Prominent Tampa architect named UF trustees chairman
Carlos Alfonso, head of Tampa-based Alfonso Architects, was named chairman of the University of Florida's Board of Trustees at a meeting Friday.
Alfonso, who has served on the board since 2001, is also founder and CEO of Tampa real estate consulting group Alliant Partners, a director of the Florida Council of 100, a director of the Florida Wildlife Foundation, an advisory board member of USAmeriBank, and the ex-officio Trustee Member of the University of Florida Foundation's Board of Directors, serving on its executive committee, according to his UF bio.
He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from UF and was granted the University of Florida College of Architecture Alumni award in 2002.
We caught up with Alfonso while he drove back to Tampa Friday afternoon.
What do you see as the top issues facing UF?
The top issue for us, you know, in the next 10 years, is how do we continue to evolve as a top-tier research university -- with our domain being the entire world... and at the same time, continue to serve the citizens of Florida. That brings with it the need to talk about interdisciplinary organization of the school. In the old days, you used to organize based on college -- college of engineering, the law college, college of agriculture -- now we're trying to organize more around societal problems, like water, emerging diseases, immigration. Less stratified. We think research does that for us by creating teams that are university-wide and know no boundaries.
What makes UF stand out among its peer institutions?
We are the top-tier research university, top tier in the state. I think second to us is USF in research dollars. But we also provide a pretty unique undergraduate experience. So we've stopped our growth (at 50,000 students)... I think we're oriented more to the quality of the activities and becoming a little bit better at what we do.
What are some of UF's creative solutions to the current budget crisis?
We're very focused on distance learning, our distance learning income grew by 21 percent last year -- that's pretty big. At the same time, we're also one of the first big players in the country to actually make the decision that we're no longer on the agrarian calendar. Why does school have summers off? In the old days, harvest had to be done in the summer. But now that takes away a large cohort of students. UF will be admitting students year-round... We'll probably start full-bore in 2013. That's an innovative change and response to a different economy. It's a better use of our facilities, better use of our faculty, and we get a more even funding trend-line. And it provides more access to undergrad classes. We had 28,000 students apply last fall, and we took 6,400 or so. Because of this we'll be able to take 8,400 or 7,400 or whatever, and we'll provide more income to our university... It's almost like a no-brainer.
What's UF's biggest challenge?
Class size. That's really one that stands out as a red area for us... Really, it's mostly in the area of faculty that I'd say we want to improve the mix in both size and quality. We're about 21:1 for student-faculty ratio. 19:1 would be right where we want to get to.
Alfonso, the only UF trustee from Tampa, added that he hopes the board can attract more folks from the area, which is laden with Gators. He also said he hopes to incorporate more technology, including a Twitter account specifically for the board. He called UF President Bernie Machen "one of the best presidents we've had," and said he thinks all the economic adversity the state university system has had to go through will only make it stronger.
"I'm excited about the fact that after 10 years, we're on a pretty steady path. We're not still trying to figure it out," Alfonso said. "I'm excited about the fact that strategies are in place, and we're on a path that's organized and logical and, we think, priming us to come out of this economy in a really strong fashion."