Great universities are built with a great faculty

Welccome of faculty members to the 2015-15 academic year at UCF
UCF Student Union, Pegasus Ballroom

August 21, 2015

Good afternoon, faculty colleagues, and welcome to this celebration marking the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year at UCF.

I am pleased to report that approximately 200 faculty members have joined our Knights family, our largest number for a new school year in more than a decade.

If you are new to UCF, please raise your hand. Welcome!

New faculty members, as you begin this phase of your career, I urge you to help write the next chapter in the remarkable success story of our university. You have committed yourself to UCF, and UCF commits itself to you and to your professional development.

Without a great faculty, there can be no great university. You are the life-blood of UCF. The expertise, energy, and caring you bring to our students distinguishes UCF as a special place to learn and to work.

We want each of you to succeed, and we will do everything in our ability for you to reach your goals.

Returning colleagues and I look forward to meeting you at this reception.

Before I address some exciting ventures for our university, let me say a very heartfelt “thank you” to everyone in this room.

Without a great faculty, there can be no great university. You are the life-blood of UCF. The expertise, energy, and caring you bring to our students distinguishes UCF as a special place to learn and to work. For all that you have done and continue to do, you have my deepest gratitude. Thank you.

Let me briefly introduce all of you to my leadership team. As I call your name, will those of you who are here please wave.

  • Dale Whittaker, Provost and Executive Vice President, whom you will hear from shortly,
  • Beth Barnes, Vice President Emerita and Special Assistant to the President,
  • Scott Cole, Vice President and General Counsel,
  • Maribeth Ehasz, Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Services
  • Deborah German, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the College of Medicine,
  • Grant Heston, Vice President for Communications and Marketing,
  • Dan Holsenbeck, Senior Vice President for University Relations,
  • Bill Merck, Vice President for Administration and Finance,
  • Mike Morsberger, Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development and CEO of the UCF Foundation,
  • Rick Schell, Vice President and Chief of Staff,
  • and M.J. Soileau, Vice President for Research and Commercialization.

Let’s give them a hand!

Today, we begin a new academic year that promises – once again – to offer opportunity for UCF.

This past year, we were able to hire 100 new faculty members. The new hires resulted from state performance funding awarded to UCF in part because of our high graduation rate and because of our graduates’ success in landing well-paying jobs.

I am pleased that UCF has received additional performance funding for 2015-16 that we will use to hire 100 more new faculty members.

To be clear, as with last year’s new hires, these 100 are in addition to replacements for retiring and departing faculty members. These new colleagues will be hired across the colleges, and nearly all of them will be in tenure-track positions. These positions will help meet our teaching needs and research goals.

I am delighted to tell you that our two-year hiring effort will increase by 25 percent the number of UCF’s tenure and tenure-track faculty positions.

This fall, the quality of our student body continues to reach all-time highs.

  • Early data indicate that the SAT 2-score of our incoming freshman class to be a record 1260, four points higher than last year.
  • The projected SAT scores and GPA for freshman entering our Burnett Honors College are at a record 1400 and 4.4, respectively.
  • And we have enrolled 69 National Merit Scholars, the second-most in school history.

In the past two years, UCF has attracted more of these prized scholars than any other university in Florida, and last year we ranked ninth nationally among public universities.

On many fronts, UCF is on the move. But students and faculty are always the essentials of our enterprise.

As this school year begins, our enrollment has surpassed 61,000 students for the first time. Early projections suggest the numbers will settle in the vicinity of 62,000, which is an increase of approximately 2 percent beyond the enrollment of last fall.

Early figures on our minority enrollment suggest an all-time high of 43 percent. Our Hispanic undergraduate enrollment probably will be close to 24 percent, which is nearing the 25 percent threshold needed to qualify as an Hispanic-serving institution.

With this important designation will come federal dollars we can use to help more students succeed.

And regarding student diversity, UCF is the No. 1 public college choice in the South for Jewish students and No. 2 in the nation, according to new rankings by Hillel International.

More than 6,000 Jewish students attend UCF, second only to Rutgers among public universities and colleges. One of our five key goals at UCF is to be more inclusive and diverse, and we are pleased that UCF is growing as a popular choice for students from many backgrounds.

UCF is all about student success. Our students have been retained and graduated at ever-higher levels. As the academic year unfolds, you will hear more about various initiatives to advance student success.

A major one coming this fall is our UCF Cares campaign.

This campaign focuses on enhancing the safety and well-being of our student body and encouraging students to look out for one another. Faculty play an important role in building a culture of care at UCF. More details are coming on how you can help.

Starting this past November, much of our university community worked on fashioning a robust new UCF campus in Downtown Orlando in partnership with Valencia College and the City of Orlando.

The plans have earned widespread support, and we appreciate the state lawmakers who approved funding for the first phase of our new downtown campus.

Unfortunately, the $15 million they appropriated was not sustained during the executive office review of the budget.

The downtown campus remains an aspiration. The campus is important for the advancement of our students, our programs, and our economic prosperity here in Central Florida. We are exploring how we can best secure the future of this game-changing project.

Speaking of transformational efforts, I am pleased that a new program for students with intellectual disabilities debuts this fall. The charter group of six students will attend classes and be fully immersed in the college experience.

They will develop life skills, career tools, and the independence they need for a fulfilling future.

This initiative is the premier program of its kind in the State University System, and we hope to expand the scope of this endeavor in the future.

On many fronts, UCF is on the move. But students and faculty are always the essentials of our enterprise.

Student success and the number of lives we transform through the power of education depend on you and your colleagues.

Without faculty members who engage students with stimulating courses, our students will not gain the knowledge they need for successful careers.

Without faculty members who welcome students into their laboratories and studios, our students may never know the joys of discovery that can enrich a lifetime.

And, without faculty members who nurture, challenge, and inspire, our students will be intellectually and emotionally the poorer.  

Friends, I look forward to an exciting year as together we continue building a great metropolitan research university of growing national renown.

Let’s keep reaching for the stars, Go Knights, Charge On!


What's New


President-Elect Dale Whittaker outlines transition plans

Dr. Dale Whittaker, UCF president-elect and executive vice president, will succeed UCF President John Hitt on July 1. Learn more about President-Elect Whittaker's plans and aspirations for America's Partnership University as he prepares to become UCF's 5th president. Also, see the full story about Dr. Whittaker's appointment and learn more about UCF's next president.