Inventing the future may sound like an impossible feat, but university President Bernie Machen made it clear that UF is up for the challenge.
To be fair, UF is in a different place than it was a year ago. At 2012’s State of the University address, Machen was trying to soften the blows of budget cuts while preparing to step down from his position.
But this year, with new funding from state legislation and Machen firmly at the helm, the state of the university is looking pretty good.
“We’re no longer just holding on; we’re trying to move out ... making things happen that we want to happen,” Machen said Thursday during August’s Faculty Senate meeting.
His speech touched on subjects like the renovation of the Reitz Union — the groundbreaking for which, he said, will be in the next few weeks — and the establishment of Florida Core curriculum so all students have a common experience.
Machen spoke at length about the eCampus, the completely online four-year degree program for undergraduates UF has been tasked with developing. The theory behind it centers around access.
“If these students have achieved the high standards that we require to be admitted to this university, they deserve an opportunity to be Gators — even though there’s no way we could squeeze them on this campus,” he said.
Students of the eCampus, which UF’s administration hopes to have running by January, will pay 75 percent of the regular tuition rate. When the program launches, they’ll have the choice of five degree programs: business, sports management, health education, criminology and law, or environmental management.
Despite progress in that area and others, Machen emphasized that UF still has hurdles to clear.
One of the main issues keeping the university from top 10 status, he said, involves faculty.
For example, UF’s student-to-faculty ratio is 21-to-1. The ratio of the two schools tied for the 10th spot on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of top public universities is 17-to-1.
To remedy this situation and others, like UF’s low ranking in faculty resources, UF will devote money to hiring new, prominent staff. Existing faculty could see raises and increased support.
But overall, UF’s biggest challenge right now is actually accomplishing all of its objectives, Machen said after his speech.
“We have set some pretty big goals for ourselves,” he said.
A version of this story ran on page 1 on 8/23/2013 under the headline "State of UF: Improved, expanding and top 10-focused"