PENSACOLA — During her annual State of Address to University of West Florida, President Martha Saunders reflected on what she described as some major accomplishments by the college and spoke of some "big goals" she plans for the 2019-2020 years.

Saunders said the university had managed to place in the top two, scoring a 94, in the Florida Board of Governors performance-funding model, scoring its highest point total in the six-year history of the metrics and finishing one point behind the University of Florida. She said the college as a whole improved in each of the 10 metrics, with spotlight improvements in 4-year graduation and student retention rates. In addition, Saunders said U.S. News & World Report awarded the university four Best Colleges award badges as symbols of excellence for ranking among the top schools in the south in Regional Universities, Top Public Schools, Social Mobility and Best Colleges for Veterans.

“You did that,” Saunders said. “This is a list of great accomplishments.”

Other accomplishments Saunders said she was happy to share was the UWF mechanical engineering students participating in ArgoTots, a program that assists young children with physical disabilities by creating modified vehicles. 

The UWF robotics team finished second out of 41 teams in the annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers SoutheastCon hardware competition, she said. UWF welcomed its third consecutive class of National Merit Finalists this fall, for a total of nine finalists enrolled since Fall 2017, and the Florida Student Association elected UWF Student Body President Zenani D. Johnson to serve as chair for the 2019-20 academic year.

Saunders also highlighted the University’s accomplishment of expanding its downtown presence with the UWF Center for Cybersecurity relocated and now operating out of a state-of-the-art facility in the Studer Community Institute Building and The Center for Global Online Learning and Development also established a presence in downtown Pensacola.

“Nobody did this alone,” Saunders said. “Every single thing we do that matters at all is a collaborative effort.”

For the future, Saunders said she wants to improve the graduation rate of the students to 100 percent, increase student retention rates and increase community efforts.

“We don’t need to stick close to shore. We can take on the big sea,” Saunders said. “We are not afraid to set big goals. The day before any major breakthrough, it was just a crazy idea.”