center for Leadership.

Establishment of the center will allow this university to focus on providing students with opportunities to develop both knowledge of leadership and ability to demonstrate leadership skills. Many courses at FSU focus on leadership development, and a survey of alumni on the subject of leadership indicates that more than 80% of respondents believe the majority of their leadership skills evolved from experiences at FSU.

Our College of Medicine has made great strides. This week FSU moves into Phase I of the new medical school complex. In June we will graduate our first class of FSU doctors of medicine. This milestone will mark the closing chapter in the opening of the first medical school in 25 years in the United States.

Students in the program have been passing national and state medical board examinations at a level equal to or exceeding that of established medical schools. These new doctors will take their place in their given profession, just as thousands of other FSU graduates will enter their chosen profession, fully prepared to become national and international leaders.

In addition, the schools of Nursing and Information Studies and the College of Engineering will be re-accredited.

Florida State University and Florida A&M University continue to build a College of Engineering that meets unique enrollment issues and forges a partnership that is nationally recognized. The faculty continues to grow professionally, and together we are addressing our joint management agreement, as well as the College’s strategic plan.

Florida State’s cultural campus in Sarasota continues to expand. The Ringling facility has been accredited by the American Association of Museums, acknowledging its place among the nation’s finest museums. The Asolo program’s growing pains are now afterthoughts and, with Senator Carlton’s leadership, every indication is that the program will be funded at a level necessary to continue to compete on a national level.

In the next few weeks the Athletic Committee will take up a recommendation for a bonus program that compensates each coach almost twice as much for his/her team’s graduation rate as for winning an ACC championship. It is our belief that Florida State University is one of the few universities in the nation to attempt and implement such a bonus program.

Athletically, Florida State University continues to compete at the highest level, which is exciting for our fans. Our fans can be even prouder of athletes’ accomplishments in the classroom. Last spring 204 student athletes earned a minimum 3.0 GPA. In 2004, 172 or 37% of our student athletes made the ACC Honor Roll. Fifteen of 17 teams had a spring semester GPA of at least 2.6.

Florida State produced two Academic All Americans, and our student athletes earned $25,000 in postgraduate scholarships and participated in more than 4000 community service hours.

While athletic programs seem to garner the bulk of publicity, thousands of FSU students not only achieve at top levels academically, but also are involved in thousands of hours of community service work throughout the state and nation. The events of this past summer and fall, as Florida endured four devastating hurricanes, allowed FSU students, faculty and staff to demonstrate their talents and compassion on the state and national stages of community service.

Our nursing and medical programs sent students into the most devastated areas in Pensacola to provide much-needed help. Our physical facilities group sent a team of workers to the University of West Florida to help them restore services. The FSU Panama City campus opened its doors to UWF faculty and students so they could continue classes before the main campus was able to resume operations.

Our Student Government Association joined Board of Governors member Steve Uhlfelder in raising funds and operating food drives to help those in need in the most devastated areas. Our athletics programs are often recognized on ESPN SportsCenter, but FSU students, faculty and staff are equally visible throughout our state, providing much-needed help for our most distressed citizens.

As we look at excellence, we must include the quality of our technology. This fall, when students returned to campus they found a facility that had been recognized as one of the most technologically advanced in the nation and was moving forward rapidly. The campus is now nearly totally wireless.

As part of the admission contract, next year’s freshman class will be required to bring a computer to campus. In the fall of 2006, entering freshman will be required to bring a laptop to campus with an approved academic software package.

Online courses continue to grow, with over a million student logins to Blackboard in 2004. Increasing numbers of faculty are creating and using Blackboard web sites to teach online AND support traditional “face-to-face” courses. The staff at the Office for Distributed and Distance Learning has a goal of creating any faculty site within one working day. As one who teaches an online course each semester, I can assure you from first-hand experience that Larry Dennis, Joanna Southerland, Kyle Stierwalt and the entire staff at ODDL do an outstanding job. I encourage you to go online or visit the office in the University Center and sign up for a workshop. Get wired up—go wireless. It is the future—and the future is now.

