State of the University Address
Transforming Talent to Meet World Needs
James H. Ammons, President
Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium
August 27, 2010
To Trustee Gallop Franklin, who is presiding today, vice chair Daryl Parks, Trustee and Maurice Holder, members of the leadership team, deans, directors, faculty, staff, students, retirees, alumni and University supporters:
Good morning and welcome to Florida A&M University for the 2010-2011 academic year. To our freshmen, we are so pleased that you have decided to become Rattlers. During your undergraduate years on campus, you will make friends for life; discover your essence for being; and gain some muscle strength from walking up and down these hills. Some of you will become leaders, some outstanding athletes, yet others will discover the value of service and sacrifice. Whatever your experience, use your time here at Florida A&M University wisely — acquire the knowledge and skills that will help you to achieve your career goals. Most importantly, make sure that you earn at least 15 hours every semester so that you can graduate on time.
Today, you are a part of an environment that many people will never experience. Historically, you are now a part of a legacy. Your FAMU registration and enrollment are not mere paper transactions. You have aligned yourself with the legacy, history, and culture of one of the most unique academic institutions in America.
This is a time in your life, where you get to be your own boss. Never, however, lose sight during your newfound freedom, of the reason why you came here in the first place — to get an outstanding education and graduate.
This class of 2014 represents one of the largest freshmen classes in recent years. So you enter the university raising our standards for accomplishing goals.
To the faculty and staff, we are about to embark on one of the most rewarding endeavors of a lifetime. We have the opportunity to inspire, encourage, impact and shape the next generation of scholars. Marian Wright Edelman once said and I quote, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” FAMU employees, let us work to make sure that we provide a campus environment that is conducive for learning, research and service.
To our student leaders, among the Greek organizations, Non-Greek, and SGA: I encourage you to lead with integrity and purpose, enriching the lives and experience of your fellow students. To members of the Incomparable Marching “100,” we expect you to continue to be the best band in the Land. To our athletes as you begin your seasons, our football team, volleyball and cross-country, remember you create the FAMU spirit and winning is part of our great history. No pressure.
As President, I am honored today to deliver the “State of the University” address because we are transforming the talent that we have at this great university into leaders that will meet the needs of the state, this nation and the world.
In a global knowledge-based economy, a University education is crucial to our nation’s success and to our collective prosperity—today more than ever before. Universities explore the universe of knowledge, inspire creative activities and engineer novel approaches to age old problems. That’s why it’s great to be at a University at this time in our lives because innovation and transformation are active on university campuses. And FAMU is positioned to transform your talents into world-class solutions and leadership.
This fall Florida A&M University has enrolled 13,089 students, including nearly 2,700 freshmen. We also have one of our best and brightest class of students. Among the freshman class are three National Achievement Scholars and five National Achievement finalists. But, we know there are some “diamonds in the rough” among this class also. We believe that many of you will follow the same career paths as the upper classmen.
Did you know that nearly a third of FAMU’s students (about 4,000) are pursuing degrees in one of the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, or health care disciplines? These are areas that our state needs employees, which means when you excel and graduate, you will have a job! The University has more than 55,000 active alumni, two-thirds of whom live and work in Florida and contribute to its economic and social vitality.
These stats provide concrete evidence that FAMU attracts top talent — among our students, faculty and the staff. But, talent alone is not enough. We have to harness that talent and transform it into critical thinking and writing. We have to develop your skills to analyze data and develop solutions to the complex problems facing our global neighbors. As a Doctoral/Research University, FAMU faculty know how to take talent, refine it and transform it into noted researchers, scholars and leaders. This is not bragging, it’s just the facts.
Over the years, FAMU has developed a national research presence, which in 2009 attracted nearly $50 million in total contracts and grants. This is particularly noteworthy, because most institutions that outperform us in attracting similar amounts of research funding are substantially larger, older, and often have medical schools.
In 2008, FAMU produced 38% of the nation’s African American Ph.D.s in the environmental sciences, 25% of the nation’s African American PharmDs and 25% of the nation’s African American PhDs in the pharmaceutical sciences.
And, in the State University System of Florida, in 2008-09, FAMU accounted for more than 80% of the African American PharmDs, 50% of the African American PhDs in engineering, more than 60% of the African American JDs and more than 40% of the African American PhDs in the physical sciences. We have a history of producing strong graduates at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels in these disciplines and we have to maintain that legacy.
The creative talents of our faculty and students have led to the development of five new patents in the past two years for drugs to fight cancer, Parkinson’s disease and depression and skin disorders. FAMU researchers are actively engaged in developing new drug delivery systems, nanomedicine, renewable energy, marine and coastal ecosystem health, plasma physics, viticulture and water quality. All, underscore FAMU’s standing as a leading public research university.
But we can’t believe we’ve made it. We have to work harder because our future is bright and our commitment to moving to the next level has to be strong.
