Thank you, Chair Barbar, and sincere thanks to you and all of our Trustees for your dedication to Florida Atlantic University. We’re very grateful to you for generously donating your time, energy and leadership skills to the business of running this large, complex organization.
Good morning, everyone! I’m glad that you’re here today to look ahead with me to a new year and a new era for Florida Atlantic University. Today I’m going to share information with you about some exciting initiatives that are being launched this year, and also review some of the most notable achievements of the past year. Because so many great things have been accomplished, it would be impossible for me to give all the credit that’s due in a single speech. So please bear with me as I try to paint a picture in very broad strokes that will give you some idea of the extraordinary job so many people have been doing to keep our University moving forward on a host of fronts.
I’d like to start by telling you about a 21st century project that’s been given a classical Greek name – the Agora Project. You may already have heard of the Agora Project, which is being launched this semester. Agora is a Greek word dating back to ancient times that refers to a place where people gather to do business and discuss ideas. The central marketplace in Athens was called the Agora. We’re taking that concept and applying it to life here at FAU in an effort to underscore the importance of maintaining civil discourse in all our interactions. This is something that’s also being addressed at other universities around the country, including Rutgers, the University of Missouri and the University of Arizona.
The Agora Project Task Force will be at work throughout this academic year, presenting a wide variety of events to promote civil and respectful dialogue on many issues among people with widely differing views in this melting pot that is FAU. Dr. William Trapani of the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies is heading up the task force, assisted by Arts and Letters Dean Heather Coltman and Dean of Students Corey King. I encourage you to contact them if you’d like to contribute your ideas to this effort.
On a related note, I’d like to tell you about another important project that’s getting under way this year. The FAU Human Rights Initiative is a multi-disciplinary undertaking that’s aimed at building on the success of the Peace Studies Program that was established here in 1999 by Barbara Schmidt. This new initiative is focused on uniting people throughout the University to develop the themes of human rights, peace and social justice through research, curricular expansion and community outreach. Its ultimate goal is the establishment of a Center for Peace and Human Rights at FAU. You can get involved by contacting the director of the project, Dr. Michael Horswell.
You know, I’ve had the privilege of working at this University for 26 years, and for just about all that time I’ve been hearing talk about taking FAU to the next level – about pushing the envelope in all sorts of ways to transform FAU from a good university to one that’s truly great. That transformation is well on its way to becoming reality, as anyone can tell by simply looking at the changes that have taken place on our campuses in recent years. The Florida Atlantic University that hired me as Purchasing Director in 1987 bears very little resemblance to the FAU we know today.
As I was planning this speech, I thought about the road ahead – the road that leads upward to that “next level” we’ve been striving for. That level is not really very far away now, and there’s no doubt that we have the ability and the energy to keep on moving toward our highest goals. And once we reach that summit, we’ll set even higher goals for FAU because the job of building a great University is never done. There are always new challenges to be faced, new opportunities to be seized and new advances to be made.
We saw a very important advance this fall as enrollment hit another new high. At the conclusion of drop-add, 30,759 students were enrolled University-wide. This set a new record, standing nearly 2 percent above last year’s total. Overall credit hours were up, too.
We set another new record for the size of our freshman class as we welcomed 3,492 first-time-in-college students here on the Boca campus and in the Honors College on the Jupiter campus. These kids came to us with solid academic credentials as well, with an average high school GPA of 3.43, average SAT score of 1546 and average ACT score of 22. Please note, too, that the percentage of out-of-state students jumped 56 percent, which shows great progress toward our goal of enrolling more freshmen from outside Florida.
As always, our incoming class of Honors College students is made up of real super-stars. There are 112 new students in the Honors College, with an average GPA of 4.16, an average SAT score of better than 1877 and an average ACT score of more than 28. Their arrival brings the total Honors College population to 316.
I had the opportunity to meet many of our incoming students last month at the Freshman Convocation, which is a really great event that was introduced seven years ago to formally welcome students to the University. This is one of the ways we’re trying to help them make a successful transition from high school to college, get off to a good start on their college careers and graduate in four years.
Seventy new faculty members have come on board this semester to help serve our expanding student body. A few of them are pictured here. All of the colleges, plus HBOI and the library, are welcoming new faculty. They bring with them academic credentials from institutions that include Harvard, New York Medical College and The Ohio State University.
