SFC must work to buoy students’ confidence, last of 3 candidates says

Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 6:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:54 p.m.

While the future of the state college system remains in flux, Santa Fe College provost candidate Lisa Armour said Tuesday she believes the system still focuses on meeting the academic needs of challenged students.

“I think we’ll continue to meet students where they are, and we’ll offer degrees that help them with their lives,” she said.

Armour, dean of mathematics at Valencia Community College in Orlando, shared her thoughts Tuesday on Santa Fe College’s role in that future during a question-and-answer session with faculty and staff.

Armour was the last of three candidates to interview for Santa Fe’s provost position. Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ed Bonahue and Mary Bendickson of Hillsborough Community College interviewed last week.

Part of helping students succeed is mental, Armour said.

“A lot of students who test into developmental ed courses lack confidence in their ability to be successful academically,” she said. “They come to us with a collection of bad experiences, a habit of negative self-talk. I think, to a large extent, we have to undo a lot of the feelings that have been collected by students.”

Armour has worked for two decades at Valencia Community College in the mathematics department. She said the job posting itself attracted her to Santa Fe.

“It’s not about the mechanics about doing the job,” she said. “It’s really about your hopes for the position, and to an extent your hopes for the institution.”

Bill Little, chair of humanities and foreign languages, asked for Armour’s thoughts on the role of study abroad.

Armour related a story about a trip with students across the state.

“I made a lot of assumptions about our students’ readiness to do that travel and their level of understanding of their world beyond our community,” she said. “That experience that a student has with engaging with people who think about things a different way— that experience is absolutely life-changing.”

Armour said she understood the value of SFC’s relationship with the University of Florida but said students must be certain not to see Santa Fe as second-rate.

“This is not where you go if you don’t get into the University of Florida,” she said. “This is a place to learn as a first choice, and that’s got to be an identity for this college.”

Paying professors who teach upper-level classes higher salaries is not the best approach, Armour said in response to a pool question.

“I think the students who need us most are the students that are in those 1000 and 2000-level classes,” she said. “The demands placed on faculty teaching those classes are very high. I don’t think everybody has to do everything brilliantly, but I do think everyone has to appreciate the talents of their colleagues.”

The steering committee now will meet and make a recommendation to Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser, who then will select the provost.

Contact Jackie Alexander at jackie.alexander@gvillesun.com or 338-366.

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