Innovation drives many advancements at UCF

Address at the UCF Focus Breakfast
Church Street Station, Downtown Orlando

December 9, 2015

Good morning, and a big Knights welcome from all of us at UCF.

I hope you are enjoying this focus on innovation at your hometown university. One of the things I love about UCF and Central Florida is that our people tackle challenges head on. We dare to think big. We boldly look beyond convention to find solutions and to create opportunities that advance the common good.

One of the things I love about UCF and Central Florida is that our people tackle challenges head on. We dare to think big. We boldly look beyond convention to find solutions and to create opportunities that advance the common good.

And, speaking of innovations and innovators, we just hired a dynamic new football coach who knows how to run an innovative offense that’s fun to watch. Who’s ready to see our Knights light up the scoreboard?

There’s a lot of positive energy surrounding the hiring of Scott Frost, the former offensive coordinator at high-scoring Oregon who is widely regarded as one of the brightest offensive minds in college football.

Scott is certainly up to the job of building upon the strong foundation laid by George O’Leary. He’s a proven winner, and I believe Knights fans will enjoy his exciting brand of football.

In the classroom, UCF’s football players already perform at the highest levels nationally, and Scott is also dedicated to upholding that winning tradition.

We also have a talented new athletics director who will help take all of our athletic programs to new heights.

Danny White starts full-time on Monday. He is the younger brother of first-year Florida Gators basketball coach, Mike White, and the son of Duke University athletics director, Kevin White.

Along with that great pedigree, Danny brings to UCF strong credentials and a track record of success, most recently as athletics director at the University of Buffalo. Right away, he hit the ground running with the hiring of Scott.

At UCF, we aim to win at the highest levels. And, friends, the future of UCF athletics has never been brighter.

UCF is on the move on many fronts.

Yes, UCF is big. In fact, our record student enrollment this fall of 63,000 exceeds the populations of 27 counties in Florida. But our desire at UCF is not to be big, but to meet the education, social, and workforce needs of our Orlando city-state.

... our record student enrollment this fall of 63,000 exceeds the populations of 27 counties in Florida. But our desire at UCF is not to be big, but to meet the education, social, and workforce needs of our Orlando city-state.

Occasionally, someone will ask me: “What is your dream for UCF?” My answer is simple: I want UCF to be recognized as one of the great universities in this country and in the world.
At UCF, our school motto is “Reach for the Stars.” We still have much reaching and working to do to realize my aspirations, but your hometown university has emerged as a great success story in higher education.

With more than 15,000 degrees awarded annually, UCF’s leads all other Florida universities in the conferral of degrees. On a large scale, we are transforming the lives of people from diverse social and economic backgrounds, and we are enhancing prosperity in Central Florida.

Meanwhile, UCF is attracting national attention for providing a high-value education that is accessible and affordable.

In September, a front-page story in the Washington Post carried this headline: “At UCF, bigger is better. Packed Florida college, with a focus on cost and access, storms higher ed.”

In profiling our DirectConnect to UCF program, Politico Magazine concluded that we are creating a seamless pipeline of social mobility.

In recent years, U.S. News & World Report has named UCF as one of its top 5 “up and coming” schools in the country, and UCF ranks as one of the best college values in America, according to The Princeton Review, Kiplinger, and Forbes magazine.

In August, The Ithaka Foundation presented a case study on UCF titled “Breaking the Iron Triangle at The University of Central Florida.”

The “iron triangle” refers to a popular view that universities and colleges are constrained by a trio of linked factors: cost, quality, and access.

Improve one of those three variables, the thinking goes, and you will adversely affect the others.

However, the Ithaka study says that this university – perhaps better than any other – is showing how to simultaneously reduce costs, improve quality, and enhance access.

It’s no accident that U.S. News & World Report recently rated UCF as the most innovative school in Florida, and we tied for 13th as one of the most innovative universities in the nation, along with Harvard, Stanford, Duke, and MIT.

So what is UCF’s secret ingredient for innovation? The answer isn’t much of a secret. It’s partnerships.

UCF’s rise is to national prominence is linked to our drive to be America’s leading partnership university.

I’ve always thought that no single institution has the resources to conquer the significant challenges we face in society. However, through the power of partnerships, we can create new opportunities and reinvent the future in remarkable ways. Examples of our partnership successes include:

  • DirectConnect to UCF,
  • the UCF College of Medicine and the Medical City at Lake Nona,
  • the Florida High Tech Corridor,
  • and the cleverly named Partnership I, II, and III buildings in the Central Florida Research Park that are shared by UCF and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Partnerships will also drive many of the initiatives that will distinguish UCF in 2016. These include:

  • the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in Osceola County that Dale mentioned, which aims to spark  thousands of high-tech jobs;
  • a new Partnership IV building in the Central Florida Research Park in collaboration with the Department of Defense;
  • the national University Innovation Alliance, an unprecedented league of 11 large public research universities determined to eliminate family income as a predictor of success in college;
  • the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities in which Florida International University, the University of South Florida, and UCF combine resources to better serve the workforces in Florida’s urban centers;
  • and, of course, the UCF Downtown effort with Valencia College and the City of Orlando.

As you know, the UCF Downtown project was awarded money by the Legislature earlier this year, but that funding was not sustained during the executive office review of the budget.

I am convinced that a robust, innovative UCF Downtown campus will recast the future of Orlando, and I know that it will add significantly to the educational opportunities that UCF is able to offer.

However, we are working with the governor’s office, state leaders, and members of the Florida Board of Governors on the next steps for our proposal.

At an upcoming meeting of the Board of Governors, we will present a revised plan for a vibrant, full-service downtown campus of approximately 7,700 UCF and Valencia students with one new education building as its focal point.

The building, which ideally will open in the fall of 2018, will cost approximately $60 million. We are seeking $20 million from the state. Twenty million will come from UCF resources. That leaves $20 million.

Many of you have told me that this downtown campus will be a game changer for our region. And some of you have asked, “What can I do to help?”

Well, that’s easy.

The governor, state legislators, and members of the Board of Governors have told us that if this project is so important, the community needs to match the state’s investment.

That’s $20 million dollars. And helping to raise that amount is how you can help.

We are absolutely certain of the value of a downtown campus to our students and to our Orlando city-state. And we have carefully chosen programs to move downtown that will be stronger by locating there.

Students in programs such as health care informatics, communications, social work, digital media, health services administration, and legal studies will benefit by studying in an urban setting.

They will have easy access to businesses, government offices, and non-profit organizations where they can hone their professional skills and make those contacts so important for their adult careers.

These organizations will profit, too, from the creativity and energy that students bring to them as interns, part-time employees, and potential future full-time team members.

I am convinced that a robust, innovative UCF Downtown campus will recast the future of Orlando, and I know that it will add significantly to the educational opportunities that UCF is able to offer.

This is our moment, friends. We need to raise $20 million from private sources to secure the downtown campus. Together, we can get this done! For the future of UCF and Orlando, we must get this done!

Thanks for joining us today. Happy holidays. Go Knights! Charge on!

Now, I've got a vice president seated right out here.

If you want to help, Mike Morsberger, our VP for development, is right here and he does take MasterCard.

So, friends, let's get behind the downtown project. It's a UCF-Valencia project strongly, strongly supported by the city. I'm sorry that our mayor had to leave to go to another meeting. But Mayor Dyer has been a tremendous partner in this, as has President Shugart at Valencia.

It's a wonderful project. Let's make it happen.


 

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