ERP is on schedule for implementation and when complete will allow FSU to control its own destiny in business operations. We look forward with great anticipation to writing our own payroll in January.

In more technology advances, new graduates will soon leave with a permanent FSU email address. That’s more than a clever use of technology. It’s a way of ensuring that our graduates have a reminder of FSU at their fingertips.

As another way of strengthening their affiliation with this university, students who join the student alumni and student booster associations will be able to earn valuable points toward athletic ticket priorities, cultural arts seating, registration times and other similar activities, based on their early commitment to FSU.

That sense of commitment and affiliation are paramount to this university. Each of you in this room contributes to that sense. During my 30 years of tenure and experience in Florida’s public/private system of higher education, I have talked with thousands of graduates from Florida State. Seldom has anyone told me their fondest memory of this university was the faculty or staff in general.

Almost inevitably, they spoke of a specific individual: “You know what I really remember about FSU?” “Dr. Jones! He taught a particular course that really engaged me. He/she changed me as a scholar and as a person. Dr. Jones changed my life at a time I needed direction and made me a better person – the person I can be proud of – the person my family is proud of.”

Florida State alumni almost always credit individual faculty and staff members as people who have transformed them into what they are today. Florida State is where students’ dreams come true, and you—each one of you here in this room–has the power to be a dreammaker.

Think about Bob Holton–a dreammaker who is working to unlock the mysteries of cancer. Consider Jon Piersol, who will retire this year. He is a dreammaker who, with his outstanding faculty, has trained thousands of students in the joys of music. Jim Jones is a dreammaker in history who motivates students to take pride in their country by explaining Western civilization in the most personal of terms.

Jon Ahlquist is a dreammaker for students in meteorology as he unveils the mysteries of weather prediction. Sir Harold Kroto, the sixth Nobel Laureate to join this faculty, has been and will be a dreammaker for students of all ages.

Jack Crow, who brought us the Mag Lab, was a dreamer who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and with Jack’s passing, Greg Boebinger has picked up the same dreammaking spirit.

Sally McRorie, Frank Patterson and the other faculty and staff who each year bring us Seven Days of Opening Nights are dreammakers as they share their love of the arts and culture, not just with our students but with this entire community. Mark Winegardner is a dreammaker, as well as a dreamer, and we’ll get a look into some of his dreams as his new novel, “The Godfather Returns,” goes on bookstore shelves.

Greg Erickson is a dreammaker who examines the bones of ancient creatures, bringing them to new life in this century, and sharing his findings with the world. And Governor Askew has been a dreammaker as his students throughout the years have worked to improve our local, state and federal government.

Just think of all the dreams brought to life in every classroom, every laboratory, every research facility across this campus.

As educators, as administrators, each of us has the capacity and the opportunity to be a dreammaker for one student, for many students on this campus. For this reason we will always treat students as individuals and recognize those special relationships that can make dreams come true.

Even as we speak about dreams, we must also focus on reality—the reality of money in your wallet. Equitable pay for our faculty and staff is always a key issue, and if we are to achieve world-class status, we must be able to recruit and retain world-class educators.

We hope our efforts to reach closure with all bargaining units will be achieved before the Legislature returns to town. To date we have only been successful with one bargaining unit. Throughout the state, universities are struggling with these new responsibilities. FSU’s Board of Trustees and the bargaining teams are at work.

Faculty and staff salaries are an issue that transcends money and gets to the heart of the university’s ability to provide students with the most dynamic teaching and research opportunities. The trend is clear. The choices are ours to make at this point, but we need to act and bring closure to these discussions while we control our own destiny.

The idea of controlling our own destiny brings us to my next topic: Governance. In 2000 the Speaker of the House and Governor Bush led the Florida Legislature to a higher education reform package that changed a centralized form of governance in favor of local boards of trustees. The people of Florida embraced this change and recognized that Florida State University and the other state universities would benefit from such a form of governance.

