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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Santa Fe College chooses two finalists in presidential search


Nine months after Santa Fe College started searching for a new president, the school announced two finalists — Paul Broadie II and Edward Bonahue. 

Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser announced his upcoming retirement in February 2020 after 17 years of serving as the college’s president. 

Broadie and Bonahue were chosen from a group of semifinalists decided on in August, which cut more than 60 national applicants to seven. The two finalists were recommended by the Presidential Search Committee, comprised of three Board members, several faculty, local business leaders and a student. They will either be confirmed or denied by the Board on Sept. 17, said Santa Fe’s human resources director Lela Frye.

The Board will likely choose the next president on Oct. 15, Frye said. The final cut includes a two-day process with community engagement and interviews before Santa Fe’s Board of Trustees decide who the next president will be.

Students and faculty can meet the finalists during the two-day interview, Frye said. The process includes a public reception where members of the community are free to ask the candidates questions, meetings where they will greet different campus officials and another interview in front of the entire Board, Frye said. 

Broadie, current president of Connectitcut’s Housatonic Community College and Gateway Community College, said he’s excited to further familiarize himself with Gainesville during this last phase of the presidential search. 

He traveled to Gainesville a few days before his semifinalist interview to visit Santa Fe’s locations and familiarize himself with the town, he said. 

“I've toured the area, and I see some of the socio-economic challenges that exist,” Broadie said. “I think we can we can have an impact in uplifting communities and closing equity gaps. That's something that I've done here at Housatonic and Gateway.” 

That’s not the only transferable skill Broadie says he has. He’s also worked in academic affairs, student affairs and fundraising, three areas that he says will help with Santa Fe’s upcoming five-year “strategic plan” for academic and campus growth. 

“This is such an exciting moment for me career-wise,” he said. “It's a great institution, and should I have the opportunity, I’m willing to work day and night to fulfill the obligation that has been given to me.” 

Bonahue, Santa Fe’s current provost and vice president for academic affairs, is looking forward to “reintroducing” himself to his peers as a presidential candidate, he said. 

However, Bonahue also sees his established position at the college as an advantage to the school –– he’s already familiar with how the college operates and has preexisting ties with UF officials, which he says is important because Santa Fe transfers more students to UF than any other community college.

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Bonahue also wants to see the college through students’ eyes to see what they need to succeed, especially given Gainesville’s economic disparity and the nation’s competitive job market.

“We’re trying to be sure that there’s a really strong alignment between our students’ experience and all of the potential experiences we offer our students,” he said. 

Santa Fe’s Student Body President Kate Santacruz believes both candidates are qualified to be president, but she wants whoever wins to maintain the shared governance that Sasser encouraged. 

Santacruz said that Santa Fe has three main community groups –– Student Government, the College Senate, and the Career Service Council. All are free to voice their concerns to the president and the Board of Trustees.

“That’s how we get things done here, because we have a voice,” Santacruz said. 

Sasser said he feels a “touch of sadness” about retiring, but is ultimately excited to see what the college’s next leader will bring to the table. 

“What I’d love to see the new president do is to bring a whole new set of interests, a whole new set of ideas and get the college to the next level,” Sasser said. “Santa Fe is never, ever satisfied.” 

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