Patty Cox

Florida State University President Richard McCullough reflected on a year of unprecedented accomplishments and outlined ambitious plans in a sweeping State of the University address on Nov. 29.

Among the focuses of his speech were projects bringing high tech careers and health science services and education to Bay County and Florida State University Panama City.

McCullough highlighted the recent approval of a $98.4 million project by the Triumph Gulf Coast Board to establish aerospace and advanced manufacturing facilities in Northwest Florida. The university will devote resources and apply for federal contracts and grants to support this undertaking, he said.  

“This is the kind of project that will help move FSU’s research goals forward and contribute to the economic growth of the entire region,” he said.

The FSU Health initiative, launched in 2022, is moving forward at a rapid pace, McCullough said. Construction is underway on a new medical campus in Panama City Beach in partnership with TMH and the St. Joe Company. In addition, the university has secured land and is in the final stages of designing an academic health center that will be built on the Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) campus. 

“The state of the university is excellent — and climbing,” he said. “We are trying to do big and bold, audacious things here at Florida State University, and we will accomplish our mission because we’re united by passion and purpose, powered by hope and optimism, and driven by a competitive spirit to achieve our greatest aspirations.”

McCullough detailed the goals he presented to the Board of Trustees in September and emphasized the collective effort driving the university’s achievements before a standing-room-only crowd during an FSU Faculty Senate meeting at the College of Medicine Durell Peaden Auditorium on Nov. 29.


He underscored the university’s dedication to student success by spotlighting record graduation and retention rates and the quality of incoming students: 75 percent of FSU students graduate in four years, and 96 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year.   

“This university has built a foundation on student success, and we will continue to invest in it,” he said, adding that such investments play a pivotal role in recruiting and retaining some of the finest young minds in America. 

This year’s freshman class is among the best in the history of FSU, he said. Their average high school GPA was 4.3, average SAT was 1310, and 72 percent of them ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class.  

The university invested additional resources to enhance programming for first-generation students through the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement, or CARE, allocated funding to increase the number of Honors students and grew the Presidential Scholars Program – FSU’s premier undergraduate scholarship.  

“We continue to invest in advisers and life coaches to make sure that each one of our students not only succeeds but excels,” he said. “This is the hallmark of Florida State University.”  

McCullough also said the university will invest $10 million over the next five years specifically for doctoral student support as a part of the new Quality Enhancement Plan. 

He credited the faculty for their efforts to increase research expenditures to a record $400 million last year.

“This is incredible progress that the university has made, and it’s the faculty,” he said.

McCullough also challenged faculty to set the bar higher with a goal of $500 million in annual research expenditures and said that the university would continue to build its research infrastructure to lend support to this objective.  

“Our research mission is incredibly important as we define and make a difference,” he said. “Research changes the world. Research drives economies and changes the way we live.”


McCullough also celebrated success in the arts. He applauded the faculty’s commitment and outstanding quality and noted that both the dance and film programs are ranked among the top in the nation.  

McCullough acknowledged the importance of faculty excellence and highlighted a successful hiring year that brought more than 200 new faculty members to FSU. He expressed a commitment to hiring and retaining high-achieving senior faculty members, including National Academy members.  

He said the university has made great strides in building the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including the launch of Fast Start, a new process to expedite the movement of ideas from the lab to the marketplace.  

“This move is a significant leap forward in accelerating innovation and increasing the number of companies started at FSU,” he said. 

McCullough acknowledged the vital support of the Governor’s office, Florida Legislature, the Florida Board of Governors and community partners.  

The university received record funding last legislative session to support multiple academic and capital projects, including renovations of the Dittmer Chemistry Building and the relocation of the maintenance facility in the heart of campus that will free up space for new academic and research buildings.    

FSU is also strengthening its relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In partnership with the Tribe, the university launched the Native American and Indigenous Studies Center, which will serve as an intellectual and cultural hub for Native American and Indigenous research and artistic practice.  

McCullough reaffirmed the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence and recognized Ted Ellis, a nationally acclaimed visual artist who was recently named director of FSU’s Civil Rights Institute.    

The president praised FSU Athletics for raising the university’s national visibility and acknowledged the stellar seasons by the football, softball, volleyball and soccer teams and the addition of women’s lacrosse as a varsity scholarship program.    

To advance the university’s goals, FSU is preparing to launch its next comprehensive campaign in July, McCullough said.

“We are embarking on the most ambitious fundraising effort in our history,” he said. “This campaign will elevate Florida State to new heights of excellence.”   

In closing, McCullough reflected on the past year and expressed confidence in FSU’s trajectory. 
“We broke many university records. We’re dreaming big. We launched bold initiatives. And we continue to make audacious plans for the future,” he said. “And we will keep climbing. This is our time.”