In 2002 former Governor Graham led a movement to amend the Florida Constitution (Article IX, section 7) with the stated “responsibility for the coordination and accountability of the whole university system…. Wasteful duplication of facilities and/or programs is to be avoided.”

Since implementation of these seemingly competing initiatives, the roles, responsibilities and purposes of administrative bodies have been confusing. The Legislature failed to enact enabling legislation in 2004. For that reason, a priority for the upcoming session must be clarification of the functions, duties and responsibilities of the Boards of Trustees and the Board of Governors.

At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, former FSU President Stan Marshall suggested that there was no greater issue facing the governance of Florida State and other state universities than clarification of the responsibilities of each entity. Trustee David Ford warned against retreating from the governor’s original reform package passed by the Legislature. He suggested that such a move could relegate Boards of Trustees to nothing more than social boards with little or no real power.

Every indication is that the debate will expand beyond members of Boards of Trustees and Governors to the Legislature and the court system.

Florida State University will continue to press for the autonomy promised in the original legislation. Such action will place the university on more competitive and equal footing with our sister institutions in the Atlantic Coast Conference, American Association of Universities and other nationally recognized outstanding institutions of higher education.

However, it is likely that this seemingly simple plan of action will lead us down a path filled with political challenges, professional intrigue and legal maneuvering that could make Perry Mason wish he were enrolled in one of Chuck Ehrhardt’s law classes.

It is inconceivable that community college presidents and local school board superintendents in Florida operate with greater flexibility and authority than those who lead a state university. We do not seek greater authority for egotistical purpose, but rather as a means to serve the students and university community more quickly and fairly.

For the Florida State University Board of Trustees to be directed to use certain search firms, technologies and bond processes is not professionally correct, nor is it consistent with the original legislative intent.

To coordinate graduate programs in order to avoid the proliferation of unnecessary duplication is a reasonable and necessary responsibility for the Board of Governors. However, to suggest the same Board of Governors can impound funds or disregard legislative action when passed and signed into law is unequivocally unacceptable.

Issues such as block or flat-rate tuition that allow students flexibility in their program of studies must be considered. Tuition must continue to be a supplement to the state’s commitment to funding public higher education at traditional levels. Budgets must be enhanced if the state’s universities are to compete on national levels.

However, we cannot balance the needs of the university on the backs of students alone, nor can students expect a world-class education when paying tuition rates lower than many private kindergartens or daycare centers.

Tuition must be reasonable and must stay at the respective universities. Suggesting that we can build a great or even nationally respected public university system on tuition alone is not acceptable. To expect no tuition increases is equally unrealistic.

Capital Construction
With the university’s success in acquiring infrastructure funding over the past two years, Florida State University has embarked on one of the largest construction programs in its history. We currently are developing, designing, breaking ground or have under construction about $500 million worth of facilities.

The centerpiece of our construction program is the new medical school. This week we opened Phase 1 of the medical school complex. This year, with funds in hand, the new chemistry, life science and psychology buildings will break ground. In addition, the first teaching classroom building since the Bellamy building was built will break ground in the center of campus at the site of the old Stults pool.

A new Olympic sports complex will be developed at the FSU golf course site, with the first addition to that facility a new teaching/competition aquatics center. Two new dining halls are under contract and will open within a year. A residence hall at the Wildwood site is being planned, to open in the Fall of 2006. The university will move forward within weeks with preliminary planning documents (RFI) for the current DeGraff Hall site.

We will move ahead with a new 80-acre intramural field site and completely renovate the Marching Chiefs’ outdoor classroom/laboratory with a new synthetic surface. A new parking garage adjacent to the medical school site will open next year, and the planning process for other sites will begin very soon.

