President's Blog

UWF: Channeling the Legacy of the Argonauts

UWF President Martha D. Saunders

Recently, I was delighted to receive a visit from a community member who brought greetings from Volos, Greece. Why is that special? As it turns out, Volos proudly hails as the Home of the Argonauts – the site where the mythological hero, Jason, and friends set off for adventures in search of the Golden Fleece (which they found, by the way). Likewise, in 1967, the charter students of UWF elected to be called Argonauts in anticipation of similar adventures. 

In my State of the University address this year, I reminded my fellow Argonauts that we have traveled a similar journey over the past 50 years. We have built solid programs with true academic quality. Our graduates thrive in the workplace and our current students benefit from high-impact experiences designed to boost professional readiness.  

As we come to the end of our golden anniversary, we also are celebrating some incredible successes of the past year. Our archaeologists discovered a third shipwreck from the Spanish de Luna fleet. We have set the framework for a Ph.D. in Intelligent Systems and Robotics in partnership with IHMC. Our accounting students ranked first in Florida and third in the nation for first-time pass rate on the CPA exam. 

We have enjoyed a record year in fundraising and have already exceeded our capital campaign goal of $50 million in only one year. Another generous community member has provided funding for a named college – the Usha Kundu M.D. College of Health. Student scholarships increased due to a single $3 million gift, and a $1 million gift from a UWF professor.  

Our athletics program won 22 championships this past year and the NCAA National Men’s Tennis Championship. 

UWF is the first public university in Florida to make available through the library all print textbooks for 1000-4000 courses. Our second consecutive student body president was named as student representative on the Florida Board of Governors, and we ranked in the top three among all Florida institutions on the State University System performance-based metrics. 

But just as a crew of the mythical Argo ran into monstrous difficulties, life in higher education is not without its challenges. We continue to press hard to raise student retention and graduation rates.  Our region falls below the national average and Florida average for attainment of bachelor’s degrees or higher, and we must do better. Toward that end, we are committed to providing students with the support they need to succeed. 

As early adopters of distance learning, we have created models of quality that are in high demand around the globe. Online learning is labor intensive and faculty require specialized training in order to deliver their courses effectively. 

Also, in an effort to be good partners in economic development, we must identify programs of excellence for which this region can be known. The results, if done correctly, will enhance current business, attract new business, build workforce and create jobs. 

In this upcoming academic year, we will be launching a number of strategic initiatives including iHire UWF, a marketing campaign to connect students with employment opportunities; a full launch of the Reubin O’D. Askew Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies; expanded offerings in cybersecurity and supply chain logistics; the launch of UWF Global Online; the creation of the UWF Innovation Network; an expanded presence in downtown Pensacola; and more. 

Like the crew of The Argo, we have the right people in place to get the job done. After 50 years in business, we are living our vision as a spirited community of learners launching the next generation of big thinkers who will change the world. Truly, the best is yet to come.

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