The University of West Florida highlighted its successes and challenges Wednesday morning at its annual State of the University Ceremony.
After the presentation of the colors UWF music student Easton Ellenberg performed Edward MacDowell's March Wind to a standing room crowd at the UWF Commons Auditorium. It was the opening act to UWF President Dr. Judy Bense's 2014 state of the University speech.
Dr. Bense did not mince words and began her speech with a reminder of the tough financial situation facing UWF, saying the "new normal is not friendly to the University of West Florida".
Dr. Bense went on to explain in detail the financial status of the university and steps that are being taken to raise its score in the performance based funding metric. She also praised the faculty, staff and students for achievements over the past 12 months. After the speech she said it's important for her to tell the complete story. "It's important for the faculty, staff and students to know their president 'gets it'".
During her speech Bense did not mention the recent vote of no confidence taken by the Faculty Senate nor the vote of support taken by the Board of trustees. She did however say she needed to improve communication with the staff and faculty. To that end she announced she will visit all departments in all UWF campuses talking to faculty and staff, asking about their issues and concerns and doing the best she can to deal with them. She also announced she would reinstate her open office hours.
Among the achievements Bense talked about was the improvement in the university's 6 year graduation rate. that was one of the issues that lost UWF points in its performance based funding score. By calling six-year seniors and finding out what it would take for them to graduate by the summer of 2014, the university's graduation rate rose from 42 percent to 50 percent. Bense said that alone will give the university five extra points on their performance based funding score. An increase in second year retention rates should get them another five points. "We are off the bottom (of the performance based funding list), and we also are going to be out of jeopardy in terms of losing our money" in the performance based funding metric.
At the end of the day Dr. Bense said of all the positives she talked about in her speech, she was most proud of the achievements of the students.