As the 20th anniversary of our first day of classes approaches, it’s both amazing and gratifying to see how much we have accomplished in such a relatively short time.
I’m especially proud of all that has taken place in the almost 10 years of my presidency – the near doubling of our student body, the ever-increasing number of scholarships awarded, the growth in the number of undergraduate and graduate programs offered, the doubling of the FGCU Foundation endowment, the addition of laboratories and classrooms, the establishment of our freshman residence hall complex South Village, the opening of the Emergent Technologies Institute as well as the meteoric rise of our athletics programs, to name just a few high points.
But rest assured that we are not standing still. We continue to be hard at work making FGCU an even better place to learn and live. As always, we are striving to make sure that The FGCU Effect is seen and felt throughout the region.
Our Strategic Plan, which was recently adopted by the FGCU Board of Trustees, spells out our intentions for the next five years and beyond with goals grouped under four pillars: academic excellence, entrepreneurship, health sciences and emerging pre-eminence.
Among those goals are:
*The creation of an Honors College and the recruitment of National Merit Scholars, the highest quality students in the country.
*An increase in undergraduate internships and graduate research assistantships in all fields, but especially in emergent technologies, health sciences, STEM and entrepreneurship.
*Expansion of our entrepreneurship activities, including establishing a Living-Learning Community for aspiring student-entrepreneurs, and expansion of our mentorship program.
*Expansion of graduate degree programs and graduate enrollment.
*More opportunities for faculty and students to conduct research.
These are just a few of the ambitious initiatives we have set for ourselves. And while some of them will take several years to bring to fruition, there are projects we are working on right now that are making FGCU an even better institution both academically and culturally. Here are some of the major ones:
*Soar in 4, an innovative plan that encourages students to graduate in four years by offering them a rebate of their first-year, out-of-pocket tuition if they fulfill certain requirements, including completing an internship, meeting with their academic advisor on a regular basis, graduating on time and landing a full-time job in Florida within six months of graduation.
*We are nearing the completion of our $100-million fund-raising campaign. The funds that have been so generously donated by the community will increase our ability to award scholarships, assist students in succeeding in their educations and careers, enhance academic excellence, allow us to have a greater impact on the communities we serve and provide much-needed funding for athletic programs and scholarships.
*The unveiling of our rebranded, redesigned university magazine, FGCU360 (formerly Pinnacle), with a robust new website that offers extended articles as well as photo galleries and videos.
*Over the next year, we will launch a new website designed for easier navigation, a more comprehensive view of the university and it will be fully ADA compliant.
*The eagerly anticipated Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program within the College of Health Professions and Social Work, as well as plans for new degree programs in data analytics/informatics, supply chain management and construction management. We are also developing a certificate program in professional sales. Based on demand, this program could evolve into a degree program in the future.
*We are working diligently to provide our 24,000 alumni with more ways to stay connected to the university. We have formed 10 regional alumni chapters and clubs across the country so that alumni living in distant locales may still enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow Eagles. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with our established clubs in Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Sarasota and Tampa as part of our 20th anniversary celebration.
* Work has commenced on the $8-million expansion of Alico Arena, which will allow for the addition of a sports medicine facility, a strength and conditioning center, an academics resource center, and other expanded offices and facilities for players, coaches and staff that will make us more competitive with other first-class Division I programs.
*The plans are complete and we are gathering the necessary permits to build the new Student Health and Life Fitness Center, which will replace the current recreation center housed in Alico Arena, which was built when the student body stood at 4,000. Today, 15,000 students attend the university and we must make sure that their wellness and fitness needs are supported to ensure they do their best academically.
*The North Lake Village Outdoor and Dining Project will transform the beachfront into a gathering place for the entire university community. The improvements include a dining hall, a boardwalk, gazebo and other structures designed to invite people to gather, socialize and learn in a casual and informal campus setting.
Clearly, we are continuing our upward trajectory, ensuring that the university meets the needs of its students as well as the region. It has always been the university’s goal to improve life in vibrant Southwest Florida. As we enhance the programs and facilities we offer, we fully expect The FGCU Effect to grow and flourish.
In this, our 20th anniversary year, I encourage you to remain involved and engaged with the many activities under way here at Florida Gulf Coast University. Visit campus, come to the Art Gallery, attend a musical performance, cheer on the Eagles sports teams, become a mentor, hire an intern, or come walk the nature trails. There is always a place for you at FGCU.