The University of West Florida will achieve greater visibility and recognition by being innovative and capitalizing on what Provost Martha Saunders called a “frontier spirit like no other.”
Saunders, who became the university’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs in January, addressed members of the UWF administration, faculty and staff for the first time at the university’s Academic Affairs town hall on March 18.
“In our competitive world, it’s no longer sufficient for us to be just a great educational institution,” Saunders said. “If we’re going to really be competitive, people need to know about us—lots of people.”
After recognizing students Aaron Hall and Craig Lockhart, Saunders said the university’s vision for the future will be fulfilled by attracting more such students, providing them with a modern curriculum and ensuring opportunities exist for them to excel and learn.
Hall, an MBA. student at UWF, was recently awarded the title of Grand Master at the National Business Simulation championship. Lockhart, the president of UWF’s honor’s council, was chosen to personify integrity at the most recent university convocation.
“When they compete, they will expect to win because so many before them have done the same,” Saunders said. “They will come to stay, they will graduate, and they will leave us better than they found us.”
Saunders used her platform to recognize the university’s Military Veterans Resource Center, which was created to support active-duty military, veterans and dependents. With the department’s help, the university has become a “yellow-ribbon school,” and has received military-friendly institution status from both G.I. Jobs magazine and Military Advanced Education.
The yellow-ribbon designation is applied to institutions that, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs, partially or fully-fund tuition and expenses that exceed the limits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
She also showed her appreciation for UWF’s “unsung heroes,” including the infrastructure services team in Information Technology Services, a group that she said “works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the basic infrastructure of a technology-enabled university functioning and protected from threats.”
“Too often, many of our people get attention only when something goes wrong, and not the 99 percent of the time when it all works flawlessly,” she said.
Saunders also updated the audience on the status of the university’s reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which she said is now underway.
“It will assure us, and not just our accreditors, that we’re operating at the highest level and with the highest standards for academics,” she said.
Saunders said in the next few months, the position of assistant vice president for Enrollment Affairs will be filled, and the Chief Diversity Officer will be hired as well.
“We have a lot of strong language in our strategic plan on inclusiveness,” she said. “This individual will assist us in developing a plan to get us there.”
Before adjourning the meeting, Saunders told the audience how she feels about her relatively new position at UWF.
“I love my job, because every day I’m surrounded by hope,” she said. “You can have a hard day, but you can’t have a bad day at a place surrounded by the kind of hope that we enjoy.”