Since becoming interim president, I’ve talked about a “bias toward action” in defining our priorities and strengthening UCF’s operations over the next year.

One of these priorities is how to best invest in excellence, throughout our academic enterprise and UCF’s culture and its values. Early in my tenure, I met with faculty and staff who served on the search committee for a new vice president for equity, inclusion and diversity.

These discussions confirmed for me that it would be difficult to hire a permanent vice-presidential position during a presidential transition. However, I believe, as do many of you, in the continued need and critical importance of this work through a senior leadership position that serves on the president’s cabinet.

New Chief Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Officer

That’s why I am elevating the chief diversity officer to a chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer who will report directly to me on our senior leadership team.

Rather than recruit this position externally, I will appoint an interim internal leader starting this summer who will serve in the position for at least a year.

Provost Dooley and I will make the selection based upon nominations from the campus community. The call for nominations is online and will be open until 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 28. I encourage you to nominate leaders you think would excel in this role; self-nominations also are accepted.

I expect this new leader to help us recruit and retain underrepresented faculty and staff; help underrepresented students reach their academic and professional goals; and develop and lead campus-wide initiatives that address equity, diversity, access and inclusion. One of the first priorities will be to conduct a campus culture survey that will help us assess UCF’s environment, identify areas of strength and weakness and inform what the portfolio for this position should be.

This new role signals our steadfast commitment to ensuring UCF is an inclusive place where all of us are welcomed and valued. I recently attended a meeting where a faculty member eloquently spoke about the culture change that goes beyond “talking” about how this work matters — we all have a responsibility to act in ways that support our values.

Inclusive Education

UCF brilliantly lived its values last month when we celebrated the first cohort of students who earned certificates through UCF’s Inclusive Education Services program.

Katie and I were honored to celebrate with these students and their families. For each of these 13 students, becoming a Knight was transformative.

I am tremendously proud of the staff and faculty who helped this program succeed and who will welcome our next class of students with unique abilities this fall.

100-day Countdown

This fall brings another big milestone for UCF: the opening of our downtown campus with Valencia College. This past Saturday marked the 100-day countdown to Aug. 26.

UCF Downtown will bring together academic programs that will thrive in an urban environment, where students will be just blocks away from jobs and internships. It will provide our faculty new opportunities for teaching and research. And it will allow us to partner in ways like never before with Valencia College, Orange County Public Schools’ new K-8 school across the street, and the surrounding neighborhoods — supporting pathways to education from pre-kindergarten through Ph.D.

True impact happens when all of us work together toward a shared mission, and your collective commitment makes us better and stronger through action. Together, we’re building a very bright future.

Go Knights! Charge On!