Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte told participants in today’s Florida State University (FSU) presidential candidate forums he brings something different to FSU.
He said he brings what is missing from FSU — 30 years in the specific environments like biomedical, engineering, advanced computer science, artificial intelligence, and environmental science, which he says are deficient at FSU.
“I’ve been in those areas all my life. I’ve specialized in the exact areas where FSU needs to grow,” he said.
Florida State has expressed a desire to climb from being in the top 20 to being in the top 10 of universities in the country. It also aspires to be a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
To reach those goals, the university must focus on areas where federal research funding is moving, he said.
As vice president for research at Tulane since September 2019, Piedimonte has overseen the university’s many research programs and, in the process, brought in millions of research dollars, including funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
An internationally known pediatric physician, Piedimonte also is a professor of pediatric medicine at Tulane. His background prior to Tulane includes multiple leadership roles in hospital administration, research and teaching at the Cleveland Clinic as well as positions at Case Western Reserve University, West Virginia State University and as head of Pediatric Pulmonology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami.
But he assured faculty and students that a more intense effort in the areas of FSU’s current weaknesses, does not mean sacrificing the areas in which FSU is strong, like the Humanities.
“I am absolutely not saying that biomedical is more important than Humanities, absolutely not,” he said. “The goal is to grow the areas that need help. To raise more money from the NIH is going to bring more money to the university.”
He said as a doctor, he believes in the doctrine of “do no harm.” He said should he become president of the university, he would not hurt the strong programs at FSU. He will “nurture the core of excellence” and “add the needed components so FSU will have more resources, more opportunities for its students, a better environment to learn and to find jobs.”
Piedimonte said, “The world is changing at an unprecedented rate” and FSU must be positioned for where the world will be in 10 years, not just where it is now.
He said his approach was a lot like that of hockey legend Wayne Gretskey who said, “Don’t look at where the puck is but where the puck will be.”
Piedimonte is also a strong believer in what he calls the “incubator system” where academia and corporations are brought together. He said it helps with funding, and helps students find jobs after graduation.
Additionally, he believes it is the job of the university president to work with those of all political persuasions. “I think the job of the president is to be able to reach across the aisle to basically coagulate all the resources that can be acquired for the university and bring the bacon home, frankly,” he said.
Piedimonte said one of his first meetings, if selected as FSU’s new president, would be with Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss what the State of Florida wants from FSU and what FSU can count on from the Legislature.
He believes this executive position involves “being able to talk to all parties who can help your institution.” He said he is open to talk with anyone who can help make FSU better.
Piedimonte also expressed a desire to meet with the head of the Seminole tribe to thank him for the tribe’s support of the university.
Piedimonte said the job of the university president, in a nutshell, is to represent FSU — from fundraising to bringing technological advances to the university, to working with students, faculty and the State Legislature.
“We are all here because we dream of a better world,” he said.
He said, if selected, he would “give his last drop of blood” for the university.
The other two finalists who emerged from nine candidates interviewed by the university’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee are Richard McCullough, vice provost for research at Harvard University and Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of North Carolina.
Each of the finalists participated in day-long forums which began Tuesday with McCullough, Bloutin on Wednesday, and Piedimonte today.