By Perla B. Crosby
Regarding your previous experience, what do you see as most beneficial to Seminole State College, and what are you hoping to bring to the new job?
I have many years of experience in higher education and community colleges including 13 years in California at Santa Monica College (SMC). There I served as Vice President for Academic Affairs where I focused on the quality of learning, equitable access and outcomes for traditionally underserved groups, completion of meaningful academic programs, and employment results for students. It was also a large, complex organization with many of the same opportunities and challenges as Seminole State. Among these opportunities is the need to equip our students for middle- and high-skill jobs in growth areas and to enable working adults as well as traditional students to begin their education, start in their careers, increase their skill levels, or fundamentally retrain. We know that as much as 65 percent of all jobs will require a post-secondary education by 2020 (Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.ES_.Web_.pdf). The Orlando 2030 report from the Orlando Economic Partnership highlights that the local economy is projected to almost double by 2030 and that “critical skills for the Orlando workforce moving into 2030 will need to be balanced, including both technological skills as well as social and emotional skills and the ability to adapt.” I bring insight and experience from a community college system in California that instituted pathways to careers for students, and an institution, Santa Monica College, that has transferred the most students of any California Community College to the University of California and other institutions for 28 years.
I value fiscal responsibility, strategic planning for the medium- and long-term, and shared governance and the ways in which it benefits a college. People support what they help to create, and I look forward to working with people across the college and with our legislature and our business, education, and community partners to encourage participation, engagement, and innovation.
What do you see as your role in the academia areas on campus, and how do you plan to reach out and help both faculty and students?
It is my role to lead the College and work with employees and the community to create a strategic vision for the future. It is my responsibility to create the best teaching and learning environment for students to reach their academic and career goals in collaboration with faculty and staff and students. I meet regularly with each employee group as well as student leaders to hear concerns, ideas for innovation and improvement, and ways in which we can increase and accelerate student success. In addition, I engage with our partners in the school district, the universities, legislators at the state and national levels, business and industry, and organizations to confirm that Seminole State College is well informed of our community’s needs and the ways in which the College can contribute to the community. It is also important for me to share the successes and accomplishments of the College and engender support.
Seminole State College is an integral part of the Sanford community, how do you hope to continue that role and possibly build it even further?
Upon my arrival at Seminole State it became clear to me that the college is committed to the Sanford community, and that the community is very supportive of the college. This strong relationship is certainly something that I want to continue and build upon. In the Sanford community Seminole State helps students reach their goals, provides business and industry with a trained talent pool, and helps local businesses thrive.
Our partnership with Seminole County Public Schools and the University of Central Florida is a national, award-winning model. Students in the Sanford community have a clear, high quality educational pathway from kindergarten to their careers right here in their own backyard. We meet regularly and are working with both partners to plan for the future, resolve any issues that may arise, and align curriculum and even technology to ensure a smooth transition for students. Seminole State continues to work closely with Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) to create pathways for our students throughout their school careers and into higher education. Upon successful completion at Seminole State, a student can qualify for DirectConnect™ to UCF for his/her bachelor’s degree.
Supporting our region’s employers with qualified graduates is one of Seminole State’s strengths. The College works with more than 300 business partners on our advisory boards and with organizations such as CareerSource Central Florida. Our Advisory Board members keep us up to date on industry trends, and they advise us on curriculum changes and internship opportunities so that our graduates are ready to excel in their careers.
Much like the responsiveness of our academic programs to the workforce demands of Central Florida, The College’s Center for Business Development has a number of ways to assist economic development efforts in the region.
Our Small Business Development Center provides no cost, one-on-one consulting to small business owners as well as seminars on a variety of business issues. The Center’s Business Incubation Program provides a nurturing environment and low-cost office space for emerging businesses. Clients engage with other entrepreneurs in a collaborative atmosphere with access to on-site business consultants.
The Center’s Seminole Advisory Board Council assists owners of existing businesses who want to move their companies to the next level. Companies are matched with a volunteer board of advisors to assist with planning for the next phase of growth.
Our Alumni Association, whose members work and live in our community, also offer support and advice for our programs and our students. The members volunteer at College events, plan networking and social events, create awareness in the community, and encourage other alumni to volunteer and join the association.
What are some of your short-term goals in your new position, and what are some of your long-term goals? How important is it for you to build a legacy at Seminole State College?
My short-term goals include the completion of two construction projects on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus. The L Building project includes remodeling the first and second floors and creating a plaza in the south courtyard. Construction began in June 2018 and is expected to be complete this summer with the facility opening to the public during the Fall 2019 academic term.
Last month work began on the remodeling and renovation of the existing H Building to create the new Athletic & Fitness Wellness Center. The 40-year-old, building, which has been vacant since 2015, will be remodeled and re-configured in two phases to accommodate today’s needs of the Athletic Department and the wellness/fitness needs of the College’s students, faculty, and staff. The project, which will occupy a reconfigured 26,000 square foot space, will be developed in multiple stages as part of an overall project design and build plan.
We are also embarking on a new capital planning process considering all of the College’s facilities and sites across Seminole County. Concurrently I have instituted a new strategic planning process to chart and develop our course for the next 5 to 10 years and beyond. This process includes contributions from those inside our college community, our educational partners, and our community and business partners and will be completed in 2020.
In addition, we continue to innovate and research best practices and trends to enable us to provide better service and a high-quality education to all students, regardless of their personal circumstances or career aspirations.
Outside of your professional capabilities, what are some things about yourself that you want people to know? What are some of your passions outside of the classroom?
One of my personal passions has been helping current and former foster youth make a successful transition to self-sustaining adulthood. For several years I have been a Board member of First Place for Youth, which is a national organization headquartered in California that serves this population through stable housing, education, and employment assistance. First Place is a national leader in this work, providing excellent services to youth as well as increasing awareness and changing perceptions.
I have always been a swimmer. I was a synchronized swimmer from age seven through college. Now I enjoy swimming at the Lake Mary YMCA for fitness, and I have met some great people there to swim with.
I know you are still getting settled, but how has the move gone so far? What are some things you are enjoying about your new location and job?
The move has gone well. I have to give credit to my husband, Mike, who took care of moving our household cross country from start to finish, allowing me to focus on my work at the College. I really enjoy the sense of place and community in Seminole County and Central Florida. There are many things I loved about being a resident of Los Angeles, but the sheer volume of the region can allow that sense of place to be diminished. For example, there were more than ten open access community colleges within a 15 or 20-mile radius.
The community here has been so welcoming of me and Mike. We have felt right at home from the beginning because of that warm welcome. It has been a joy getting to know people. I have been impressed by the ambitions and aspirations of the Central Florida region to grow and create broad-based prosperity for all. I want Seminole State College to continue being a leader in those efforts, ensuring the citizens of Seminole County and Central Florida are equipped to enter the workforce and excel as new opportunities emerge.
My favorite thing about my new location and job are the people that I get to work with every day. They are deeply committed to our students and to the College, and they bring a level of professionalism to their work that
Photo by Kelly Clore with kabiki photography