McCullough sets sights on Top 15 ranking in first State of the University address  

Florida State University President Richard McCullough reflected on successes of the recent past and laid out a bold vision for the university’s future. (FSU Photography Services)
Florida State University President Richard McCullough reflected on successes of the recent past and laid out a bold vision for the university’s future. (FSU Photography Services)

While delivering his first State of the University address Wednesday, Florida State University President Richard McCullough reflected on successes of the recent past and laid out a bold vision for the university’s future.

“We, as a university, are competitive and continue to strive more and more toward excellence,” McCullough said. “That competitive spirit that we have here at Florida State University reverberates throughout our classrooms, our labs, our studios and on the field, the pitch and the gym. We are Florida State, and we are moving forward in excellence.”

McCullough’s address, delivered virtually to the FSU Faculty Senate, was a reminder of his list of ten top priorities approved by the Board of Trustees last fall. Taken together, McCullough said those goals move toward the same ends: FSU’s ascension to a Top 15 perch among public universities and membership in the Association of American Universities, which counts 64 American universities on its roster.

“That is an audacious goal for us — and eventually we’d like to get to the top 10,” McCullough said.

To achieve that goal, McCullough said FSU will continue to focus on the factors that have driven its recent climb including improving metrics related to perceived academic reputation, expanding faculty resources and financial resources for students and building off FSU’s No. 16 national retention rate and its state-leading graduation rates.

McCullough said the university needs to expand its research footprint. That effort will include broadening its efforts to attract research funding, particularly funds from the National Institutes of Health, and searching for nearly 170 new, full-time, tenure-track faculty members.

“One of my major goals is to build initiatives at this university and the infrastructure and support needed to attract more research dollars,” he said.

McCullough said there is a huge opportunity to increase the university’s support from the NIH, and FSU will focus on building capacity in life sciences, medical research and health data sciences.

Creating opportunities for faculty and students to bring their research to the marketplace is also one of McCullough’s priorities. That means increasing the number of university-based startups and building off FSU research output.

“Both the provost and I have a background in starting companies, and we will champion that with vigor,” McCullough said.

McCullough said that creating new businesses would be transformative for Tallahassee and the state, helping to keep graduates in Florida and provide a greater return on the state’s investment in education at FSU.

He touted the No. 19 national ranking of the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship and said the college would be instrumental in enhancing the entrepreneurial culture at FSU.

“Strengthening our commitment to entrepreneurship and expanding our research programs are part of FSU’s strategic plan,” he said. “They are core to our mission as a leading research university — a place of innovation and discovery where we pursue knowledge, solve problems and create a better world.”

McCullough said the university’s efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion are also key in this mission.

“We have work to do in our effort to become a community that is fully committed to inclusive excellence at all levels,” he said.

The university is actively working on the recommendations from the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion with implementation teams that report directly to McCullough.

“These efforts are just one part of building a community where everyone feels safe, valued and supported, and everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” he said.

McCullough said he’s been meeting with lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to remind them of FSU’s strong return on investment and looks forward to a successful legislative session.

Signs of that investment and of FSU’s continued progress can be found throughout campus too, McCullough said, including the construction of the new 116,000-square-foot Interdisciplinary Research and Commercialization Building and the new student union, which is set to open its doors later this year.

“This transformative project will result in a magnificent facility that will make a huge difference in the lives of our students, and it sits in the heart of campus,” McCullough said.

McCullough also reiterated the importance of partnerships with local entities and pointed to university’s recently updated agreement with the City of Tallahassee, which will lock in costs and double the amount of clean, solar-generated electricity FSU can draw from the city for the next 15 years. He said that the university expects campus to draw 30 percent of its electricity from solar power by early next year.

“That’s remarkable for a university,” he said.

McCullough closed his address by thanking the university community for welcoming him and his wife, Jai, into the FSU family and for the amazing support they have given them.

“I came to Florida State University because I believe this is one of the very best public research universities in the country,” he said. “We’re building on FSU’s incredible momentum by tapping into our competitive spirit and relentlessly pursuing our goals.”

“Together, with the First Lady, we will work tirelessly to make them happen.”

To view President McCullough’s address, visit