We’re very glad that we were able to hold the line on tuition and fees this year after a series of increases. The Legislature took a lot of pressure off us by restoring last year’s total cut of $24.7 million. We’re very grateful to our Tallahassee delegation for going to bat for us and to Governor Scott for signing the bill that’s helping to restore the financial health of FAU and all the state universities.
One big advantage that we’re offering freshmen for the first time this year is the opportunity to live in Parliament Hall, our newest student residence. Why the name Parliament Hall, you might ask? Good question. It’s because the collective noun for a group of owls is “a parliament of owls” – making that name a very good choice for a home for our fledgling Owls. This is our first student housing facility to have a faculty member in residence, which is something that’s being adopted by universities around the country to promote informal interaction between new students and a caring, involved faculty member. Studies have shown that this is a very effective way of helping students adapt to college life and do well in their studies. The faculty member in residence in Parliament Hall is Dr. Charles Dukes, an associate professor in the College of Education. We thank him for stepping forward to fill this very important role. Parliament Hall includes two dining venues that offer students healthful menu selections.
And speaking of new students, we welcomed our third class of medical students last month. This diverse cohort of future physicians has come to us with nationally competitive academic qualifications and high enthusiasm for their medical studies.
One of the traditions that’s been established by our medical school is to have each incoming class write its own oath, pledging commitment to the time-honored profession they hope to become part of. Here we see the Class of 2017 reciting their oath in unison.
I’m very pleased to report to you that the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine has received provisional accreditation. Its first residency program, which is in internal medicine, has been awarded full accreditation.
And speaking of accreditation, congratulations are also in order for Student Health Services, which has been granted three-year accreditation by the authority that sets national standards for student healthcare. Congratulations to Director Cathie Wallace and her team of healthcare professionals!
I’d like to take a moment now to welcome some newcomers to the leadership team and thank several other people for taking on important responsibilities in an interim capacity.
Dr. Daniel Gropper became Dean of the College of Business last summer, coming to us from Auburn University, where he was Associate Dean and the David and Meredith Luck Professor of Finance. He’s already deeply engaged in the development of our largest college, and we’re very grateful to have him at its helm. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Florida State University.
Ms. Joanne Davis is serving as Interim Vice President for Community Engagement and Executive Director of the FAU Foundation, giving us the benefit of her 18 years of experience in managing non-profit organizations.
My long-time colleague Ms. Dorothy Russell took on the responsibilities of Senior Vice President for Financial Affairs and University Budget Director when I left that position to become Interim President. I’m personally very grateful to her because I have complete confidence in her ability to handle the many duties that come with the job.
Ms. Stacy Volnick has been serving as Chief of Staff and Vice President for Executive Operations since earlier this year. She's an FAU veteran who's written a great success story, arriving at the University in 1985 as an undergraduate and joining the administration shortly after getting her bachelor's degree. She's now a double alumna, having earned a master's degree in educational leadership in 2006. Her 22 years of experience on the business side of the University have given her a comprehensive understanding of how this large institution works, and she's doing a tremendous job of handling a wide variety of responsibilities.
The organizational chart was recently changed to bring Communications and Marketing under the umbrella of the President’s Office, reporting directly to Stacy. The scope of our communications activities is expanding very rapidly, particularly in the realm of social media. We understand the importance of having a strong presence in the venues that are most popular with students and potential students.
Dr. Gary Perry served with distinction for seven years as Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, stepping down from that position just a couple of months ago. The college is being led on an interim basis by Dr. Russell Ivy, and Dr. Perry has graciously agreed to serve as our Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer. We owe Dr. Diane Alperin a huge debt of gratitude for her recent valuable service as Acting Provost – marking the third time that she’s served the University in this important capacity.
I’ve made some organizational changes that I want to share with you. In accordance with current best practices, the reporting lines of a number of administrative units are being returned to the Provost’s Office. These functions encompass Enrollment Management – including Admissions, the Registrar’s Office and Student Financial Aid – as well as the Office of Information Technology, and Institutional Effectiveness and Analysis. In addition, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College will now report to the Provost. In an effort to streamline our graduate education operations, I’ve asked Dr. Perry to review that organizational structure to ensure that it also aligns with best practices.
