Director of UF Online resigns after less than three months

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 5:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 5:44 p.m.

When former provost Betty Capaldi Phillips agreed to come back to the University of Florida to direct the startup of the state’s first fully online four-year bachelor’s degree program, it was met with much fanfare.

She had built a reputation as vice chancellor of the State University of New York system and as provost of Arizona State University, helping to launch ASU’s own, nationally acclaimed online program.

But less than three months after she officially began as director of UF Online on Jan. 1, Phillips -- the wife of former UF Senior Vice President and COO Win Phillips — is no longer in charge of that program.

In an administrative memo sent out to faculty after 9 p.m. Tuesday, UF Provost Joe Glover didn’t even mention Betty Capaldi Phillips by name.

“Due to changes in personnel, effective immediately, Associate Provost Andy McCollough will become responsible for the administration of UF Online. Consequently, issues related to this program should be directed to his attention,” Glover’s memo said.

The memo was not posted on the Administrative Memo web page until late Wednesday afternoon.

Phillips “plans to return to Arizona State University as a faculty member to pursue research into effective systems for personalized and adaptive learning,” Janine Sikes, assistant vice president for media relations for UF, said in an email. “Since she wants to devote more time to research in this important area of online education, she decided to resign her administrative position in favor of a faculty position that will allow her to pursue these interests.”

Phillips had given up her job as provost and executive vice president of ASU — a position she held since 2006. She took a substantial pay cut to return to UF -- from the $425,000 she earned as provost at ASU to $285,000 salary to run the online program here.

Meanwhile, her husband, Win Phillips, stepped down as COO in December and took a position with Innovation Square, UF’s technology startup incubator downtown.

Betty Phillips, UF’s provost from 1996 to 1999, was chosen in September by Glover from several finalists recommended by a university committee after a nationwide search -- three months after she gave a presentation to the UF Board of Trustees about ASU’s program.

“She comes with a lot of experience and excitement,” McCollough, who had led the initial planning of the online program, said at the time. “She will hit the ground running, once she gets read into the peculiarities of what we are doing.”

UF was under the gun to get the online university up and running by Jan. 1 -- just six months after Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law that created the program. The state gave UF $10 million in startup money and $5 million a year for the next five years.

The program started off with five majors, with more to be added later in the year. Its website lists nine undergraduate majors with plans to expand to 35 majors and 24,000 students by 2024, with total annual revenues of $76 million.

The program currently has 583 students enrolled -- all of them transfer students. The first freshman class will be admitted in the fall.

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