Our future is guided by an ambitious strategic plan titled “20/20 Vision with Courage.” FAMU is combining its unique resources to address some of the toughest challenges facing our state and our world—from issues of race and social differences, global and rural health, to the new frontiers in science and technology.
By the year 2020, we want to be known nationally and internationally as a research-intensive university. I invite you to visit our website and read the strategic plan. The plan is designed to develop, enhance and retain appropriate fiscal, human, technological, research and physical resources to achieve the university’s mission.
At this point, I have to stop and applaud the work of our Board of Trustees. This board has shown leadership in refining our strategic plan. They understand that implementing a bold vision requires courage and they have shown that courage by their service and leadership. Please join me in commending the fine work of the FAMu Board of Trustees.
Also, we are grateful and must thank Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature. Their efforts spared higher education the 10 to 15 percent cuts that were projected at the beginning of the session. We ended up receiving a 3.5 percent cut of our gross general revenue. Also, we are grateful for the $23 million that we received this past session to begin construction on a long-awaited Phase II addition to the College of Pharmacy. The new addition will allow the college to increase the number of Ph.D. students from 42 to 75, and increase funded research from $22 million to nearly $45 million a year.
We also secured $7 million from the Legislature to renovate a 40,000 square foot building, which was donated by the City of Crestview. This will extend our service into the rural areas of west Florida.
In a year of unprecedented challenges, the University was able to leverage the power of its brand by partnering with trusted allies, forging new relationships, and clearly articulating the University’s value.
Unfortunately, we have received notice that additional cuts may have to occur this fiscal year that just began on July 1. We’ve been asked to prepare for a 5 percent reduction in our budget by December and prepare for an additional cut of 10%. This will be devastating to our campus, which has already sustained cuts over the last three years, which exceed $30 million.
Now, we know that we can’t depend solely upon state appropriations; we are finalizing plans to launch a new capital campaign to sustain us at a new level of distinction. We will enhance and sustain an academic and social environment, promoting internationalization, diversity and inclusiveness. We have established a new Critical Languages Institute, and partnered with the U.S. Department of State, which provides us with a U.S. Ambassador-in-residence and a new USAID Initiative.
Our transformation is visible. Right now, we have eight construction projects underway totaling $100 million. Recently, the remodeling and renovation of Tucker Hall was completed. The Charles Winterwood Theater has new seating, acoustic treatment, audio and visual systems. The atrium and lobby have been expanded creating a two-story entry into the Theatre. Go by and see it. It has undergone a remarkable transformation.
Student fees are supporting Phase II of The Hansel E. Tookes Student Recreation Center. The new addition will house multipurpose courts for basketball, volleyball, and racquetball. The project, which will cost approximately $2.8 million in construction, is scheduled to be completed January 2011. Construction also is underway to the recreation fields, located adjacent to the phase II portion of the Student Recreation Center. The new recreation fields will provide students with an area for softball, baseball, soccer and golf. With the interior activities at the Recreation Center and the outdoor sports in the same area, the students have a complete, state-of-the-art recreational complex.
Renovations to Sampson and Young Residence Halls have begun and we are planning to construct an 800-bed suite-style residential facility near the Student Service Center. A by-product of this physical campus transformation is 800 new jobs that will boost the local economy. FAMU contributes to the intellectual and fiscal strength of this community.
We are planning to use our strengths to further build the intellectual capital and economy of this state. One of our most impactful ways of supporting “New Florida,” an initiative of Chancellor Frank Brogan to innovatively impact Florida’s economy, is through the proposed FAMU College of Dental Medicine.
The College’s objectives are to graduate well-trained dental students and primary dental care residents; to increase the supply of dentists from disadvantaged backgrounds; and to provide dental care to low-income citizens in rural and underserved areas of Florida. When the program is approved by the Board of Governors, students will have the opportunity to obtain the Doctor of Dental Medicine to address oral health problems. The college, if approved, will target recruitment programs toward students and dental resident students from disadvantaged backgrounds and from applicants who have demonstrated an interest in community service.
There is a strong need for this program because many Floridians have inadequate access to dental services. In this state, only 11 percent of low-income people living in rural areas see a dentist care. As a result, many low-income children and adults have serious oral health problems that cause pain, infections, eating problems, and facial disfigurement. Poor oral health may also result in more severe systemic illnesses such as diabetes, oral cancers, coronary artery disease and premature births.
So our mission as a land-grant university dictates that we use research and extend our services to meet the critical needs of the state. The dental needs in Florida mandate that we work quickly to add more dentists from diverse backgrounds and who are committed to working with the underserved communities, especially in rural areas.
As we embark on this journey to establish this College, we will need everyone in the university and this community to play a role. Everyone has to make their department, college or school the best among our peers. Establishing the college will transform our community and the University. We stand at the crossroads of remaining in our comfort zone or to advance courageously into the future.
FAMU, let’s step out on faith and our good works to transform our talent into leadership that addresses the global needs of the world!