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Sunday, March 03, 2024

Joe Glover has been described as many things by his colleagues — a good friend, a strong academic and a graceful dancer. Since taking over as UF’s provost in 2008, the university has seen a transformation in both academic priorities and national prestige. 

Glover announced Jan. 27 he will step down as provost and top academic officer but will remain at the university as a senior advisor to President Ben Sasse, who took office Feb. 6.

UF rose to the top five position through AI, research and technology initiatives; as well as the creations of UF Online, the Innovation Academy and Creative B, which have all been led by Glover and the Office of the Provost.

Former UF President Kent Fuchs, who became university president in 2015, worked closely with Glover, relying on him during his first few years. 

“It was important to me that we had someone that was not just excellent but also knew the university,” Fuchs said. 

Glover was the ideal person, and when Fuchs arrived at the university, he hoped he could convince Glover to stay on as provost, Fuchs said. 

“Our universities’ ranking and stature — the fact that every one of our 16 colleges is stronger now than it was previously,” Fuchs said. “He led all those things. A lot of other people worked on them, but he was the leader.”

W. Andrew McCollough has worked with Glover in the provost's office as the Associate Provost for Teaching and Technology since 2009. He described Glover as a reasonable and farseeing leader who’s committed to the welfare of students. 

“One of the reasons I'm still associated with the University of Florida is because of the opportunity to work with Joe,” McCollough said. “Working with someone like that is not work. It's a pleasure.”

Working with Glover, McCollough was able to run with UF Online. Since 2014, UF Online has risen to No.1 for online undergraduate bachelor’s programs. 

“Back in 2014 to 2015, the notion of online learning was questionable as to whether it could achieve the same objectives as face to face,” McCollough said. “Joe and I went to work on getting it done.”

Glover’s reputation and attitude have attracted good people into the provost office, according to McCollough. 

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“He opens the door to opportunity and then empowers those who have the time, energy and interest to utilize their skills and resources to bring those opportunities into the educational framework as well as into the research framework,” McCollough said. 

The seasoned provost has an artistic side to him as well, and is a great dancer and baker, according to McCollough and former president Fuchs. 

“As a consequence, we in the provost [office] gained more weight than we ought to,” McCollough joked. 

Jeff Citty, founding director of the Innovation Academy, came to the university in 2012. Innovation was formulated by Glover and former UF President Bernie Machen.

“Very strong leadership, very visionary, very forward-looking and very student-centric of what students would need to be able to complete something as innovative as the Innovation Academy program,” Citty said. 

Glover has done a fantastic job putting the resources in place for UF to become a leading AI university, Citty said. But there’s still more work to do. Glover has been a leader in bringing faculty in, lowering the faculty-to-student ratio and overall university population growth. 

“Dr. Glover has been instrumental in creating more access to the University of Florida and bringing the resources needed to support the access for undergraduate students,” Citty said. 

Citty wants to see the next provost advance AI further, continue to expand access and develop new programs, he said.  

Evangeline Cummings, director of UF Online, said she’s worked closely with Glover since arriving at the university in 2015. 

“It was their original vision for UF Online that set everything in motion,” Cummings said. 

UF Online was created due to a state legislature that said there will be a fully online undergraduate program at the UF. Glover, McCollough and the provost office team decided that the program would not be a separate entity and would be run in academic affairs, Cummings said. 

“I think that's one thing that's been really interesting about UF Online, in particular, and PaCe — there are these bold ideas set in motion,” Cummings said. “I think Dr. Glover played a key role in their original vision and design.”

Hub Brown, dean of the College of Journalism and Communications, has been at UF since June 2021. Though Brown was one of the last deans Glover hired during his tenure, he has been intertwined with Glover through AI initiatives, programs like the Innovation Academy and PaCE and the 2021 academic freedom scandal.

“There are certainly opportunities for artificial intelligence systems to aid journalists in covering areas that are not covered particularly,” Brown said of Glover’s AI initiatives. 

AI could be used to defend against misinformation and fact finding, Brown said. 

“The colleges of the University of Florida are all stronger because of Joe,” Brown said. “The next provost is going to have really big shoes to fill.”

Brown believes it's important for the university to continue to be a model of academic freedom. The university loses legitimacy without it.

Juan Gilbert, chair of the computer and information science and engineering Department, has been at UF since 2015. He has seen programs like UF Online and AI initiatives directly affect his college. 

“We are the largest program in UF Online, so it had a direct impact on me,” Gilbert said. “That's a tremendous program and it's exciting to see it grow and be where it is.”

Gilbert’s department will be moving into Malachowsky Hall, which is a part of the university’s AI initiatives. 

“We're the first university in the nation where students can get experience with AI independent of their major,” Gilbert said. “There's no other university that can say that.”

Although Gilbert hasn’t worked with Glover directly, he’s demonstrated outstanding leadership and done an excellent job growing the research enterprise, Gilbert said.  

“He stepped up when he needed to step up, and he's corrected things and done very well,” Gilbert said. “I can speak to the outcomes as a result of him taking action which had been very positive.”

Former president Fuchs relied on Glover in the early days of his presidency. Under their combined leadership, the university has excelled across multiple categories. 

“I think it's clear just my admiration and gratitude for everything he does for this place,” Fuchs said. “We're very fortunate that he's been our provost.”

Alissa Gary contributed to this story.

Contact Ella at ethompson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @elladeethompson

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