As I said earlier, so many truly noteworthy things have been accomplished at FAU this year that I’m not going to be able to cover all of them today, for which I apologize. I wish I could put a photograph up on that screen of everybody who’s done something really great, but that would mean that we’d be here until about 5 o’clock tonight, which I don’t think you’d like. So let me preface the next part of this presentation with the statement that I’m only going to be able to show you the tip of the iceberg. Many other extraordinary contributions to advancing the University’s mission have been made over the past year, and we’re proud of every single one of them.
As an institution, we can take tremendous pride in the fact FAU received the highest possible rating from the SACS team that visited all of our campuses last February and made a very careful review of our reaccreditation documentation, which was voluminous. The team had no recommendations to offer about further actions that need to be taken to qualify FAU for full 10-year reaccreditation. Approval is expected to be granted when the SACS Commission on Colleges holds its annual meeting in December. Thanks to everyone throughout the University who took part in the two-and-a-half-year-long self-study process, particularly to the leaders of this effort, Dr. Gitanjali Kaul and Dr. Brenda Claiborne.
The SACS team had especially high praise for our Quality Enhancement Program, which is an essential element of reaccreditation. They said they’d never seen a more enthusiastic University-wide buy-in for a QEP, and they commended us for tackling the task of expanding the culture of undergraduate research and scholarship through the initiative that we’re calling Distinction through Discovery. Thanks and congratulations to Dr. Donna Chamely-Wiik, who’s spearheading this transformational effort with tremendous dedication and effectiveness, and to all of the faculty, students and staff who are helping to move it forward. The library has already published several issues of the recently launched Undergraduate Research Journal. You’ll be hearing a lot more about our QEP in the years ahead, so stay tuned. We’ve only just begun.
Our faculty members have achieved numerous distinctions this year, including two Fulbright awards. Dr. Douglas McGetchin, associate professor of history and director of the Peace Studies program in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, will spend four months in Calcutta, beginning in November. Dr. Carmen Cañete Quesada, associate professor of Spanish in the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, will spend nine months teaching and conducting research in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Jeffrey Morton, professor of political science as well as founder and director of the award-winning Diplomacy Program in the College of Arts and Letters, received the prestigious Foreign Policy Association Medal of the World Leadership Forum. Here the president of the association, Noel Lateef, presents the award to Dr. Morton. Others who’ve been so honored include President Bill Clinton and Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright.
D r. Kevin Wagner, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the department of political science, was named an Academic Fellow on the study of terrorism by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He went to Israel for an intensive course that focused on strategies democracies can use to defeat the worldwide terrorist threat.
Dr. Vladimir Kulić, assistant professor in the School of Architecture, was named a 2013 Fellow by the American Council of Learned Societies, a unit of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The fellowship supports his project titled “Building Between Empires: Yugoslav Architecture in the Cold War Networks.”
Dr. Raphael Dalleo, associate professor of English, was named a Scholar-in-Residence by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This award includes a grant of $30,000 for the six-month residency period.
Dr. Kate Detwiler, assistant professor of anthropology, was part of a research team that discovered a new species of African monkey in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was just the second new species of African monkey discovered in the last 28 years, and it generated widespread publicity in both the scientific and popular press worldwide.
Associate Professor of English Ayşe Papatya Bucak received not one but two highly prestigious literary awards – the PEN/O. Henry Prize, which is the nation’s most sought-after award for short fiction, and the Pushcart Prize, which is given annually to recognize the best work published in the small press. Ms. Bucak was honored for two of her short stories, “The History of Girls” and “Iconography.”
Dr. Herbert Weissbach, distinguished research professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and director of the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, was named a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. This very high honor was accorded to only 98 scientists nationwide. Dr. Weissbach’s research is currently focused on understanding the role of oxidative damage in the aging process.
Dr. Josephine Beoku-Betts was one of eight women statewide who received achievement awards from the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. She was honored for her tireless work as director of FAU’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, which led to its ongoing development even in the face of the severe budget cuts of recent years.
Dr. Fred Fejes, professor of communication and director of graduate studies in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, has received the Roy F. Aarons Award for contributions to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. This is an award that’s presented annually by the GLBT Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Dr. Fejes was recognized for the important contributions that he’s made to education and research on GLBT issues over a period of 20 years.
