While Dr. David Szymanski hasn’t stepped on campus since being named University of North Florida’s President-Elect, he has already heard THE question: when will UNF add football?
“I don’t think you can get a football team together in 24 hours,” a laughing Dr. Szymanski said via Facetime while traveling in Texas. “It’s certainly a point of discussion I have heard on campus.”
First Coast News interviewed Szymanski less than 24 hours after UNF’s Board of Trustees elected him as UNF’s sixth president.
“Obviously these things are big complex decisions [regarding football]," Szymanski said. "You don’t just run out there and decide whether to have a football team over time. I am sure there will be a lot of discussion about that.”
Football aside, filling the shoes of current out-going president John Delaney will be a complex task on its own.
Delaney will retire on May 31. And before Symanski can be official, he must first negotiate with UNF’s Board of Trustees and receive approval from the Florida Board of Governors (the group that oversees Florida’s public universities.)
Szymanski comes to UNF via the University of Cincinnati (UC), where he serves as the dean of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business and professor of marketing. He says that experience has helped prepare him for what lies ahead at UNF. UC is a smaller university compared to the much larger Ohio State.
“It helps you build perspective. You realize there are flagship institutions in every state. That doesn’t mean you can be excellent,” Szymanski said. "[The goal] is to be a premier university.”
“I tell people [our goal] is to be uniquely North Florida.”
Szymanski’s resume includes more than just academic qualifications. He serves on numerous corporate boards and played college basketball player and tennis. That experience - he said - helps his decision making.
“It teaches you how to get along with others and perseverance. It teaches you how to think about success.”
Szymanski will face some tough decisions, including the complicated matter of limiting class sizes.
“The notion is I think you can grow with quality if you need to grow. First of all that is a question, do you want to grow and do you want to become a bigger institution? I don’t think there is an answer at this point in time,” Szymanski said.
“What you can do though is grow with quality. You can have programs that are high touch and grow programs where the students are high quality and you can to strive for academic excellence.”
And his message to prospective students, parents, alumni and the Jacksonville-community: “We won’t be like any other institution and they won’t be like us.”