Florida State University


•  DECEMBER 7, 2020 •

Dear Faculty,

As 2020 comes to a close, I want to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication during these most unusual circumstances. Last week during my final State of the University address to the Faculty Senate, I had the opportunity to reflect on everything we’ve accomplished together — not only over the past year but the past six years of my presidency. It’s remarkable to think about what we have achieved despite the incredible challenges we’ve faced.  

Over the past nine months, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested us. But as I said in last week’s address, this pandemic has reinforced many of the things I already knew about the people of this university — that we are strong, we are tenacious, and we are resilient. When history looks back on this moment in time, it will see us at our finest. 


While this past year has been difficult, we have experienced our share of successes. In September, we were ranked one of the nation’s Top 20 public universities for the second consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.  

The ranking reflects our growing research enterprise and ongoing focus on student success. We continue to have some of the best graduation and retention rates in the country. In fact, a record 95 percent of our freshmen return for their sophomore year — a rate that places us among the Top 15 public universities in the nation! That says a lot about our faculty and the kind of support we provide to our students and the incredible experience Florida State offers. 

Graduate student enrollment — a hallmark of any great research university — is at an all-time high, and we continue to advance our goal to strengthen FSU’s academic and research excellence through groundbreaking studies, original scholarship and creative endeavors. This past year, FSU faculty researchers received more than $250 million from federal, state and private sources — a new university record!  

Last month, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the renaming of the Dedman School of Hospitality to become FSU’s 18th college. The Dedman College of Hospitality has a long history working with hospitality industry leaders and preparing our graduates for outstanding careers. Congratulations to Dean Don Farr and the college’s faculty on this well-deserved milestone! 

I’d also like to recognize four faculty members who have been named fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in honor of their work advancing science or its applications. Kudos to Professor of Psychology Elaine Hull, Professor of Statistics Anuj Srivastava, Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Biological Science Walter Tschinkel and Professor of Biological Science Fanxiu  Zhu for this outstanding honor! 


Last summer, I established the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion to identify racial and ethnic disparities on campus and to implement a range of initiatives, such as diversity and inclusivity training and enhanced recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff from underrepresented groups. 

I’d like to thank English Professor Maxine Montgomery for chairing the task force as well as the subcommittee chairs: Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Brandon Bowden; Chief Diversity Officer and Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Michelle Douglas; and History Professor Maxine Jones.  

The task force chairs and members are hard-working and action-oriented, and I’m looking forward to receiving their first round of recommendations. I know the work they are doing will lead to a stronger and more just, equitable and inclusive future for all of us. 

In October, we launched our new nonpartisan Institute of Politics — established by the Florida Legislature and housed in FSU’s outstanding College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. The institute aims to showcase the role of politics in improving the lives of Americans and encourage civic engagement.  


In recent days, we announced two new members of the FSU family, who will start in key roles at the university after the New Year. DeOnte Brown has been appointed as the new director of the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE). DeOnte, who is a former CARE team member and participant of the Upward Bound program, comes back to FSU from Clemson University where he is the assistant dean of students. Todd Queen has been named as the new dean of the College of Music. He comes to FSU from Louisiana State University where he has been serving as dean of the College of Music & Dramatic Arts.  

I also recently announced some changes to my senior leadership team. Vice President Gary Ostrander, who has led the division of Research since he came to FSU in 2011 is stepping down to pursue his research as a faculty member in the College of Medicine. I have appointed Associate Vice President Laurel Fulkerson to serve as interim vice president for Research.  

Associate Vice President for University Relations Kathleen Daly, the university’s chief lobbyist, retired Nov. 30 after 25 years at FSU. Liz Hirst succeeds Kathleen as associate vice president, while continuing to serve as my chief of staff. 

Browning Brooks, assistant vice president for University Communications, is retiring at the end of the year after 27 years at Florida State. I have named Dennis Schnittker, who currently serves as director of University News and Digital Communications, to serve as interim assistant vice president for University Communications.  

I'd also like to welcome Clay Ingram, an FSU alumnus, back to the university, where he’ll serve as our chief legislative officer. Clay most recently was the CEO of Volunteer Florida and previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018. 

Clay will hit the ground running as the 2021 Legislative Session begins in March. FSU will request funding that will allow the university to continue to improve its faculty-student ratio and enrich Florida’s talent pipeline. In addition, FSU is requesting support to advance the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, as well as funding for the new College of Business Building and the Interdisciplinary Research and Commercialization Building.  

As we look toward the spring semester, I’m looking forward to seeing more students and faculty back on campus as we add more face-to-face classes while still following all the appropriate safety guidelines and protocols and implementing additional measures. We’ve extended remote learning at the start of the semester until Jan. 19, and, as you know, we have canceled Spring Break.  

Again, thank you for all you do to make Florida State University one of the very best universities in the nation. Warmest wishes for a happy, healthy and joyous holiday season and relaxing winter break.  


Florida State University

Office of the President
Florida State University
222 S. Copeland St.
Tallahassee, FL 32306