Dr. Rhonda Goodman, assistant professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, has received no less than THREE high honors over the past year. In addition to being named the University’s 2013 Distinguished Teacher of the Year, she’s the Palm Healthcare Foundation/Palm Beach Post Nurse of the Year and the Palm Healthcare Foundation Educator of the Year. She delivered an excellent speech at the Freshman Convocation that was pitch-perfect for our incoming students.
Our students have also distinguished themselves in a host of areas this year. Here’s a brief sampling of some of their achievements.
Nursing master’s degree recipient Usar Suragarn won a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in the Philippines on care for terminally ill patients. She’s the third FAU graduate to win a highly competitive Fulbright award over the past three years. Her college, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, has received the 2013 Award for Excellence in Holistic Nursing Education from the American Holistic Nursing Association.
The spring 2013 cohort of graduating Accounting Scholars achieved 100 percent employment with leading accounting firms at starting salaries that averaged more than $55,000.
FAU’s Human-Powered Submarine team added to a long string of victories by winning first place for use of composite materials at the 12th International Submarine Races held this past summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Our team also set the record for fastest female pilot – ocean engineering major Jennifer Frame. The submarine races were introduced by FAU in 1989 and now include participating teams from all over the world.
Marcus Bright, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public Administration, was chosen to speak at last month’s 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, sharing the podium with a stellar cast of civil rights leaders and government officials, including President Obama. Marcus, who’s the executive director of an organization called Education for a Better America, told the crowd of more than 150 thousand that education is the premiere civil rights issue of the 21st century.
2012 FAU High School graduate James Martin carried out an internship in molecular biology at Princeton University under Dr. Eric Weischaus, who won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for discoveries concerning genetic control in early embryonic development. James received his bachelor’s degree from FAU summa cum laude during the summer 2013 commencement ceremonies and then returned to Princeton to work as a student assistant in Dr. Weischaus’ laboratory.
It’s no surprise that in the current economic climate research dollars are hard to come by, but, despite that, FAU’s researchers were able to bring in $33 million from outside sources last year.
Here are some of the top awards:
Dr. Joseph Ouslander of the College of Medicine and Dr. Ruth Tappen of the College of Nursing received over $1.7 million in funding from various sources to further their research on ways to reduce re-hospitalization of nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating disorders.
Dr. Michael Brady of the College of Education was awarded a five-year grant of more than $1.2 million by the U.S. Department of Education for his project titled “Mentor-Lead: Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders for Special Education Faculty Roles.”
Dr. Shirley Pomponi of Harbor Branch received over $1 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund the fourth year of a program that focuses on the development of advanced underwater technologies, exploration and research of frontier regions of the Eastern Continental shelf and improved understanding of deep and shallow coral ecosystems.
Dr. Andrew Oleinikov of the College of Medicine received a total of nearly $1 million in two grants from the National Institutes of Health supporting his research on vaccines to combat severe malaria and the discovery of pathways through which maternal anemia is transmitted.
Dr. Erika Hoff of the College of Science received a $630,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to support her study on early dual language development in children from Spanish-speaking families.
Ms. Susan Skemp of the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center received $592,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to support the installation of a small-scale ocean current turbine test berth in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. This important project got the green light from federal environmental authorities last summer. The first test berth is expected to be in place early next year, advancing our effort to become the first university in the world to demonstrate the feasibility of generating energy from ocean currents.
Dr. Xavier Comas and Dr. Brian Benscoter of the College of Science have been awarded more than $570,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to study carbon cycling and climate change in the Greater Everglades.
Dr. Daniel Reyes-Guerra of the College of Education received nearly $500,000 from the Florida Department of Education for continued curriculum development of his innovative principal preparation program, which aims to place highly effective leaders in low-performing schools. The second cohort in this program graduated during our summer commencement ceremony. This is a partnership initiative with the School Board of Broward County that’s based on the Davie campus.
