Strategies for Maximum Impact and the Strategic Work Plan
A number of areas are singled out below for attention in pursuit of the university's goals of becoming a top ten public research university while meeting its obligations to its students and to the citizens of Florida. No single strategic plan can pretend to direct all of the disciplinary activity of faculty and departments, nor would it be sensible for a group of strategic planners to attempt to direct faculty efforts to a few centrally-planned projects on which the university pins its hopes.
The strength and success of the American research enterprise depends in large part on the ability of faculty members to choose their own research programs and to move quickly in new directions to advance them. Faculty, departments and colleges must have incentive, drive and access to resources to pursue promising new areas. Much of the university administration's work must be directed to providing an environment that enables them to do this effectively.
Many of the areas of investment are interdisciplinary in nature. An increasing number of emerging areas of research draws on a wide range of disciplines. It will be critical for success that every effort be made to empower interdisciplinary research and study at the university and to facilitate the administration of initiatives that cut across traditional university structures.
Strong interdisciplinary research requires strong contributing disciplines. The natural and mathematical sciences underpin our understanding of the workings of the natural world at the most fundamental level. Engineering plays a central role in the translation of basic research into practical application. The social and policy sciences lay a foundation for sound analysis in the aid of important decisions in connection with social, economic, public health and educational policy issues. It must be part of our conception of the pursuit of these interdisciplinary projects that they be supported by a strong foundation in the natural, mathematical, social, policy and engineering sciences.
The areas of investment discussed below will help guide some large-scale planning. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in priority order.
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The Arts and Humanities
No university can aspire to recognition as one of the country's great public universities without recognition as a leading center of research and teaching in the arts and humanities. They give the university its moral weight and have a fundamental role in the university co-ordinate with that of the basic sciences. The vitality of the arts and the humanities and their contribution to the intensity and seriousness of the intellectual life of the university are crucial to the vitality of the university as a whole.
Studies in the arts and humanities are important components of what it is to be civilized and educated human beings. They are crucial for achieving the synoptic view of self and societal enterprises that locate everyone on a larger scale than individual life. They play a central role in teaching students how to express themselves clearly and effectively and to engage in extended critical and interpretive thinking.
The central role of the arts and humanities in the university is reflected in the strength of the arts and humanities at the best public and private research universities. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of California at Berkeley, both premier public research universities, have very strong arts and humanities departments, with many graduate departments ranking in the top ten nationally.
A recent AAU report notes that the humanities nationwide have suffered from low investment and the absence of structures to support effective engagement around central concern issues. Reviewing status of the arts and humanities, the report recommends that university presidents make the humanities a major focus of institutional strategic planning and should regularly emphasize to the university and the broader community the fundamental importance of the humanities.
At the University of Florida over the last 25 years, growth in the arts and humanities faculties has not kept pace with growth in the student population, and while this is true of other segments of the university as well, growth in the arts and humanities faculties has lagged behind growth in the social and natural sciences.
In addition, a comparison of department sizes at peer public AAU institutions such as Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas shows that among the arts and humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences, the arts and humanities departments at the University of Florida are relatively further behind with respect to their peer departments.
Even relative then to the general decline in support across the nation for the arts and humanities, the arts and humanities have suffered from a paucity of investment at this university.
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- Goal 28: Develop faculty resources specifically in the arts and humanities by providing a supportive research environment to increase faculty productivity; recruiting and retaining the best faculty possible in the arts and humanities and; developing a plan to build the size of arts and humanities programs to achieve parity with top ten public AAU institutions.
- Goal 29: Promote the arts and humanities to the university community, to the national and international academic communities and to the public at the local, state and national levels. Support outreach programs to the state and local community.
The last fifty years has seen the rise of a truly global community, a trend that will accelerate rapidly in the next few decades. Increases in global travel, the integration of the world's economies, the migration of peoples and the great advances that have been made in the development of a global information infrastructure have significantly diminished the effective distance between different cultures and societies. Understanding the world's cultural and linguistic diversity has consequently become an urgent practical matter.
All Floridians and Americans in the future will be in closer contact with peoples who are not native speakers of English, who come from different cultural and religious backgrounds and whose political and social perspectives differ. The University of Florida has an obligation to develop resources for understanding different cultures and societies so that the citizenry of the state and nation are prepared for the increasing integration of the global community, and it must inculcate this understanding in its students.
The university has embarked on some significant initiatives to these ends. The university's study abroad programs have provided students with the opportunity for the transformative experience of living and studying for extended periods in other countries. Its scholarly exchange programs provide faculty the opportunities to teach and conduct research aboard and to bring international scholars here.
The university also has been competitive in getting Fulbright awards and a variety of other international research grants and awards. The university's faculty engages frequently in collaborative research with scholars from other countries and carries out research on international issues in medicine, health, business, law, agriculture, science, language, religion, culture and art, among others.
