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Part 2: BOT Retreat Notes

Here are some more highlights from the Board of Trustees Retreat back in September, especially with relation to development (remember what blog you're reading?)

LET'S BUILD SOMETHING

President Saunders wants to increase enrollment by ~5% every year, and as the enrollment increases there's obviously going to be a need for more classroom space and more buildings. Facilities is looking at a $2.5M expansion of the Breezeway, renovating Science and Engineering as well as getting Parking Garage 4 going (which should be right next to Parking Garage 3). There's also a $9M CITF request for Student Union Renovation and Expansion for Fall 2013.

Trustees also asked about the possibility of reacquiring the land leased to Palm Beach State College before the lease is up. Not saying that will happen, but they did talk about it.

An interesting note on Parking Garage 3 (the Innovation Village garage): I'm reading that the design is fluctuating because there is some consideration of classroom/office space in the garage for programs displaced by the closing of the Ft. Lauderdale and Port St. Lucie campuses... not sure what that will mean for the ground floor retail, but FAU might have their back up against a wall a little bit as the PECO funding (which usually finances academic building construction) has "dried up."

I understand the situation but I hope if that's the case, they have space for both. It would not be a good idea to make it all academic space. That retail component is super important to the Innovation Village area.

Time will tell.

WHAT KIND OF SCHOOL SHOULD WE BE?

The BOT was asked about their long-term view of the university. A long time ago, FAU's then-BOT decided that the role of the university was "accessibility to higher education" which translated into building campuses "shotgun-style" (as President Brogan described it) all over south Florida, each one being a commuter campus. You come, you attend class, you go home. That was the focus.

Then over the last decade or so - probably as far back as President Cantonese - that feeling started to change. More dorms. Traditions Plaza. Football stadium. Innovation Village. Gyms. Statues.

We've made good progress, but at times the school does feel a little half and half: half commuter, half traditional.

Did the BOT want to continue that way, as half and half, or did they want to go full traditional? The consense was a traditional four-year university with high research activity for attracting outstanding graduate students. Part of growing the research aspect is looking for non-traditional funding sources for the research, i.e. outside business investment into FAU research.

Building a stellar business reputation was a point of protracted discussion - what can we do to be known for research? There's an enormous cost - could be in the billions over 20 years - to building a big time research university. It was noted that it wasn't just about incentivizing faculty with money (and doing so without a lot of state support), but also freedom and endowed chairs. There was a lot of talk about how difficult it is to attract "name" faculty with the budget cuts. Furthermore, it's always walking a fine line when you have loyal faculty who have worked here for years, suffering from lack of bonuses because the BOT cries poormouth, and then they hire new people at 1.5-2x the salary. It's inevitable but profoundly political. Some will walk. Some already have. It's a touchy subject.

Unfortunately, it may come to that. "Zemsky said if you want to get to where you want to be, the faculty will be different in the future from what you have now. He noted that online learning is not the same as being in a classroom. He suggested the trustees go see other universities, especially the ones FAU wants to be like, such as NC State, Michigan State, and the University of Illinois-Chicago." 

THE WHOLE STEM THING

As you know, Florida Governor Rick Scott has pushed his STEM agenda (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) on the state to push students toward vocationally-centered degrees and away from "unemployable" things like the arts or, uh, anthropology.

The trustees noted that community/state colleges can offer STEM disciplines easier because they don't have the cost burden of supporting research facilities.

Some particularly interesting notes in this section. Apparently 75% of students take easy STEM classes off-campus late in their careers, and that "students often don?t want the majors that businesses want (because they are hard and jeopardize GPAs), and businesses don?t want the majors that many students choose." Furthermore, "most students will take the path of least resistance. Students don?t understand the end product when they graduate. Moabery agreed and added that 90-percent of business jobs are sales." This leads to a stalemate after graduation with frustration on both sides.

We talked yesterday about the flirtation of a Dental School after the Medical and Nursing school, but moving forward the BOT may also need to consider that "if FAU becomes a STEM university, it will need to add a whole new set of degrees, such as Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Physician?s Assistant." 

WHAT HAS THE PRESIDENT BEEN DOING, ANYWAY?

Quite a bit, actually. Although the faculty may not be pleased with her, the President earned a $40,000 bonus with 27 pages of accomplishments, everything from speaking in the community to entertaining important guests to increasing philanthropy to fighting for the university in Tallahassee to directing and overseeing rises in enrollment, social media presence and god knows what else. 

GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR
  • We're undergoing a 10-year reaccreditation process (kinda important that it goes well)
  • Increase new out-of-state enrollment by 10% (that's big - trustees want to play to our strength: a campus in Florida).
  • "Enhance" Honors education at Boca (should have here from the beginning)
  • Renovate Student Union
  • Double external research
  • Increase internships by 10%
  • Just be a better school than FIU, overall (okay, that one was mine... but wth, it's Shula Bowl week!)
GO OWLS!

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