Paul Broadie 1

Paul Broadie, the president of Santa Fe College, is seen on campus August 27, 2020 during the school’s first week of fall classes.

Santa Fe College President Paul Broadie has faced the same challenges as any new leader — plus a global pandemic.

Almost immediately after the 52-year-old’s start at Santa Fe in February, he had to balance an introduction to the Santa Fe community while also keeping it safe. Six months in, he’s added an extra challenge: re-opening a school of 22,000 students under the threat of COVID-19.

“Business doesn’t stop,” Broadie said. “We can’t stop as an institution due to the pandemic.”

The college reopened on Aug. 24 in “Level 3” of its reopening plan, which includes remote learning for 75% of Fall courses, social distancing in place for on-campus instruction and mandatory masking. 

For in-person courses, the college reconfigured large spaces, such as its 606-seat Fine Arts Hall, into make-shift classrooms, spreading out students to account for a 6-foot distance, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“We wanted to be very intentional about the quality of the instruction that the students are going to receive,” Edward Bonahue, Santa Fe’s provost and a finalist in the presidential search, said. “If God forbid there’s another emergency, we’d be better prepared for it.”

Those accomodations benefit students who cannot readily access online courses, a “digital divide” Broadie witnessed as the college transitioned to remote learning last Spring.

To help them, Santa Fe awarded students more than $1.2 million in CARES Act funding, federal stimulus legislation passed in March, with $14 billion dedicated to higher education, according to the college. The remainder of its $3.9 million grant will be distributed over the award year. UF was allocated $31 million in funding through the CARES Act, $15.5 million of which it distributes through the Office of Student Financial Affairs.

It also established a laptop loaner program to provide access to technology, with 300 laptops available to currently enrolled Santa Fe students.

“We stepped up to help our students, to help them continue their studies and continue to be successful,” Broadie said. 

Broadie also worked on a professional development initiative for faculty to become more educated with learning platforms like Canvas and Zoom. He placed an emphasis on mirroring the quality in-person instruction, Bonahue said, with teachers learning more.

COVID-19 training has been added as a requirement for a student’s online enrollment, Broadie said, with the training informing students about the virus and how to keep themselves safe.

SF college

Christopher Raye, a psychology professor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., teaches a socially-distanced in-person class on August 27, 2020. Raye said everyone’s obliged to wearing masks in class.

For Broadie, integrating himself into the Santa Fe and Gainesville communities, which were new to him in February, has been key.

Broadie partnered with the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County to provide testing to a total of 343 faculty and students, but administration stopped short of mandating it, preferring to give students the choice. He has also focused on business dealings with the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, including building a relationship with GCOC president Eric Godet. 

“He wasn’t able to meet the community the way he would like to when you come in as a college president,” Godet said. “The goal is really to create a stronger region and better life together. Santa Fe plays such a critical role in making sure we have the talent in place.”

During Broadie’s time as president of both Housatonic Community College and Gateway Community College in Connecticut for the last five years, he partnered with state universities like Southern Connecticut State University to develop Associate to Bachelor’s programs. This allowed undergraduates to take Southern Connecticut courses while still attending Gateway Community College.

Joe Bertolino, SGCU’s president, thinks Broadie’s experience in his prior roles makes him well-equipped for the difficulties the pandemic presents.

“You’re not going to go wrong with Paul,” Bertolino said. “He’s the leader you want right now.”

Senior Joudi Ayroud, 22, the president of Santa Fe’s Student Government, found that leader in Broadie. In their roles of shared governance, she holds bi-weekly phone calls with him, who has consulted with her on the reopening plan.

“I don’t doubt his efforts,” Ayroud said. “Even with the challenges he’s facing, he’s still looking out for what’s best for everyone.”

Contact Corbin at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @CorbinBolies.

Staff Writer

Corbin is a Journalism major, with goals of ending up as a White House correspondent for the New York Times. He transferred to UF from Miami Dade College, where he served as an editor for their newspaper, The Reporter.