University of South Florida - Sarasota-Manatee

05/30/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/30/2024 06:35

Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook reflects on USF’s first year in the AAU

Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook reflects on USF's first year in the AAU

By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook knows the Association of American Universities well.

Very well.

Five members of the prestigious AAU, whose members include the top 3 percent of research universities in the U.S. and Canada and which USF was invited to join last year, hold prominent spots on her curriculum vitae:

  • The University of Wisconsin in Madison (an AAU member since 1900), where Holbrook earned bachelor's and master's degrees in zoology.
  • The University of Washington School of Medicine (AAU since 1950), where she earned her doctorate in biological structure and served as a postdoctoral fellow in dermatology, faculty member and research administrator.
  • The University of Florida (AAU since 1985), where she was vice president for research and dean of the graduate school.
  • The Ohio State University (AAU since 1916), where she was president.
  • And the University of South Florida, where she has held several positions, including as regional chancellor at USF Sarasota-Manatee since 2018.

It's an impressive resume not only because of the schools' AAU membership, Holbrook said.

"They are outstanding universities with faculty doing groundbreaking research in various fields, with commitments to serving the local, national, and global communities, and graduates who have gone on to make a real difference in the world. AAU membership didn't make those universities 'great,' but it is a recognition of the excellence they have achieved with their research and their scholarship."

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook, left, and USF President Rhea Law

That is why USF's admission to the AAU was so satisfying and thrilling, Holbrook said.

"We are in incredible company, and USF joining the AAU made our university even more impressive. USF belongs in the AAU. We have arrived, and AAU membership, along with the great research and student success we will continue to achieve at Sarasota-Manatee and other campuses, will give us the boost to rise to the next level and beyond."

Prospective new faculty members are noticing.

"The AAU membership was indeed a significant factor in making USF a more attractive option for me," said Tingting Zhang, who is joining the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at USF Sarasota-Manatee as a tenured associate professor this fall, after eight years at the University of Central Florida.

"As a faculty member, this affiliation means that research and grant efforts are significantly valued and supported. It aligns perfectly with my career goals, allowing me to further develop my skills and focus on innovative research," said Zhang who earned her Ph.D. in consumer sciences at Ohio State.

Holbrook said the AAU's imprimatur rewarded USF and its leadership for their relentless pursuit of academic excellence and innovation throughinvestments, hard work and bold risk-taking over the past 20 years.

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook speaks in August 2023 during a reception commemorating USF's admission to the Association of American Universities.

"But it is not just our honor, it belongs to the communities we serve, including here in Sarasota-Manatee where we are the only higher education institution with the resources and ability to bring from all three campuses so much knowledge and experience to address the most pressing challenges, like economic and workforce development, health care and cybersecurity. Our research and other academic work, some of which is with the support of our donors, is making an impact every day in our community, from our public elementary and middle schools to industries like hospitality, information technology, and risk management and insurance."

AAU membership, Holbrook said, gives all three USF campuses valuable contacts with peers at the presidential and provost levels, as well as those working in areas from research to communications and marketing.

About two-thirds of federal research dollars go to AAU membership institutions. "That's not because they are AAU members but because of the quality and significance of the research taking place on their campuses," Holbrook said.

AAU boosts faculty recruitment at Sarasota-Manatee campus

AAU membership has drawn new attention to and appreciation for USF as an academic powerhouse. At USF Sarasota-Manatee, Holbrook said it is helping recruit new faculty to campus.

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook visits with students during an education inquiry conference in April.

"They know who we are and what being in the AAU means when they consider their career options," Holbrook said. "Many of the faculty we are recruiting mention it and are really impressed that we've become an AAU university. They want to be on our campus because of it. They want to be at USF."

Laura Curran, who is coming to USF from Tulane University (AAU since 1958), where she was a postdoctoral research fellow, will join the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy at the Sarasota-Manatee campus in the fall. Curran said she was familiar with the high quality of USF's scholarship, research and teaching, as well as the mentorship she had received by "incredible USF faculty over the years."

Curran, who earned her master's degree in counselor education at USF and her Ph.D. in social work at New York University (AAU since 1950), said it was clear during her interview and visit to the Sarasota-Manatee campus that being in the AAU was a point of pride.

"This played a role in my decision to accept a faculty position here, not only because I wanted to work for a university that was striving for excellence and prestigious standing in the research world, but also because I could tell how proud other faculty were in their university," Curran said. "Since I knew that such a passionate and visionary research community is not something you see every day, I wanted to be a part of it."

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook speaks during a student research conference in March 2023.

Dane Minnick, who will be an assistant professor and hold the Evelyn Duvall Endowed Chair for Family Development in the School of Social Work at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, said AAU membership "made USF a priority university to explore during my job search."

"Membership in the AAU demonstrates that USF has a high-achieving academic community where innovative research and teaching are strongly valued," said Minnick who is coming to USF from Ball State University in Indiana, where he was director of the Center for Substance Use Research and Community Initiatives. "This environment aligns perfectly with my professional aspirations and my commitment to making meaningful contributions to the fields of social work and substance use research."

Another new faculty member said USF joining the AAU will open up new research opportunities for him.

"It will be easier to collaborate with faculty from other top universities that are also members of the AAU," said Vikas Soni, an assistant professor of finance in the Muma College of Business on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. "This means more chances to work on innovative projects and be at the cutting edge of my field."

Holbrook said AAU membership reaffirms USF's position at the top level of higher education institutions in the region. It also highlights for the Sarasota-Manatee area the advantages it has over other communities that don't have a renowned institution like USF.

One of the youngest members of the organization, USF was invited to join the AAU one year ago because of everything it already had achieved and the organization's confidence that it would continue to prosper, Holbrook said.

"AAU membership affirms our hard work and USF's commitment to research, and how we are planning to grow our research, including on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, in various fields like engineering, cybersecurity and the life and health sciences, as well as our highly regarded academic programs and national and international recognition," Holbrook said. "It is a powerful validation."

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