TAMPA — The University of South Florida hauled in a school-record $414 million in research grants and contracts last year, supporting a role the school’s president said is “part of our DNA.”
USF has hovered around the top 50 research universities in the country, and the 2012-13 total topped the previous year’s $411 million, when it ranked 53rd.
“Research is what differentiates USF as a lead institution in the state of Florida and nationally,” president Judy Genshaft said in her fall address to faculty, students and staff. “It is who we are. It is part of our DNA.”
She listed research and innovation as one of the university’s four major strategic goals, along with student success, maintaining its role as an economic engine for the area, and sound financial management.
Her annual state-of-the-university speech highlighted successes in each of those areas. Genshaft said USF’s top ranking in a series of performance funding metrics established by the state – and the $2.6 million award that came with it – proved the institution is a “center of student achievement.”
She recounted the accomplishments of faculty and students, including the Latino Scholarship Program, which now has a graduation rate of 95 percent.
Among others, she lauded anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle, whose team is leading the forensic investigation into a makeshift burial ground at the notorious Dozier School for Boys in the Panhandle; engineering professor Autar Kaw, named a CASE/Carnegie Professor of the Year for his teaching talent; marine science professor Mya Breitbart, recently named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10”; Air Force veteran Kiersten Downs, a Ph.D. candidate who rode her bicycle across country to support student vets; and fellow veteran Dwayne Scheuneman, a USF St. Petersburg education major who took four gold medals in this summer’s VA Wheelchair Games.
The celebratory atmosphere Wednesday at USF’s Oval Theater was tempered only by what Genshaft has come to call the “new normal” in higher education.
“The long decline of state financial support and new federal sequester cuts means we have to work smarter,” she said. “The reality is that there will be less public financial support for higher education in the future and very likely fewer students who come from families who can afford costly tuition.”
Genshaft reiterated her mission to rebuild the school’s reserve fund, drained significantly in recent down years as USF administrators tapped it to shield people, programs and students. She has frozen new hires, hired fewer adjuncts and reduced spending in such areas as utilities and noncritical maintenance.
“The institutions who have focused strategic plans, right-sized operating budgets and have rebuilt their financial reserves will be the ones best-positioned to thrive in the future,” Genshaft said.