Dr. W. Kent Fuchs and Dr. David W. McLaughlin move forward in the search for a new president for the University of Florida. Dr. Sibrandes Poppema was not selected to continue on in the presidential search.
The University of Florida Presidential Search Committee held interviews Tuesday morning to determine which candidates would be selected as finalists. The candidates were asked questions on their strategies to retain and empower faculty, the land-grant mission of the university, student career opportunities, campus diversity and inclusion, NCAA athletics and financial management.
Dr. W. Kent Fuchs, current provost of Cornell University, said he is ready to make a commitment to this University.
“I will devote for the next ten years all my energies, all my experience, all my talents and abilities to achieve the aspirations that you all have for this great University,” Fuchs said.
Dr. David W. McLaughlin, current provost of New York University, said he is also prepared to take on the position.
“I really believe in the institution of the American research university,” he said, as it is where new knowledge is created, learned and transferred.
On pre-eminence: The University of Florida has a pre-eminence plan in place to establish itself as one of the nation’s best public research universities.
McLaughlin said that as president he would ensure the success of this plan by making himself available to meet with faculty candidates personally.
“It shows that the university is serious about their area,” he said.
Fuchs emphasized the importance of UF expansion. Presence in major urban areas helps the institution with visibility and gives the students new opportunities, he said.
On the land-grant mission: As a land-grant institution, the University of Florida is designated as one of the two universities in Florida that is granted land by the state to promote education and research in the fields of agriculture, science and engineering.
“It extends beyond that [agriculture, veterinary medicine]. It really is the entire university…even in the humanities,” Fuchs argued. As a land-grant University, UF has a role and responsibility in engaging society.
McLaughlin said that he supports agricultural activities, including sustainability and conservation, because it is important for the future of the planet. However, he also believes that the arts and humanities are at the center of a general education.
“They are what create a well-rounded citizen.” McLaughlin said.
On NCAA athletics: For the past six years, the University of Florida has placed first in the Southeastern Conference All-Sports Trophy.
To balance this tradition with academics, McLaughlin said he would ensure that strong leadership was in place in the athletic department to “make sure that they [student-athletes] are treated absolutely fairly with no favoritism.” Student-athletes need to be successful in courses and graduate.
Fuchs commented on the visibility that sports at the Division 1 level bring to a University. “Seizing on that opportunity to bring together people that can benefit the University through philanthropy is a great opportunity,” he said.
The final two candidates will participate in campus and faculty assemblies Tuesday evening and then meet with the Board of the Trustees Wednesday morning, after which the new president-elected will be selected.