University of Florida Mission StatementThe University of Florida is a public land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant research university, one of the most comprehensive in the United States. The university encompasses virtually all academic and professional disciplines. It is the largest and oldest of Florida's eleven universities, a member of the Association of American Universities and has high national rankings by academic assessment institutions. Its faculty and staff are dedicated to the common pursuit of the university's threefold mission: teaching, research and service.
The University of Florida belongs to a tradition of great universities. Together with its undergraduate and graduate students, UF faculty participate in an educational process that links the history of Western Europe with the traditions and cultures of all societies, explores the physical and biological universes and nurtures generations of young people from diverse backgrounds to address the needs of the world's societies.
The university welcomes the full exploration of its intellectual boundaries and supports its faculty and students in the creation of new knowledge and the pursuit of new ideas.
- Teaching is a fundamental purpose of this university at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
- Research and scholarship are integral to the educational process and to the expansion of our understanding of the natural world, the intellect and the senses.
- Service reflects the university's obligation to share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good. The university serves the nation's and the state's critical needs by contributing to a well-qualified and broadly diverse citizenry, leadership and workforce.
These three interlocking elements — teaching, research and scholarship, and service — span all the university's academic disciplines and represent the university's commitment to lead and serve the state of Florida, the nation and the world by pursuing and disseminating new knowledge while building upon the experiences of the past. The university aspires to advance by strengthening the human condition and improving the quality of life.
Goals and Principles of the 2007 Strategic Work PlanThe University of Florida aspires to join the ranks of the nation's top public research universities. The best universities are aided by careful planning, a commitment to excellence by faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors, and a determination to invest in areas that enhance quality.
It is this commitment to academic excellence and the resulting achievements that will lead to the university's recognition as one of the top public research universities. The president's work plan, developed in light of two principles, is formulated to help the university attain this goal.
The first principle: Strategic planning represents the highest level of planning in pursuit of the university's long-range goals. Its purpose is to identify the fundamentals essential to achieving the overarching goals of the university and to identify areas for investment, in light of the university's current position, the research environment, and social and academic considerations. This plan concentrates on goals and areas of investment rather than on details of how to achieve them, implementation strategies or where the resources needed are to be sought. These additional levels of planning must be undertaken in the light of the more general statement of goals in this plan.
The second principle: Strategic planning is a dynamic process and it must be sensitive to new opportunities, to changes in resources and conditions, and to new information. The university's strategic plan is therefore considered a living document that will be re-evaluated and refocused periodically in light of accomplishments and new opportunities.
Faculty are an essential part of this process because they see change at the discipline level before others. Administrators, in turn, are responsible for attending to relevant changes in policy at the state and national levels, new developments on the frontiers of science, and other social, academic and cultural developments relevant to the university's mission. This requires communication and transparency between faculty and administrators so the university can move quickly in response to change.
It is critical, however, that the university optimize allocation of its resources in areas that promise the greatest returns in enhancing the university's recognition, in meeting its measured indicators of success and the needs of students and faculty, and in addressing state priorities.
It is equally critical that all components of the university contribute to the university's pursuit of excellence. The ultimate goal is excellence in every facet of its work, and while recognizing the importance of establishing priorities, a part of the strategy of identifying promising areas of investment is not to let other areas fall into neglect or to suggest that support of other projects and areas is not also essential.
No plan can encompass all of the on-going projects and goals of colleges and units that deserve support. In particular, the areas of investment identified below under Strategies for Maximum Impact should not be perceived as being proposed in place of, but rather in the context of, the traditional goals of Academe.
The current strategic work plan is a successor to the 2002 strategic plan. Though there are many continuities with the previous plan, this plan, with input from faculty through the Faculty Senate, evaluates and refocuses the university's stragetic planning. .
The human capital of the university consists of its faculty, students and staff. To achieve the university's mission, it is critical to create a broadly diverse student body, faculty and campus community where students can learn and faculty members can teach and pursue research in many settings and from many perspectives.
The concept of broadly diverse includes talent, experience and perspective, geographic and socio-economic background as well as culture, race and ethnicity, gender and many other attributes. A diverse campus environment enables students to learn better and to acquire the multicultural skills needed to live and work productively in an increasingly diverse and global world.
A diverse faculty supports collaborative and creative research that identifies and meets these needs. As the world has become increasingly global, industry and the workplace have depended on higher education and academic research to provide a more diverse workforce to develop and market ideas and products and to identify the needs of its changing societies and cultures.