The future of this University – and all universities – depends to a huge extent on the ability to conduct research that’s designed to meet the most pressing needs of people all over the world, particularly in the area of biotechnology. FAU has made dramatic advances on that front in recent years, and more are on the way. A few years ago our biomedical researchers got the golden opportunity to work side-by-side with the world-class scientists at Scripps and Max Planck, and we’re now doing all we can to take full advantage of that. We’ve established the Jupiter Life Science Initiative on the MacArthur campus by moving six neuroscience labs there and launching a Ph.D. program in collaboration with our partners at Max Planck. The initiative is under the direction of Dr. Rod Murphey, chair of the department of biological sciences. Dr. Brenda Claiborne is bringing her extensive experience in brain development and aging to her new role as director for neuroscience. We’ve created an impressive program with powerful players, and we expect it to yield enormous benefits to the University and our entire region. With that great potential in mind, I’ve made development of the Jupiter Life Science Initiative one of my top priorities as interim president. We’re dedicating $1.7 million of this year’s budget to support the continued growth of the Jupiter campus as a nationally and internationally important center of neuroscience research.
Now that we’ve returned to the subject of the budget, I’d like to tell you about another of my priorities, and that’s giving all of you the raises you so richly deserve. We’re all acutely aware of the fact that as state employees we’ve had only one salary increase over the past six years. The raise schedule that we’ve worked out for this year won’t completely close that gap, but it’s an encouraging development and a good start to get us heading back in the right direction. The budget that the Board of Trustees approved in June includes $2.7 million for raises that will go into effect on October 1st. The implementation plan calls for employees earning $40,000 a year or less to receive 14 hundred dollar raises, and employees earning more than $40,000 a year to receive one thousand dollar raises.
The University is currently in negotiations with representatives of the United Faculty of Florida and the PBA, and we hope to be able to announce the outcome soon.
In addition to the raises I just mentioned, the Board of Trustees has approved a 2 percent merit increase pool. These raises will be awarded on a selective basis, also effective October 1st. And Tallahassee has announced that $600 performance bonuses will be distributed in the spring to about 35 percent of all state employees. You can be sure that we’ll be working closely with our legislators next year to try to keep this very encouraging trend going.
Another piece of good news is that restoration of last year’s budget cuts enabled us to modify our plan to close the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus. While many programs have been moved from that location to other campuses, the School of Architecture and the executive master of accounting program in the College of Business remain headquartered in Fort Lauderdale. That’s a very good thing because we’ve worked hard to establish a presence in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and the city certainly didn’t want us to leave.
Next month the School of Architecture will host the 4th International Subtropical Cities Conference, which will bring together researchers from around the world to discuss challenges unique to the subtropics, with special focus on the consequences of climate change. This conference will coincide with the Sea Level Rise Summit of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, which is based at FAU and which continues to facilitate research on this looming threat to South Florida and other low-lying areas.
Other critically important environmental work is going on at HBOI, where a team led by Dr. Dennis Hanisak is part of the effort to protect and restore the endangered Indian River Lagoon. The lagoon is a shallow-water estuary that stretches along 40 percent of Florida’s east coast and has an annual statewide economic impact of some $3.7 billion. In recent weeks we’ve seen alarming media reports about the rapid decline of water quality in the lagoon and the toll that this is taking on the diverse array of plants and animals living in those waters. The situation has reached crisis proportions. Dr. Hanisak and his colleagues at HBOI took an important step in the right direction last year by establishing the Indian River Lagoon Observatory program, which is tracking changes in the ecosystem, uniting the scientific community in developing ways to deal with them and educating the public about steps that need to be taken to save what is an irreplaceable natural resource.
Even though we’ve received no PECO construction funds for the past few years, we’ve been able to build some really outstanding new campus facilities. I’ve already told you about Parliament Hall, a $41 million project that’s a joint venture of the University, the architect and the developer. It was financed by bonds secured by student housing fees and was designed to meet the Gold LEED standard.
What you’re seeing on the screen is a brand new addition to the Centre Marketplace, a $5 million project that was completely paid for by Chartwells, our longtime food service partner. This is a great example of the kind of strong partnership that FAU’s department of Business Services has established with organizations in the private sector.
Here’s a preview of what the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center is going to look like once the addition that’s under construction has been completed, doubling its size. Thanks to a very generous second gift from Lou and Annie Green and the dedicated fundraising efforts of the Caring Hearts Auxiliary, we were able to break ground on a this much-needed expansion last spring. Completion of the $1.8 million project is expected next month. This year our Memory and Wellness Center became the first facility of its kind to be designated a Specialized Alzheimer’s Services Center by the state of Florida.
