For the third consecutive year, UCF has been recognized among the nation’s most innovative universities according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges Rankings.
Placing 16th in the publication’s “Most Innovative Schools” category, UCF is Florida’s top-ranked school for innovation. The university placed ahead of several Ivy League universities, including Cornell, Harvard and Princeton.
The Most Innovative Schools category recognizes institutions that are making the most innovative enhancements to their institutions in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities. Since the category was first introduced in 2015, UCF has been named on the annual list on four separate occasions.
“UCF’s innovation comes from its exceptional people, its use of technology to help students succeed and the power of partnerships to have the greatest impact,” says Interim President Thad Seymour Jr. “That’s what makes us one of the country’s model 21st-century universities and the nation’s leading producer of talent.”
In addition to its Most Innovative Schools ranking, UCF placed notably in the following 2020 Best Colleges categories:
- 49 Best Undergraduate Teaching
- 50 Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects
- 64 First-Year Experiences
- 70 for graduation rate of students who receive federal Pell grants (Top Performers on Social Mobility)
- 77 for ethnic diversity of student body
- 79 Top Public Schools
- 83 Best Undergraduate Engineering Program
- 121 Best Colleges for Veterans
- 128 Best Undergraduate Business Program
- 154 Best Value Schools
- 166 Best National University
- “A+ Schools for B Students”
This fall, UCF welcomed its strongest freshman class to date. Breaking records for grade point averages and standardized test scores, the University’s Class of 2023 set a new academic bar. Among the many innovative efforts to recruit Florida’s best and brightest high schoolers include UCF’s Top 10 Knights Program, an initiative that guarantees admission to UCF for Florida high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.
“UCF strives to push boundaries and be at the forefront of reimagining higher education in the 21st century,” says Elizabeth A. Dooley, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “To again be ranked among the most innovative universities by U.S. News & World Report speaks to the collective hard work and excellence of our faculty, academic leaders, staff and students.”
Partnering to Improve Educational Opportunities Downtown
This fall, in collaboration with Valencia College, UCF Downtown opened, bringing more than 7,000 students and 300 faculty members to the heart of downtown Orlando. This transformational partnership kick-starts Orlando’s Creative Village and will foster impactful collaborations, leverage close proximity to downtown’s industries, and open pathways to high-demand career fields.
UCF officials are committed to making the downtown campus a beneficial feature to the communities adjacent to the campus. Last month, the Parramore Education and Innovation District (PEIDs) initiative received $2 million in grant funding to support a Pre-K through Ph.D. educational ecosystem in the Parramore neighborhood. A partnership between UCF Downtown, the College of Community Innovation and Education and the Center for Higher Education Innovation, the initiative works to reduce barriers and improve access to education.
“Developing an educational ecosystem that has positive generational impacts requires all members of the partnership working together to help every individual reach their full potential,” said Pamela Carroll, dean and professor of the College of Community Innovation and Education. “We look forward to our continuing endeavors within the Parramore community. With the support of generous funding from partners including Helios Education Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase, we aim to coordinate effort across formal educational institutions and various organizations to strengthen the pipeline to college and other postsecondary credentials for Parramore residents and for urban Orlando.”
In addition to educational efforts, UCF established the Parramore Healthy Community Coalition, which will spearhead a number of health initiatives, ranging from nutrition education to diabetes screening for the community. A $600,000 grant from the Florida Blue Foundation will be essential to efforts to help Parramore residents achieve better health and well-being.
Leveraging Technology to Create More Pathways to Student Success
For more than 20 years, UCF has been investing in online education efforts. Through an initiative called UCF Online, students from anywhere in the world can enroll in more than 90 fully online degree programs at a discounted rate. This fall, UCF Online’s enrollment climbed above 5,000, the most since the initiative was founded in 2016 and a rise from last year’s 4,300.
In January, U.S. News and World Report recognized UCF’s online undergraduate programs among the best in the nation. In addition to being ranked No. 14 overall in the U.S. — the university’s all-time highest ranking — UCF placed No. 10 for Best Online Programs for Veterans, No. 26 for Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs, and No. 50 for Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs — all improvements from 2018.
UCF leverages a wide range of technologies to provide students with support. One such innovation is Pegasus Path, an interactive app that allows students to plan their path to graduation. The tool integrates with other university technologies to suggest courses in a student’s academic plan so they can graduate within four years. It also gives university officials the ability to identify and support students who have fallen off track for on-time graduations.
“Pegasus Path is an example of one way in which UCF is creating a data-informed ecosystem to ensure that each student has a personalized plan for success,” says Melody Bowdon, interim vice provost for teaching and learning and interim dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “The data from the system as well as other registration and learning tools promises to allow UCF departments and colleges to have real-time information about the courses that students need and want to take in order to accomplish their goals.”
Preparing Students for Jobs
For nearly 35 years, the UCF Lockheed Martin College Work Experience Program (CWEP) has provided students with real-world work experiences within one of the world’s leading global security and aerospace companies. Students successfully complete the program while attending UCF full-time and can work up to 25-hours a week at one of Lockheed Martin’s two facilities in Orlando.
In February, UCF and Lockheed Martin celebrated the grand opening of the Lockheed Martin Cyber Innovation Lab. Located in the atrium of the Engineering I building, the 970-square-foot laboratory serves as a learning hub, an engineering classroom, and a practice center for UCF’s much-heralded cyberdefense team.
Annually, Lockheed Martin hires more graduates from UCF than any other university in the country, and the corporation is the No. 1 employer for graduates of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Other major organizations have taken advantage of the wealth of talent graduating from UCF as well. Approximately 30 percent of workers at the Kennedy Space Center have degrees from UCF. Aviation Week has named UCF the No. 1 supplier of graduates to the U.S. aerospace and defense industries for four consecutive years, and a UCF student has been honored as one of that publication’s “Tomorrow’s Technology Leaders” for the past two years.
In March, UCF became one of only seven institutions in the country selected to join the Bridging the Gap from Education to Employment Program. Led by the University Innovation Alliance, with a special emphasis on first-generation and low-income populations, the program seeks to provide a national playbook for preparing students professionally while in college and then supporting them in their first jobs following graduation.
“Our students are best prepared when they’ve had a chance to engage early in their chosen careers through experiential learning,” Seymour says. “What sets UCF apart are our deep partnerships with industry and the connections they provide our students while they’re in school and after they graduate.”