We will enjoy the new space offered by the Moore Athletic Center, the School of Communications, the Alumni Center, Montgomery Hall, student services facilities, the diner, parking facilities as well as Heritage Park, our new centralized site for fraternity housing. In addition we will continue to work with local teams and developers to bring closure to the FSU Retirement/Continuous Care Village. Facilities at Turkey Point will be expanded. Architectural services have been acquired for a new classroom/teaching complex at our Panama City campus.

In two weeks Tim McGraw will stage a benefit performance to raise funds for endowed scholarships and a new career center. We hope to see you there. We will continue to work with the Innovation Park Board to look at a more entrepreneurial approach. Under any circumstances, FSU will move its Foundation into Park space. We will begin the planning process for an FSU-owned new research facility and will continue to work with the legislature and FAMU to find the funds for the next phase of the Engineering School.

At Homecoming this Friday we will open Phase 1 of Legacy Walk. The project will eventually unite Westcott with the University Center. Students and guests who take a stroll will be treated to a walking lesson in FSU’s history.

Finally we will continue to work with other government entities and individuals to expand the Civic Center, including a possible addition to our Law School, a concert hall and a hotel/condo/parking facility.

The success of these projects in large part will depend upon donors and the Legislature continuing to provide resources for the Courtelis matching funds program.

Yesterday you did your part in voting your conscience. Now, those to whom we have given our votes and our confidence must do their part and fund the growth of Florida’s higher education system.

Every indication is that FSU is on track to achieve the five-year capital program outlined and to meet the physical needs of the world-class student body and faculty we have on this campus. Only a lack of will by those in power can halt FSU’s efforts to build world-class facilities.

Economic Impact
I would like to conclude my remarks today with a summary of Florida State University’s many positive impacts on the local and state economy.

Some may wonder why we would want to include such remarks in a State of the University address. FSU is an institution on the move. We are an engine that greatly increases the value of public funds to meet a public purpose. As such, we have a responsibility to give back to a community and state from which we have asked much.

Often it is easy to overlook the contribution an institution of higher education brings to the community. It is so large; it has been here so long; it is taken for granted; it doesn’t “blow its own horn.” But for Florida State, what would Tallahassee be like as a community? Or, for that matter, Florida itself?

FSU’s total budget is approximately $1.3 billion. I have already mentioned the $500 million construction program; however, let us also consider the 38,000 students from every county in this state, every state in the nation and from over 50 countries worldwide. FSU has 11,000 employees. In the past year alone, these students, faculty and staff participated in 182,000 volunteer hours, resulting in a $2.7 million savings to local businesses, government, agencies and others.

With most of us making our homes here, raising children here, that’s a very significant economic impact on this area. Then add the fact that over 9,000 FSU alumni live here and own over 200 businesses. In fact, of the faculty and staff at FSU, 1500 are alumni.

The FSU athletic department’s budget is approximately $38 million and provides 1360 jobs as well as hundreds of part-time opportunities on game days and on weekends. Our arts programs consistently bring artists and audiences to campus and have become an element that draws thousands of people to town for a night, a weekend, seven days or more. We’ve even seen a survey that says that the arts bring more income to this community overall than intercollegiate football.

Further, by having Florida State in this community, citizens enjoy the National High Magnetic Field Lab, which houses the world’s most powerful magnets. The Magnet Lab attracts around 600 researcher/visitors annually. These visitors come to this facility and community to perform cutting-edge research that will be analyzed and implemented in venues worldwide.

Florida State University faculty and researchers have forged a partnership with the U.S. Navy to launch a research project that will lead to the first all-electric fleet. That, too, means significant impact on the local economy.

Faculty members have so far obtained over 500 patents worldwide and created 15 start-up businesses locally.

I am sure we all agree that the FSU family recognizes our responsibility to this community and understands the economic difference we make every day.

Here’s another element of our economic impact: Our researchers’ increasingly complex grants and projects that this past year exceeded $180 million in value. This funding level represents a 13% increase from previous fiscal years.

