Students and the Strategic Work Plan
Students represent a major component of the human capital within the university. Measures of the university's excellence must include the quality and academic success of its undergraduate, graduate and professional students. The university has attracted an increasingly outstanding caliber of students poised to become significant contributors to the state, the nation and the world. In order to continue in this direction and to be competitive with AAU top ten public institutions, some changes must occur.
For the university to achieve its mission to provide an unparalleled experience where the very best create and share knowledge, the student body must be further diversified. The university has achieved many aspects of broad diversity in its undergraduate and graduate student bodies, but needs to attain greater socioeconomic and racial diversity to achieve its educational mission.
The university has made real progress in increasing racial diversity, ranking seventh nationally in the number of African-American and Hispanic students who have received Ph.D.s in the last six years and fourth in the number of National Achievement Scholars enrolling. However, racial minorities are still not well represented and do not meet the university's educational and service needs. Although women students are well represented in the student body, they are not well represented in engineering and science.
Increased cultural, ethnic, racial, gender and socioeconomic diversity in the student body will enrich the educational experience of all students and better prepare them for life after graduation, in terms of leadership and workforce needs of the state and the nation. In reaching this goal, the university must strive for fair access to educational opportunity for those from all sectors of the state.
- Goal 12: Increase the cultural, ethnic, racial, gender and socioeconomic diversity of the student body to achieve the broad student diversity needed to achieve the university's educational mission.
Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities as well as accessible, high-quality student support services are important to maximizing student development. They complement and enrich the academic curriculum, foster critical thinking and promote wellness. These factors positively contribute to student engagement and enhance the quality of life. They support recruitment and retention of a diverse student body and they provide opportunities for students to develop multicultural competencies, responsible citizenship and leadership skills.
- Goal 13: Provide a wide range of excellent co-curricular/extra-curricular activities and student services to maximize students' development as outstanding scholars, leaders and citizens in Florida, the nation and the global community.
Due to its physical limitations, the Gainesville campus of the university can accommodate only a limited number of students. However, the university has an obligation to the state's citizens to provide as much access as possible to educational opportunities. The university has begun to meet that obligation in recent years through development of distance education programs. Using innovative blends of technology and courses conducted by faculty at sites around the state and the nation, the university is making several undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs available to people in or near their homes.
Back to Top
- Goal 14: Continue to develop strategies to expand student access to educational programs through distance education.
The quality of the university's undergraduate student body compares favorably to that of any university in the nation. The university's students are exceptionally high achievers and will graduate from the university to become the next generation of leaders. The university is committed to maintaining the quality of its undergraduate student body and to providing them an outstanding undergraduate education comparable to the best public universities in the country.
Graduation rates are one measure of the university's success in meeting its commitments to students. Four and six-year graduation rates place the university among some of the best public universities in the nation. The quality of the student body is a major contributor to the university's exemplary graduation rate, but effective university academic policies and procedures also help students to remain on track and to graduate in a timely fashion.
Among the factors that are important for good graduation rates: matching students to majors that fit their interests and talents; ensuring that courses needed for their degree programs are available frequently enough or with enough seats for them to get the courses they need to stay on track to graduate in a timely manner, and; developing procedures and policies that promote students' making timely progress toward their degree goals.
- Goal 15: Continue to improve the academic quality of undergraduate students and develop strategies to improve the graduation rates incrementally while maintaining academic integrity of degree programs and providing students the flexibility to find majors that best fit their interests and talents.
The very best students in the state deserve the very best educational opportunities and programs. The university offers several signature programs, including the Honors Program and the University Scholars Program, but there are areas in which improvements can be made.
Class sizes should be lowered in areas where a lower student/instructor ratio is especially important for achieving course goals. The number of undergraduate advisers should be increased to improve the adviser/student ratio. Undergraduate research opportunities should be expanded. Students should have access to the latest technology.
At the same time, students should be expected to demonstrate excellence in written expression. Faculty in every major should make sure that all students take some courses in which there is substantive discussion and in which they have an opportunity to develop analytical, critical thinking and research skills. The university should also provide greater access to high-quality tutoring and course assistance.
- Goal 16: Lower class sizes in areas where large class sizes are especially detrimental to the pedagogical goals of those classes, improve the adviser/student ratio, provide students with opportunities to develop research and writing skills and enhance academic support for students.
One of the factors that influences graduation rates is the ability of students to muster the financial resources needed to follow a full-time course of study. Financial need can also affect the diversity of the student body by limiting access. The university must ensure that financial need does not impede the ability of the state's talented students to attend and graduate in a timely manner.
Back to Top
- Goal 17: Provide financial aid sufficient to meet the needs of students.
Graduate and Professional Students
The university's recognition and success depend heavily on the quality of its graduate programs. Graduate and professional students represent the next generation of scholars, practitioners and entrepreneurs who will advance the frontiers of knowledge, develop new technologies, help promote economic growth and provide vital services to this state, the nation and the world. Faculty members mentor them as they make the transition from students to colleagues and in return, they stimulate and assist faculty in research projects. They also play a large role in determining the university's recognition as they move into the upper echelons of their fields.
The relative size of the University of Florida graduate program ranks below the relative size of graduate programs in the top universities around the nation as a proportion of the total campus student population. Several years ago, the university began to increase the graduate student population on campus, while limiting growth in the undergraduate population.
As the university's research program expands and deepens, the size and quality of the graduate program must keep pace. The goal is to respond to state, regional and national needs in the professions and to increase the overall quality of all graduate programs.
- Goal 18: As appropriate, increase the size and quality of graduate and professional programs to align with top ten AAU public institutions while addressing state, regional and national needs.
There is intense national and international competition to recruit the best prospects for each graduate program. From the student applicant's point of view, the recognitions of the university, the college the department and, often most importantly, one or more faculty members, are of paramount importance. Other additional criteria then influence their choice of school. These may include the general academic atmosphere, support services, the physical plant and facilities and location of the school.
A comparison of stipends and benefits is often a deciding factor and in this area, the University of Florida lags behind its AAU counterparts. The Alumni Fellowship program is nationally competitive, but barely so. An increase in the number of dissertation fellowships is needed in areas where such support is lacking.
- Goal 19: Improve graduate assistant stipends and alumni fellow stipends, increase dissertation fellowships and provide competitive benefits for graduate assistants and fellows.
Deans, department chairs and faculty must pay serious attention to graduate student recruitment, mentoring, retention and placement. Because students often choose a graduate school based on areas of excellence in a department and even on the specialties of individual faculty members, success in recruiting depends largely on the motivation, enthusiasm and personal contact of faculty in the units. Post 9/11 policies and mounting competition from universities abroad have increased the need for careful attention to international recruits.
As graduate students progress through their academic programs, faculty have a responsibility to include them in the academic life of the department, to help them develop and refine their teaching skills and to assist them in understanding and navigating professional academic culture. Retention rates and time-to-degrees that are competitive with our AAU peers are good indicators that these responsibilities are taken seriously in departments. Program assessment on these dimensions must occur to ensure maximum student success.
- Goal 20: Review the recruitment, mentoring, professional development practices, retention rates and time-to-degree statistics in individual departments and seek appropriate improvement.
Every investment in a graduate student must count. Placement of graduating students reflects on the university and should be undertaken seriously. A university's recognition is determined in part by the number of alumni placed in their fields.
- Goal 21: Review department placement records and develop state-of-the-art placement and tracking services to support placing University of Florida graduates in nationally and internationally recognized programs, institutions and other relevant settings.
The President's 2007 Strategic Work Plan
Back to Top