UWF State of the University raises the bar

Unlike Mayor Ashton Hayward, Dr. Martha Saunders, president of the University of West Florida, isn’t afraid to address her constituents – UWF faculty, staff, students and alumni- in an auditorium and outline her goals for the coming year. She also has no problem sharing the platform with others.

Dr. David Ramsey, faculty senate president, Keaton West, staff senate vice president, and Kishane Patel, student body president, also celebrated their successes and outlined priorities for the 2017-18 academic year at the event last Thursday.

Saunders gave her first State of the University address. She noted the University’s “big wins” over the last year, including:

  • UWF’s top three ranking in the Florida Board of Governors performance-based funding metrics,
  • UWF archaeology team discovering a third shipwreck from the Spanish fleet linked to Tristan de Luna y Arellano’s 16th century expedition,
  • UWF athletics earning 22 championships including the men’s tennis team winning the NCAA Division II national championship for the fourth time in the program’s history,
  • UWF’s 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign raising more than $62 million, exceeding the campaign goal of $50 million,
  • Becoming the first public university in Florida to make all print textbooks for 1000-4000 courses available through the UWF Libraries, and
  • For second consecutive year, the student government association president being named the student representative on the State University System Board of Governors.

Saunders shared her vision to make UWF a destination “where the community wants to be.”  In the upcoming academic year, UWF will launch a number of strategic initiatives including:

  • iHire UWF, a marketing campaign to connect students with employment opportunities;
  • The Reubin O’D. Askew Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies;
  • Expanded offerings in cybersecurity and supply chain logistics; and
  • UWF Global Online.

SGA President Kishane Patel talked about the agenda of the Florida Student Association that he chairs. It includes:

  • Bright Future’s expansion to increase access to scholarships and lower cost of education to college students;
  • Excess credit surcharge to be adjusted to prevent students from financial burden, and for students to have the ability to be academically ambitious, without fear of excess credit surcharge.
  • A reallocation of sales tax on textbooks to help fund new buildings on this campus to have the experiences that students need, and
  • Mental health awareness.

“We who represent 400,000 students in the state university system are lobbying to pass Jan. 12 as a proclaimed day for mental health awareness,” said Patel. “The reason for the 12th of January, being 1-12, is that the 12 schools are uniting as one voice to the state legislators to ensure that they will have the needs that we have.”

It’s not too late for Mayor Hayward to give a State of the Address for 2017. He could allow the council president and police chief to also address the public and give the citizens of Pensacola a full picture of the state of their city.

The mayor’s last address was Oct. 22, 2013, in the Saenger Theatre. He started the program with a video in which he said he wanted to try something different by “defying convention” and shaking things up. He did that by having in the video vignettes about Pensacola from Pensacola Symphony’s Peter Rubradt, IHMC founder Dr. Ken Ford, Blue Wahoos co-owner Quint Studer, and Debbie Calder of Navy Federal Credit Union.

The mayor’s speech followed and lasted about 20 minutes. After the address, he held a press conference with the city administrator and communications director present.

That was four years ago.