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NEWS
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Clearwire funds will expand student programs and research
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By NINA G. WILLS
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Florida Atlantic University will use the $53 million it receives from leasing unused bandwidth to the technology company Clearwire to expand research and student access and update the aging infrastructure of the information technology department.

“We are an emerging research institution. That’s good. As the programs and university have grown, the infrastructure hasn’t. We have to make sure we have the foundation under our house so that we can be a first-rate institution,” said John Pritchett, chief academic officer and university provost.

The five-year plan, called the Strategic Academic Enhancement Initiative, allows the university to focus on three priorities: student access and success, research capacity, and information technology.

FAU plans to provide $480,000 each year for the next five years to foster student success programs. The Supplemental Instruction Program, a series of weekly study sessions led by students for students taking historically difficult courses, will receive some of the new funds.

Currently, there are 22 SI courses serving nearly 4,000 students. In five years, the program should feature 40 SI courses serving more than 20,000 students, university officials said.

FAU also will develop a master teacher program in all eight colleges offering undergraduate courses. New faculty will have the opportunity to receive mentoring from other faculty members to learn effective teaching methods.

“I’ve learned a long time ago that students learn differently. It’s important that faculty tune into this,” Pritchett said.

Another priority is university research, which will receive $7.6 million over the next five years to expand.

The funds will be used to recruit more faculty and graduate assistants, establish a fund to support patent applications and purchase laboratory equipment to upgrade and maintain the facilities.

“This is a long-term asset for this university. We all let out a collective ‘woo-hoo,’ ” said Nancy Blosser, chairwoman of FAU’s Board of Trustees.

The aging information technology infrastructure will receive a much-needed makeover, as well. The Information Technology department will receive $11.8 million over the next five years.

Numerous network switches that join multiple computers together and are vital to the workings of the IT infrastructure have exceeded service life. Each switch costs $80,000, and approximately 25 to 35 will be replaced.

“The impact is phenomenal especially during this tough time,” said Bob Stilley, member of the FAU Board of Trustees, referring to FAU’s $19 million in budget cuts in the last year.

Although there was no task force involved in deciding which areas or departments would receive the additional funding from the Clearwire lease, the same priorities selected by the budget task force were followed.

FAU received a $14 million payment from Clearwire on Oct. 1. Pritchett said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the newly acquired funds, noting that despite severe budget cuts, the lease money from Clearwire has provided FAU with an unusual opportunity to expand university goals.

“There’s nothing new in this plan. This is an opportunity to actually do these things that were ‘imagine-if.' " he said.

Added FAU President Frank Brogan, "While it is not an endless stream of revenue it is more than we would have expected.”

 

 
 

 
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