The Florida State University is well poised to attract a new leader. The work done by many and led by the past presidents has led to preeminence, catapulting the university to rank among the top 40 public institutions while being named the most efficient, high-quality university in the nation for the last two years.
We must now select a leader to replace Eric Barron to take us to the next level and continue on course with our Top 25 plan that will place FSU among the top 25 publics in the near future. The ideal president should have a strong background in academics, administration and fund-raising. Integrity, of course, is a must. The candidates’ strength in the three areas will vary and can be balanced by the executive team.
• Academics: The hard work of generations of FSU leaders came to fruition when the governor and Legislature finally recognized the university in 2013 by naming FSU one of two preeminent universities out of the 12 institutions in the state system. Our goal to achieve Top 25 ranking must be embraced by the new president.
It is encouraging to know that FSU already meets many of the Top 25 criteria. In those that it lags — for example, No. 70 in both faculty-to-student ratio and resources per student, No. 54 in class size — additional funds from pre-eminence matched by donations over the next five years will help close the gap.
FSU has numerous schools and programs that are ranked nationally. This excellence must be maintained and others must continue to be added. It will be essential for the new president to have the respect of peers to pave the way for FSU to be invited to the prestigious American Association of Universities.
FSU, being a high research institution and the home of several respected centers, including the National Magnetic Lab, must be understood and supported by the new president.
The best way to continue to improve quality is to reward our faculty. The president should make it a priority to provide outstanding faculty with monetary rewards and continue hiring new faculty.
Last, but most important, are our students. FSU has had great success in producing Rhodes, Fulbright and other outstanding scholars. This effort should be continued and enhanced. We must be assured that our students graduate in a timely manner, with a top-flight education.
• Administration: The president is responsible for the safety of 42,000 students, the well-being of nearly 17,000 faculty and staff, a $1.35 billion operating budget, as well as a nearly $500 million endowment.
The president needs to embrace organizations that are fervent supporters of university, as they provide much-needed resources and serve as the eyes and ears around the nation. The advice of their volunteers and staff leaders is critical to the university.
Athletics is an area that common sense tells us should not be singled out any more than, let’s say, chemistry. But we all know it is, as they say, the “front porch” of the university. Last year FSU found out how great winning a football national championship can be. It unites our supporters, produces extra funds, and will attract more students to apply. This will go a long way in helping us achieve the Top 25 goal and generate a tremendous amount of favorable publicity (as well as some negative).
Athletics needs to be given the proper place in the administration led by a capable athletic director with compliance as a priority.
• Fund-raising: This encompasses several arenas for the president:
One is private funds. The university is halfway in its billion-dollar capital campaign, entering the critical public portion. The momentum must not be lost. We have a great volunteer team and staff, but donors — especially major donors — want to hear from and be courted by the president.
Public funding is another. As a state-assisted institution, FSU counts on the Legislature and the governor to secure public funds and set the tuition and fees each year. The president must work with the Board of Governors of the State University System to help secure additional funds and obtain approval on a variety of items.
Grants are important, too. As a major research institution, FSU relies on funding from grants from a variety of public and private sources. The president must be effective in leading faculty and staff in securing grants.
The search for the next FSU president should have no limits or preconceived limitations. We should cast a wide net around the world and seek candidates that best meet our criteria, offer a fair compensation package, and continue the FSU mission of providing quality education for generations that will serve Florida and our nation.
The search presents an opportunity for many to contribute to FSU's future. All Floridians, especially the 300,000-plus alumni, faculty, staff and students are welcome to offer their opinion. Go to www.FSU.edu/presidentialsearch.
Leslie Pantín is vice chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees.