Former President Wetherell creates center to promote best practices in higher education

T.K. Wetherell

He may have stepped down as president of The Florida State University last January, but T.K. Wetherell’s passion for higher education is as strong as ever.

Wetherell, now president emeritus and a professor in the university’s College of Education, has formed a new research center, the Center for Higher Education Research, Teaching & Innovation (CHERTI), with the express purpose of promoting best practices and scholarly research in the area of higher-education administration, particularly within Florida’s community college and state university systems.

“Florida State University’s College of Education has long been one of the nation’s most progressive public graduate research schools in the field of higher education, especially as it relates to the community college system and the evolving state college system in Florida and nationally,” Wetherell said. “This center will afford FSU the opportunity to continue to fulfill its mission as a leader in higher education.”

Higher-education administration is a field in which Wetherell has more than a passing familiarity. He served as president of Florida State from 2003 to 2009 — a period marked by tremendous growth in terms of campus construction, significant improvements in academic performance and retention among both incoming and returning students, and the opening of the nation’s first new medical school in a generation. Prior to that, he served as president of Tallahassee Community College — one of the top producers of associate degrees in the United States — from 1995 to 2001. He previously worked as president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, an association that coordinates and promotes educational opportunities and programs in Florida’s private colleges.

His interest in education policy is longstanding. Before working directly in higher education, Wetherell served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1980 to 1992, including two years as House speaker. In his capacity as a legislator, he worked extensively on appropriation issues, particularly those involving higher education in Florida. Wetherell brings to CHERTI the unique experience of a president’s perspective from a comprehensive community college and a flagship state university.

“The next few years are going to be especially stressful for colleges and universities considering the economic conditions,” he said. “I hope the center will be able to assist finding solutions to these and other challenges.”

With CHERTI, Wetherell looks forward to sharing the insights he gained over more than three decades in higher education, as well as providing opportunities for graduate students and other faculty members to conduct innovative research in the field. His goal is to promote scholarship on a broad range of issues important to the higher education community.

Specifically, CHERTI is currently or will soon be working in the following areas:

  • Community Projects — The center will partner with community organizations that are involved in projects consistent with its mission by providing opportunities for graduate students to gain experience and to receive some funding. CHERTI will focus on community-college partnerships in particular.
  • Competitive Research Projects — Working with the College of Education and the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, the center will conduct an annual research competition. Selected works will be posted on the CHERTI website and submitted for publication, and the student selected will receive a $1,000 honorarium.
  • Data Analysis — The center will work to secure grants and enlist graduate students who can assist researchers in collecting data or performing data analysis in areas involving higher-education administration.
  • Distance Learning — Working through the center, FSU faculty and students have been involved in the development, administration and evolution of various distance-learning graduate courses and programs.
  • Fellowships -Short-term fellowships are made available to assist faculty and students in researching specific issues relative to a student’s need, the university’s mission, departmental needs or requests from the community that are consistent with the mission of the center.
  • Grants — The center will sponsor highly targeted research efforts. Research proposals submitted to the center that address CHERTI’s unique mission will be considered for small grant support.

In addition, Wetherell said, a key goal of CHERTI is to provide graduate students with a variety of professional options relative to their program of study. The center will coordinate and in certain cases provide seed or matching funds for selective internships.

“As a graduate of the College of Education and a benefactor of its faculty’s dedication to the advancement of public education and opportunities for research, assistantships, internships and other options for students, especially at the graduate level, this is a personal opportunity for me to give back to a college that gave me so much,” he said.

Faculty members or students interested in conducting research through CHERTI, or in any of the center’s other opportunities, can fill out an online contact form or e-mail Wetherell at