FSU president points to surge in faculty hiring, moves to double research grants

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  • Richard D. McCullough
    American chemist
Florida State University President Richard McCullough meets with local reporters during his first day on the job at FSU's Westcott Building Monday, August 16, 2021.
Florida State University President Richard McCullough meets with local reporters during his first day on the job at FSU's Westcott Building Monday, August 16, 2021.

Richard McCullough was confirmed as Florida State University’s 16th president in June. In his four months in that role, he’s remained focused on priorities that got him selected.

Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, introduced McCullough at the Economic Club of Florida luncheon Wednesday by speaking to his career accomplishments, including being the owner of several businesses and former vice provost for research at Harvard University.

“I've had the opportunity to speak with him and we are so fortunate to have him at the helm as the current president of Florida State University,” Murdaugh said.

The event was McCullough’s first public address beyond the campus community.

A goal to almost double grant dollars and a surge in faculty hiring

His focus was further improving research opportunities and funding and expanding on FSU’s entrepreneurial culture. He emphasized focusing on building up these areas would not only be good for the school, but it would be beneficial for the community

“One of the reasons that grant money and research money is so important to the community is that these dollars circulate directly into the community if we build a strong research program at Florida State University,” McCullough said. “We will continue to pump money into the region in ways that you may not know about.”

The FSU president started with acknowledging FSU’s rank as one of the Top 20 public research universities in the nation. His goal is for FSU to achieve membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, a group of 66 universities that have advanced research programs. Funding plays a large role in this plan and can help boost the economy by hiring people who will then put their money back into the community.

More: FSU ranked No. 19 in U.S. News & World Reports 'Best Colleges 2022' guidebook

McCullough says their research programs, like the High Magnetic Field Laboratory housing the world’s most powerful magnets, has brought a tremendous amount of funding already. Last year, FSU received more than $275 million from federal, state, and other sources.

But, McCullough said that is nowhere near enough.

“We ought to be $500 million, not $275 million,” McCullough told the gathering at the University Center Club at Doak Campbell Stadium. “If you look at Ohio State University, they bring in $684 million in research. The University of Pittsburgh, $850 million in research. So, we ought to be at $500 million.”

A reason for this, he says, is the lack of faculty. The number of students at the university continues to increase, but the amount of faculty lags. McCollough has begun to rectify this issue by authorizing 150 new faculty searches, the “largest number that we've ever had.” He believes this will further help his goal of bringing more research dollars to campus.

Fostering entrepreneurship in students and faculty

His other goal is building on FSU's strong success in promoting entrepreneurship. In 2015, FSU received $100 million from Jan Moran and the Jim Moran Foundation to create the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship. Now in its fifth year, it was ranked No. 1 in Florida, and No. 19 in the nation in terms of education and entrepreneurship by the Princeton Review.

The lobby of FSU's Jim Moran Building, 111 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.
The lobby of FSU's Jim Moran Building, 111 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.

“We're already seeing some things happening. There's the new company called NightCap that gained national attention with a little thing you put over your drink, so somebody doesn't spike it in a bar,” McCullough said about the company formed by Michael Benarde, a 2019 graduate of the college and his sister, Shirah Benarde. “They were on Shark Tank and they're off to a really nice start. There's some other really cool companies that we're seeing that are really being driven by the students.”

Back story:

McCullough plans to encourage students and faculty to start their own businesses and create a policy for students to be confident in starting one. His hopes are that these startup companies will attract workers and other big businesses to come to Tallahassee.

McCullough ended with reminding everyone why FSU is a magnet for students everywhere.

Florida State University President Richard McCullough meets with local reporters during his first day on the job at FSU's Westcott Building Monday, August 16, 2021.
Florida State University President Richard McCullough meets with local reporters during his first day on the job at FSU's Westcott Building Monday, August 16, 2021.

He proudly told attendees that FSU won the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities 2021 Degree Completion award a couple of weeks ago. The award is recognized as one of the most prominent student success awards in the country. He also said there has been a 75% increase in applications this year and that the school has no equity gaps.

“I hope that you will go away with this and say that Florida State has had tremendous momentum. We're doing a good job and the future's incredibly bright for the university,” McCullough said. “There's so many opportunities to take the university to the next level and I'm so fortunate to be a part of that.”

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Contact Democrat writer Dejania Oliver at DOliver1@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU president focuses on research, entrepreneurship in address

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