Sen. Ray Rodrigues recommended to take up state university chancellor position

by | Aug 29, 2022

  • The state university system Board of Governors unanimously recommended Sen. Ray Rodrigues as the successor of outgoing chancellor Marshall Criser 
  • Rodrigues, a senator not seeking re-election, was named a finalist in August alongside Emory University Candler School of Theology Chief Business Officer Dr. Lori Cromwell 
  • The Board of Governors ultimately pointed to Rodrigues’ prior experience with the Florida university system, giving him the edge over Cromwell 
  • In the Senate, Rodrigues served as an influential lawmaker in the scope of education regulation

Following a comprehensive search, the Florida state university system Board of Governors’ chancellor search committee unanimously recommended Sen. Ray Rodrigues to serve as the next chief executive officer for the State University System of Florida.

Rodrigues, who is employed at Florida Gulf Coast University, has served in the Senate representing Lee County since 2020 and is not seeking re-election.

Rodrigues has made an imprint on the state’s higher-education system through legislation he has pushed over the past few years.

In the Senate, Rodrigues successfully passed a Postsecondary Education bill that annually assesses the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at each Florida College System institution and State University System university through a nonpartisan, objective, and statistically valid survey.

During the 2022 legislative session, Rodrigues was also a sponsor of a higher-education measure (SB 7044) that allows the state university system’s Board of Governors to create a new system of reviewing professors’ tenure.

Another part of this year’s higher-education law will significantly alter the way state colleges and universities are accredited, by forcing the institutions to change accrediting agencies at the end of each accreditation cycle.

“I am gratified that we had two highly qualified candidates to engage with today. The conversation was robust, the candidates well prepared,” said Brian Lamb, chair of the Board of Governors.  “I am excited to advance Mr. Rodrigues to the next phase of this process.  He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Florida’s higher education system that I believe will serve our students, faculty, staff, and institutions well.”

The Board is tasked with replacing Marshall Criser, who announced at the end of June that he will be stepping down from his role upon the end of his contract at the end of the calendar year. Criser has served as Chancellor since 2014 and oversaw an increase in state appropriations for operations by $1.258 billion (29 percent), a four-year graduation rate increase to 59.3 percent  (a 17 percent increase), and an increase in research expenditures by $358 million, representing a $7 billion economic impact.

The Chancellor serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the State Univerisity System of Florida (SUSF), the second-largest university system in the country, which includes Florida’s twelve public universities and serves over 430,000 students, with revenues of $14.3 billion.

The Chancellor’s role is comprised of responsibilities including but not limited to regular interaction with university boards of trustees and presidents, the Florida Legislature, and the Executive Office of the Governor on issues of critical importance to the State University System of Florida.

“The selected candidate will be a proven leader with executive-level experience in education, government, business, or non-profit settings. A track record of involvement in complex higher educational and political environments is essential to effectively serve the Board of Governors as the System continues on a path toward greater coordination, collaboration, and prominence,” the Board stated.

Dr. Lori Cromwell was selected as a finalist alongside Rodrigues, but the search committee pointed to Rodrigues’ experience with the university system as to why he was given the edge.

Cromwell currently serves as the Chief Business Officer for Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, according to the university’s website.


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