New academic programs, business partnerships and equality efforts are all things Santa Fe College could see in the coming years with a new president set to take over in February 2020.
When current Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser announced his retirement in January, 62education professionals from coast to coast applied to fill his shoes. The college narrowed the search down to seven semifinalists on Aug. 19.
The seven were hand-picked by the college’s 18-person Presidential Search Committee, which was made up of faculty, local business leaders, Board of Trustees members and a student representative.
The semifinalists all have higher education experience and emphasized an eagerness to join one of the country’s top community colleges.
The committee will choose a round of finalists after interviews on Sept. 4 and 6. The new president will then be selected later this Fall.
Despite their different academic backgrounds, all semifinalists stress that students should be a top priority, along with improved programs that track the job market’s needs. The Alligator spoke to the candidates about their values and goals for the college.
Edward T. Bonahue
Edward Bonahue is the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Santa Fe College. Although he thinks Santa Fe is doing well, he said it could be reaching greater heights for the community.
Bonahue said he wants to understand how students — especially disadvantaged ones — experience classrooms, advising and financial aid so he can support them until graduation.
Santa Fe serves Alachua and Bradford counties, and both areas have persistent gaps in income and employment rates between whites and minority groups, according to the 2018 ALICE Report.
Bonahue considers this as a call to action to make higher education more accessible to people from all backgrounds to encourage business and economic development in these counties.
“One of the things that has to be new is a renewed focus on serving the entire community,” Bonahue said. “We can support students through whatever they’re going through.”
Andrew Bowne, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, said collecting student data is near the top of his wish list for Santa Fe.
He wants to know how students perform in the workplace after graduation, how they do after transferring to other colleges and if they’re satisfied with their preparation for the world, he said.
Bowne also participated in the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, a year-long professional development program, from 2017 to 2018. He said it helped him understand the importance of creating an atmosphere of equality, not only at Santa Fe, but in the surrounding community as well.
“We don’t exist without students and we don’t exist without students doing well,” Bowne said. “It’s not just about being an open access institution, it’s ensuring that students who come to Santa Fe College, that all students have an equal expectation of success.”
Paul Broadie II
Paul Broadie II, the current president of Housatonic Community College and Gateway Community College, both in Connecticut, said he cares more about quality than quantity.
“[Santa Fe] very closely matched what I’m interested in, and I’ll say what that is: adding value to the lives of students and enriching communities,” Broadie said. “That is something that I’ve worked my entire 28-year career in higher education to provide.”
Broadie said his past experience with campus expansion and equality initiatives makes him a good candidate to lead Santa Fe’s current endeavors.
In 2006, Broadie helped Orange County Community College secure funds to build an $86 million campus in New York, preparing him for Santa Fe’s campus expansion into downtown Gainesville. At Housatonic, he helped introduce programs promoting educational opportunities for single, working women with children or dependents.
BeverlyMoore-Garcia is the former president of Miami Dade College’s Kendall and West campuses, and said one of her main focuses is promoting entrepreneurship.
She believes that many students, despite major, will be self-employed or working in small businesses at some point after graduation.
“There’s not a lot of heavy manufacturing in Florida, and not in the Gainesville area, and there are only a handful of very large, large employers,” Moore-Garcia said.
She said learning entrepreneurship can be especially valuable in Gainesville because of ‘Opportunity Zone,’ which gives corporations tax reductions and investment benefits, making it easier to start new businesses.
Moore-Garcia also said she believes that technology is both creating and destroying industries at record speed; she plans to help students be prepared for whatever it brings next.
“We’re now looking at needing to train students for whole industries that aren’t yet created,” she said. “[We need] to really step back and think, ‘What can education really be in five and ten years?’ I think it’s going to be radically different from what it is now.”
Kevin Pollock is the former president of Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania. He’s worked at six different institutions over his career, which is why he values adaptability, he said.
“I think the first thing that anybody that comes in from the outside has to do is actually analyze and look at the situation of what’s happening there,” Pollock said. “Nobody from the outside could step right in and go ‘This is what you have to do’ without analyzing what’s working and what’s not working.”
He said he thinks a lot of Santa Fe’s current practices work well, especially the college’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion. He said he could help create ‘success models,’ which he worked on at Montgomery by establishing a 24/7 tutoring service with tutor.com.
“I just think that it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Pollock said. “When a school, an institution such as Santa Fe College comes up, it’s one that you really look at seriously.”
Bryan Reece, former president of Norco College in California, said he believes Santa Fe could become an educational trendsetter.
“They have success rates where 60, 70 percent of their students are graduating, and a lot of colleges throughout the country have 15, 20, 25 percent of their students graduating,” Reece said. “There’s some kind of expertise going on at Santa Fe College that we need to be conscious of and then give it away to all these other colleges that are struggling.”
Part of that expertise is the college’s dedication to student and community success, Reece said. He wants to continue these values by developing support systems for students from foster care, students of color and former veterans.
“Santa Fe College is unambiguously committed to student success,” Reece said. “I’m excited about working with people who have that same kind of approach.”
Carmen Simone, vice president and dean of the University of South Dakota Community College, said she wants to streamline what Santa Fe is already doing well instead of jumping into something new.
“I’ve been a leader in higher education for 25 years now, and I’m wise enough to know that you can’t bring new ideas and just impose them on an institution,” Simone said. “Those new ideas really need to come from a shared vision and collective teamwork.”
Simone said her vision for Santa Fe is to protect the college’s integrity, transparency and active communication. She wants to support Santa Fe’s Student Government and be available enough for students to feel comfortable approaching her anytime.
“We cannot possibly know how to serve our students without interacting with them,” she said. “I know that the students will tell us what they need for success if we just take the time to listen.”
Megan McGlone contributed to this report.