To fulfill its obligations, the university needs to continue support for these efforts, to develop new programs to deepen its understanding of the world's cultural diversity and to promote international research and education.
- Goal 30: Enhance existing and develop new programs to promote international research, teaching and study abroad and exchange programs.
Of particular importance to the university's stature as a center for international studies are its prestigious Title VI centers. The university has been a national leader in competing for and winning funding from the United States Department of Education.
The university has had five such centers, making it a leader among AAU universities. Three centers focus on area studies (the Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for African Studies and the Center for European Studies) and two are thematic (the Center for International Business Education and Research and the Center for Transnational and Global Studies).
All five centers are nationally ranked and each interdisciplinary center collects faculty from all sixteen of the university's colleges. Latin American Studies is one of the top-ranked centers in the world and is consistently ranked number one or two nationally. African Studies has been ranked as high as number three nationally.
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- Goal 31: Support Title VI centers in making competitive grant applications to secure extramural funding.
The biological and life sciences form a large component of most top university research portfolios. Investment in these areas must play an important role in the university's research programs in the future.
The University of Florida's research agenda in these areas spans a substantial number of programs across many colleges. In particular, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences partner with the six colleges in the Health Science Center (Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Public Health and Health Professions) and numerous centers and institutes whose missions focus on life sciences research.
Given the range of programs across which research in the life sciences is spread, there is a special need to coordinate research and teaching programs across administrative unit boundaries.
- Goal 32: Identify where there is fragmentation in research and teaching programs in the biological sciences at the university and introduce coordinated training in biology as a way of addressing it.
The university will be a major player in biology, the life sciences and biotechnology by assuming a leadership role in carefully chosen sectors of these fields. To accomplish this, the university's investment strategy must be part of a coherent plan to share the talents and resources of the colleges involved in life sciences research and their partners, such as Shands HealthCare and Scripps Florida, and to focus and coordinate their research efforts.
- Goal 33: Develop a plan to achieve leadership in fields in the life sciences selected to match the strengths of the university and its partners by sharing talents and resources of the colleges and units involved in life sciences and focusing and coordinating their research efforts.
The McKnight Brain Institute has matured to become a premiere international institution that integrates efforts across colleges and units to understand and treat the brain and nervous system. The university is moving rapidly to invest in other new programs and must consider investing in emerging areas such as bioimaging, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular medicine, regenerative biology and medicine, and emerging pathogens.
The university's first new investment is the Cancer and Genetics Institute, housed in the new Cancer and Genetics Research Complex. The second is construction of the Nanoscale Research Facility, which will play an important role in providing support for the relatively new field of bio-nanoscience. The third is a new life sciences research facility, the Biomedical Sciences Building and the fourth is a new building for research and programs in emerging pathogens.
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- Goal 34: Strengthen the faculty and programs in the areas of cancer and genetics, bio-nanoscience, life science and emerging pathogens in conjunction with completion of the Cancer and Genetics Research Complex, the Nanoscale Research Facility, the Biomedical Sciences Building and the Pathogens Research Facility.
Ecology and the Environment
The university is poised to become an internationally recognized institution for research and education in ecology and environmental studies. Maintaining its existing strengths and building on them will enable the university to make an important contribution to the research necessary to understand and maintain the health of the world's ecosystems.
The health of the world's ecosystems in turn is crucial to the health and well being of its human population. Florida, in particular, is home to many fragile ecosystems found nowhere else. These ecosystems now face an unprecedented threat from climate change and human activities. In this, Florida is part of a much larger syndrome of global environmental change due to human activities that threatens the health of ecosystems around the world.
The university can be a bellwether for studies of ecological and environmental issues for Florida, the nation and the world. Climate change, human-environment interactions and invasive species all reflect the intertwining of many nations and ecosystems across the globe. The study of environment change thus has important political, cultural, social, moral, religious and behavioral dimensions.
Institutional initiatives to foster cutting-edge research in basic and applied ecological and environmental science must therefore also draw on the humanities and the social sciences.
Many departments and colleges as well as existing interdisciplinary programs and research centers and institutes across the university, contribute to the understanding of ecology and the environment. These include the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the Tropical Conservation and Development Program, the new Water Institute and the Land Use and Environmental Change Institute, among others.
Achieving national and international stature in this arena requires both maintaining strength in many disciplines and fostering creative interdisciplinary efforts.
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- Goal 35: Create a campus-wide Institute of Ecology and Environment, an integrative and broadly conceived entity similar to the McKnight Brain Institute, to focus efforts of the widely dispersed faculty and to coordinate the activities of existing units concerned with environmental studies.
Global environmental change is driven to a significant extent by human energy use and the two are inextricably linked. Environmental concerns over the use of fossil fuels and their contribution to greenhouse gases, national security concerns over the dependence on foreign oil and a growing public awareness for the need for a cleaner environment are stimulating the demand for renewable energy.