Compared to national statistics recently released by the U.S. government on federal support for research and development in science and technology, FSU is outpacing the nation in research funding by federal resources. The U.S. government spent $60 billion in 2004 on research in science and technology nationwide – a 5% increase over 2003. FSU’s 13% increase almost triples the national rate.

Nearly 80% of the funds come from the Federal government, with a majority coming from the National Science Foundation. As a matter of fact, FSU is in NSF’s top 25 funded universities. Grants from state government/agencies make up 12% of the 2004 total, while the remainder comes from private sources.

The national reputation of Florida State and its research faculty continues to rise. We compete regularly with the nation’s top colleges and universities (Harvard, Yale, MIT, UCLA, Princeton) for research projects.

Next year when we meet, the FSU Capital Campaign and our upcoming Endowed Scholarship Campaign will be at issue. To date we have raised over $450 million for the Capital Campaign and have begun exploring an endowed scholarship campaign with the $1 million Bobby Bowden Endowed Scholarship fund.

In 2003, the FSU Foundation raised more than $63 million. Further, as a result of the work of the Foundation and others, the University received over $15 million in matching funds from the Major Gifts Trust Fund. These funds will be added to the millions already made by FSU donors. Faculty and staff at FSU have donated over $32 million to the CONNECT Capital Campaign. Over 90% of all employees at FSU contribute to the Foundation, United Way, a local service project and/or local/national/international charities. Donations at FSU provide scholarships for students to attend school at this university and signal to the community the FSU family’s commitment to the public.

In order for FSU to continue to achieve its place among nationally recognized universities, we must continue to aggressively pursue excellence. Universities of the future will be judged and ranked not only on traditional methods but also on nontraditional options.

What do we mean by “nontraditional options” or yardsticks? They are a response to increasing calls for “accountability.” Measures of accountability have been adopted throughout Florida’s K-12 system, as well as throughout the country via the No Child Left Behind legislation.

And now the call is out for adoption of what many consider nontraditional accountability measures at Florida’s colleges and universities. Accountability is a serious business as education costs soar and budgets continue to tighten. It’s understandable that Floridians want to find ways to make sure students are both graduating and learning.

Steve Uhlfelder, a member of the Florida Board of Governors is a strong advocate for accountability. He asks, “Are students coming out of college with all the tools and knowledge that they need? It isn’t easy to measure. There are few ways other than the grade that a professor gives at the end of each semester or a diploma signed by a university president at the end of four years. There has to be a better yardstick,” he says, “to measure these accomplishments.”

Accrediting bodies and political subdivisions are now asking us to judge student performance in a variety of ways other than just traditional ”faculty paper-pencil tests.” Assessment measures could include essays, portfolios, internship assessments, licensure exams, employer surveys, graduate-school admission exams, senior projects or other methods. In our view, each university and each department should determine what measures best reflect their fields of study.

Measurements of accountability and success are not concepts this institution should fear. We do well with today’s standards; I am confident we will do well by any reasonable criteria. This is an issue we will be forced to confront, and we need to embrace, not reject it. Quality shows.

We should not be timid in aiming for excellence. We must continue to pursue the best and brightest students, faculty and staff. We must work to provide the resources—physical, fiscal and intellectual—to support their efforts.

We have a Board of Trustees that challenges us to be the best we can be. We have the opportunity to move the legislative process to more individualized administrative alternatives. We have the momentum. We are on the verge of building a world-class flagship university. We have the human resources to pursue excellence by both old and new yardsticks by which we, and the rest of the state’s universities, will be measured in the years to come.

In plain language FSU can, should and will lead this state into a new era in higher education. This task will require hard work, creativity, political courage and professional flexibility that has not been seen for sometime in our state. Our efforts will require discipline and courage.

Traditionally, FSU faculty and staff have met tough challenges with a will, and every indication is that we are equal to the task. As we meet these challenges, our rewards will be great and will allow us to watch FSU students’ dreams come true while at this University and for a lifetime.