President Sasse begins yearlong strategic planning process

Sustainable research expenditure growth, effective post-tenure review, recruiting even more top-flight faculty, and establishing even greater impact beyond Gainesville are all part of University of Florida President Ben Sasse’s far-reaching vision for UF as he launches a yearlong strategic planning process to chart UF’s course for the next decade.

Sasse has been laying out his vision over the past three weeks during a series of conversations with faculty and deans at all 16 UF colleges. His presentation, “University of Florida’s Next Chapter,” includes significant amounts of data that support his plan. It frames the conversation by asking three strategic questions:

  • What does UF want to be known for?
  • How do we expand UF’s reach and impact?
  • How do we attract more top-tier faculty and continuously upgrade the talent UF will need for the future?

It also lays out 10 areas where UF could be considered top 10 in the next 10 years, a concept he refers to as “10x10x10.”

Potential areas for consideration include the early emerging priorities of artificial intelligence, agriculture, space, and engineering, followed by business, healthy aging, sports in the arena and in the classroom, real estate, psychology, pediatrics, education/innovation in teaching and learning, allied health/ health specialty occupations, public health, and sustainability and conservation.

“UF has made absolutely incredible progress over the past 10 or 12 years. No one has ever seen that kind of rocket-ship trajectory before. That’s a testament to the faculty, UF’s leadership, and the generosity of the Legislature and our donors,” Sasse said. “But now it’s time to put the pieces in place for what comes next.”

During his college visits as well as in his State of the University address, Sasse spoke to a number of topics related to his strategic plan, including faculty tenure, post-tenure review and the number of academic programs offered at UF.

“I am strongly in favor of tenure, but a defense of tenure is not a defense of lack of rigor,” he said, noting that he learned in his conversations with faculty of the term “quiet retiring,” when a tenured faculty member no longer teaches or conducts research at levels demanded of their position.

“Post-tenure review will help us get at pieces of that,” he said.

Sasse also noted that while UF has nearly 200 academic departments and an ideal number would be closer to 140, he has no plans for eliminating departments.

“What we need is a more deliberate, centralized, and strategic approach to interdisciplinary cooperation, and we also need to consider whether we should broaden and diversify our core offerings,” Sasse said.

Forrest Masters, interim dean of UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, listened to Sasse’s presentation and came away impressed.

“A leader’s disciplinary background inevitably orients their worldview. In this regard, we are fortunate to have a historian at the helm,” Masters said. “Universities are long-lived, operating on generational scales. Ben isn’t only looking at a snapshot of UF circa 2023. He seeks to understand where our programs were twenty years ago ... and where they should be 20 years from now.”

Chris Curran, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy, attended Sasse’s College of Education presentation and liked what he heard.

“I appreciated the opportunity to hear President Sasse’s perspective on the successes of the University of Florida and the opportunities for innovation and growth,” Curran said. “In a changing landscape of education and work, the ideas shared for expanding UF’s reach, increasing partnership and collaboration, and better preparing our students for a life of broad and meaningful impact are exciting.”

The timeline for the strategic planning process began when Sasse took office in February and undertook extensive stakeholder interviews to understand the challenges of where UF stands currently and begin mapping potential initiatives.

The public stage of the planning process is currently underway, with plan finalization and securing UF Board of Trustees approval planned for fall 2024.

Video of Sasse’s State of the University address can be found here.

UF News September 7, 2023