New UF faculty welcomed to 'quintessential college town'
Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 4:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 4:58 p.m.
Kimberly Curry has returned to the University of Florida, where she received her nursing degree more than three decades ago.
This time, however, Curry will be a faculty member in the graduate nursing program, in which she'll be teaching an online graduate pharmacology course, occasionally working with students in the lab and supervising them during their clinical rotations.
"I was looking for a faculty position and thought of UF," said Curry, who will split her time between here and Tampa, where she has her own nursing practice. She said she chose UF because it has one of the best programs for advanced nursing degrees in the country, particularly its Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner degree.
"UF is a leader in that," Curry said.
Curry is one of 100 new faculty members attending the two-day new faculty orientation in the President's Room at Emerson Hall that began Wednesday. The number represents nearly one-fourth of the 384 new hires this year. Nearly half the new faculty hires — 171 people — were in the College of Medicine.
One of those new hires, pediatric surgeon Janice Taylor, said she had interviewed with UF a few years ago. "I kept this place in mind when I finished my training (in 2012)," she said.
The orientation includes sessions conducted by administrators on topics including the Faculty Senate and shared governance, parking and safety, student affairs and campus life, libraries and bookstores, benefits and retirement, and technology for teaching.
Attendees also got to browse the information booths set up by GatorWell Health Promotional Services, the University of Florida Police Department, the Harn Museum and the UF Foundation, among others.
"We see new faculty as our most important hires," said Jodi Gentry, assistant vice president for Human Resource Services. Orientation is designed to help them get their bearings and establish a framework for them to help them on their way, she said.
UF President Bernie Machen kicked things off with a brief welcome speech lauding the students and Gainesville's quality of life. He told them the worse weather was almost behind them and that they could expect eight months of good weather, calling Gainesville a "quintessential college town."
He also warned them about the pitfalls of living in a college town during the regular academic year after UF's 50,000 students move back this weekend.
"Your ability to get around ceases tomorrow," Machen said. "We are about to be consumed by young people, who are the wonderful lifeblood of this university."
Machen said hiring faculty is a priority at UF, now that the state's economy has turned around and shows signs of continued growth.
The Legislature has given the university $15 million a year for the next five years, and Machen has pledged to match that with private funds to recruit and hire top research faculty over the coming years as UF continues on the road to trying to become a Top 10 national public university.
The UF Foundation also has launched an $800 million funding drive to create endowed professorships and chairs to further that effort.
"There is a sense of rejuvenation and moving ahead," Machen said.
Machen also spoke about the digital revolution in higher education across the nation, and particularly at UF. "We're engaged in that," he said.
The Legislature gave UF the task of developing an online four-year baccalaureate program. The State Research University Institute for Online Learning advisory board met for the first time by conference call Aug. 7.
Students are eager to get into UF, Machen said. The university received 29,000 applications for admission, but UF has capped freshman enrollment at around 6,500 a year. UF administrators said 6,507 freshmen were confirmed for this fall.
The university cannot reduce the enrollment number because of demand, but UF can't increase enrollment because of space. "Online learning is a way to handle access," Machen said.
Dr. Nicholas Gage, a special education professor who finished his post-doctorate work at the University of Connecticut, said he was drawn to UF because of its emphasis on research.
"It's a very well-ranked research institution," Gage said. "The opportunities here are greater than at other universities."
He said his potential to bring in new grants at UF is one of the reasons they hired him.
And it was an opportunity for his family: His wife also was hired by the College of Education.
"I think that shows a high level of support for families and bringing on faculty," Gage said.