UCF presidential candidate discusses safety, allocation of school funds at first finalist panel


Hundreds gathered Friday to hear UCF presidential finalist Matthew Wilson discuss his plans for UCF’s future during an open forum in the Pegasus Ballroom in the Student Union on UCF’s main campus.

The Presidential Search Committee selected four presidential finalists on Feb. 23. Each candidate will have a day to give a presentation addressing UCF’s motto of “Scale x Excellence = Impact” and participate in an open forum with the UCF community.

Wilson said he wanted to make a big impact on UCF with a focus on increasing international rankings and student success.

“The potential that I see in this university is just incredible,” Wilson said.

After his presentation, UCF students questioned Wilson about funding and campus safety.

UCF student Julia Hirsch asked Wilson how he would help keep students safe on campus.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is Hirsch’s alma mater and she said she was affected by the Feb.14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

Wilson said communication is key to addressing these situations, and he would implement more drills on campus to ensure the safety of students. Wilson did not specify what kind of drills would help with campus safety.

When asked by a UCF student about funding for Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Latino needs, Wilson said he would have a constructive plan to make sure funds coming in are being allocated to the right areas.

HSI is is an institution participating in a federal program designed to assist first-generation, majority low-income Hispanic college students across the United States, according to UCF’s website.

UCF associate professor for the Nicholson School of Communication Jennifer Sandoval said she was not satisfied with Wilson’s answers during the forum and has serious concerns about his candidacy.

“An appropriate candidate for our presidency needs to understand the complexity of an institution in a right to work state with a union, needs to know that a Hispanic Serving Institution is more than a percentage, and that community safety means no guns on this campus,” Sandoval said in a Monday email.

Wilson has been the president of the University of Akron in Ohio since October 2016.

“I made my wife a promise that we would return to Florida one day, and I’m hoping this is my opportunity to do that,” Wilson said.

Wilson and his family lived in Florida about 20 years ago while he was starting his legal career in downtown Orlando, according to his curriculum vitae, which is similar to a resume.

Some of his accomplishments at the University of Akron include a $42 million one-year budget turnaround, working transparently and closely with faculty and taking a student-first approach, according to the same source.

Joshua Boloña, the speaker of the UCF SGA Senate, asked Wilson about his leadership philosophy.

“Whether it’s the president of UCF or the janitor that’s keeping this place clean and all of us healthy, we’re all on the same level of importance,” Wilson said.

Leadership is all about collectively doing things together, he said

“I had the opportunity to participate in a meet and greet with him afterwards with a few other student leaders, and we all had nothing but positives to say about him; I’m a big fan,” Boloña said. “We’re just going to have to see how the other three candidates are.”

Wilson hopes to build bridges, bring people together and procure more resources for UCF, he said.

“I would strive and make it my goal to increase the impact here at UCF,” Wilson said. “No one’s a number, everyone’s a family member.”

The remaining presidential finalists will have their open forums this week from 11 a.m. to noon in the Pegasus Ballroom in the Student Union on UCF’s main campus.

  • Dale Whittaker will present Tuesday.
  • Mark Kennedy will present Wednesday.
  • Suresh Garimella will present Thursday.