UF to spend $4.7 million more on pre-eminence goals

Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 1:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 1:46 p.m.

The University of Florida has announced a second round of spending to hire researchers and faculty to bolster programs identified as critical to the university's push toward pre-eminence.

UF will spend $4.7 million hiring as many as 30 researchers and professors in 10 disciplinary areas administrators have said will help burnish its stature as a top 10 university. Those areas include the Online Learning Institute, social network analysis, renewable energy and storage, creative writing, and African studies.

The latest round of spending follows an announcement by UF President Bernie Machen and approval by the Florida Board of Governors to spend $13.3 million in 16 strategic areas to build on UF's current strengths and expertise. Those include the McKnight Brain Institute, "Big Data," cybersecurity, life sciences and food security.

"The idea is to bring in teams of researchers in fields where we're already on the cusp of top national stature," Machen said.

Investment in those areas will lead to "breakthrough discoveries, greater educational opportunities, a spike in federal research dollars for Florida, more spinoff companies and creation of jobs," Machen said.

The university already has posted 14 "preeminence faculty" positions on its jobs website.

The 2013 Legislature passed legislation creating a pre-eminence program to give millions in bonus money to state universities that met at least 11 of 12 academic and research benchmarks. UF met all 12 benchmarks.

The state gave UF $15 million a year over the next five years to spend on areas to bolster its pre-eminence status. Machen has pledged to match that $75 million with an equal amount of private donations and use that money to recruit nationally renowned research faculty.

The UF Foundation has pledged to raise an additional $800 million to support the pre-eminence effort by creating endowed chairs and professorships, build or renovate labs, classrooms and other facilities, and invest in scholarship programs.

The administrative team, led by Provost Joe Glover, invited department heads and college deans to submit proposals for how to best spend that extra money, and initially chose 16 projects that had the most potential to boost UF's standing.

Many of those projects take an interdisciplinary approach to solving societal problems, Glover said. For example, the Informatics Institute, which received $3.8 million, will involve faculty from the colleges of Medicine, Public Health and Health Professions, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the Museum of Natural History.

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