A line from University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft’s 2000 inaugural speech foreshadowed a distinction for which USF was honored in late June.
“We dream of being one of the preeminent universities,” Genshaft said, 13 years before preeminence became an official designation for Florida universities, and 18 years before the school earned that honor.
On June 27, Genshaft presented the accomplishments that qualified USF for preeminent status to the state’s Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system.
Achieving preeminent status requires satisfying at least 11 of 12 benchmarks set by the state when preeminence became law in 2013. The benchmarks cover areas such as retention, graduation rates, research expenditures and national recognition for the school as well as faculty.
USF met those benchmarks in impressive fashion. For the period 2000-2018, graduation rates were up 71% for students completing their degrees in six years, and 60% for students completing degrees in four years. for the period between 2000-2018. For the same period, research expenditures grew by 402%.
When Genshaft spoke in 2000, she stressed elevating USF’s position as both an academic and research center.
“To get there, it is our responsibility to constantly ask two questions of ourselves,” Genshaft said in her speech. “First: In each of our programs, are we setting the national standard for others? Second: If not, what will it take for us to do so?”
USF made huge strides. The school now has four public university national rankings, 13 faculty who are members of their respective national academies, and seven disciplines ranked in the top 100 for research expenditures.
Meeting those goals would have been reward enough, but thanks to a 2013 law establishing benchmarks for achieving preeminence, USF’s coffers will benefit along with its reputation. The distinction will bring $6.15 million in additional funding from the state, according to the Tampa Bay Times.