LTE

Warm greetings to our students and to all members of our extraordinary campus community, on this first day of classes of a new academic year!

My wife, Linda, and I spent the past several days living in Jennings Hall and experiencing UF as arriving students do, from joining families in ferrying clothes and furnishings to their rooms to eating in the dining halls. 

It’s been inspiring to share in new students’ energy and expectations for the year ahead. Our goal is for UF to exceed those expectations – and I believe ongoing enhancements to both academic and student life will help make it so.

Regarding academics: We are close to completing one of the most sweeping university wide initiatives in recent years - the creation of 500 new faculty positions across our 16 colleges. With nearly all of these new faculty already on campus or arriving this academic year, the impact on students is increased opportunities for smaller, more personal classes. Our student-faculty ratio stands at 18:1, down from 21:1. A special shout-out to all the new faculty and staff!

We are also enhancing academic offerings, such as those related to core requirements.

Several years ago, we began the “What is the Good Life?” course as a required class to ensure students a shared academic experience in the humanities, arts, philosophy and culture.

This Fall, we expand the possibilities for meeting this requirement to nearly two dozen classes being offered through the UF Quest program.

These courses range from “Fairy Tales and Identity” to “The Idea of Happiness” to “Race and Law in the American City” – and an even greater variety of courses are being developed as possibilities for students progressing through all four undergraduate years.

UF Quest’s goal is to give students the chance to probe major questions, such as the relationship between justice and power, with an eye toward addressing our planet’s most pressing challenges today.

Regarding our campus: We’re completing or closing in on several major new or beautifully revitalized facilities, with even more sweeping changes ahead.

First up will be the new homes of the Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures (also known as La Casita). These $10 million facilities, which open their doors later this Fall, will renew and expand storied traditions of supporting African-American and Hispanic culture on our campus.

A bit further down the road, we look forward to the opening of Norman Hall, home to the College of Education, and the Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence, the new flagship for the College of Engineering. Our new state-of-the-art baseball park is also rapidly taking shape.

Even more far-reaching, UF recently unveiled its first-ever strategic master plan for the future growth of our campus.

The plan envisions across-the-board changes that will, over time, transform campus and how students live, study and work. For example, it transitions central thoroughfares away from vehicular traffic and toward bike and pedestrian traffic. It envisions new residential complexes and revitalized existing residence halls. 

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to our state of Florida, particularly our elected  officials, and to friends and donors of the university who are providing resources to make all of this happen.

It’s fabulous to begin the Fall with all of our exceptional students, faculty and staff and friends of the university. I wish everyone much accomplishment and joy in the coming year!

Kent Fuchs is the president of UF. His column appears monthly.