Student Success Programs
As part of its reaffirmation of accreditation, SFSC developed a quality enhancement plan (QEP) called the Guide to Personal Success (GPS). The GPS encompasses a new and comprehensive student orientation, a First-Year Experience seminar, and a Teaching Excellence Institute. In November 2011, the Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges on-site visitation committee informed SFSC that its QEP topic development process was a SACS best practice and that members of the college should share its methodologies with other institutions. Further, members of SFSC were encouraged to present the GPS at an upcoming SACS Summer Quality Institute or SACS annual meeting. The GPS was launched collegewide in fall 2012.
The college has developed partnerships with local entities, enhancing the educational experience of its students. In partnership with the Highlands County School District, SFSC established the Career Academy of South Florida State College. Opened in August 2008 on the SFSC Highlands Campus, the Career Academy allows 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students to take required high school courses and selected college technical courses through the SFSC Division of Applied Sciences and Technologies. Students graduate and are prepared to enter the workforce and to continue their education. By the end of the Career Academy’s first year in operation, the students had significantly improved their grade point averages from an average of 2.2 at the start of the school year to over 3.0.
SFSC’s Academic Foundations program began in fall 2011 and helps students improve in the areas of language and mathematics. The program benefits students by filling in the gaps in student skills, gaps that can detract from a student’s success in college-level English and math classes.
Remedial programs help at-risk high school students prepare to enter college and the workforce. The Summer Bridge Program, in its fifth year last summer, helps high school students improve their proficiency in reading, writing, math, and student success skills while educating them about the local culture and economy.
Since 2003, SFSC has worked in partnership with Heartland Workforce to promote Panther Youth Partners, a program that helps disadvantaged youth acquire employability skills, receive tutoring and mentoring, and benefit from financial assistance.
New and Expanded Programs and Services
On June 21, 2012, SFSC was approved by SACS to offer baccalaureate degrees. As of Fall Term 2012, residents of SFSC’s tri-county district were able to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM) at home. The BAS-SM is intended for those fields of study related to workforce development that could articulate with existing Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees while maintaining academic excellence, convenient access, and affordability for SFSC’s students. SACS will review the BAS-SM program for accreditation in March 2013. The need for baccalaureate and advanced degrees in the college’s service district was identified in the college strategic planning process. College administration is considering the development of bachelor’s degree programs in nursing and in elementary education.
In September 2012, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded SFSC a $900,000 grant to be used over three years to launch a bioenergy education program. The program will prepare students in Highlands, Hardee, and DeSoto counties for jobs in the rapidly growing biofuels and biomass industry. SFSC students will be able to focus on two areas of study in the bioenergy education program. Biofuels technology will prepare individuals to work in a biorefinery facility, and biomass cultivation will prepare them to work in agricultural production. The bioenergy education program will be offered through the Associate in Science degree in Biofuels Technology and Biomass Cultivation, short-term certificates, and a dual-enrollment track for high school students. Students will be able to take pre-requisite classes toward the degrees and certificates as of January 2013.
The college’s Career Development Center provides free services to students and the public in career exploration, assistance in locating college and career training programs, and searching and applying for jobs. It also provides SFSC students with real-world learning experiences through its cooperative education program, internships, and work-study opportunities. Members of the Career Development Center actively participate in the college’s new GPS student orientations. For easier access and visibility, the Career Development Center was moved to the first floor of a high-traffic student services building. This move was a result of DAG findings.
To meet the needs of its rural community, SFSC expanded programs to include radiography in 2007, practical nursing at the Hardee Campus in 2004, dental hygiene in 2003, dental assisting in 2003, paramedic certification in 2003, and auto collision repair at the DeSoto Campus in 2003.
The SFSC University Center continues to flourish, offering bachelor’s and some advanced degrees in partnership with Florida colleges and universities. From 2002 to 2009, enrollment grew from 39 students to 356, 14 majors offered through 2+2 partnerships with 10 universities. In 2009-10, the center’s first doctoral degrees in Education and Leadership were offered through Barry University.
Excellence in Education
In November 2011, members of the SACS Commission on Colleges visitation team considered SFSC’s submission toward reaffirmation of its accreditation and conducted an exit interview with Dr. Norm Stephens and college administrative staff. Its news was that both the off-site and onsite SACS committees had found no recommendations. One member of the committee stated that it was the first visit in 20 years that he had left a college campus with no recommendations. The lead SACS evaluator said, “It’s not just your allegiance to our principles and that you meet every one of them, in our opinion, but that you believe in them and you live them.” Official reaffirmation of the college’s accreditation came in June 2012. The reaffirmation continues SFSC’s accreditation for 10 years, through 2022. The college was first admitted to full accreditation as South Florida Junior College in December 1968.
Two years in a row, SFSC has been among 120 out of over 1,200 community colleges across the United States to have been deemed eligible for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The colleges named to compete for the Aspen Prize were selected using publicly available data on student outcomes: graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates, and equity in student outcomes. In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Completion microsite reported that SFSC was ranked number one in Florida in at least one significant measure of excellence—the graduation rate of its students.
Almost all SFSC programs achieve 100 percent pass rates each year on state and national certification examinations. In 2005, the dental assisting and dental hygiene programs received seven-year accreditation from the American Dental Association. In 2002, the State Board of Nursing granted the nursing program full accreditation for five years, the longest period it allows without additional review.
