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USF sets another record with $428 million for research

— The University of South Florida piled on another record for research grants and contacts, bringing in $428 million in the last academic year.

USF System President Judy Genshaft announced the largesse during her 14th annual Fall Address at the school’s Marshall Student Center. She said the USF Foundation, meanwhile, also had a record year, bringing in $113 million during its “Unstoppable” fundraising campaign.

“Quite simply, the USF System is thriving like never before,” Genshaft said.

She also announced that the university will build a new student village on campus that will be home to 2,000 students. The project will transform a large area of campus north of the student center, featuring retail as well as residential space, and is expected to be completed in 2017.

It will replace 1,000 outdated dorm rooms.

In addition, she announced, USF is forming a consortium with the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Florida International University in Miami, the other universities in the state system representing the state’s largest metropolitan areas. By sharing best practices, policies and programs and addressing graduation in high-demand areas, the initiative could boost the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by the three schools by 12 percent and increase six-year graduation rates by 4 percentage points, Genshaft said.

The research grant and contract amount beat last year’s record by $15 million. The $428 million is a significant piece of USF’s overall $1.6 billion systemwide budget. The school ranked 27th in total research expenditures and 34th in federal research expenditures for public universities in 2012, the National Science Foundation reported.

“High-impact research is what makes the USF System special,” Genshaft said.

It also contributes to classroom results as researchers share their work with students.

“Academic excellence is what makes us valuable to the future of our students and our region,” Genshaft said.

In what amounts to an annual state-of-the-university speech, Genshaft ticked off more highlights of the previous academic year:

♦ “Our best legislative session in easily a decade,” garnering funding for the USF Health Heart Institute, USF St. Petersburg’s business school, and the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, which will be at USF.

♦ A ranking of second in the state university system’s performance fund standings among 12 state universities.

♦ A nine-place jump in the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings to No. 161, a ranking of 13th in the nation for the graduate entrepreneurship program, and a No. 7 ranking on the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” list.

Genshaft also used her annual speech to discuss a new point of discussion on campus — whether to establish a new medical school in downtown Tampa. Developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who owns more than 20 acres of available property downtown, said recently he is receptive to the idea.

“We are currently exploring various options to determine the optimal location for our facility as USF Health continuously strives to strengthen its connections to the wider Tampa Bay community,” Genshaft said.

“We know of the exciting developments downtown and have a great friendship with Mr. Jeff Vinik and his organization ... However, I want to be absolutely clear: Whatever decision is made about the location of the future USF Health facilities, it does not mean that USF Health is leaving the Tampa campus.”

USF Health needs to grow on campus as well, she said.

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

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