More parking tops the wish list of just about everybody who drives onto the Boca Raton campus every day, and that wish will soon be granted. Parking Garage Three is currently under construction just west of FAU Stadium. It will be finished by December and will give us one thousand new parking spaces.
The Recreation and Wellness Center has been buzzing with activity ever since it opened several years ago, and now it’s undergoing a third major expansion. This $1.2 million project will add a fitness studio to the Center’s state-of-the-art facilities. Completion is expected in November. Its financing came from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund and Student Government as well as recreation center fees.
What on earth would we do without the FAU Foundation? Did you know that the Foundation was actually established two years before FAU opened its doors in 1964? Then, as now, state funding was scarce, so Boca Raton banker Tom Fleming led the charge to raise money from private sources. That effort generated $300,000 in start-up funding for the University, and the Foundation has been our most faithful partner ever since.
This past year, the Foundation’s fundraising efforts brought in $18 million that provided much-needed support to students, faculty and programs throughout the University. At the end of the fiscal year on June 30th, our endowment stood at $189.3 million.
Major gifts included:
Thanks to the tremendously generous gift from Dr. Levitt, who chairs the Integrated Medical Science Department in our medical school, this year’s faculty/staff campaign broke all previous records, reaching $3.35 million! We’re especially excited about the fact that employee participation increased from 19 to 30 percent – that’s a tremendous vote of confidence from within our own ranks. I’d like to thank everybody who contributed to the Owl’s Nest campaign, which was chaired by Coach Howard Schnellenberger and Dr. Eric Shaw and facilitated with great dedication by Audra Vaz of the Office of Annual Giving.
There’s so much more that I’d like to report to you but our time is running out, so let’s just scroll through some snapshots of life at FAU in 2012-13.
More than 300 FAU students studied abroad last year, about 13 percent more than the year before. Host nations include Spain, France, Italy, Germany, China, Japan and Morocco. And of course you know that we welcome hundreds of students from all over the world to our University every year. About 150 countries have been represented in our student body in recent years.
A seven-college FAU delegation under the leadership of Dr. Cathy Meschievitz has just returned from Turkey where they visited leading universities to establish new ties. Their entire trip was paid for by the Miami Istanbul Cultural Center and the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce. This year the Office of International Programs, which is directed by Dr. Meschievitz, has added several excellent universities to the study-abroad options that are available to our students, including the University of Haifa in Israel and Korea University Sejong in South Korea.
For the second consecutive year, FAU was the statewide administrator for the Troops to Teachers Program. And – again for the second year in a row – we were named a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine. It’s both an obligation and an honor to extend a helping hand to the brave men and women who’ve served our country.
The Weppner Volunteer Center for Civic Engagement and Service was named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the fifth year in a row. Once again, the Center had a very productive year, sending thousands of students into the community to donate their services to a wide variety of good causes. Their academic service-learning and volunteer activities totaled almost 176,000 hours last year – what an incredible amount of community outreach! Congratulations to Director Nori Carter and everyone else at the Weppner Center!
The FAU Libraries continue to be the nerve center of our University, and so much goes on within their walls every year that I couldn’t begin to recount it all here. One project that attracted a lot of media attention last year was the effort to restore more than 700 vintage kiddie records that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. They were in a Long Island warehouse when Sandy hit and were caught in the flood that followed. Their owner, Peter Muldavin, is the world’s leading collector of American children’s records. He was aware of the wonderful restoration work that’s being done in our library’s Recorded Sound Archives, so he asked for our help, and we were very glad to accept the challenge. This project is moving forward. A website will soon be launched giving all of us who grew up listening to classics like “A Very Merry Unbirthday” a chance to re-visit the songs of our childhood.
