Making the Grade Globally

USF President Judy Genshaft has a bulls-eye view of the world.

It is no accident that President Judy Genshaft’s office is located in the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center of Global Sustainability building. As the president of the University of South Florida System in Tampa, her passion for her students to be able to receive an international education is contagious.

USF seal
USF seal.

“When you receive the acceptance to the University of South Florida as an undergraduate, in your packet with your letter and other information is an application for a passport,” said Dr. Genshaft.

She oversees a system serving more than 48,000 students and beams with pride when speaking of them and their success stories.

“No matter whether you’re a first-generation student and one in five of our students is… we will help provide funds so that you can have this international experience.” Panama, China and England came up immediately.

“The Board of Governors has the Frost Scholarship Programme. Pat Frost has said, ‘I will pay for 10 individuals to go from the state university system to attend Oxford.’ Last year we had one, the most any institution has was two — this year we now have three.” She added that they were also National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recipients and two of the three were first-generation. “We’re really thrilled. It’s the global part of what we do,” said Genshaft.

The Global Citizens Project is an important focus. “We’ve been working on it for a couple of years. It’s about quality enhancement of our curriculum and all that we do at the University of South Florida for undergraduates. We selected the global citizen as our theme,” she said.

Goal No. 1 of the university’s 2013-2018 Strategic Plan, the Global Citizens Project is to prepare “well-educated and highly skilled global citizens through our continuing commitment to student success.” It is made possible through the reaffirmation of accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Every 10 years USF must develop a Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP.

“International and global issues, as well as experiences, are so important to all of our lives. It will change your life having this type of experience. We at the University of South Florida believe it helps students mature, understand, have tolerance and understanding of other people and other cultures,” said Genshaft.

She also talked about the added benefit as employers look to employees to have these kinds of attributes and characteristics. “When we took the Global Citizen Project on as our theme for the whole institution, it just matches my passion for international.”

Genshaft has backed up her global goals for her students with her own money. She and her husband Steven Greenbaum, created the Genshaft/Greenbaum Passport Scholars Fund in 2011, with a donation of $1 million. Through matching funds from the state, it will provide $2 million to USF students who want to study abroad. “From the beginning of my tenure at USF, Steve and I have dreamed that every student would have an opportunity to travel abroad,” said Genshaft at the time of the announcement.

USF bull figurine collection
USF System President Judy Genshaft’s collection of bulls (USF mascot) from around the world affirms her commitment to international studies. Photo: Aimee Blodgett/ USF.

Genshaft discussed that when she talks to heads of corporations, particularly multinational corporations, they’re saying to the university presidents that they want employees who are respectful, knowledgeable about world issues and world cultures.

Founded in 1956, USF Tampa is the fourth-largest public university in the state of Florida. It is home to 14 colleges, offering more than 80 undergraduate majors and more than 130 graduate, specialist and doctoral-level degree programs. The USF System includes three separately accredited institutions: USF, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee.

The USF System has an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. The university is one of only four Florida public universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in the top tier of research universities.

“We are very much an active participant with the EDC here and the Chamber. We connect through all venues as a region. Any way that we can help international trade, we will be there,” said Genshaft.

USF’s seal is enveloped by a globe and is very appropriate given the institution’s emphasis on internationialism in an area ripe for international trade and growing rapidly. It has been in use since 1959. Each element has special meaning. The sun represents life to all living things, the lamp symbolizes learning and the globe signifies the universal expansiveness educational opportunity and challenge.

Forty percent of the USF Tampa faculty are either working on an international project, presenting overseas or consulting overseas.

Genshaft’s desk sits directly across from her collection of bulls, the USF mascot. Students, friends and colleagues have brought her bull figurines from around the world and she recites each bull and where it is from with encyclopedic knowledge.

The collection is symbolic of a woman and her love of foreign cultures, who also happens to oversee a $1.5 billion academic institution. Her students will be able to access international studies. There is no ambiguity of her commitment.

With Genshaft’s aim, it is a definite bulls-eye on the prize.

Photo credit: top image by Aimee Blodgett/ USF.