The University of Florida has opened a new office, “UF Office of Federal Relations”, in Washington, D.C. last week. The new office space is located in the Hall of the States Building, a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building.
UF’s vice president of government and community relations Mark Kaplan said that by opening its office in D.C., the school is following the model set by peer universities in the state and the Association of American Universities (AAU). Other universities such as Florida State University, Florida International University, the University of South Florida, and the University of Central Florida also have offices in the District.
“This is a natural step for us,” said Kaplan, adding that the new office would build stronger ties between researchers at UF’s Gainesville campus and agencies in Washington, D.C.
UF already has a strong presence in D.C. for attracting federal research funding. In 2016-2017, of the $801 million research funding, $327 million came from federal funding. After the amount reached $837 in 2017-2018, the UF officials have now set a target of surpassing $1 billion for research.
The University of Florida has signed a five-year lease for the new office with an annual rent of $75,000. It will be covered by the UF Research Foundation.
Kaplan said that the rent is more costly in D.C. than it is in Gainesville. “But our hope is in time the return on this investment turns out to be many times what we wind up spending in Washington. So far, we’re really encouraged by some of the early signs and some of the value of just being present,” he explained.
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Kaplan added that the new office will also function as a second home for UF students interning in the D.C. area where they can also engage with the university alumni.
“Having this office as an anchor is going to be energizing for folks and help reinforce those ties back to Gainesville,” noted Kaplan.
Last year, Sarah Mathias, who has previously served as director for 11 years in the University of California system’s D.C. Office, was hired as director of the UF’s office in D.C. Mathias will monitor the federal legislation and communicate UF’s position to legislators and the administration.