UF Launches Graduate Fellowship Initiative
John V. Lombardi

, December 1998

Over the past years, the University of Florida has focused considerable attention on the growth and development of our undergraduate students and their programs. We have seen the number of undergraduates grow to about 32,000 while the quality of the undergraduate population continues to increase. We have introduced tracking and enrollment management techniques to ensure that our students stay on track to their degrees, receive excellent advising and find the courses they need, when they need them. As a result of the effort of faculty, staff and students, our students succeed at increasingly higher rates. We now admit the same number of new students each year, about 5,900 freshmen and 2,000 transfer students, and over time our undergraduate student population will stabilize at around 34,000 students. While we continue to enhance the undergraduate program and improve the academic experience of our students, we now need to focus more attention on the development and growth of our graduate student population.

Graduate students bring an essential vitality into the life of a research university. Providing essential academic inspiration and support to faculty research, becoming the next generation of talent and expertise that drives our economy and informing our campus intellectual life with advanced intellectual dynamism, graduate students constitute one of the key elements in a research university's success. At the University of Florida, we have excellent students and superb faculty, but the number of graduate students in our institution is smaller than the capacity of our colleges, departments and programs require. If we are to achieve the next level of academic excellence at the national level, we must increase the number of graduate students, and especially Ph.D., students over the next seven or eight years.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, alumni and friends, the university launched a Graduate Fellowship Initiative this fall to recruit the best graduate students from Florida and the nation to come, study, and work at the University of Florida. Offering competitive stipends, opportunities to teach and do research and support for dissertation research and writing, these fellowships will permit us to compete at the top national level for the best this country has to offer in all the graduate disciplines of the university.

The anticipated increase in graduate students matches the revised missions developed by our Chancellor Adam Herbert for the State University System. Under this imaginative and creative plan, the University of Florida will have an enhanced mission to develop graduate education for the state. Based on the chancellor's recognition of the state's need to both expand undergraduate opportunities and enhance the production of advanced degrees, this structured set of missions for the various institutions represents an effective and creative solution to the state's educational needs.

This drive will expand our graduate student population until it represents slightly more than a quarter of the total student body (a growth from 20 percent to 26 percent). We also can anticipate a growth in the quality of our faculty as we add more superb people to staff the expanded graduate programs. And we will see an expansion of our research profile as these faculty and students engage us even more in the national competition for scientific research funding and in the production of nationally recognized works in the humanities, social sciences and the fine arts.

An important side benefit of this growth in graduate education comes with an increase in opportunities for undergraduates to participate directly in graduate education and research. Many of our undergraduates arrive at the University of Florida as freshmen with advanced standing that might allow them to graduate in three years. As a result, they will be able to take advantage of our increased offering of three/two programs that allow undergraduates to earn both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in five years. Coupled with the growth in opportunities to work in laboratories or on other research projects directly with our faculty, this expansion of graduate education and research at the University of Florida will benefit all students.

Stay tuned for continued academic and intellectual excitement from the faculty, students and staff of your University of Florida.