On his first day as president of University of South Florida, President Steve Currall made it clear. He has high ambitions for both the school and the Tampa Bay community.
One of his goals is membership in the Association of American Universities, made up of the 62 top research universities in North America.
“We have very high aspirations at USF and we are on a trajectory to be eligible for an invitation from the AAU to become one of its members. This is an aspiration that may be a long-term goal for us, but we’re on the journey and we’re committed to moving in that direction,” Currall said during a media availability Monday afternoon at USF St. Petersburg. “It’s very exciting to see how supportive the university community is about this goal. One of the great things about USF is the courage and the ambition it has for its future.”
He said he’s confident that USF can become to the Tampa Bay region what Stanford has been to Silicon Valley.
“If we reflect on the history of Silicon Valley, it’s really the story of university graduates and university spinout companies creating new jobs, high-quality, high-paying jobs, and fostering economic development in the region. My hope is USF can continue to do that and maybe even accelerate its trajectory in terms of economic impact,” he said.
Currall succeeded former USF President Judy Genshaft, who retired after 19 years of leading the university. Under Genshaft’s tenure, USF began the process to consolidate accreditation for the St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota campuses under one umbrella. Currall will continue that process, which takes effect one year from today, on July 1, 2020.
“What we will be looking for are ways that the three campuses can work together in a concerted way and where we can find synergies for student success, where students are able to take courses across the three campuses in a more effortless way,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress towards consolidation already. What I hope to contribute is to think about how we can align the resources that we have to become an even greater university.”
Work is underway on a draft document of an accreditation change request that will be submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. That’s expected this fall, said Martin Tadlock, USF St. Pete regional chancellor.
“It’s on track and [Currall] doesn’t intend to slow that process down whatsoever. He’ll weigh in with things he’s thinking about and that will be included in that document,” Tadlock said. “I think we’re on a very good path towards getting that put forward for accreditation.”
During his visit to the St. Petersburg campus, Currall also visited with USF St. Petersburg Student Government leaders, who presented him with a green and gold tassel as a welcoming gift and took a selfie with the new president.
He said he’ll be communicating very frequently with members of the business community and government representatives and others to look for areas for collaboration. He plans to be on the St. Pete campus often.
“Remember this is my first day,” he said. “I’m coming to St. Petersburg on my first day, so that shows some level of commitment to engaging with the St. Petersburg community.”