Campus Life

UWF announces Center for Research and Economic Opportunity

The University of West Florida announces the creation of the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity. CREO is the result of a merger of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the Office of Economic Development and Engagement.

Dr. Rick Harper, who until CREO’s creation served as executive director of OEDE and assistant vice president for economic development for the University, will lead the new center. Harper’s new position is associate vice president for research and economic opportunity.

“As universities continue to showcase the value they bring to the surrounding region and state, I am glad to support the creation of the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity as well as the appointment of Dr. Rick Harper to lead this effort,” said UWF President Judith Bense. “Dr. Harper has a long history of providing expertise for our community in the areas of economic analysis and diversification. Putting his expertise to work with University research and researchers is the right choice for UWF.”

CREO’s mission is to advance the strategic research and economic development interests of the University. Through CREO’s subsidiary organizations, including the Haas Center and Florida SBDC Network, the new center also will inform and support the Florida business and economic development communities.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs facilitates the growth, development and quality of basic and applied sponsored research and transfers emerging technologies from that research to the public. The UWF Office of Economic Development and Engagement was created in January 2011 to enable UWF to play a more significant role in economic development and job growth in Northwest Florida. The office serves as the interface between the community and the University on matters directed at improving regional planning, partnerships and research endeavors.

Harper has been with UWF since 1989. In 2011, Harper oversaw the formation of OEDE. From 2012 to 2014, Harper served as senior economic policy adviser to the Florida Senate. In 2015, he was the first recipient of UWF’s $25 million research award for having served as principal investigator on more than $25 million in funded grants or contract awards.

“UWF is uniquely positioned to help develop the human skills and knowledge that our residents, businesses and communities need in the modern economy,” Harper said. “CREO will help leverage UWF research, technical assistance and outreach assets to achieve these goals.”

Harper holds a bachelor’s degree from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina and a doctorate in economics from Duke University.