by David Ball
Former Jacksonville Mayor and current University of North Florida President John Delaney outlined some of the key achievements and future goals for the college at Friday’s meeting of the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
UNF is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and is experiencing unprecedented success, but Delaney still couldn’t outshine the start of football season, as the very first question asked was if and when an Ospreys team would ever hit the field.
“Our athletic program costs about $5 million, and we’d need another $5 million to do football,” Delaney explained. “It also tends to water down your academic mission.”
The very next question was to get his take on the current state of city government, asking “how come you (as mayor) made it look so easy?”
“It’s a hard job,” said Delaney, only briefly staying on the subject. “The city will get through this little bump.”
The rest of Delaney’s time focused on UNF, particularly its place in the educational landscape between large research universities like Florida State and University of Florida and smaller teaching institutions like Jacksonville University.
“We don’t want to be all things to all people,” he said. “We want to pick eight to 10 programs and compete with the best schools in the country.”
Delaney touted UNF’s jazz music program, now ranked No. 1 in the country just ahead of FSU, and he said the school’s transportation and logistics program is No. 13 in the country. Delaney said UNF ranks fourth among Florida colleges in regards to SAT and GPA scores for incoming freshmen.
“It has now become a destination college,” he said. “We are after these niche programs that we can put a lot of our resources into ... and find programs that will help drive our local economy.”
Delaney said he still needs to focus on marketing these programs better, referencing school jazz concerts that fill up only half the auditorium with attendees. He also said more emphasis should be on online and out-of-classroom courses.
Also at the Downtown Council meeting, the members selected Jepp Walter of Redline Services as their Small Business Leader of the Year. Organizers also took final sign-ups for the Chamber’s Leadership Experience Jacksonville program, which is the first of three trips that will take members and guests to Charleston, S.C. and several cities in China.