UF Announces Details of Engineering Station
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs told technology executives in Sarasota on Monday that a planned Innovation Station here will funnel Engineering students and graduates into internships and jobs in the state and make Florida more competitive in keeping the jobs of tomorrow. The opening of the extension campus for UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, formally announced formally on Monday, will be the first of six to eight similar programs in Florida and was sold as a major ‘game-changer’ for the university and this community. “So many times over the past year, I have seen students graduate from the University of Florida and leave for Atlanta or the West Coast,” Fuchs said. “This is critical for the community.”
The university within the next six months plans to open an extension in Sarasota that will serve as the first of many satellite efforts for the Gainesville-based school. The announcement on Monday comes after 18 months of negotiations, the approval of $1 million in economic incentives by Sarasota County, a $980,0000 grant from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and an additional $63,000 grant by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, along with an additional $1 million provided by the University of Florida.
At a special luncheon hosted by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, details of the effort were presented to community leaders and investors. Technology CEOs in the region celebrated the deal, which they said will help local companies recruit talent from the strongest engineering program in the state of Florida. “We already naturally pull engineers from UF,” said Trey Lauderdale, CEO for Voalte and a UF graduate who in 2004 earned his bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering and then earned a master of science and engineering from the university’s Warrington College of Business. Among other benefits, Lauderdale said having an extension campus in Sarasota will raise the visibility of local companies like Voalte among engineering students and provide the opportunity for students to get internships and jobs at local companies instead of hunting for work out of state.
Teri A. Hansen, CEO for the Barancik Foundation, said the effort should benefit all levels of education in the region, with UF officials contributing the science, technology, engineering and math programs in the county as well. “When I went to school, I had no interest in engineering in large part thanks to the way is was taught at the time,” she said. “Today, I would be more interested thanks to the exciting work being done in our schools.” Having the Innovation Station here should boost education from kindergarten upward, she predicted.
Fuchs said the Sarasota program will only be the first major outreach of the College of Engineering. UF’s land grant programs, historically used to open extension centers for the Agriculture program, will be used in coming years for other colleges that can enhance economic development in the state of Florida.
Sammy Abernathy, dean of the College of Engineering, said Sarasota will be a good location for the extension campus because it has a climate that will nurture the industry. She predicts there will eventually be 50 to 60 students doing internships and co-ops arranged through the Innovation Station, and also noted that by being involved in K-12, it will drive more students toward engineering fields. “This is a very holistic approach to being a talent pipeline,” she said.
Dr. Kent Fuchs, University of Florida president, opened a similar facility in New York City while provost for Cornell University.