Looking Forward to the 2008-2009 Academic Year
On the eve of a new academic year, storm clouds are gathering–literally and figuratively. Tropical Storm Fay is threatening, and like most of these systems, she’s unpredictable and very inconvenient. There is also an economic storm raging. During the past year, we’ve weathered a series of significant budget reductions, and now, with the latest revenue forecasts, we are preparing for more of the same. And like the literal storm, there is not much we can do other than prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Tomorrow dawns on my seventh academic year at South Florida Community College. We normally initiate the new academic year with an all-employee meeting which tradition labels “Welcome Back.” We chuckle at this, since most of us haven’t been away–at least for very long. Like all community colleges, we’re a year-around operation, although, there are cycles of activity that define our efforts. Beginning a new academic year is a milestone we acknowledge and even celebrate. Tomorrow marks one of those occasions.
In my remarks to the faculty and staff, I like to report on What’s New? What’s Coming? and What’s Important for the future of our college? Please allow me to use this space to offer a summary of my thoughts on these questions.
What’s New for 2008-2009?
- The Career Academy – A partnership with the Highlands County School District to offer technical programs for highly motivated high school students on our Highlands Campus.
- Corporate and Continuing Education Center – A newly renovated state-of-the-art conference and meeting facility for training programs designed for employers and their employees
- Panther Activity Center, PAC, and Game Room – The mezzanine on the second floor of the Panther Gymnasium has been renovated to offer recreational and socializing opportunities for our students along with new office space for student organizations.
- Amphiteater – The outdoor space on the lake between the Johnston Student Center, Building H, and Building F features beautiful landscaping with areas for students and the community to gather, study, or enjoy their lunch.
- Student Art Gallery and Multipurpose Board Room – Located in the newly renovated Building F, this space will allow for exhibits of student and facutly artwork and a meeting room large enough to accommodate a number of functions including monthly board meetings.
- Digital Interactive Television – SFCC campuses and the Lake Placid Center are now connected by an all-digital interactive television system, allowing for higher quality class offerings at all locations.
- New Technology for Academic Programs – These include a new language laboratory, a new computerized testing center, and upgraded “smart” classrooms and laboratories.
- Improved Infrastructure – The Highlands Campus air conditioning system now has redundancy and expanded capacity to facilitiate preventative maintenance and to minimize outages.
What’s Coming in 2008-2009?
- Five-Year Strategic Plan 2009-2014 – During the coming year, we’ll upgrade our long-range strategic plan and prepare for the next institutional accreditation review which is scheduled for 2012.
- Lake Placid Center Renovations – $2.5 million in renovations including an elevator and science laboratory facilities will improve access and allow for the expansion of offerings for students living and working in the southern part of Highlands County.
- SFCC Auditorium Renovations – $10.5 million in renovations of this wonderful facility which offers so much educational programming and cultural enrichment for the people of Florida’s Heartland will begin in April.
- Multi-Use Path – Highlands County plans a recreational pathway connecting Avon Park, the Highlands Campus, and the new Memorial Elementary School.
- Campus Restroom Facilities – Several outdoor restrooms located on the Highlands Campus will be upgraded and modernized.
- Emergency Generators – It is important to provide uninterrupted power for critical systems at all of the SFCC Campuses, especially for hurricane shelters for people with special needs.
- Politics – It’s a presidential election year and we also have several constitutional amendments to consider.
What’s Important in 2008-2009?
- Keeping the Open-Door Open – With budget cuts, the universities are limiting their admissions, and with the Florida economy suffering, more students are seeking higher education opportunities at community colleges and SFCC.
- Focusing on Key Services – With limited resources, it is important that we conserve and prioritize.
- Transitioning from Community Colleges to State Colleges – The new law passed by the legislature during last year allows for an expanded mission for our institutions to better serve the higher educational needs of our state.
- Professional Development – Keeping on top of issues including safety and security and our various disciplines and fields-of-study requires constant effort regardless of limited resources.