The Florida Board of Governors on Thursday added UCF’s proposed downtown campus to a list it sends to the Florida Legislature, a critical step in the university’s bid for state funds for the project.
The Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 12 public universities, added UCF Downtown to its legislative budget request. State legislators often look to the board’s list of priorities when determining which projects to fund.
Before the board’s vote, UCF President John C. Hitt and Provost A. Dale Whittaker outlined the academic, economic and community benefits of the proposed campus, which Hitt called a “transformational project.”
“At its heart, this is a story about leveraging proximity to industry, to better prepare students for jobs,” Hitt said. “Location-based education is part of our DNA, and our experience with the Rosen College (of Hospitality Management) and at Medical City gives us a head start on making downtown Orlando equally successful.”
“In fact, there are more immediate opportunities for success downtown than existed at the start of our Rosen or Lake Nona projects.”
UCF Downtown is a multi-year venture that eventually could be home to about 13,000 UCF and Valencia College students.
The campus, proposed on about 15 to 20 acres in Orlando’s Creative Village, would initially build from the strengths of UCF’s other academic programs in the area. UCF’s Center for Emerging Media and its graduate video game design and development school, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, are across the street from the Creative Village site.
UCF’s proposal to the Board of Governors recommended moving programs related to interactive entertainment, digital media, art and film, as well as programs from the Nicholson School of Communication. Those suggestions came from a committee made up of about 30 faculty members, administrators and staff, with input from students.
Final decisions about academic programs at UCF Downtown will come later this spring.
Sen. Andy Gardiner, who also spoke to the Board of Governors today in support of the downtown campus, said it would “lay a foundation for the future of our community” and “change Orlando for the next 100 years.”
As part of UCF’s presentation, the Board of Governors learned about the community benefits of the downtown campus from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; Valencia College President Sandy Shugart; Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins; and Daryl Holt, vice president and chief operating officer for Electronic Arts Tiburon.
UCF’s downtown campus also would include the region’s first-of-its-kind program to allow students with intellectual disabilities to attend courses and achieve meaningful higher educational credentials.
A Florida Senate higher education committee endorsed the creation of such a program this week and also recommended establishing a coordinating center at UCF where parents of students with disabilities could learn more about services available to them throughout the state. The center could be located at UCF Downtown, along with other support services for all students.