University of South Florida Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox is stepping down next year, the school announced Monday.
USF will launch a search for his replacement this spring and hopes to have a successor named after the university hires a new President. Wilcox will stay on as provost and assist with the transition for “as long as is needed,” according to the school.
Wilcox has worked for USF for nearly 20 years and has served as provost since 2008. Wilcox said in a letter to the USF community he was stepping down to spend more time with his family but plans to stay in a faculty role.
“Serving as provost and executive vice president at USF since January 2008 has been the greatest privilege of my professional career,” Wilcox said. “As I reflect on where we are today, I can say with the utmost confidence that USF’s position has never been stronger, especially given our gains in student success, faculty accomplishments, and, most recently, consolidation. Our national and international stature is stronger than ever, which is a proud testament to the remarkably talented people at USF — our faculty, staff, leadership, students, alumni, donors, and friends of the university.”
Under Wilcox’s leadership, USF has increased student access, opportunity and diversity from 61% White enrollment in 2011 to 47% in 2021. The school has also increased its academic profile among incoming freshmen from an average 3.86 GPA and 1188 SAT score in 2011 to a 4.18 average GPA and 1297 SAT score in 2021. The number of National Merit Scholars reached an all-time high in 2021 at 62.
Further, USF’s freshman retention rate climbed from 85% in 2010 to 90% in the 2020-21 academic year; increased its four-year graduation rate jumped from 36% in the 2007-11 cohort to 62% among the 2017-21 cohort; increased its six-year graduation rate from 52% to 74%; improved the two-year graduation rate among transfer students from 34% to 48%; increased annual graduate degrees awarded from 3,013 in the 2010-11 academic year to 4,271 last academic year, an all-time high; and decreased average school costs for a four-year degree from $14,490 in the 2013-14 academic year to $1,810 in 2019-20, accounting for tuition, fees and books, minus financial aid.
Other accomplishments include leading the state in the percentage of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded in “areas of strategic emphasis” and increasing the number of USF students winning competitive national scholarships from three in the 2010-11 academic year to 55 in 2020-21.
USF is now ranked 46th in the U.S. News and World Report among public universities, from No. 101.
Wilcox also created the highly successful Provost’s Scholars Program, allowing high-performing undergraduate students to accelerate their bachelor’s degree to graduate in three years. Students selected for the program stay career-focused and ready for post-graduation plans by completing three pillar experiences — study abroad or study away, research or professional development, and leadership or service. Since it began in 2011, nearly 400 students have participated.
“I wish to sincerely thank Provost Wilcox for his leadership, commitment and tireless contributions to the University of South Florida’s rise in stature among the nation’s top public universities,” USF President Rhea Law said. “During Provost Wilcox’s tenure at USF, he has demonstrated an extraordinary dedication to student success and academic excellence. His comprehensive approach to student success has made an impact on hundreds of thousands of students.”
Law is serving as interim President until the school hires a permanent replacement for former President Steven Currall, who stepped down in August.