The development of alternative sources of energy, new energy distribution systems and renewable energy programs are essential for the future and the university must maintain its commitment to research excellence in these areas. Comprehensive programs and courses in renewable energy require bridging disciplinary divides and requirements.
The disciplines of ecology, environmental science, biotechnology, forest resources, agronomy, public health, biology, chemistry and microbiology all contribute toward an understanding of the impact of the development of renewable energy on societies and ecosystems. Further, there are aspects of economics, finance, policy, political science and law involved in any significant alternative or renewable energy project, as well as a role for community planning, building construction and architecture.
The impact of energy technology on the developing world and the use of appropriate technology draws on many social sciences, including anthropology, sociology and international development.
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- Goal 36: Continue and strengthen the university's activities to generate and to promote renewable energy technologies through integrated research, education and training.
Agriculture and its Impact
The importance of agriculture to the state, region, nation and the world makes it an important area of research and service. While a number of academic units contribute to this broad initiative, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and to making that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. This is a central component of the land-grant mission of the University of Florida.
IFAS contains the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Through a network of research and education centers and extension offices, IFAS has a presence in every county in the state. Its teaching, research and extension programs extend into every community in the state, providing services and expertise for counties, cities, industry and individual citizens.
- Goal 37: Strengthen the IFAS statewide network of extension, research and academic programs to continue to be relevant and to provide science-based solutions to Florida's citizens.
IFAS research and educational programs focus on agricultural, natural resource and human systems. While contributing to the success of Florida's agriculture, IFAS faculty have also developed a national and international reputation.
As Florida's population grows, new challenges are posed for the future of agriculture, Florida's natural ecosystems and the quality of life of its citizens. Many of these challenges are also echoed globally, thus positioning Florida to be a leader and a model in the world.
IFAS research and educational programs must continue to expand to meet new needs and to answer new questions. Extramural funding and faculty productivity must increase to enable IFAS to make these critical contributions of knowledge to Florida and to the planet.
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- Goal 38: Increase extramural funding and scholarly productivity for agricultural research, extension and academic programs that span basic discovery, innovation and application.
Nanoscale Science and Technology
The university has launched a major research initiative in nanoscale science and technology with construction of the new Nanoscale Research Facility, which will provide world-class facilities and technical support for faculty and students to pursue multidisciplinary research and education in nanoscale science and technology.
Nanoscale science and technology involves understanding the fundamental properties of atoms and molecules at the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter) and utilizing this understanding to create new devices and sensors for communication markets, new drug delivery systems and biotechnology innovations.
Fundamental properties of materials at the nanoscale, such as their chemical reactivity and their optical, magnetic and electrical properties, can differ significantly from their properties at larger scales. Nanoscale technologies aim to exploit these special properties to develop structures, devices and systems with novel properties and functions because of their size.
Exciting new materials and applications have already been invented and the commercial, scientific and medical potential of nanoscience is enormous. Given the scientific and technological significance of nanoscale research, the university must have a significant investment in this area.
As the Nanoscale Research Facility is completed, the university must develop a plan to coordinate the participation of faculty and staff across disciplines concerned with nanoscale science and technology, including physics, chemistry, biological sciences, engineering and medical sciences.
Since significant questions will arise about the effects of the development of nanotechnologies on the environment and on human health, it will be important to develop, in parallel, the ability to assess the impact of anthropogenic nano-compounds and materials on health and environment. The study of natural nano-materials will be an important component of understanding the potential affect of anthropogenic nano-compounds on the environment.
- Goal 39: Develop a staffing plan and a coordinating plan for the participation of faculty in nanoscale science and technology research in conjunction with completing construction of the Nanoscale Research Facility.
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- Goal 40: Develop a plan for assessing the impact of anthropogenic nano-compounds and materials on health and environment, including attention to research on natural nano-materials.
The university has made great strides in the space sciences over the last decade. The Astronomy Department's focus on development of image-detection devices has led to increases in funding, telescope time and significant scholarly achievements. Faculty members in organic chemistry have made notable discoveries in astrobiology, while faculty members in physics have participated actively in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
Through the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the university is the lead institution on the NASA University Research, Engineering and Technology Institute (URETI) for Future Space Transport project to develop the next generation space shuttle. The university is therefore well positioned to become a major center of space science research.
The university should continue to support and expand its activities in space science research, considering areas where it may develop new programs that build on current strengths. For example, there is currently no state university in Florida that has a planetary sciences program, and filling this gap is fully within the grasp of the University of Florida.
The Departments of Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Geological Sciences and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as the Florida Museum of Natural History, all have critical roles to play in this project.
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- Goal 41: Continue to expand the university's activity in space science and look for ways to increase interdisciplinary research and collaboration in this area.
