Campus Life

Q/A with UWF President Judith Bense

The University of West Florida has quality students who are seeking a quality education, according to UWF President Judith Bense who is clearly pleased with this year’s incoming class.

“Our average ACT (score) is 24 which is 4.5 points higher than (the state of) Florida average and 2.9 points higher than the national average,” she said. “Likewise our average SAT score is 1080, again, higher than the state or national average.”

As well as the caliber of new students, the president recently answered questions about the university’s role in the Gulf oil spill aftermath, new construction on campus and future enrollment goals. Current enrollment at the university is 11,700 and Bense believes UWF will exceed its goal of 12,000 by 2012.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the beginning of this school year? A: The beginning of the academic year is like New Year’s. It is a fresh new beginning, a time to set goals, welcome new students, and celebrate the difference that we will make in student’s lives.

Q: UWF’s current enrollment is 11,700 – an increase of 500 more than Fall 2009. One of your goals is to top 12,000 by 2012. Since it appears the university will reach and/or surpass that goal, what’s next? A: First we must be true to our core values and our hallmark of providing a quality education in small class settings. Yet, we want to build a more robust and vibrant student life because it is vital to the collegiate experience. We call this purposeful growth, which is important to our vitality, sustainability, and health as an institution. As state dollars continue to decline, we must grow so that we can take control of our future.

Q: Not only is UWF’s enrollment up, but the quality of students has improved. How? (SAT/ACT scores and top 5) A: Our students are smart! We have 167 students this year that graduated in the top 5 academically of their high schools. Our average ACT is 24 which is 4.5 points higher than FL and 2.9 points higher than the national average. Likewise our average SAT score is 1080, again higher than the state or national average. Our applications were up this Fall but only 67% of Freshman and 75% transfers were offered admission. UWF has quality students who are seeking a quality education.

Q: What are some ways you are trying to further develop and maintain the relationships between UWF faculty and the growing student body? A: We invested the student’s tuition differential funds and the federal stimulus funds into hiring faculty to keep our student/faculty ratio low.

Q: Heritage Hall, UWF’s new 253-bed housing option for sophomores, has opened and all of UWF housing is at 100 percent capacity. What additional residence halls and building initiatives are on the horizon for UWF? A: We have already begun construction on a new Health and Wellness Center that will open in Spring 2011. In the 2010 legislative season we received funding to build a new College of Business facility. Also, we plan to break ground on our next residence hall this Fall.

Q: The university has been very visible in the news in the aftermath of the April 20 explosion and subsequent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The university’s expertise, facilities and long-term research all have been in the spotlight. What role do you see for the university in relation to the spill in the coming months and years? A: UWF researchers, scientists, economists, and business development staff will continue to play a leading role in recovery and subsequent studies. We are writing and submitting grant proposals and seek funding for other opportunities to aid in the recovery. Our students will have unique opportunities to get hands-on experience in studying the environmental impacts of this disaster. We will also aid the business community in its recovery through our many current and future partnerships.

Q: What is in store for UWF Athletics this fall and spring? A:  Our teams are strong. For example, our Women’s Soccer Team is ranked #2 in the nation. We are incredibly proud of our scholar-athletes who work hard both in the classroom and on the playing field. A facilities consultant worked diligently all summer to help us make plans for facilities upgrades. We will bring these ideas forward soon and weave them into our long term master plan.

Q: What else would you like to share about this exciting time in UWF’s history? A: UWF is emerging and evolving into a happening and visible place. We are becoming a first choice school with unlimited opportunities. It is truly my honor and privilege to lead our university into this next phase. Thank you for being a part of the journey.

By Susie Forrester, University Communications