Advertisement
  1. Education

Who should be USF's next president? 'It's going to take a multifaceted individual.'

Longtime University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft announced in September that she will retire next summer. Now a search committee is deciding on what kind of leader they want to replace her. [BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times]
Longtime University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft announced in September that she will retire next summer. Now a search committee is deciding on what kind of leader they want to replace her. [BRONTE WITTPENN | Times]
Published Nov. 27, 2018

After 18 years under a leader as energetic and celebrated as Judy Genshaft, it's difficult to imagine what the University of South Florida might look like headed by someone else.

In fact, the idea of cloning the outgoing president ahead of her coming retirement next summer has become a running joke among many who wonder about the fate of the university once she's gone.

"She is a change agent, she is a believer," trustee Jordan Zimmerman said at a recent board meeting, delivering Genshaft's glowing performance review. "I don't know how you replace that."

Neither does anyone else, fully. But on Thursday, a search committee charged with figuring it out will take the first major step toward doing so, finalizing a job description to be used in a nationwide search for Genshaft's successor.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: USF trustees will move quickly to replace president Judy Genshaft

The listing will be reviewed Dec. 4 by USF's board of trustees, whose chairman, Brian Lamb, assembled the committee last month. The search process will move quickly then, with officials set to select the university's seventh president on March 5 from a list of finalists recommended by the committee. Genshaft steps down July 1.

In his charge to the search team, Lamb asked that their work be "attentive to the views of all USF communities." Members continue to seek input from those who make up the sprawling university system, through informal conversations, public listening sessions on each of USF's three campuses and an online survey set to close soon.

The goal is to gather enough perspective to create a complete picture of what the growing and changing USF community needs in its next leader, especially on the heels of gaining "preeminent" status from the state and as the system consolidates its three institutions under one accreditation by 2020.

"When the decision comes down, I think everybody will be able to legitimately say they played a role in it," trustee Les Muma, who chairs the search committee, said in an interview this week.

"Ninety percent of what we are hearing we already had in our minds, but the other 10 percent is invaluable."

He pointed out that the search committee is made up of 15 people from varying corners of the USF system. Businessman George Morgan, for example, heads the USF Foundation board of directors. Shaquille Kent is an international student from Trinidad and Tobago serving as vice president of the student body.

There are alumni and researchers, among others, like former USF basketball player Anddrikk Frazier and Rhea Law, the committee's vice chairwoman who served on a similar board to find Genshaft in 2000.

"It's a good blend of everybody on all campuses," Muma said, calling the committee "strong and diverse."

Members first met Oct. 18, taking turns sharing ideas about what qualities the new president should bring to USF, proving the size of the hole Genshaft will leave. Community involvement and dedication to student success were common themes during the discussion, as was the university's goal to join the prestigious Association of American Universities.

"This is a complex machine to deal with," said USF trustee Bryon Shinn. "We are already at a very high level and we're trying to push it to another, so it's going to take a multifaceted individual."

The biggest priority for faculty is that the person has a background in education or research, anthropology professor Charles Stanish said after others suggested USF interview business people and politicians for the job. Hiring anyone but an academic would be an "unmitigated disaster," longtime USF history professor Ray Arsenault added in a later interview.

"It would be insulting, frankly, to people who have devoted their lives to the life of the mind (because) the heart and soul of the university is its intellectual enterprise," said Arsenault, president of the faculty senate at USF St. Petersburg. "We're not just selling widgets or soap here."

PHOTOS: USF President Judy Genshaft through the years

Still, the new president should have business savvy and work to promote USF's many patents toward commercialization both here and abroad, said Law, a founding member of USF's board of trustees. And he or she should also be comfortable working with Florida lawmakers, said USF Foundation board member and former trustee Debbie Sembler.

Longevity is important, too, said trustee Stephanie Goforth. Someone shouldn't look at USF as a stepping stone, she said, adding: "We have had the benefit of a very, very long, fruitful relationship with our president, and we want somebody who is going to be here."

Students hope for someone as invested in them as Genshaft seems to be, said Kent, the student body vice president. But USF's next leader should be thinking, too, about those who haven't even enrolled yet, making sure the university balances growth with accessibility for college prospects living in Tampa Bay, Braulio Colon added.

"We are a dynamic, growing region, and USF is the key producer of baccalaureate degrees in our area," said Colon, chair-elect of USF's Alumni Association board of directors. "So the question that the next president is going to have to answer is 'How much do we grow? How fast? And what is the level of commitment to access in the region?'"

Everyone has ideas, and more are still coming. This is just the beginning, Muma said. Still, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Genshaft's spot will be hard to fill.

"We've got to (get) as close as we can to mimicking the personality of what we have or it's going to be a shock," he told committee members. "I don't know how you quantify that, but you'll know it when you see it, I think."

(Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct title of Braulio Colon. An incorrect title was used in an earlier version.)

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. From left, Don Haddad, Peter Licata and Addison Davis, all finalists for the job of Hillsborough County school superintendent, met Thursday with community members at Rampello K-8 School. The School Board will choose among the three on Tuesday. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times]
    Addison Davis, Don Haddad and Peter Licata outline their plans for the first 90 days.
  2. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    A man university police believe was target shooting near campus was not located, the university said.
  3. Former state senator John Legg has not ruled out a run for Pasco County schools superintendent. The district is the nation's largest to elect its chief executive.
    Short answer: Maybe.
  4. But the competition isn’t who many people expected it to be.
  5. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. A point tally ranking the three finalists to be Hillsborough County's next school superintendent shows up on a screen in the School Board meeting room Thursday after a meeting that lasted most of the day. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times]
    The last round of interviews is set for Jan. 21.
  7. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Cocoa Police Department video shows A.J. Plonsky being taken to a mental health facility under the Florida Baker Act on his first day of middle school, August 10, 2018.  [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Times]
    Never intended to be used on children, the 1970s law in increasingly applied in schools.
  10. Assisted by the Ray and Associates search firm, the Hillsborough County School Board is hiring a new superintendent. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement