Lucky ’13: Florida State University had an outstanding year

In 2013 Florida State turned its focus to the teaching of critical thinking.

In 2013, Florida State University increased its national and state prominence, made strides in research capacity, brought the artistic works of one of the world’s masters to campus, supported students in a variety of ways and continued its tradition of competing at the highest levels of intercollegiate sports.

Here is a compilation of some of the highlights the university enjoyed over the past 12 months.

Achieving pre-eminence

On June 10, the Florida Board of Governors designated Florida State a pre-eminent research university, one of two in the state of Florida. The university will receive $15 million in additional state funding each year for five years as a result of this status and additional funding associated with meeting key benchmarks. The university intends to match the state’s financial commitment through increased philanthropy. President Eric J. Barron called the pre-eminence designation an “ignition switch” on plans to move Florida State into the top tier of public universities. Barron’s Top 25 proposal is designed to advance Florida State University to a top 25 national ranking among public universities.

Movin’ on up

Florida State continued its climb in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of public U.S. universities, jumping six places from No. 46 to No. 40 in just the past two years. U.S. News & World Reportalso ranked Florida State as the nation’s most efficient university for the second consecutive year, while Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named FSU one of the best values in the nation; the university jumped seven places to take the No. 19 spot on the recently released 2014 list.The university is highly regarded by the Military Times as well — Florida State’s College of Business was ranked No. 1 among public business schools and No. 3 among all of the 100 business schools surveyed by that publication in its “Best for Vets: Military Schools” inaugural ranking. In addition, for the second year in a row, Florida State was one of the nation’s top research institutions — and the best in the state — for producing student Fulbright scholars, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which published a list of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright students.

Supporting our veterans

The third annual Student Veteran Film Festival continued a tradition of bringing thought-provoking films and influential directors to campus for an event that addresses issues important to student-veterans and active-duty service members. Author and director Sebastian Junger attended the screening of his documentary “Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington,” which followed the late photographer’s career on the world’s battlefields. Also, Florida State learned on Veterans Day that it had been named one of the top veteran friendly colleges in the country by the Military Times.

A season to remember

The Seminole football team and coaches made the 2013 season one for the books, crushing every opponent it faced to go 13-0. The Seminoles won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game and earned the chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6 in Pasadena. Star redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston turns 20 years old that day, which makes him the youngest player to receive the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest honor. In addition to that 2013 award, Winston was named the ACC Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Florida State’s women’s soccer team reached the NCAA championship game but lost to the University of California-Los Angeles 1-0 in overtime Dec. 8. It was the first title game decided in overtime since 2002. Florida State finished an outstanding season 23-2-3.

Florida State’s indoor volleyball team reached the NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament for the third time in program history. Florida State finished the year 26-8 and set a school record with its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance.

Living the dream

The vast talent of Florida State’s all-women a cappella group the AcaBelles reached an international audience in 2013. Long respected in the a cappella world, racking up International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella awards, it was the group’s cover of Lorde’s hit song “Royals” that caused a media storm. The performance video has reached 6.7 million viewers on YouTube (and counting) and was highlighted by dozens of media outlets. The AcaBelles were then invited to sing the National Anthem at a Jacksonville Jaguars game — and the gigs keep coming.

3,691 miles per hour

The Florida State University-headquartered Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion unveiled a new state-of-the-art polytonic wind tunnel in November, making the university a major national and international research site for groundbreaking aerospace technologies and next generation space vehicles. The wind tunnel will allow some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers to conduct innovative aviation and aerospace experiments at speeds as fast as Mach 5, or roughly 3,691 miles per hour.

A Dutch master on campus

A two-week Museum of Fine Arts exhibition of original etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn shattered museum attendance records. More than 12,000 people saw “A Fortnight of Rembrandt: Selected Etchings from the Mower Collection,” which showcased more than 60 works from the private collection of philanthropists Tobia and Morton Mower of Baltimore. In addition to serving as a premiere cultural event for Tallahassee and surrounding communities, the exhibition provided opportunities to delve into the life and work of the 17th century artist through educational activities and workshops for students of all ages.

A focus on critical thinking

With employers increasingly saying that a capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate major, Florida State University is laying the groundwork for a proposed comprehensive, long-term plan aimed at enhancing the teaching of critical thinking in high-impact undergraduate courses and clusters of courses. The university’s Quality Enhancement Plan — required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as part of the comprehensive review process for the university’s reaccreditation — also aims to infuse a culture of critical thinking and learning campuswide through the sponsorship of awards, colloquia and other activities.

Cutting-edge research vessel

The RV Apalachee, Florida State University’s 65-foot-long research vessel, is the fastest ship of its kind in the region and has tremendous capabilities for research. Renting ships can cost more than $10,000 a day, and researchers at Florida State’s Coastal & Marine Laboratory can now conduct important fact-finding trips in the Gulf of Mexico to study the biologically rich area at a lower cost. The new ship makes Florida State one of the few entities carrying out crucial post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill research in the Gulf.

New leaders on board

Florida State welcomed four new deans, a new director of Athletics and one new vice president. Kyle C. Clark became vice president for Finance and Administration, succeeding John R. Carnaghi, who passed away in February. Clark arrived from Texas Tech University, where he served as vice president for administration and finance and chief financial officer. Stan Wilcox became director of Athletics, succeeding Randy Spetman. Wilcox came from Duke University, where he served as senior deputy athletics director.

Patricia J. Flowers became dean of the College of Music, succeeding Don Gibson. Flowers had served on the Ohio State University music faculty for 27 years. Peter Weishar became dean of the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance, succeeding Sally McRorie. Weishar came from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he served as dean of the School of Entertainment Arts. Judith McFetridge-Durdle became dean of the College of Nursing, succeeding Lisa Plowfield. McFetridge-Durdle came from Memorial University of Newfoundland where she served as dean and professor. In addition, Michael Delp has been named dean of the College of Human Sciences, succeeding Billie Collier, who is set to retire in February. Delp, who currently serves as chair of the University of Florida’s Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, will begin in March.