President Hitt: UCF 'is on the Move in Many Exciting Ways'

President Hitt: UCF ‘is on the Move in Many Exciting Ways’

UCF President John C. Hitt delivered his State of the University address Thursday at the Student Union. Faculty Senate Chair Ida Cook and Student Government Association President Matthew McCann also spoke to students and staff and faculty members who packed the Pegasus Ballroom. The prepared remarks for all three speeches are below. To watch a video of the State of the University address, visit the new SGA Extra website.

President John C. Hitt:

Good afternoon, and welcome to this special assembly of Knights. With us today are members of our Student Government Association and Faculty Senate, members of our UCF Board of Trustees, members of our faculty and staff, and friends of the university. And, to those who are watching online, thank you for joining us, as well.

All of you are part of our UCF family. I invited you here because, just as with any family, it is good to catch up … and to look ahead. And what better time to get together than Homecoming Week?

I am happy to report that our hometown university is on the move in many exciting ways. Among them:

– we are setting new school records for the quality of our students, total enrollment, and number of degrees awarded

– UCF professors are conducting research of global significance

– our national reputation for innovative programs is growing in such areas as video game production, optics and lasers, simulation and training, and hospitality management

– we are opening facilities of regional impact — such as the Pegasus Health Clinic on University Boulevard operated by our College of Medicine. We are also opening facilities with world reach, such as the beautiful Morgridge International Reading Center

– and we are working with our partners throughout Central Florida to create jobs and to boost the standard of living.

The state of UCF is strong, and many more achievements are to come. Together, we are transforming our region and the world, and we have only begun to hit our stride.

As a young institution, UCF is not bound by that stifling phrase “but we’ve always done it that way.” Instead, we can be bolder, better, and more practical. We dare to pioneer, to innovate, and to embrace growth.

Yes, our fall enrollment of 58,656 students sets yet another school record. But what counts is the access to a better life we can offer to more Floridians than ever who desire, and deserve, a college education – Floridians like UCF junior Shardy Camargo.

Shardy, will you please stand. During her freshman year of high school, Shardy’s single-parent family became homeless. They eventually found a home, but the experience made Shardy want to help others. So, she co-wrote a book and produced a documentary on homelessness. That documentary, “Everybody Has a Story to Tell,” is now part of the social sciences curriculum in all of Orange County’s most challenged public high schools.

Shardy studied hard, earned scholarships, and became the first in her family to attend college. She is a LEAD Scholar and Burnett Honors College student with a 3.5 GPA and a bright future in public administration or non-profit work. She remains dedicated to helping others, and she volunteers regularly. Shardy, thank you for being such an inspiration here at UCF.

Education transforms lives, and growth at UCF is about improving the quality of life for our students, their families, and our city-state. Growth at UCF is also about expanding in quality and service.

Because of growth, we can point to some remarkable benefits for those we serve. Those include:

– Three hugely successful satellite centers associated with our Orlando campus: Lake Nona, Rosen, and Downtown.

– 10 regional campus locations that offer top-notch facilities and convenience to education for people throughout our 11-county service region.

– Five joint-use facilities on the campuses of our “DirectConnect to UCF” partners: Brevard Community College, Lake Sumter Community College, Seminole State College, and Valencia College. Through DirectConnect, a national model of cooperation, students at those campuses who complete associate of arts degrees and articulated associate of science degrees are guaranteed admission to UCF. Joint facilities enhance the educational experience for students while doubling as bridges for their successful transfer to UCF.

And it greatly pleases me to tell you that last year we enrolled at UCF a record 9,830 transfer students from community and state colleges.

Because of growth, UCF has developed one of the nation’s most successful distributed learning programs. Our online courses give students unprecedented options for building coursework around their work and home schedules.

And, our data show that student success rates in these courses equal or exceed success rates for students in classroom-only settings. In addition, online students succeed at even higher rates in courses with a blend of classroom teaching and online learning. Online learning also helps reduce class sizes and enables more scheduling flexibility for instructors.

Approximately 30 percent of our credit hours originate from online courses, and the percentage is growing by more than 2 percent a year.

Now, consider what it would cost if UCF had to build classroom space for our online students. For construction: approximately $56 million dollars. For operation and maintenance of the space each year: more than $4 million. As to the value of the parking spaces that are open because of online classes: priceless!

Because of growth, we developed the nationally recognized Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning. Among the many support services the center provides are paid opportunities for faculty members to learn how to work effectively with large classes.

The center also helps graduate teaching assistants be more successful as they work with students in large classes.

At UCF, we take good teaching seriously, both in our own classrooms and in our region’s K-12 classrooms. President John F. Kennedy said: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

That is why we make sure that our teacher education program is one of the best in the nation. And we are pleased that more undergraduate students attend UCF to become teachers than enroll at any other public university in America, according to the latest data from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Educators trained at UCF routinely win Best Teacher awards throughout our area. Our own faculty members also earn many prestigious honors for their outstanding teaching. One of them is Dr. Linda Walters, a professor of biology. Dr. Walters, would you please stand.

