Tell us a little bit about Florida Gulf Coast University.
Florida Gulf Coast University is one of the youngest public higher education institutions in the State University System of Florida, having opened its doors to teaching and learning 26 years ago. FGCU was founded as a regional comprehensive university with sustainability as a hallmark of its campus design and academic priorities, and it is dedicated to serving the five-county area within the Southwest Florida community. Over the years, it has quickly expanded beyond its initial creation as a commuter school to appeal to students nationwide. Today, FGCU is home to more than 16,000 students and six colleges that administer a total of 63 undergraduate, 26 master’s and 7 doctoral degrees, not to mention more than a dozen certificate programs. Key to FGCU’s success is the continuous, positive feedback loop it shares with the workforce, which feeds innovation and the use of applied, relevant interdisciplinary research that benefits the community in a tangible way. At FGCU, we believe our expertise and educational opportunities appeal to everyone because education is a long-term investment in human capital, and human capital will drive economic prosperity and sustainability in our region and beyond.
What made you join the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and what would you say to other Florida leaders about the benefit of this partnership?
I am so honored to be part of the Florida Chamber Foundation, where I can serve as an advocate for the State University System of Florida and continue to elevate Florida Gulf Coast University’s impact beyond Southwest Florida. Since 1997, more than 41,700 students have graduated from FGCU, with most leaving the institution debt-free as they start their careers in the Florida workforce. Our graduates leave the institution prepared for the life ahead, which is a testament to FGCU’s connection to local and statewide employers and our ability to feed their needs in an ever-changing environment. Our involvement with the Florida Chamber is another avenue to connect these dots so we can best prepare our students for the journey ahead, and I would use my voice to uplift the Florida Chamber as I share the value FGCU has found in this partnership.
What are Florida Gulf Coast University’s particular areas of interest as they apply to reaching the Florida 2030 Blueprint goals aimed at making Florida a top 10 global economy by 2030?
As a regional comprehensive university with direct ties to industry partners throughout Southwest Florida, FGCU is on a continuous mission to enhance the local and statewide economies. Recently, the university was awarded $22.9 million through the U.S. Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge Grant for workforce development. In collaboration with the FutureMakers Coalition, we are providing programs and resources to the community in a manner that mirrors the Florida 2030 Blueprint goals. Specifically, we will recruit underserved workforce populations, particularly in rural communities, and provide them the support they need to overcome barriers or challenges that arise during training. This ensures they earn the credentials needed to obtain jobs and be successful in their careers. Through this model, we are also expanding our certificate programs, which includes micro-credentials and digital badges that are aimed at closing skills gaps in the workforce, as identified by employers. We expect to reach at least 2,400 underserved job seekers and place at least 1,700 workers through this initiative, which will contribute to the goal of making Florida a top-10 global economy by 2030. It is truly a win-win for everyone.
Click here to learn about the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Board of Trustees, which is uniting Florida businesses for good around the Florida 2030 Blueprint.