SFSC’s recruiting efforts, reputation, outstanding faculty, and community support have made it the college of first choice for DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands county high school students. Four out of five, or 80 percent, of first-time college-bound graduates in SFSC’s tri-county district attended SFSC in 2011-12.
SFSC has made significant strides in fostering and facilitating an institution-wide culture of data-informed decision making and continuous improvement.
A key institutional effectiveness committee was established at SFSC in fall 2008 and called the Data Analysis Group (DAG). DAG analyzes and synthesizes collegewide reports and survey data and promptly reports significant findings to stakeholders that could lead to institutional improvements. DAG regularly reviews key findings stemming from a variety of external and internal data sources, such as the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and SFSC’s own Graduate Satisfaction Survey (GSS). In fall 2010, SFCC garnered recognition for DAG when it received the Association of Florida Colleges’ (AFC) Institutional Effectiveness Planning and Professional Development Commission’s Exemplary Practice Award. DAG members are academic deans, the vice president for educational and student services, faculty, and personnel with experience in data analysis and reporting. One result of DAG’s analysis was the creation of SFCC’s Academic Foundations program.
In 2008, SFSC began to use core indicators of effectiveness to monitor achievement in meeting the institutional mission. Some of the college’s 16 core indicators of effectiveness are graduation rate, student satisfaction, program learning outcomes and mastery of discipline, placement rates, responsiveness to community needs, and performance after transfer. Established benchmarks are evaluated each year and, if necessary, revised to reflect the most recent performance data.
New Name, Expanded Mission, New College Seal
As of July 1, 2012, South Florida Community College officially became South Florida State College. SFSC was the 22nd of the 28 Florida colleges to add bachelor’s degree programs and change their names. The name change will benefit students who graduate from SFSC. (In Florida colleges can only use ‘state college’ in their title, if they are authorized to offer bachelor’s degrees.) The new name will be seen on students’ transcripts, indicating the student has graduated from such an institution.
With its new name and new status as a state college, SFSC launched a new brand identity on July 1. The college logo was transformed. It is a fresh evolution of the South Florida Community College logo, reflecting a unique identity and expressing ideas engrained in past logos but in the context of its expanded mission as a state college. It is a symbolic representation of the college’s mission and its seven core values and purposes. Official college colors remain a burnt orange and white, with the addition of a dark blue accent.
A new college seal was designed by artist and SFSC alumnus Keith Goodson. Rich in elements symbolic of the college, its mission, and service district, it is the first seal designed for the college since its inception as South Florida Junior College in 1965.
The budget presented to the trustees for fiscal year 2013 was the smallest presented in three years, and for the third year in a row, the proposed budget was less than the budget approved for the previous year. The priorities and initiatives that the budget emphasizes are student engagement, resources to support learning, establishing additional bachelor’s degrees, and keeping up with current technology. In spite of the unsteady economic environment, SFSC has not experienced layoffs. By reviewing vacant positions as employees leave the college or retire, positions have been combined or eliminated. The college has reduced its electric bill by more than 15 percent, or $200,000, by reducing its kilowatt usage. A few of the ways this was accomplished was to go to a four-day work week for six weeks during the summer, increase temperature settings in all facilities, and inspect air ducts for proper insulation.
SFSC have seen an increase in faculty and student access to technology at every college campus and center, enhancing both student learning and business interactions with the college. A redesign of the SFSC website in 2012 and implementation in 2010 of Panther Central, a new college portal, simplified the registration process by making it possible for students to apply for admission and financial aid, view class schedules, register for classes, and gain access to most other such services entirely online and with a single sign on.
The eLearning Department was created and charged with supporting faculty in their efforts to use the latest technology to improve teaching and learning. It included the use of the Desire2Learn (D2L) course management system and Panther Central for communicating with students through technology.
Although a significant amount of facility construction and renovation has taken place in the last decade, two particular projects stand out.
In 2010, SFSC’s 30-year-old auditorium was completely remodeled and reintroduced to the community as the 1,460-seat SFSC Theatre for the Performing Arts. The facility’s new features were two tiers of box seats, balcony seating, an orchestra pit, a state-of-the-art control booth, two first-floor lobbies and new second-floor lobby, cast and star dressing rooms, elevators, and more. The former auditorium entrance was replaced by a striking porte cochere that covers a 32-foot-wide vehicle lane, created to serve as an elegant and convenient location for dropping off patrons on their way to a performance.
The Dr. Norman L. Stephens Jr. Health and Science Education Center (HSEC) on SFSC’s Highlands Campus was completed in 2007 and houses the nursing program, radiography program, and all science classes. Its development enabled SFSC to expand its offerings to meet community and statewide critical needs for health professions and for all students in the natural sciences. The facility allowed SFSC to double the number of its nursing graduates and begin a new radiology program in fall 2007. The HSEC is an excellent example of collaborative planning and efficiency by four Florida community colleges with similar program needs at a time when construction costs were soaring. The four colleges received joint funding by the Florida Legislature for the creation of a prototype facility designed with efficiency and functionality as the primary objectives. SFSC President Dr. Norm Stephens, whose background is in the natural sciences, was personally involved in planning and developing the HSEC. The building was named in Dr. Stephens’ honor in October 2012.