The College of Education has received gifts totaling $180,000 from best-selling author James Patterson to award scholarships to students who intend to pursue careers as reading teachers. This slide shows Mr. Patterson with the first cohort of Patterson Scholars. It was taken just before the spring 2013 commencement ceremony, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
As you know, the FAU community includes people of all ages, ranging from the babies and toddlers at the Slattery Center to the senior citizens in our Lifelong Learning Society. The College of Education is serving more than 2,400 children this year at schools on the Boca Raton campus and in Port St. Lucie. We continue to take tremendous pride in the Henderson School, which is the highest-performing laboratory school in Florida and 20th highest among all 3,100 public schools in the state.
Our hugely successful Lifelong Learning program is serving about 19,000 members on the Boca Raton and Jupiter campuses. We’re very grateful for their participation in the life of the University, for their generosity in providing financial support for our faculty and students and for their willingness to share their beautiful facilities, such as the one we’re occupying right now.
It’s a brave new communications world out there, as we all know, and – as I said earlier – FAU is getting more involved with social media by the minute. I must admit that I never expected to become a blogger or a tweeter, but do you know what? I’m now doing both! I began tweeting a few weeks ago, and I already have 161 followers! Okay, maybe that’s nothing compared to Justin Bieber’s 44 million followers, but hey – it’s a good start!
I update my blog about once a week to let people know about some of the great things that are happening at FAU. There’s a link to it on the FAU homepage. And while you’re at it, you can log onto the University’s Facebook page, which is closing in on 32,000 “likes.”
The Office of University Communications and the Office of Information Technology have been working together to revamp our internal communications venues, and we’re seeing some great results from that collaboration. The FAU Today website has been redesigned to be more user-friendly and promote the flow of communication among all units of the University. Several stories of internal interest scroll across the top of the homepage at all times, and pull-down menus at the top connect you to the announcements, news about the University, in-house media such as newsletters and videos, and event listings. At the bottom of the page, I think you’ll enjoy our live Twitter feed. If you haven’t visited the new FAU Today yet, I hope you will soon. It’s a much-improved internal communications hub.
I’m also very excited to announce that today marks the official launch of FAU’s new marketing campaign. The “Making Waves” theme – a big hit with students, faculty and staff – has an updated look and style that will be applied to all areas of the University. Be on the lookout for the campaign throughout South Florida, and make sure to pick up your “Making Waves” stickers as you leave the auditorium today.
Our student athletes were busy both on and off the field last year, and another very active year has already begun, with our teams competing for the first time in Conference USA. The University is already reaping the benefits of being in C-USA, which has television partnerships with Fox, CBS and ESPN. We expect each of our football games to be televised on various platforms, including several in some of the country’s top media markets. Membership in C-USA unites all 19 of our teams under one conference roof for the first time since 2001.
Our baseball team, under Head Coach John McCormack, went on an 11-game winning streak last season and captured the Sun Belt Conference title, claiming its third championship in four years. The team came within a hair’s breadth of beating top-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA regional tournament, losing by a single run in the 13th inning. At the end of the regular season, the Owls were ranked 20th nationally, and we know that they’re going to bring us more great victories this year!
Five of our teams won national honors for their academic achievements. The NCAA recognized men’s golf, women’s cross country, women’s tennis, women’s golf and women’s swimming and diving for achieving Academic Progress Rates in the top 10 percent of their respective sports. Congratulations to all these honorees!
How about last Saturday’s win over USF! What a great game! Congratulations to Coach Pelini and the whole team, which pulled off some really exciting plays! Our first home game is this Saturday. Let’s pack FAU Stadium and root the Owls to victory against Middle Tennessee. Kick-off time is at noon, and the game will be broadcast on both television and radio. I’ll be there, and I hope you’ll be, too!
Let me close by saying what a tremendous honor it is for me to serve as the interim president of this great University. President Brogan often ended his speeches by saying the best years of Florida Atlantic University are yet to come. That wasn’t just rhetoric. He believed it, and I believe it – now more than ever. I believe in this University. I believe in our students. I believe in you – our dedicated faculty and staff who breathe life into Florida Atlantic University every day of the year and who keep it moving forward through your talent and hard work. And I believe in our friends in the community – the wonderful people and organizations that stand by our side in good times and bad, showing us in so many ways that they know what a great University this is and how much greater it can and will be.
Again, I thank you for being here today and I look forward to talking to you at the reception in the Grand Palm Room. Now let’s all get out there and have a great day, a great semester and a great year. Make some waves!!! Go Owls!!!