State of the College Address

Dr. Jim Richey, President of Eastern Florida State College, delivered the following State of the College address to students, faculty and staff at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on the Cocoa Campus on April 9, 2014.

Good morning everyone!

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to join me today to discuss a very important topic.

The future of Eastern Florida State College.

This past year has been exciting as we’ve begun expanding our mission, transitioning into a state college and started offering our first baccalaureate degrees.

We have done this with strong community support, with people expressing pride in our college and in our faculty and staff.

We have also done it with a singular goal that will continue guiding us in the years ahead:  
We will focus our energy on providing more educational opportunities to students in today’s best career fields that will give them an excellent opportunity for employment upon graduation.

In doing so, we are playing a central role in improving their lives and the well-being of their families, and contributing to the growth and prosperity of our community and region.

Education is a special calling that requires passion and a selfless commitment to others. I see that passion and commitment in all of you every day, and I’m truly honored to work with you at this unique time in the college’s history.

Together, we are building the future in a dynamic way that has quickly made Eastern Florida State College a leading institution in Florida.

An institution that people look to for new ideas and inspiration that will put them on a path to success in an era of rapid and often uncertain change.

Through our collective efforts, we are fulfilling that mission in many ways.

Many major accomplishments

Here are examples from a long list of accomplishments to which all of you have greatly contributed:

First, we continue to have a strong state and national reputation, and it’s getting more pronounced all the time.

We currently rank 23rd nationally in awarding AA degrees among more than 1,200 similarly-sized colleges in the U.S.

We also have one of the top graduation rates in the Florida College System. A system that routinely ranks number one in the entire country.

In fact, we rank first in graduation rates among all community and state colleges in Central Florida.

We also rank 78th nationally in awarding Associate Degrees to members of all minority groups, with enrollment increases last year among African-American students, Hispanic students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency.

Furthermore, we rank 94th nationally in awarding one year Certificates.

Those are among the reasons why we are in the running for the prestigious Aspen Award, which will be given in 2014 to the top community or state college in the nation.

More than 1,000 colleges were nominated for the prize, and we have advanced to the second round of the competition in a group of 150 institutions for the second straight year.

That shows the very select company we are in. Our goal, of course, is to win the award and the $1 million prize that goes with it.

Bachelor Degrees milestone

We also achieved a major milestone last fall when we launched our first two Bachelor Degrees in Organizational Management, with tracks in General Business and Health Care Management.

We originally estimated there would be 125 students in the inaugural class, but we currently have more than 300 enrolled.

Most of them are working adults who are learning new skills and advancing their careers.

That shows the critical need we are meeting in providing four-year degrees, and doing it in a way that is affordable and in a format that allows students to stay close to home.

Everyone involved in our Bachelor Degree initiative deserves praise for the work they have done in making these degrees highly successful.

Another important first is our new Center for Teaching Excellence, which opened in January of this year.

Our faculty has always been our college’s strength, and the center is providing them with the resources to spur classroom innovation.

It is our faculty members themselves, who are sharing their experience and knowledge to help others learn and grow.

We are also doing more to help our veterans who have made enormous sacrifices on our behalf through our new Veterans Resource Center, which also opened in January.

We want to assist them in making the transition from military to civilian life at a time when more are returning from war and have decided to study at our college.  We are proud of the fact that approximately 875 veterans currently are enrolled at our college.

We are offering a wide range of expanded services to meet their academic and personal needs, with veterans saying the center is already proving invaluable in increasing their chances for academic success.

Increasing student outreach

Our increased outreach to students does not stop there.

To date, the EFSC Career Planning and Development Center has served more than 30,000 students through advising, career fairs, internships and other programs since it opened just over two years ago.  That is an amazing number if you just think about it.

The center’s business partnerships have also grown to 164 along with 89 internship programs.

That’s a strong achievement geared to getting students in the right career track from the very first moment they step on campus.

Equally valuable is the college’s commitment to community service with students performing 275,000 hours of community service in the Service Learning Program this past year.

The program enriches their educational experience, awakening them to the complexity of the world, and meets many critical needs in our community.

That has led to the program receiving from the White House the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor. Please accept my congratulations to everyone involved in this outstanding program.

In addition, our athletic programs are also on the rise and gaining national attention in many sports. This past year 6 out of our 9 Athletic programs were nationally ranked throughout their season.

Earning national acclaim were:

•    Women’s soccer team
•    Men’s soccer team
•    Our golf team
•    Our baseball team
•    Our women’s tennis team
•    Our men’s basketball program

Congratulations to our players, coaches and staff.

That prominence has drawn national collegiate and state high school championship tournaments to our new athletic complex on the Melbourne campus.

The tournaments have showcased the college to nationwide and statewide audiences on TV and the Web, and provided a multi-million-dollar economic boost to area businesses such as hotels and restaurants that benefit from the thousands of visitors attending the events.

Now, furthermore, you should also be aware that we continue devoting close attention to improving our digital resources, a must in our computer-driven age.

For instance, we now have an EFSC mobile app that allows access to a wealth of information, and a Titan Alert text messaging system that notifies everyone in an emergency.

This broad range of accomplishments — and again, it’s just a sampling — shows why we are on the road to reaffirmation in June with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

SACS re-accreditation success

As you are keenly aware, a SACS team visited us last fall and came away extremely impressed.

Dr. Jacqueline Claunch, chair of the on-site review team, had this to say about Eastern Florida: “This is a great institution. You’re on your way to re-accreditation.”

