Meet UCF’s Provost: Dr. Tony Waldrop
Dr. Waldrop comes to UCF from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he had served as vice chancellor for research and economic development since 2001.
Dr. Waldrop’s North Carolina roots run deep: he has a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in Physical Education and a Ph.D. in Physiology, all from UNC.
The provost, UCF’s second-highest ranking official, provides academic leadership for the university’s 12 colleges, multiple campuses and research centers and institutes. Waldrop joined the Knights in August.
You have a long history with UNC Chapel Hill. So, why UCF?
Honestly, a lot of people there were surprised that my wife and I would leave. We have four UNC degrees between us. But this is the right time and the right opportunity for both of us.
I’m very proud of North Carolina. The university has a rich history and tradition – my office there was in a building that is 200 years old. But at UCF, there’s the opportunity to make traditions and to do things for the first time.
During my visit, I learned that at UCF, things happen quickly. And I like that.
What stood out about your campus visit?
We were very impressed with the quality of the people – the students, faculty, staff and administration – and how welcoming they were. There is energy among the people and on campus that was exciting.
Personally, having been at two older universities, the newness of everything on campus was almost overwhelming. And the campus was much larger than I would have guessed, although it did not feel spread out.
For lunch my first time on campus, we went to Wackadoo’s. I got a chance to speak to the owner and get a different perspective about UCF and our students. He spoke of them as individuals and shared some of what he hears. I got more of a personal side of students.
What will be your role with students?
A provost’s connection to students is so important. It’s easy to be in an administration building and forget that, but students are our customers, and we need to support their lives inside and outside of the classroom.
Higher education opens the world to people. It gives young adults the opportunity to learn in the classroom, to learn from one another on campus and to grow into adults with a greatly expanded understanding of the world around them.
When I was on campus, I specifically asked to meet with students. I met with a group for about an hour and, let me tell you, they were outstanding. I was impressed with their commitment to UCF and willingness to talk openly and honestly and to share advice.
You have a strong research background. How does university research affect lives?
I am a big believer that good ideas and good research can’t stay in journals or just in the university. We need to get innovations into the world. You do that through producing research that affects public policy, that creates and leads to medical breakthroughs and that results in new technologies. These are the issues that universities need to be involved in.
Research creates jobs and can significantly impact the community. It also builds a university’s reputation and the reputation of its faculty. For students, research provides opportunities to see firsthand what they are learning about in the classroom.
What will success at UCF look like to you?
To continue to see UCF grow in its reputation, research abilities and commitment to partnerships and in the quality of education it provides.
Dr. Hitt is an amazing individual who has been able to accomplish so much at this university. What stands out to me is how he has reached out to the people of Orlando and Central Florida, and how they have embraced his vision.
Personally, what keeps me engaged is when I can work with people to make things happen and when I can be part of a team that sees good results. That is success for me.