Since 2005, Dr. Walters has led restoration efforts in Brevard County’s Mosquito Lagoon. In doing so, she has engaged more than 21,000 volunteers of all ages – including her husband and son – in hands-on work with the Nature Conservancy and the Brevard Zoo to restore 50 oyster reefs. She was recently named the national William A. Niering Outstanding Educator of the Year by the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. Also, just last month, Dr. Walters received the 2011 Service Learning Faculty Award from the Florida Campus Compact.  Congratulations, Dr. Walters, and keep up the great work.

Many other faculty members also are helping UCF establish a world-class reputation for research. In fact, the Carnegie Foundation recently designated UCF as a “very high research activity” institution, which is the Foundation’s highest ranking.

And, despite the tough economic climate in 2011, the university surpassed the $100 million dollar mark in external research funding for the seventh straight year.

Meanwhile, UCF’s pioneering efforts to commercialize technology continue to stimulate local economies throughout the state. This summer at Daytona Beach International Airport, in partnership with the Volusia County government, we celebrated the opening of the ninth UCF Business Incubation Program to help grow small businesses.

One of the keys to growing businesses is access to a well-qualified work force, and we are doing our part to meet the labor demand. Last year, we awarded 13,353 degrees to graduates. That new UCF record is far more significant than it might first appear.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, on average, holders of bachelor’s degrees earn $68,812 dollars a year. They have an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Meanwhile, high school graduates on average earn less than $40,000 a year and have an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent.

Now, for a pop quiz: Where do companies that pay six-figure salaries and invest the most in a local economy want to be? The answer is where high numbers of college graduates are among the working-age population.

I am excited about the number of graduates we are producing, but I am delighted even more by the increasing diversity and quality of our student body.

One of our key goals at UCF is to become more inclusive and diverse. This semester, our percentage of minority students has reached an all-time high of 37.2 percent. That number is up from 34.4 percent last year and 32 percent just two years ago.

And here are some other statistics that I hope you will be as proud of as I am. At UCF, the average SAT score for the Fall 2011 class is 1250 as compared to 1237 last year. Since 2006-2007, our average fall SAT score has increased by 49 points.

Now, contrast that with what is happening throughout Florida. The average SAT score for all Fall 2011 freshman classes in the state is 976. And it fell 18 points statewide this year from the year before!

And here’s another telling fact about the SATs. The College Board says more students sent their SAT scores to UCF for consideration than to any other Florida school. Florida State ranks second, and the University of Florida third.

More than ever, UCF is the smart choice for many of our state’s brightest students.

This fall’s freshman class includes a record 74 National Merit Scholars. That total more than doubles the 28 we had in 2006-2007. And, during that same time span, our overall number of National Merit Scholars at UCF has also more than doubled. This year, we have 219 National Merit Scholars enrolled at UCF. That is our most ever at the university.

It is no wonder that UCF is attracting more national attention – and turning some famous heads. Former President Bill Clinton has been telling folks from around the world about how UCF drives a knowledge-based economy. In addition, Microsoft’s Bill Gates has cited UCF as a leader in bringing education to a broader audience via the use of online videos. And, U.S. News & World Report recently ranked UCF as the No. 4 “up and coming” school in the country.

We are one of the best college values in America. The Princeton Review places us among the “50 Best Value Universities”; Kiplinger magazine rates us 33rd this year as one of its 100 “Best Value Colleges for 2011”; and Forbes magazine names UCF the 42nd most affordable university in the nation.

It is gratifying to be recognized for the dynamic institution that we are. But, as we aspire to greater heights of community service and distinction, we face some significant funding challenges.

In the last four years, UCF has lost right at $100 million in state appropriations. On top of that, the governor vetoed funding for building projects at universities statewide, including $21.3 million dollars for UCF projects. In addition, funding cuts of 5 percent to 10 percent for the coming year are already being discussed in Tallahassee.

Increases in tuition and fees – although not preferable or popular – have enabled us to avoid layoffs and maintain a high quality of campus life. That money has allowed us to add as many new faculty positions each year as we can to reduce the size of classes and to enhance research at the university.

The additional dollars allowed us to dedicate funds to reduce class sizes for courses in English composition and to provide added tutoring in algebra.

And students, these dollars have enabled us to

– build the Knowledge Commons area in the library

– expand our popular student Recreation and Wellness Center

– and open the Career Services Experiential Learning Center.

These physical improvements serve you directly. But bearing the brunt of our budget cuts have been our dedicated and hard-working staff and faculty members. It is because of their efforts that we have so well insulated our students and our community from the loss in state funding.

