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Florida's shrinking university budgets create brain drain

Call it the summer of the academia exodus.

What began as a trickle of departures from Florida's state university system is accelerating into a steady stream. Nationally renowned professors and researchers who boost the reputation of institutions like the University of Florida are leaving the Sunshine State.

College officials call it the brain drain. They say it's the unfortunate result of upheaval and uncertainty within this state's higher-education system, where universities' budgets are shrinking and governance is an ongoing political tussle.

And once they leave, universities here are finding it harder than ever to replace them.

"My wife and I don't want to leave, but this is the worst it's ever been," said Charles Figley, 62, an FSU trauma expert who is leaving his post after nearly two decades.

"It's just not a good place for academics these days."
Who's leaving

Charles Figley, professor of social work

Leaving: Florida State.

Going to: Tulane University.

Notable because: A Fulbright Fellow and international stress disorder expert, he founded FSU's nationally renowned Traumatology Institute. He also helped establish the worldwide humanitarian organization Green Cross after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to provide mental counseling and help to victims of such incidents.

David Figlio, economics
professor

Leaving: University of Florida.

Going to: Northwestern University, following a research sabbatical.

Notable because: An international expert in education and public finance, he serves as a research associate for New York's National Bureau of Economic Research. Figlio is frequently quoted in national publications for his research and economic
outlooks.

Richard Heller, professor,
molecular medicine

Leaving: University of South Florida.

Going to: Old Dominion University, Virginia.

Notable because: An award-winning surgery professor, he helped found USF's fledgling Center of Excellence for biotechnology research. He is considered a pioneer for his work in the area of drug and gene delivery using pulsed electric fields.

John Cavanaugh, university president

Leaving: University of West Florida.

Going to: Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as chancellor.

Notable because: Cavanaugh has led UWF since 2002. During his tenure, enrollment and research activity grew, along with alumni giving. Cavanaugh stressed he is leaving for the chance to more broadly shape higher-education policy and to be closer to his family.

Michelle Bourgeois, professor of communication disorders

Leaving: Florida State.

Going to: Ohio State.

Notable because: A longtime researcher in the field of dementia and speech pathology, she has become a national expert in her field, in particular for her Alzheimer's research. She is using a $1.4-million grant from the National Institutes of Aging to train nursing home caregivers to use memory books to better interact with residents suffering dementia.

Also leaving
or gone:

Board of Governors chief of staff Bob Donley, to be executive director of the Iowa Board of Regents.

Mark Hoyt, UF's interim chief information technology, to be vice chancellor of information technology at North Carolina State.

Larry Conrad, FSU's chief information officer, to the University of North Carolina.

Chris Slobogin, UF College of Law faculty and national expert on mental health and evidence law, to Vanderbilt.

Florida's shrinking university budgets create brain drain 06/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 2:47pm]

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