President's Biography

Judith A. Bense President of the University of West Florida

Portrait of President Bense

Dr. Judith Bense, having served at University of West Florida (UWF) for 28 years, became the fifth president of the University of West Florida on July 1, 2008.

Since taking office, President Bense has focused on growth, visibility, enhancing the student “collegiate” experience, and partnerships with the goal of making UWF a first choice university. She has built a solid network of community partners, identified regional workforce needs, increased student residents and athletics and strengthened academic programs so that students are prepared for future leadership.

She founded the UWF program of Anthropology/Archaeology in 1980, becoming the first academic chair in 2001. This program is one of the most robust in the country and focuses on Northwest Florida and includes a strong shipwreck program. Dr. Bense also established the Archaeology Institute in 1980 and served as its director for 20 years. She has authored five books and 17 chapters in books and professional journals. She was awarded more than 75 grants and contracts totaling more than $6 million. In 2006, she founded the statewide Florida Public Archaeology Network
(FPAN), which is headquartered at UWF. FPAN is the largest statewide organization dedicated to bringing archaeology to the general public in the United States. Bense continues to serve on the FPAN Board of Directors.

Dr. Bense has a strong commitment to the community and serves on the Greater Pensacola Chamber Board of Directors, Florida’s Council of 100, the President’s Coalition of Northwest Florida, and the Downtown Rotary of Pensacola. She is an active member of higher education organizations, including the American Council on Education; the Association of Governing Boards; the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities; Gulf South Conference; and serves in strong leadership roles with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In recognition of her academic and research achievements, Dr. Bense has received numerous awards and honors, including induction into the Order Isabella de Cathólica by King Juan Carlos of Spain for her research in the early Spanish Colonial period, the Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award for Historical Archaeology from the Society of Historical Archaeology and the Liberty Bell Award from the Pensacola Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. As President, Dr. Bense has been recognized as Partner of the Year from the Florida Small Business Development Center, Emerging Leader of the Year from the Pensacola Business Journal, 2011 Woman of the Year from the Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce, Sportsman of the Year from the Pensacola Sports Association, and No. 1in the 2012 Pensacola Power List from the Independent News.

Dr. Bense received her bachelor's degree (1967) and master's degree (1969) in Anthropology/Archaeology from Florida State University and her doctoral degree (1972) in Anthropology/Archaeology from Washington State University.