She also praised us for what she called our “great collaboration, strong focus on students, can-do spirit and culture of enthusiasm.”

Dr. Robin Hoffman, SACS Vice President, said “You’ve done an extraordinary job. I don’t see any obstacles to reaffirmation.”

Preparing for SACS has been, and remains, an enormous undertaking that involves multitudes of faculty and staff throughout the college.

Everyone involved deserves credit for a job exceptionally well done, along with my personal thanks for the long hours and late nights it took to successfully meet this challenge.

Keeping tuition affordable

With that said, we cannot rest on our laurels. Instead, we must keep moving ahead through our student-centered initiatives.

That’s why my top priority will be to continue holding the line against raising tuition in the coming 2014-15 Fiscal Year.

I have not recommended a tuition increase in any year since I became president in 2012 because I believe we must do everything possible to keep the cost of college affordable.

We are meeting that goal, with our tuition one of lowest in the entire Florida College System. An outstanding accomplishment in my mind.

Our students continue to face economic challenges in their personal lives, and an education at Eastern Florida that does not burden them with crushing debt is essential to their ability to graduate, start their careers and earn higher incomes.

And earning higher incomes is precisely the path our graduates are on.

For instance, an economic impact study we conducted last year showed that our Associate Degree graduates go on to earn an average $43,100 annually, and our Bachelor’s Degree graduates can expect to earn substantially more with an average salary of $61,800 annually.  The study also showed that our overall economic impact to the region was $1.1 billion annually.

In another step to help keep costs within reach, we will continue putting emphasis on growing the financial resources of the Eastern Florida State College Foundation.

The Foundation has had record fund raising years since 2012 and currently has more than $18.2 million in the endowment, the largest in the college’s 54-year history, with hundreds of thousands of dollars now available annually to help meet student financial needs.

Fundraising efforts now underway are expected to increase the endowment even further, providing more ways for us to help students study and graduate.

More four-year degrees

We are also poised to begin offering seven new Bachelor Degree tracks in August in another huge step forward for the college and our students.

These tracks, when added to the new Associate Degree and Certificate programs gives us 22 new Academic programs we’ve added in the last two years — an impressive feat that will positively impact our region for decades to come.

All the programs were designed with substantial input from regional businesses and industries whose leaders identified areas where they need skilled employees.

As a result, all the degree tracks are in fields where job growth is strong, and expected to get even stronger.

More than anything, our community tells me how important our new four-year, two-year, and certificate programs are because of the opportunities they now give families that did not exist in our community until the last few years.

The August 2014 new four-year degree tracks are:

•    Sales and Marketing Management, Public Safety Management

•    Advanced Allied Health, Biomedical Sciences

•    Computer Software Development, Computer Project Management, along with Computer Networking Systems.

The application for enrollment in these programs opened April 1 and runs through July 21.

We will continue working closely with our business partners to identify other areas where additional academic programs may be needed in the coming years to meet the demand for new jobs.

Elsewhere, we have additional important new technology projects underway to enhance learning and access to college-wide information.

The first is the Canvas Learning Management System that will replace Angel for online courses, with a pilot program starting this summer and the system scheduled to be in full use by spring 2015.

A subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Council led the process in selecting Canvas, with faculty deciding its easy-to-use format will be important in helping improve student performance.

The college’s Website is also being upgraded to become more user-friendly for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

And by August 1, you will also find the same information that’s on your desktop computer shown in a way that is much easier to see and navigate on your iPhone, Android, iPad or other tablet.

Furthermore, we are making a major upgrade in the T.V. equipment at WEFS-TV. The upgrade will give us full High-Definition broadcasting capability.

This is an exciting move, because it will allow for live coverage of college sporting events, graduations, political forums and a variety of other community events at the college. Other events could include the college’s concert choir, orchestra, theatrical plays and the Simpkins lecture series, among others.

This expanded live capability will showcase the college’s people and programs, and help solidify the college’s new identity as Eastern Florida State College.

To better understand these initiatives, you should know that WEFS-TV reaches a potential audience of 3.5 million viewers in 10 counties throughout Central Florida. This reach is approximately 18% of the total population of Florida.

And internally, the broadcasts will also enhance the connection to, and information about, the college’s faculty, staff and students.

Melbourne campus expansion

Now finally, we are working on a new facilities master plan for the Melbourne Campus that will call for the construction of new academic and student centered buildings and other improvements during the next decade.

The academic buildings will house our new Bachelor, Associate and Certificate programs in Health Care, STEM and Business disciplines in a campus-wide setting that resembles the collegiate environment of traditional universities.

We expect the plan to be completed later this summer and will share it with you when it is done.

The first element of the plan is the new Public Safety Institute that is now under construction and scheduled to open its doors in February 2015.

The building’s sleek design is an architectural model for what the campus will look like as new buildings are constructed in a similar style throughout the years.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this important thought:  Please realize that the work we are doing today will resonate far into the future, shaping the lives of our students and community well into the 21st century.

That is why each class we teach, each new program we start, each student we touch is so vitally important.

We have been entrusted to build Eastern Florida State College into an institution that uses the knowledge of its highly skilled faculty and staff to create a bright future for all.

That is my goal every single day.

It is truly my honor to serve as your President.

I ask that all of you continue to work hand in hand with me to make our promise of “Explore, Achieve, Succeed” a reality for our current and future students.

By doing so, we will have made an important contribution to our community, something we can all be proud of as we reflect upon our careers here at the college.

Thank you for being here today and for your dedication in making EFSC an outstanding institution of higher education.

Please enjoy the rest of your day!