Interview with New UF President, Dr. Ben Sasse
Why did you choose to come to UF?
UF is on a rocket-ship trajectory – and this Gainesville community is full of people who want to get even better and move faster, doing more for our neighbors and friends. We have the stature and size to have a change the future of higher education — and the world — yet we’re nimble and entrepreneurial enough to ask 101 fresh questions. Florida is an incredibly fast-growing and dynamically evolving state, with the world’s 14th largest economy and historic inflows of private investment. Pulling oars with 86,000 members of our Gator community is a truly glorious opportunity… Florida’s sunny skies and great beaches are a selling point too.
What do you like most so far?
This is a bighearted, warm, and welcoming place, as Melissa and I are grateful to have experienced in our first months. Gainesville offers the best of both worlds: a strong, vibrant community and top-notch quality of life. It’s a great spot to raise a family — but it’s also a crossroads for deep thinkers, big dreamers, and experts from around the world.
Any favorite activities?
This place is a wonderland. Being the son of a football and wrestling coach, we’ve spent a lot of time rooting for Gator athletics since arriving in early February. But our family has also loved learning about the culture — restaurants, museums, the Lake Alice bats (!), taking advantage of the world’s greatest, year-round outdoor ‘gym’ — and the people that make Gainesville a special place to call our home.
Also, football season can’t come soon enough.
What are your plans for UF?
I sincerely believe there will be more change to higher education in the next 20 or 30 years than there has been in the last century. UF is positioned to lead and drive that change — but we can do a whole lot more to unlock our potential. We need more applied and translational research. We need to direct disproportionate dollars and mindshare to zeroing in on the things that the university wants to be known for. We need to increase salaries for our best faculty — those who change students’ lives and change the world. We need to become the #1 university in quickly and nimbly forming partnerships that further our mission and the success of our students.
In the age of digital disruption, we need to invest more in AI and technology, including building a Silicon Valley of ag tech and ensuring that Florida’s workforce is full of life-long learners. I’m honored to be part of the team that gets to steward all these things, and much more.
Any final words for newcomers?
Welcome to our home: the most interesting university in the nation and America’s best college town. Join and invest in this community with us and all of Gator Nation.