Shortly, you will hear from the leaders of our Faculty Senate and Student Government Association. Also here today are members of the USPS Staff Council, including President Bill Scoltock. Bill, will you please stand. Thank you and the staff members you represent for doing much to shield our faculty members and students from the effects of our sluggish economy.

Now, despite our discouraging funding circumstances, I can assure you that we are not leaving our financial fate to chance. Working with the UCF Foundation, we are laying the groundwork for a major fundraising campaign aimed at raising hundreds of millions of dollars. Among other things, we need this money to: 

– add new technology and more space at the library to provide our students with a leading-edge library resource

– complete the second-phase of our Performing Arts Center to expand the arts on campus and meet the growing demand for professionally trained performers in our local world-class entertainment industry

– and boost our endowment to hire additional teaching and research faculty members, as well as provide more money for scholarships.

It will be at least a year before we are ready to formally launch this essential campaign, but I know it will go far in securing a brighter future for UCF. I am committed to its success, so much so that I signed a five-year contract extension as president to help us surpass our fundraising goals.

Another new and exciting project we began recently is WUCF TV, Central Florida’s new and only home for PBS. As you will recall, our community’s former public broadcaster announced that it was selling its TV license. That meant our community stood to lose PBS as of June 30.

UCF prides itself on being America’s leading partnership university. So what did we do? UCF partnered with Brevard Community College and PBS to rescue the programming and  shows such as Antiques Roadshow, Masterpiece Theatre, and Arthur.

But the partnership also created unprecedented opportunities to expand UCF’s own TV programs. WUCF TV covers a 10-county broadcast area. Since the new station debuted on July 1, the public response has been terrific.

PBS is a community asset. Anyone who has watched Nature, Nova, or Frontline knows that PBS is more than just television: It is television that matters.

Now, allow me to move to a different concern. This fall, alcohol abuse has been a campus topic. As president of this university, let me be very clear: UCF has no tolerance for

– underage and excessive drinking

– drinking while driving

– or illegal drug possession and use on our campuses

The health and well-being of our students are central to their ability to succeed. We know that some of our freshmen arrive with risky behaviors that can worsen if they misuse their new independence. And, it takes only one bad decision to tragically alter, or end, lives. This is why, before they begin classes, all incoming freshmen, are required to complete an online course called AlcoholEdu.

Still, the issues we face demand vigilance year round from all of us on campus and off campus. UCF is a national leader in alcohol and substance abuse prevention and enforcement programs, and we will continue to pursue the highest of standards in:

– targeting illegal sales to minors

– enforcing and improving existing state and local laws

– and reducing other substance abuse threats that could harm our students and their chances for success.

Out of concern for the health and safety of our campus community, we are also moving to make UCF’s campuses smoke-free.

In coming months, we will host public discussions and forums as we formulate a policy. I hope to see it in place one year from now at all campus locations. This move aligns us with several community partners – such as the Orange County government and Florida Hospital – which are already headed in this positive direction.

As I approach my 20th anniversary in March as president at UCF, I am delighted that we have achieved so much to benefit our city-state. However, many of our successes proceed from the solid groundwork laid by UCF’s founding president, Charles Millican, and his successors, Trevor Colbourn and Steve Altman. We are so grateful to them.

As I reflect on my tenure at UCF, it is particularly rewarding to have become such an integral part of the progress and prosperity of our region. Nineteen years ago, we were an afterthought in the business community. Now, it is common wisdom that no major economic development happens in Central Florida without UCF’s involvement.

The rise of UCF as one of America’s great universities is no coincidence. It stems, in part, from the continuing pursuit of the five goals of our institution that have guided us since I arrived here in 1992.

– Goal one, offer the best undergraduate education available in Florida.

– Achieve international prominence in key programs of graduate study and research.

– Provide international focus to our curricula and research programs.

– Become more inclusive and diverse.

– And be America’s leading partnership university.

The fifth goal regarding partnerships has made the biggest difference and helps the other goals flourish. By means of hundreds of partnerships on campus, throughout Central Florida, and around the nation and the world, UCF leverages its talent and resources to more fully serve society.

Many of the UCF and community triumphs mentioned today would not have been possible without the power of partnerships, and here are some others:

– the Medical City at Lake Nona, anchored by the UCF College of Medicine

– the Florida High-Tech Corridor

– the Institute for Simulation and Training

– the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy

– and our nationally known academic service-learning program.

I could go on and on. But perhaps our most important partnership is the one that binds us as a UCF family. All of us have a stake in this great institution and its advancement.

More than ever, because of how we grow and work together, UCF stands for opportunity – the opportunity to learn, to work, to participate, to stumble and try again, to compete, to serve, and to make a difference.

At the beginning of these remarks, I said that UCF is strong. And successful.

