It has been a little over a year since Dr. Martha Saunders took over as President of The University of West Florida. She sat down WUWF's Bob Barrett to talk about that first year and her vision for the future of the university.
- UWF recently completed a very successful and relatively quick capital campaign. Dr. Saunders remarked that the campaign did go by quickly. "It was fast! And, of course all capital campaigns go through a silent phase, and you try to have about half of what you expect to raise lined up. A year ago, the campaign was originally I think $44 million. And then, by the time we launched the campaign we thought we could do better than that and we made it 50 million." At the time of this conversation the number had risen to $64.6 million.
- Now that Dr. Saunders has completed her first year in office, what's next? "I think we are going to continue to build on our strengths. We wrapped up our 50th anniversary and that gave us a lot of time to look back [and] marvel at how we have grown and really take a hard look at where we are. We have built a lot to be proud of in 50 years. So we think [the way to go is] to take these strengths, especially our academic programming, and build them out and make them more. And also to identify things that we will be known for. We do that in two ways. One will be to build out the intellectual infrastructure that we provide. That's why we're here. That's our mission. But we are putting together [what we call] the Innovation Network. We're packaging programming that we already have, adding some more, to create knowledge clusters, that are economic knowledge clusters, that will partner with existing industry [and] attract more industry, attract more students, attract more faculty.
- Saunders says you'll be hearing a lot about three specific knowledge clusters: Cybersecurity, Advanced Manufacturing, and Sustainable Coastal Communities. "And honestly I think that's where we will shine brightest. When you think of where we are. the environmental resources that we have that have to be researched and protected and investigated. Costal communities have challenges that other communities do not. We have environmental challenges like hurricanes and [other] things that require a resilience that are unique to us."
- Saunders also says there will be "more UWF flags flying" in the area. "We have committed to a strengthened presence in the region. We are already in downtown Pensacola. There will be more programming in downtown. We'll be moving cybersecurity [downtown] shortly. We already have a presence in Fort Walton, we expect to strengthen that especially in the area of advanced manufacturing. So what I think you can expect to see is physical evidence of our progress [and] more Argo flags flying everywhere. And we're excited about the. the community is behind us and the region is behind us and the state is behind us. Our faculty and our staff are energized. So, it's a great time to be UWF."