JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The fall semester kicks off at The University of North Florida with new students, a new sense of campus vitality, and a new president who brings his passion for learning to the forefront of his strategic plan to put the Ospreys back on the road to success.
Dr. Moez Limayem, President of UNF, says he’s already hit the ground listening to students, faculty, and shareholders to learn about what needs he can fulfill during his presidency. He shares a little about his academic journey, which has taken him across the globe.
“My passion for education and the value of education started at a really young age,” Limayem says.
He describes growing up in Tunisia, a country in Northern Africa, where his father was an elementary school teacher and principal.
Despite their humble means, Limayem’s father helped students, after hours, prepare for a standardized national exam, using the light of a single oil lantern.
As a young boy, he asked his dad why he was taking their only lantern to help other students in a poor village, leaving his family with just candles to light their home.
His father said that those village students need it to change their lives and the lives of their families so that they can go to high school, and college, and become great citizens of the community.
Limayem says his father instilled in him a sense of helping others to learn, for them to elevate themselves and their communities.
“So what he was talking about is student success at its best,” he adds. “Growing up with these values that emphasize the importance of education - that really shaped who I am, and it shaped my love for education and student success.”
Excited to meet his newest flock of Ospreys, President Limayem met with students and their parents on move-in day.
“I’ve learned so much, and now I really understand the expression, ‘drinking from the fire hose’ because I’m truly experiencing it every single day,” he says.
President Limayem shares some interesting insights about UNF’s freshman class.
“I was amazed by the stories of our students - the incredible stories. Many of them are coming from different, difficult economic backgrounds,” he says. “We just welcomed the largest class in the history of UNF, with more than 3000 students. They’re the highest achieving class also, and 36 percent of them are first-generation college students - so no one in their immediate family has a college degree.”
As of the fall of 2021, the total number of undergraduate students was 14,263 and the number of graduate students was 2,427. That is less than the number of this year’s first-year class alone.
President Limayem says that’s why his listening tour is so important and still ongoing.
“To see them; hear their stories; see their smiles on their face; the hopes for their future. It is the most refreshing and energizing thing you can ever see. Because after all, our job is to improve their lives; give them a great education; prepare them for hopefully an incredible job, at graduation shortly after, with a competitive salary. So that they can be successful as a professional, but also as a citizen of this great community and this great country,” he says.
President Limayem says his goal is to improve student retention by providing mentorship programs to help students focus on their success.
The University of North Florida’s new president says the school is one of the best-kept secrets in the country, and he intends to get the secret out by, “telling our story better.”
“UNF is Top 6 in the country in the most efficient university, so you see we’re doing so much with so little. What UNF spends to graduate one student is the lowest, top six, in the country,” he adds. “That’s a great thing. It’s a very good thing to be efficient and to make sure we’re efficient, but also it in a way, limits what we can do in the future without an injection of additional resources, so we are committed to work.”
He says the university uses less amounts of money to graduate its students, however, President Limayem plans to inject funding into UNF to support a growing student body of graduates, and to get the best education he says they deserve.
With his record of bringing in millions of dollars in funding for universities as part of his strategic plan, the new president is using his background in business to show investors why UNF deserves funding.
The president says that graduates often live and work locally, serving their communities, and that’s why their education is a good investment.
He plans to attract Jacksonville businesses, shareholders, and philanthropists to focus on the success of the up-and-coming Osprey community in a mutually-beneficial way.
“At UNF, we’re number one in the state in terms of graduating students that actually stay in the state, and help companies in the state of Florida,” he says. “So you see there - We are the best return on investment for our tax-payer money.”
According to President Limayem, UNF’s alumni and their degrees go on to help Northeast Florida flourish.
A vital part of his strategic plan is to show investors that Osprey graduates are genuine assets to their local community.
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