– We are solving problems and discovering solutions that will improve lives here and abroad.

– We are diversifying our region’s economy and advancing its prosperity.

– We are transforming the future of families — thousands of families — across Central Florida

And, together, we are creating America’s great, metropolitan, research university.

See you tomorrow at Spirit Splash, go Knights, and God bless you all!

Now, I am delighted to introduce the chair of the Faculty Senate and member of the UCF Board of Trustees, Dr. Ida Cook.

Faculty Senate Chair Ida Cook:

Thank you, President Hitt, and good afternoon. I am so glad all of you could make it today. And I know our faculty are looking forward to joining the Knight family this weekend for the Homecoming activities.

On behalf of the UCF faculty, I congratulate President Hitt for the many accomplishments that he has spearheaded at UCF and thank him for his leadership as UCF has grown to become ranked as outstanding in so many areas.

President Hitt spoke of the progress and accomplishments of the UCF faculty. This fall, we welcomed one hundred and twenty-four (124) new faculty members. They join last year’s count of twelve hundred and ninety-four (1294) full-time instructional faculty, who were supported by five hundred and five (505) additional part-time faculty. Given the size of UCF’s student body, it is clear that our faculty have stood strong in our efforts to provide the best education in effective and efficient ways.

UCF’s faculty members have not stood still by just teaching face-to-face classes. We have embraced a variety of specialized technologies to help create an interesting, academically challenging learning experience for our students in the classroom, over long distances, and via the internet. Many of our faculty, who are leaders in their professional fields, engage and mentor their students in active learning, creating unique opportunities for students to participate in the forefront of scientific and creative vision and development.

Some of those faculty have, until now, been ineligible for promotion, despite years of dedicated service.I am delighted to share that, as the result of several years’ work by the UCF Faculty Senate, the initiative to support the promotion of non-tenure earning researchers, clinicians, and faculty has been successful. We look forward to the final development of a process to promote them. Thank you, President Hitt, for your long-standing dedication to recognize and support faculty efforts.

In another recent UCF Faculty Senate initiative, we proposed the creation of the opportunity for promotion for our colleagues who teach and serve UCF as instructors and lecturers. With the establishment of senior status for instructors and lecturers, we will finally be able to reward further many of those who provide major support to the academic training of UCF students. This initiative has been approved by the administration and, with the cooperation of our fellow United Faculty of Florida colleagues, we look forward to seeing the specifics agreed upon so that it can be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

UCF has grown in remarkable ways, and our presence is now spread across 11 campuses, and the medical and hospitality colleges. No matter how we grow, what will never change is that, we, faculty, are here because of the needs of our students and the community. We remain committed to providing the best undergraduate education in Florida. In that shared purpose, we can only grow stronger!

And now it is my pleasure to introduce to you the president of our student body, Matt McCann. Thank you.

Student Government Association President Matthew McCann:

Good afternoon! First, let me say how proud I am to be a Knight. It is a privilege to be surrounded by such an incredible campus community.

We face unprecedented times as students. Federal financial aid has decreased; Bright Futures, a state scholarship program that the majority of UCF students depend on, has been restructured and reduced; and tuition has increased. Times are tough. These issues are being felt by all students within the State University System, some more than others.

We at UCF, though, continue to progress and grow as the nation’s second-largest university — and our growth with quality increases the value of our degrees. Due to responsible spending and thoughtful budgeting by the UCF administration, the national effects of the poor economy are inconsequential compared to other state universities.

UCF continues to improve its countless services, enhance the quality of our education, and draw a high caliber of students every year.

To the student body: You elected me and Adam this past May as your student body president and vice president. We pledged that we would fulfill the many different items of our platform and redefine your overall college experience. I can promise you that we are well on our way.

Starting this December, SGA will be providing free printing to the Rosen campus for the first time ever. We are also working to improve your college experience outside of the classroom, as we are in the process of finalizing a contract that will bring free DVD rental units to campus.

Furthermore, we worked to maintain low fee increases so that different campuses can continue to offer students premier services without creating a burdensome cost. We heard your concerns. The Activity & Service Fee was not increased at all this fiscal year.

We also promised you that we would live stream SGA meetings and events. Today marks the launch of our new and improved secondary website, SGA Extra. For the first time at UCF, students who are not able to attend meetings can stay up-to-date and well-informed. This is transparency at its finest.

Despite our challenging times, UCF is experiencing growth with quality. Our students are fortunate to attend a university that places student interests at the apex of university decision-making. Our students are fortunate to have a Student Government that is concerned for the well-being of the student body.

Together, we are redefining possibility and creating a permanent legacy for future generations. We are the UCF nation. On behalf of President Hitt and Ida, I invite all of you to enjoy this reception,  its refreshments, and the great company here today.

Happy Homecoming, and GO KNIGHTS!