Lofty Goals: New President Dale Whittaker aims to take UCF to pre-eminence
New President Dale Whittaker aims to take UCF to pre-eminence.
On July 1, Dale Whittaker will become the fifth president of the University of Central Florida, succeeding John Hitt, who is retiring after more than 26 years on the job. Whittaker, who came to UCF four years ago from Purdue University, had been UCF’s provost and Hitt’s top deputy. He discussed his goals with Florida Trend from his office on the site of a new joint campus that UCF and Valencia College are building in downtown Orlando.
- Near-Term Goal 1: “To reach the state definition of pre-eminence. To become one of Florida’s four pre-eminent universities within a five-year window.”
- Near-Term Goal 2: “To fully realize the leading, 21st-century Academic Health Science Center at UCF’s medical campus in Lake Nona. How wellness and health are practiced going forward is very different than the way 20th-century academic health science centers were structured. It means more care outside the hospital; it means more interdisciplinary clinical teams; and it means a role of technology in self-monitoring, self-healing, self-treatment. Just within the last month we announced the reorganization of our academic units into an Academic Health Science Center.
That’s getting ready then for the (new teaching) hospital to open. We’re going to be presenting this month to our board of trustees a concept for a new nursing building out there (in Lake Nona). So we’re starting to flesh out not only the organizational structure but also the physical structure. What it allows us to do is to really ramp up our clinical programs and research.”
- Near-Term Goal 3: “To create at its core on the new downtown Orlando campus an educational ecosystem that is almost unique in the United States. You’ve got everything from pre-K, the Harris Rosen Center, through public Kthrough- 12. And then you’ve got Orange County Technical College, which is the career-training program. Then you’ve got Valencia’s Disney Culinary Institute, which could be seen as a terminal degree. But you also have Valencia’s digital media programs here and Valencia’s ramp to UCF. Then we have all of our programs that are coming down here. The new School of Communication and Media, a new College of Community Innovation and Education. It goes back to that whole idea that to transform an urban environment really pivots on education. When we think about the urban environment, Orlando is the perfect opportunity at the perfect time in its history. It’s just experiencing the entrepreneurial boom; it’s getting younger. A lot of new businesses are springing up. It’s becoming a smart city, a sustainable city. That’s what this new college is focused on.”
- Long-Term Goal 1: “To be Florida’s 21st-century pre-eminent university. I believe that the energy, the demographics, the economics are here to drive Orlando to be one of the premier cities of Florida. So we’re joined at the hip. We’re a metropolitan, urban institution that is surrounded by a thriving and growing economy and population. We create talent. Companies create jobs. We create ideas and innovation and intellectual property — companies and agencies move it to impact. They move it to products. They move it to services. When we are in proximity to that, when we’re sitting in that economic engine of Florida — what’s holding it back is talent and innovation. That’s what the research university exists for — talent and innovation. When we couple that, that’s what I believe is going to drive the 21st-century institutions.”
- Long-Term Goal 2: “To go to the next level on partnerships. We’re going to work very hard with the city, with the Orlando Economic Partnership to attract companies. We’re the largest source of talent in the United States, and we’re among the best when you look at our multilevel capabilities, our diversity. We want to use that to work with the city to bring those companies that will then take our IP, employ our students, and we get this great, energetic virtuous cycle. The partnership level we want to go to is not only to attract companies like, let’s say, Apple or Microsoft, SpaceX, Blue Origin. But we also want to develop and stimulate the culture here that creates new goods, services, ideas and companies.”
- Long-Term Goal 3: “To become Latin America’s destination of choice for not only higher education but also co-innovation. We want the top 40 universities in Latin America to say, ‘If you have a choice of where to go to college in the United States, you ought to take a look at UCF.’ We want to do that through partnerships. We want that talent pool from some of the best minds in Latin America to be ready to link back to that economy and to link into the North American economy. So we would also be interested in developing an innovation and tech hub here that is a portal for Latin American companies to develop apps, technologies, health care, entertainment for the North American market and vice versa.”
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