First-year momentum: McCullough showcases FSU’s bold path forward

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Florida State University 16th President Richard McCullough speaks during his formal investiture ceremony on Friday, February 25, 2022. (FSU Photography Services)


Florida State University President Richard McCullough arrived on campus in August 2021 with a bold vision to take one of the nation’s top public universities to even greater heights.

Inspired by FSU’s rapid rise in national academic rankings, commitment to student success and role as a driver of economic opportunity and social mobility, McCullough wasted no time in outlining ambitious goals and setting about achieving them. On August 16, he celebrated his one-year anniversary as President.

“I knew from the moment I stepped onto campus that Florida State was a special place,” McCullough said. “This is a university on the move. I am proud of what we have already achieved and even more excited for what the future holds for this incredible university.”

“I knew from the moment I stepped onto campus that Florida State was a special place. This is a university in transition. I am proud of what we have already achieved and even more excited for what the future holds for this incredible university.”

– Richard McCullough, President of Florida State University

Immediately after taking office, McCullough began building an outstanding leadership team. Since last fall, he has overseen and completed the search for a new provost, chief of staff, vice president and director of athletics, vice president of research, vice president of university sponsorship and dean of engineering.

The university also hired a new opening night director, chief audit officer, chief of police, president of Seminole Boosters, and head coach for women’s basketball, baseball, and soccer.

Under McCullough’s direction, the university has initiated a search for a chief marketing officer. This person is to be named this fall.

President Richard McCullough continues his work on his first day in office on August 16, 2021 at the Westcott Building.  (FSU <a class=Photography Services)” width=”900″ height=”600″ srcset=” 900w,×341.jpg 512w,×512.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px”/>
President Richard McCullough gets to work on his first day in office on August 16, 2021 at the Westcott Building. (FSU Photography Services)

During McCullough’s first year, the university continued to raise its profile with a number of significant achievements:

  • US News & World Report again ranks FSU 19th among all public universities in America.
  • The university also recorded some of the best retention and graduation rates in the country last year, achieving a 94 percent freshman retention rate and a 73 percent four-year graduation rate, while nearly eliminating disparities between race, ethnicity and income level.
  • In November, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) recognized the state of Florida for its efforts to support all students earn their degrees with the 2021 Degree Completion Award—the state’s highest honor for academic achievement.
  • FSU received more than 78,000 applications for about 6,000 places in this year’s freshman class – and accepted the most academically accomplished class in the university’s history. The middle 50% of students admitted for Fall 2022 had a core GPA of 4.3-4.6, an ACT composite score of 29-32, and an overall SAT score of 1300-1430.
  • US News ranked 20 of FSU’s graduate programs and majors among the top 25 public universities last spring. Programs in education, business, law, and engineering all rose in the rankings, while disciplines such as statistics, chemistry, biology, and earth science also saw big gains.
  • The number of applications for graduate programs increased by 23 percent compared to the previous year, which contributed to the increasing number of students enrolled at the university. This year’s graduate cohort is expected to be the university’s largest with more than 2,900 freshmen.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that undergraduate and graduate students want to come to FSU because they know they’re receiving a world-class education that prepares them to compete and lead anywhere,” McCullough said.

Over the past year, McCullough has made building relationships with students across campus and attending student events a top priority. He has reinforced the university’s commitment to student success by investing in the academic advisory staff and by expanding FSU’s nationally recognized Center for Academic Retention & Enhancement (CARE), which offers programs and support for first-generation students.

McCullough also continued to prioritize recruiting the most academically gifted students to FSU, providing resources and raising $15 million in gifts to increase funding for Presidential Scholars – FSU’s top merit scholarship – and the cohort of the incoming Honors Program to double, the largest in school history.

Another top priority for McCullough is recruiting and retaining world-class faculty who will contribute to the growth of Florida State’s research and development company.

“We’re doing everything we can to retain our best faculty and reward those who work hardest and excel,” McCullough said.

That year, the university hired 155 new faculty members, which will position FSU to secure more research funding in the future.

The university’s research portfolio has grown to record numbers this year, and McCullough is working to expand the university’s external financial support, particularly from the National Institutes of Health.

In addition, the university has taken great strides to create new research initiatives in life sciences, medical research, health data science, aerospace and quantum science, and engineering.

President Richard McCullough tours the residences during move-in on August 19, 2021. (FSU Photography Services)
President Richard McCullough tours the residences during the move-in on August 19, 2021. (FSU Photography Services)

“One of my main goals is to build initiatives at this university by developing the infrastructure needed to attract more research funding,” he said.

An example of this is the new FSU health initiative, a partnership with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, which has the potential to transform healthcare, education and biomedical research in the region. In support of FSU’s health initiative, the Florida Legislature has earmarked FSU $125 million for a new academic health center in Tallahassee.

The state grant to FSU Health was part of FSU’s most successful legislative term in university history. In addition, FSU received $45 million in recurring operating funds, $6.6 million in FAMU-FSU College of Engineering recurring funding, $16.8 million in National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and approximately $90 million in equity funding for delayed maintenance on the Tallahassee campus. Panama City and FAMU/FSU College of Engineering campuses, as well as critical infrastructure upgrades at the Mag Lab.

Other notable accomplishments in McCullough’s first year as President include:

  • The FSU Foundation raised $95.7 million in fiscal 2022 – the second-highest year of giving in a decade, resulting in over $136 million in donations for university advancement.
  • The fundraiser for the College of Business’ new building, Legacy Hall, has been reinvigorated, and groundbreaking will take place on October 14th.
  • The university acquired the State Data Center, including the transfer of nearly 100 employees and approximately $200 million in expenditures to the Northwest Regional Data Center.
  • Resources have been invested to support the completion of the North Florida Innovation Labs, a community-wide collaboration that will host startups and growing technology companies in need of specialized facilities.
  • Significant investments have been made in faculty and staff, including salary increases and compensation structures.
  • An update of the university’s 2017 strategic plan was initiated. The Strategic Plan 2022 will focus on the University’s challenges and opportunities for the next five years.
  • FSU students founded about 100 new start-up companies.
  • Florida State Athletics maintained its position as one of the nation’s premier Division I programs. Women’s soccer won its third NCAA championship, and FSU Athletics finished 14th nationally in the Learfield Directors’ Cup, which measures the overall strength of NCAA programs.

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