USF In The News: What Else Is New?

As a major university, USF is a major newsmaker.

There’s enrollment-cap speculation; budget-cut scenarios; a special fee for foreign students; an alumnus (Gallagher) on the California recall ballot; and Sami Al-Arian — in jail, virtually incommunicado, but not out of media reach. There’s new greek housing; an Alzheimer’s research-facility update; a Phi Beta Kappa snub; a former president (Betty Castor) in the Florida senatorial mix; and a contract extension for head football coach Jim Leavitt.

And that’s just one week.

It’s life in the public eye when you are one of the nation’s largest universities in one of the faster growing, major urban markets in the country. It’s part of being a mega economic-impact player, a partner with myriad community entities and an anchor of the I-4 high-tech corridor.

But one item trumped all others: the announcement that USF had now passed the quarter-billion-dollar mark in research funding.

It prompted me to rummage through an old copy of USF’s “Ask the Experts” media guide. It was from 1994-95, when I was there as the university’s media relations manager. Under USF “Fast Facts,” there it was. Research: “Receives some $70 million in sponsored research funds annually.”

But because the guide had gone to press before the research number could be updated, that “some $70-million” figure was dated. Thus it had been crossed out and “$85 million” hand-written above it. That was a reminder to not cheat ourselves when citing boilerplate material and bragging points. And that $85 million was undoubtedly rounded up a tad.

But that was less than a decade ago. Now the figure is an unrounded $254.8 million. Everything from anti-bioterrorism to urban transportation.

While sheer numbers don’t tell you everything, this figure represents a continued ratcheting up of stature and a vote of confidence in a range of faculty, programs and colleges — especially health sciences, engineering and marine sciences. It also represents an investment in the community that USF interfaces with.

It was welcome, reaffirming news. That was the week that was.

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