SARASOTA, Fla. (June 4, 2015) – Increased faculty research. Additional laboratory space. Expanded community engagement. Establishment of an NCAA women’s rowing team.
These are among the dozens of long-term goals for USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM) that the University of South Florida’s Board of Trustees approved on Thursday.
Called “Focus on Quality 2020,” this newly adopted long-term plan lays out a series of guiding principals and strategies to “set the course of USF Sarasota-Manatee over the next five years and to measure its progress in serving students and the community,” said Dr. Bonnie Jones, assistant vice president for Institutional Research & Effectiveness. “This is huge for this community and our students.”
The plan’s overall aim is to enrich the university’s academic programs and student life, to expand faculty research and resources, and to more fully engage nearby communities. It is the product of four months of analysis, meetings and debate by USFSM’s senior leadership team with input from an advisory council of 32 faculty, staff, students and community members.
“I believe we have captured the best of what we have to offer as well as the vision for how much more we can become as a valued member of the USF System,” Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor of USF Sarasota-Manatee, said.
“We tried to make the process inclusive and transparent, and I was extremely pleased with the positive response,” she said. “Faculty, staff, students, administrators, system colleagues and community members were highly engaged and all pulled together to meet our deadlines with a quality product.”
As the previous strategic plan was set to expire, Dr. Stone said she made Focus on Quality 2020 her top priority upon arriving at USF Sarasota-Manatee in November, 2014.
The result is a wide-ranging, long-term agenda that touches numerous areas. Among them, academics, student life, athletics, workplace issues, diversity, technology, community engagement and the university’s fundraising and expansion programs.
Among the plan’s many aims are its “top 10 transformational goals” for the campus. They are:
- Recognition of USFSM as a “community engaged campus” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
- Achievement and maintenance of national accreditation for applicable specialized programs
- Recognition by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a “Great College to Work For”
- Receipt of at least one major gift
- Establishment as the home of the USF NCAA Women’s Rowing Team
- Establishment of a space for a student union
- Establishment of housing options for students
- Establishment of appropriate space to support specialized, high-demand programs
- Significant increase in faculty research productivity
- Significant increase in experiential learning opportunities for students, including internships and study abroad opportunities
The advisory council, chaired by Dr. Jones and formally known as the Strategic Plan Advisory Council, began work in late January.
Prior to that, USFSM’s senior leadership team – a committee of administrators – collaborated with retired business executive Graham Strange of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to set the plan’s priorities and begin forming the council.
With input from that council, the leadership team approved the final plan on March 27.
Some objectives laid out in Focus on Quality 2020 are still being defined and will be developed more fully as funding becomes available, such as the student-housing option, rowing team and increased faculty and staff.
Other objectives have seen progress already, including the plan’s aim to achieve national accreditation for academic programs.
Just last month USFSM’s College of Education was awarded specialized accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the nation’s foremost accrediting organization for teacher instruction.
This occurred a year after USFSM’s College of Business earned specialized accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) to secure its position among the nation’s top business schools.
USFSM is pushing ahead in other areas, as well.
This past spring, a modular biological lab was added to the campus’ north side and a second lab is set to open by the start of the fall semester.
To boost research productivity, the university last month named Dr. Richard Reich, associate professor of psychology at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Arts & Sciences, to the newly created position of Faculty Coordinator of Research. Among his new duties: to boost research output and attract more grants.
The 2020 plan comes as USF Sarasota-Manatee is growing faster than expected.
When the university began accepting sophomores in 2012 and welcomed its first freshman class in 2013, it was anticipated that freshmen and sophomores would not make up more than 25 percent of the full-time student population until the 2017-18 academic year.
Now the university expects to hit that target in the coming year.
The next step following the plan’s approval is to ensure the university’s deans and program directors begin aligning their assessment plans for fiscal year 2015-16 with the strategic plan’s goals and outcomes.
Following that, the advisory council will hold a retreat, set for Jan. 26, 2016, to examine how well the university is progressing in implementing the plan and whether adjustments are needed.
Summing up the plan’s aims, Dr. Stone said: “We will be widely known for our exceptional academic programs and we will be considered a vital asset to the economic development and overall quality of life of the communities we serve.”