Provost candidate says SFC must stay flexible


Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:49 p.m.

Mary Bendickson said she can't predict what will happen in the Florida college system over the next 10 years, but she pledged Tuesday to help Santa Fe College find its way through the wilderness if she is selected as the school's chief academic officer.

Facts

About Mary Bendickson

Current position: Dean of Associate of Arts at Hillsborough Community College.

Past positions: Dean of Academic Affairs, off-campus credit manager, education specialist and guidance counselor for U.S. Air Force Education Services.

Education: Tift College, bachelor’s degree in mathematics; University of Georgia, master’s in counselor education; University of South Florida, doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

“We have to make sure we have a solid idea of who we are, what we offer and be prepared to shift with the landscape,” the Hillsborough Community College associate of arts dean said in an interview at SFC on Tuesday.

Bendickson is one of three finalists, including current interim provost and vice president Ed Bonahue and Valencia Community College dean of mathematics Lisa Armour, facing a group of faculty and students as they vie to become the college's next provost. The position was vacated in May 2009 by Anne Kress.

SFC President Jackson Sasser said during a later College Senate meeting that the discourse Tuesday was robust and engaging.

“I love the exchange of ideas and I wish we had some more time to do that,” he said.

Faculty, staff and students peppered Bendickson with questions during an hour-long session.

Kelly Gridley of the Perry Center for Emerging Technologies asked Bendickson to prioritize her objectives for the college in the face of a dwindling budget.

Making sure students can take the classes they need to complete their degree or certificate program is of importance, Bendickson said.

Gridley said she was reserving judgment until she had seen all the candidates.

“I want to interview my boss,” she said.

Bendickson advocated a strong remedial education program staff with professors who enjoy teaching struggling students.

“It might not be that they don't know how to multiply fractions,” she said. “It might be something simple as they didn't get a good foundation in middle or high school.”

Chester Leathers, a retired professor, asked if it was still reasonable to say SFC was a good pathway to the University of Florida.

With universities tightening their admission standards, it creates challenges for colleges, Bendickson said.

“I don't think we can promise that at the same level,” she said. “What was true 20 years ago may not be true today.”

Bendickson said her experience in student services and academics will help bridge the two oft-separate worlds.

“We've got to tear down the walls that sometimes exist between student affairs and academics,” she said. “We're all here for the same reason.”

Greg Cohen, student body treasurer, said he was impressed.

“It seems like she has a clear idea in mind,” she said. “Since she was in student services, she knows a lot about the student struggle.”

Student engagement means the difference between a student body officer and a dropout, Bendickson said.

“The more we can get you as a student involved on this campus, the more likely you're able to finish,” she said. Students who attend class and head back to the parking lot “are the students we might lose and we might not even know.”

The next candidate interview will be Bonahue, at 2:30 p.m. today in the Student Senate Chambers.

Contact Jackie Alexander at jackie.alexander@gvillesun.com or 338-3166.

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