Professional colleges play an important role in enhancing the university's recognition and advancing the professional and economic needs of the state and nation through their research and educational programs.
These colleges include the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Design, Construction and Planning, the College of Education, the College of Engineering, the College of Health and Human Performance, the six colleges of the Health Science Center, the College of Journalism and Communications, the Levin College of Law and the Warrington College of Business.
They contribute to responsible citizenship, public policy and governance, new technologies, technology transfer and implementation, economic stability and growth, and public health and education. The scholarship and academic programs of these colleges provide intellectual support for interdisciplinary initiatives.
Graduates of these colleges have provided important leadership and service to the state and nation for several generations, and the university must ensure the successes of these programs as part of its overall strategy. In all professional programs, the emphasis will be on achieving or sustaining national recognition to provide Florida residents access to the best quality professional education.
- Goal 42: Strengthen the educational and research facets of professional programs and colleges, with special emphasis on interdisciplinary endeavors, as appropriate.
Of special importance in the information age is the need for information technology professionals trained in the departments of Computer and Information Science, Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Decision and Information Sciences.
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- Goal 43: Review resources available for training information technology professionals and develop as necessary plans to provide adequate resources to assist the state and the nation to meet their needs for professionals educated in information technology.
Health Professionals and Health Care
The state has focused special attention on its critical shortage of health care professionals. The university has an obligation to help meet these needs through expanded education and training of a broad range of health care professionals.
The range of health care professionals currently trained by the university extends well beyond physicians and nurses to include pharmacists, allied health professionals and professionals in health policy, health service delivery, counseling, mental health, rehabilitation, epidemiology, etc.
Retention of trained doctors in the state is an important consideration, and can be accomplished through expanded availability of resident training programs in the state.
- Goal 44: Assist the state in addressing critical shortages of health care professionals.
Units in the Health Science Center also directly serve the health needs of Floridians by staffing clinics and hospitals around the state. This is an important outreach service for the public good that also enhances the university's recognition.
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- Goal 45: Maintain and strengthen the system of clinics and hospitals and strengthen the Shands HealthCare partnership.
Education, Children, Families
The state and nation need new approaches to learning, from birth through postsecondary education. The university will lead in this area by conducting multidisciplinary research and by developing demonstration programs and outreach to school districts, community agencies and other higher education institutions.
Special emphasis will be placed on literacy, pre-K and high poverty schools. In higher education, efforts are needed in teacher preparation and in math and science education.
- Goal 46: Assist the state to improve the pre-K to 20 educational system through research, demonstration programs, outreach with school districts, community agencies, other higher education institutions and training more educators and teachers, especially in high need areas.
The university will also be a leader in the field of health care for children and families. Four million children under the age of 18 live in Florida. Approximately 18% live in poverty and lack health insurance. Nearly one-third of Florida teens are overweight or obese; 10% report binge drinking, cigarette use or marijuana use and; 8% are school dropouts.
Faculties across colleges at the university are working on research, education and service programs to address social problems facing children and families and to promote their health and well-being.
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- Goal 47: Improve the health and well-being of children and families through research, education and service. Promote interdisciplinary approaches to complex health and social problems facing children and families.
The state of Florida has the largest proportion of persons age 60 years or older in the nation, and this age group represents the fastest growing segment of the population. There is, therefore, a special need for the university to develop programs that address the health and quality of life of older persons.
Expertise in aging is extended across many areas of the university to improve the health, independence and quality of life of older adults. The University of Florida Institute on Aging serves as the major catalyst for developing interdisciplinary models and synergisms in research, education and health care across colleges, other institutes and centers at the university and its affiliates.
Programs on aging at the university are dedicated to developing interdisciplinary, catalytic and cross-cutting research that emphasizes translation between social and health services, and the behavioral, clinical and basic sciences. Nationally recognized strengths include basic and clinical research of physical and cognitive decline, prevention and rehabilitation research, research related to nursing care of the elderly, behavioral and social studies of later life and outcomes evaluation research.
In addition to coordinating and integrating its diverse expertise in aging-related academics, it is important for the university to develop educational programs for undergraduate and graduate trainees that integrate research and health care of older adults, such as geriatric clinical and research training, geriatric nursing, rehabilitation sciences, neurosciences and psychosocial programs with strong aging concentrations.
The university also needs to foster programs of integrated health care and professions for older adults, with the provision of one-stop, state-of-the-art health care for frail, as well as for healthier, older persons. Referral and consultation networks among geriatric medicine and all the health professions are key components of this integration. The university also needs to partner with local and state agencies and Councils of Aging to coordinate its efforts with the local and larger community dedicated to improving the lives of older persons.
- Goal 48: Enhance faculty, resources and interdisciplinary connections between relevant units to address the social, medical and legal aspects of aging.
The President's 2007 Strategic Work Plan
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