Shared Governance and the 2007 Strategic Work PlanShared governance, in which faculty and administrators participate in significant decisions about the operation of the institution, is the hallmark of the American university system. This system is a bulwark of academic freedom and of the process of free inquiry, open expression, dissent and discovery that have given the American university system its international prominence.
The shared governance system is founded on the recognition that
- University faculty, by virtue of their disciplinary expertise, are in the best position to make decisions about curricular, instructional, academic personnel and research policy;
- Decisions about academic policy should be independent of short term or political considerations, and;
- The perspective of faculty members is essential for making sound decisions about allocating resources, setting goals, choosing administrators and promoting an environment for students most conducive to the university's educational mission.
In the words of Robert Maynard Hutchins, one of the twentieth century's great university presidents, “We get the best results in education and research if we leave their management to people who know something about them.”
The university's success in the future will depend on the ability of faculty members to formulate a vision for their units and to initiate strategies to realize unit goals. Shared faculty governance at the University of Florida has undergone a renaissance in recent years, and is expressed through the structures of the Faculty Senate and their further articulation in colleges and departments.
Through these structures, faculty members participate in setting important academic policy directions for the institution. It must be a central goal of the university to nurture and expand the university's shared governance structure and to develop a deeply engaged culture of mutual respect and trust between faculty and administrators in the goal of bringing the university into the top ten of public AAU institutions.
As a part of this process, the Faculty Senate-Presidential Task Force on the Implementation of Shared Governance Structure identifies several goals, best practices and recommended principles for shared governance.
- Goal 1: Ensure the continued development of shared faculty governance at the University of Florida and its integration into all aspects of academic life at college and department levels.
The keys to reaching these goals are full engagement of the faculty in the enterprise of the university, effective recruitment and retention of the best faculty and support for professional development to ensure the greatest return on faculty investment.
- Faculty Size
- Faculty Diversity
- Salaries and Benefits
- Quality of Life
- Professional Development
- Postdoctoral Fellows and Associates
Faculty SizeThe University of Florida's student-faculty ratio, 21/1, places it third from last out of 120 institutions surveyed, according to the figures provided by US News and World Report in March 2007. This compares unfavorably with peer public AAU universities.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison and Ohio State University have a ratio of 13/1. The Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Illinois at Urbana, Michigan at Ann Arbor, California at Berkeley and Virginia at Charlottesville range from 14/1 to 15/1, and Texas at Austin is 18/1. Growth in the faculty is crucial to the University of Florida achieving its goals, for four reasons:
- The student-faculty ratio is a rough indicator of the resources put into the university's educational mission. Opportunities for students to work more closely with faculty and to receive mentoring by faculty are restricted by the university's high student-faculty ratio. To provide students an education competitive with that provided by the best public universities in the country, comparable resources must be put into their education.
- Faculty size is connected with the university's research productivity in several ways:
- More research is done by more faculty members
- A critical mass of faculty working in related areas is needed for many research projects and increases the research productivity of faculty over what they could achieve individually, and;
- The higher the student-faculty ratio, the more time faculty must spend in their roles as instructors as opposed to pursuing research and publication.
While any university must balance teaching and research, it is clear that the University of Florida's aspiration to be among the top ten public AAU universities is hampered by its relatively high student-faculty ratio.
- Faculty size is important for the success of interdisciplinary initiatives, which can be successful only if they can draw on strong disciplinary faculties. To the extent the university's core disciplines are weak relative to its peer institutions, the University of Florida will be at a competitive disadvantage with respect to developing and pursuing interdisciplinary initiatives.
- Increasing faculty size is crucial for the university's goal of increasing the strength of its graduate programs and the numbers of Ph.D. students that it trains. Graduate student mentoring is labor intensive; hence, an increase in the number of graduate students trained must be accompanied by an increase in faculty to train them.
- Goal 2: Design and implement a program for increasing the number of faculty to achieve parity with top ten public AAU universities in those departments and colleges most critical to the University of Florida's core mission and academic reputation.
Faculty DiversityAt the same time the university aims to increase the size of the faculty, it must also aim to increase the diversity of the faculty to provide the best teaching and research. The university's faculty members must represent excellent scholarship and teaching, reflect a variety of life experiences and perspectives and have the ability to foster multicultural skills and the appreciation of diversity in the university community through their research, teaching and mentoring.
The university's student body and faculty reflect many aspects of broad diversity, but the racial and gender aspects of such diversity have proven more difficult to achieve and are not yet adequate. Substantial improvements must be made to achieve the racial and gender aspects of the broad diversity needed in the faculty ranks.
