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The University of South Florida: On the Verge of Preeminence

The University of South Florida has succeeded in raising the educational bar for itself.

The main campus is sprawling, with research facilities, an athletic arena, and even a botanical garden. The student body is diverse, with undergraduate and grad students coming from as far away as China to earn a degree. And now, thanks to a years-long drive to raise standards across the board, the University of South Florida (USF) will finally attain “preeminence”. That coveted status puts the educational institution among Florida’s best. It also means that the University of South Florida world ranking goes up, and it opens the door to more state funding.

Ultimately, though, the successful drive to preeminence speaks to the bold leadership of USF president Judy Genshaft. It also highlights the sustained effort of the entire university community to raise its standards. But most of all, it points to a future growing increasingly more bright for the school. USF was a good school before preeminence – now it’s getting even better.

The University of South Florida – By the Numbers

So much of the college experience comes down to intangibles. For instance, the way certain professors resonate with students or the raucousness of frat parties. But there are a vast amount of quantifiable statistics, and the University of South Florida’s numbers are impressive.

Founded in 1956, the university boasts over 50,000 enrolled students across three campuses. This includes the main campus in Tampa, as well as smaller campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota. Over 130-degree programs are available within 14 separate colleges.

Out of 312 schools, US News and World Report ranks USF at #124. However, the University of South Florida world ranking doesn’t paint a complete picture. Where the university truly excels is as a research institution.

In fact, in 2017, the school placed fifth in the country and twelfth worldwide among public universities producing new US utility patents. Last year, 116 patents were created out of USF’s research facilities.

The primary fields of research at the university are science, engineering, marine science, the arts, and medicine. In fact, the university is a leader in the treatment of brain disease, infectious diseases, and photovoltaic technologies – a form of renewable energy.

Standing Out Among its Peers

In 2013, Florida lawmakers laid down a dozen metrics by which to gauge the Sunshine State’s institutions of higher education. Some of these metrics included faculty quality, student retention, and the number of undergraduate students completing their degree within four years. Only the University of Florida and Florida State University scored high enough to reach “preeminence” level. As a result, when it came time to dole out state funds, UF and FSU got the lion’s share.

That didn’t sit well with University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft. She was determined to raise USF above its peers. And she succeeded. As an institution, USF is among the educational elite. Never mind the University of South Florida world ranking – in Florida, USF is one of the top three.

Over her 18 years of service, Genshaft managed to grow the university’s annual research expenditures from $145 million to $568 million, placing USF as the ninth largest public research university in the nation. Additionally, in 2017, Genshaft led the “Unstoppable” capital campaign, which raised more $1 billion, making USF one of three universities to ever reach this achievement.

At a conference this year, Genshaft announced that she will be stepping down from her position as president of the university, effective July 1, 2019. She will be remembered for her achievements that helped raise the bar at USF, making USF an institution to be reckoned with.

The University of South Florida's preeminent status reflects its academic excellence.
The University of South Florida’s strength has long been in its function as a research facility.

University of South Florida’s Preeminence – Now What?

As the University of South Florida becomes a preeminent university, a new door to growth has been opened. Primarily, USF will receive additional funding each year to aid in further developing their research programs. This increases their original funding from the Florida Legislature of $5 million to $10 million.

One place this funding will get to is USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, which is being built in downtown Tampa and part of the Waterstreet Development. In addition, the school aims to redesign its mentoring programs, support expansion, and reward faculty success. However, the most prominent use of the additional funding will most likely be for USF’s research facilities. Research is, after all, the institution’s bread and butter.

Preeminence doesn’t just bode well for the University of South Florida world ranking. It’s also a sign of greater things to come. Currently, USF’s endowment tops $400 million. But additional state funding means an ability to bring in more superstar faculty, which means attracting more students. This, in turn, means raising academic standards even further… and so on, until that endowment climbs and climbs. Ultimately, it’s a cycle of growth.

And it all boils down to the University of South Florida preeminence status, and it’s a bold success at making itself better.

To learn more about University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and her bold leadership, check out our Bold Leader Spotlight of the week.

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