Santa Fe College's convocation has international flavor


Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser says the state of the college is "good" during the Fall 2013 Convocation at Santa Fe College, Tuesday, August, 20, 2013, in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.

In her keynote address at Santa Fe College's convocation Tuesday, Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter commended the college's emphasis on international education and called for more access to higher education nationally.

At SF College, she told the 600 faculty and staff members who gathered in the Fine Arts Hall for the biannual program, “You are exceeding the expectations (in) ways to keep students persisting.”

Against that backdrop, the college's faculty and staff met to rededicate themselves to educating students.

“That's our obsession today,” President Jackson Sasser said.

The state of the college is strong, Sasser said.

SF College hired more than 50 new employees since the spring semester convocation in January. No one was laid off due to budgetary concerns and every college employee received a raise this year, he said.

“We're in good shape financially,” he said.

The college is also in good shape academically. Earlier this year, Santa Fe College was named a top 10 community college by the Aspen Institute, an organization that studies education and policy.

Sasser announced a variety of changes during the convocation, both big and small.

As part of the college's perennial focus on international education, SF College will offer a new certificate in international studies this fall.

By popular demand, SF College will have a women's volleyball team beginning in fall 2014.

The college also has joined Envision Bradford 2023, an initiative to help strengthen Bradford County economically.

SF College has successfully implemented its quality enhancement plan, a five-year plan for improving processes at the institution that plays into its accreditation.

As part of the plan -- dubbed Navigating the College Experience -- each first-time college student will be assigned an adviser to help develop and stick to an academic plan, “Which is something that's never really happened before,” SF College spokesman Dave Houder said.

Programs like that, along with looking at ways to make higher education more affordable for students, are what colleges and universities should be focusing on, Kanter said.

Especially in places like Florida, where state funding for colleges and universities has dropped off significantly in recent years, “We have got to get states to reinvest (in education),” she said.

There are too many barriers for students in higher education right now, Kanter said. She advocated for schools to adopt open-source textbooks and massive open-enrollment courses, which would help lower the cost of college, and for the United States to pass immigration reform laws that don't penalize children of illegal immigrants by forcing them to pay out-of-state tuition.

Putting an international focus into education will be critical for American students to be competitive in the global workforce, she said.

Children need to learn a second language -- “That's a no-brainer,” she said.

Kanter closed by thanking the faculty and reminding them that their work is appreciated.

“We don't thank each other enough for what we do every day,” she said. “We don't see the late nights you put in.”

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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