- Goal 3: Develop and implement a systematic strategy to improve the racial and gender aspects of broad faculty diversity that the University of Florida needs to achieve its educational mission.
Salaries and BenefitsThe best faculty can be recruited and retained only if the university offers competitive salaries and benefits.
Current salaries at the University of Florida rank in the bottom quartile among AAU public universities and only around the median when adjusted for cost-of-living. The university's fringe benefits package also ranks just below the median for AAU public universities.
These circumstances must improve to ensure success in the recruitment and retention of talented faculty. The university has begun this improvement through the Salary Performance Plan for Professors and through internal salary enhancement initiatives. The past three years have seen 4-5% merit salary programs.
- Goal 4: Raise faculty salaries to the mean of the top ten public AAU universities. Improve the university's fringe benefits package so that it is commensurate with those of top ten public AAU Quality of Life.
Quality of LifeThe quality of life at the university and in Gainesville and the surrounding communities is also essential for effective recruitment and retention of faculty.
Faculty members express keen interest in how the university addresses their concerns about quality of life issues, and in particular, to what degree the university fosters a family-friendly environment. These issues arise in connection with child-care, employment of a spouse and partner benefits, among others.
The faculty survey identified numerous issues that should be addressed involving university policies related to climate. These results identify specific areas that need attention.
- Goal 5: Align the university's policies concerning quality of life issues with those at top ten public AAU universities. Improve the overall climate for faculty, with special attention to issues identified in the faculty survey.
- Goal 6: Work with the surrounding community and the city of Gainesville to improve the quality of life in the community and to ensure a vibrant, sustainable environment in which to live and work.
Professional DevelopmentThe university must not only hire the best faculty, it must foster an environment in which they can achieve their full potential in the academy as teachers, researchers and leaders. This is important not only because it will help to realize the greatest return on the university's investment in faculty, but also because it is a crucial component in retaining its best faculty and in recruiting the best new faculty.
Junior faculty must be supported in developing productive research programs and in achieving professional recognition for their work, as well as in developing their leadership and teaching skills. As they develop and establish a record of achievement, junior faculty need appropriate guidance to realize the goals set by departments, colleges and the university. The Faculty Senate has recommended policies for mentoring junior faculty and for a mid-term review to assist them as they move toward the tenure evaluation process.
The most important decisions made about faculty are those having to do with promotion and tenure: they are the principle means by which the quality of the institution is maintained and developed. Before awarding tenure, the university must be convinced that the faculty member will be a productive scholar, teacher and leader for the long term.
Faculty members should have an appropriate period of time to establish a record of achievements that reasonably predicts their success. The Faculty Senate has reviewed the university's promotion and tenure policies and has made a series of recommendations for their revision.
- Goal 7: Implement at department and college levels the Faculty Senate recommendations on tenure, promotion, mid-term review and mentoring.
First, an equally talented faculty will produce less research, fewer books and fewer interdisciplinary initiatives, and gain over the course of their careers less recognition than at a university with a better research leave program. Second, it puts the university at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting at both the junior and senior levels and in retaining faculty recruited by universities with better research leave programs.
- Goal 8: Increase the number of opportunities for sabbaticals and levels of support to align more closely with sabbatical programs at top ten public AAU universities.
The university has created several internal awards and titles that recognize outstanding achievements. These include the title of Distinguished Professor, the Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, the University of Florida Research Professor awards, Teacher of the Year awards, Doctoral Mentoring awards and the Teacher-Scholar of the Year award.
Through the University of Florida Foundation, the university has initiated a $150 million campaign to enhance the scholarly environment and to foster creative work of the faculty. This faculty challenge campaign will help to provide endowed chairs, research funds, graduate student support and modern teaching technologies to enable faculty to produce leading research and to prepare the next generation of the nation's leaders.
- Goal 9: Develop strategies to recognize and reward, internally and externally, faculty who have demonstrated outstanding achievement, including strategies to increase faculty membership in national and international academies.
- Goal 10: Complete the $150 million Faculty Challenge Campaign.
Postdoctoral Fellows and AssociatesPostdoctoral fellows and associates are significant contributors to research and teaching and play a critical role in the university. In order to compete nationally and internationally for the best possible candidates, postdoctoral fellows and associates need competitive salaries, benefits, office space, professional development opportunities and other support services.
- Goal 11: Provide postdoctoral fellows and associates with salaries, benefits, office space, professional development opportunities and other support services commensurate with those at top ten public AAU universities.