Partnering with Helios Education Foundation

Author: President Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida

May 24, 2019

The University of South Florida, a Preeminent research university, was founded in 1956 with a bold mission and a weighty responsibility. Optimistic and ambitious, early leaders of USF envisioned a major research engine that would attract talented minds from around the world to address society’s problems.

Today, that work remains a priority. Florida is a growing state facing an array of issues, and as a metropolitan research university – the state’s first -- we are best equipped to tackle them by continuing to attract world-class scholars and researchers. As the growth of the Tampa Bay region demonstrates, cities are where the action is in the 21st century. Where you find great cities, you find great research universities, and USF distinguishes itself by developing innovative approaches that make life better for all of our residents. 

None of it would be possible if we did not also dedicate ourselves to student success. At USF, we rally around the core belief that every student will succeed if given the opportunity to do so. These efforts include the use of predictive analytics and a case-management approach to “support” rather than simply “sort” at-risk students, much as the health care industry triages and assists patients.

Partnerships also play a crucial role, and we are especially grateful for our partnership with  Helios Education Foundation. Helios has generously invested in our students time and again – including a recent $2.1 million grant to USF’s Black Leadership Network. The Foundation also is a strong supporter of the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Universities, of which USF is a member.

All of it makes a difference. Since 2012, our retention rates have improved from 86 percent to 91 percent. Our six-year graduation rate shot up from 51 percent in 2010 to 73 percent today.

Perhaps most significant of all, we have eliminated the graduation rate gap by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status -- something that is so important as we remain committed to supporting a diverse student population. A diverse environment helps us think differently; more creatively and more empathetically. We are better equipped to find innovative solutions that benefit all walks of life.

As USF continues to evolve as an elite Preeminent research university and major economic driver for our state, the success of all our students will always be what defines us.

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