Meet Osburn

Kelly Tyko

When he’s not in his office on the third floor of the Administration Building or traveling around to FAU’s six other campuses, Interim President Richard Osburn is probably on the tennis court.

Not some fancy-schmancy country club tennis court either. Osburn serves up on the tennis courts on FAU’s Boca Raton campus.

Osburn isn’t the first FAU president to break a sweat regularly. Former President Anthony Catanese ran about 20 miles weekly.

“I play tennis with George Sparks [FAU’s Director of Bands],” he says. “We just go to have fun.”

Fun is something Osburn knows all about.

At the annual State of the University Address on September 5, Osburn’s playfulness showed.

“In my absence from the Provost’s Office this year, the position of Provost and Chief Academic Officer is being filled by Ken Jessell, who is actually wearing two hats, neither of which covers the bald spot,” Osburn joked.

At the end of Osburn’s address, he gave FAU a challenge. He said, “I apologize for being a little hokey, but that’s just the way I am — I want you to have fun. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in the details of what we are doing that we forget why we are doing them.

Don’t forget why you came into this profession because this is where you can really make a difference and have fun at the same time,” Osburn said.

Osburn spoke openly with the UP about his goals as FAU’s interim president and what he hopes to accomplish this year. Read on:

UP: How different is this job from your last job as FAU’s provost?

Osburn: Totally different. There are different responsibilities. As provost, I had responsibilities primarily within the academic unit. Now I have to deal with it all.

UP: What is your biggest goal?

Osburn: My goal as interim president is to make sure this university moves forward on all fronts – not just academics, but certainly including academics.

We want to develop new academic programs along with other aspects such as fundraising, new building, and completing the next five-year master plan.

UP: What kind of academic programs is FAU adding?

Osburn: We’re working on a new Ph.D. program in biology. We’re also working with Harbor Branch [an oceanographic program]. We’ve done a lot of the programs on our list, such as the multi-media journalism program.

UP: What about sports?

Osburn: I want to make sure we’re moving forward with our athletic program. I love sports and I love what we have done here with our athletic program. I want to make sure we continue to move forward to Division I as fast as we can.

UP: Any pet projects?

Osburn: We’re forming a coalition between the community college and the Broward School District. We are looking to identify critical shortages of teachers and looking to identify ways to get people into teaching. We’re trying to create some sort of signing-on bonus, like coaches get, for becoming teachers in shortage areas.

Another pet project is the new marching band. I’m really excited about this. I think a lot of people will be impressed with what they see. I think that it will increase spirit, attendance, and fun at our football games.

UP: Is FAU planning any new campuses?

Osburn: We’re looking at one in Vero Beach with Indian River Community College. Now, we’re looking at the need and the funding to expand and build a campus in Vero Beach. IRCC wants to work with us and build a joint-use facility, probably something similar to what we have in Port St. Lucie. Vero Beach is so rapidly growing and what we’re trying to do is be a partner of that whole area as it expands.

UP: Are there any other campuses being planned?

Osburn: Not right now. We’re certainly interested in providing more access in our service area.

UP: With the state and country’s tight budgets, how is FAU affected?

Osburn: It makes us have to stretch dollars more. But we will have an excellent year. We will increase our class sizes and we had an increase in our budget. We will maximize our dollars to offer more sections, more scholarships, more assistantships, and more seats for students to take classes. We also want to increase financial aid for all of our students. We are trying to increase graduate stipends.

UP: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role as interim president?

Osburn: To keep the university on track and to not stop the expansion.

President Osburn’s advice for getting good grades and having a good year:

1. Get involved.

“I think that getting involved in areas where you think you have interests can open so many doors. Whether it’s writing for the school newspaper or doing something like playing an intramural sport or joining a fraternity or a sorority – whatever you think you like, do it.”

2. Work on time management.

“One of the most critical things students face in college is time management. There’s no one to say turn off the television, or to do your homework, and it’s easy to put off and procrastinate. Even good intentions get buried sometimes.

“One of the things I’ve always told my classes is to look at going to college like a full-time job. You’re going to go to work for 40 hours a week. That translates to eight hours a day, five days a week.

“If you’re taking 12 credit hours, you put in two hours for each hour you spend in class. That’s 36 hours a week that you’re spending in class or studying. And then you have an extra four hours to do other things, like read the newspaper.

“If you do that, you’ll probably do pretty well. If you shortchange that, you won’t do as well.”

3. Go to athletic events. Go to cultural events.

“That’s a little different than getting involved. Take advantage of education outside of the classroom. How many students actually go to art exhibits? When required to go, they enjoy the exhibit.

“We have an outstanding theatre department that produces wonderful plays. Go to plays. Get caught up in the excitement of team spirit. It will enrich yourself.”

Here are some highlights from Osburn’s State of the University address:

“FAU is going to remain very much on the move during this coming year. The story of this university’s growth is almost the stuff of legend, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that the engine that drives phenomenal growth is phenomenal people … FAU now employs almost 4,000 people, which makes us the largest employer in our region.”

“On headcount, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that when late enrollment figures are added in, our overall enrollment will almost certainly reach the 25,000 mark for the first time in the University’s history. But, as we have been saying that for three years now, the bad news is that nobody is going to believe we really made it. When we do reach 25,000, we will be 6.2 percent over last fall’s enrollment of 23,537.”

“Distance learning is growing by quantum leaps, with enrollment increasing dramatically over the last three years. Last year, enrollment tripled with more than 17,000 degree-seeking FAU students attending class via their home, office or laptop computers, or by videotape.

“This semester, departments within the College of Liberal Arts merged with their sister departments in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters and the Charles E Schmidt College of Science. This merger demonstrates once and for all that Florida Atlantic University is one university working to serve all of the people of South Florida, and I think that is the most important message that we can give to the public at large.”

“An addition to campus that has prompted a loud cheer from faculty, staff and students is the five-story parking garage located just north of the University Center. The 1,038 spaces in this long-awaited facility are available on a first-come, first-serve basis; the only requirement is that you have to have an FAU parking decal, but there is no extra charge to park in the garage. If it’s raining, you can walk to the Live Oak Pavilion and the University Center under a covered walkway. Are we talking luxury or what?”

“The John D. MacArthur Campus at Jupiter is beginning its fourth year of operation with an overall enrollment of 2,103, a total that just about equals last year’s record-high … This semester, ground will be broken for a new library and a new classroom building that will provide a special home for the College of Education on the Jupiter Campus. Also, planning has begun for the Harriet L. Wilkes Building, which will house psychology classrooms and laboratories.

“At FAU’s northernmost campus, the Treasure Coast campus in Port St. Lucie, enrollment has been spurred by the opening of the beautiful $22 million Indian River Community College-FAU joint campus last year. This fall’s figures show a total head count of 838, for an increase of 13.2 percent over a year ago.”