University president speaks to Student Media about critical issues: students services, research, lower funding

President Mark Rosenberg.(FIUSM File Photo)

Photo by Gabriel Arraras

By: Philippe Buteau/News Director

Going on his third year of his term as president of the University, Mark Rosenberg vowed to improve student services university-wide to ensure the money students are putting into the University – now more than what the state puts in – is well spent.

Student Media sat down with the president to discuss what services he wants to improve, the University’s ongoing Strategic Plan and other university issues.

FIU Student Media: How have your academic pursuits been going since becoming president?

A: I haven’t published anything except for a few op-ed pieces. I’ve written a number of my own speeches presentations or rewritten them. the most recent book I’m reading is Henry Kissinger’s book on China. … I’m keeping up as much as I can in my field but I haven’t done any scholarly work. I’ll set aside some time this coming summer to do that.

FIUSM: You said in your budget town hall in May because there’s more money coming from students than the state legislature you want to improve student services University-wide. What specific student services are you targeting to improve first? Is there a timetable for these services to improve? How do you measure improvement?

A: We want to provide more of the classes students need – that’s critical. We’re interested in having a much better advising system. There will be additional police on both campuses. We’re in the process of hiring 10 new police. We’re trying to provide a higher level of services. [As for a timetable] we want these done right now. I’m impatient. For this year we’ve hired 80 new faculty spread out throughout the University. You won’t find that in many universities in the country.

FIUSM: What aspects of FIU need to improve to increase alumni contribution?

A: The major service we’ve added for the alumni association is a capability to do career planning and placement for graduates. The alumni association is developing that now through a grant from the Knight Foundation.

FIUSM: Besides increasing numbers, what’s your message to the different departments of the University in terms of improving student services? What did you tell them they need to do this coming year and beyond? This includes vice presidents, deans and directors to front-line staff and faculty members who deal directly with students.

A: I continually say “every student counts,” I believe that and I try to model that behavior. I think repetition is important. I do mean it, I believe that and I try to live that. That’s the most important thing for me. Students need to be respected because that’s why we’re here. Students are respected but periodically we need to be reminded we’re here for students. I just try to live that way.

FIUSM: Has students not being respected been an issue? Have you heard any stories of that happening?

A: I periodically get emails from students who are disappointed they haven’t gotten a email response from faculty or they perceive the faculty member’s been arbitrary. But when I talk about respect I mean being able to provide the full range of services, courses, extra-curricular opportunities, service learning, study abroad that students are going to need to be successful in the 21st century. It’s not just a slight here and there; it’s the inability to meet the needs students have. That’s an attitude we have to be bullish about.

FIUSM: Your Strategic Plan statement mentions “enhancing the quality and impact of research and creative initiatives,” do you mean you want to increase the number of those initiatives or suggest to the faculty and staff members who are researching to emphasize particular areas?

A: The quality means that students and faculty will have time to have an even fuller consideration of the data and its implications and then potentially have time to test the results against reality in a policy situation if it lends itself to that.

If the quality is improved it will increase the likelihood of people wanting us to do research for them, which will increase the quantity. And I’m interested in making sure FIU as a research university takes its research and creative energies and applies them to problems in the community.

We have the blessing of having hundreds and hundreds of faculty who are doing research of direct importance to the community. Oftentimes those faculty members don’t have the time to apply their research in practical problem-solving.

FIUSM: By “time” do you mean the faculty member doesn’t have enough time to finish their research?

A: There are so many different challenges and responsibilities a faculty member has to face [that all require preparation.] Every choice a faculty member makes – whether advising, reading the latest scholarly article, grading papers or going downtown to talk with a policy maker – it’s all about choices. So I’d like to find a way that we’re making better and better choices as students, faculty and an institution. If we can do that we’ll be more efficient and we’ll stretch the dollar further.

FIUSM: How has this goal been affected by the steadily decreasing state appropriations?

A: We are monitoring very closely the amount of funding available particularly at the federal agencies – the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy – because it’s clear there are going to be budget cuts that will reduce the amount of research money that’s available for us to get through competitive grants or member projects.

So yes, the support for research is likely to change.

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