Sasser highlights changes coming to SF College
Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.
Changes will come to Santa Fe College in 2014, although they were not expected to be apparent when spring term classes began Monday.
SF College President Jackson Sasser named a few of them Friday at the college's spring convocation, which heralds the beginning of classes every fall and spring semester. About 15,800 students were expected to return to classes at SF College this semester.
Monday wasn't expected to look different for SF College students returning to the campus, although welcome stations will be set up at each main entry point for brand-new students.
Most of the changes won't be noticeable until fall.
A new women's volleyball team, an expansion of the college's pathway to the University of Florida College of Engineering and a couple of construction projects are all getting underway this year, Sasser said.
Former UF associate head coach Nick Cheronis was hired last month as SF College's first head volleyball coach, and the college's inaugural season kicks off this fall.
Also in the fall, Gator Engineering @ Santa Fe College will quadruple in size.
Gator Engineering @ Santa Fe College is a pathway program for students who barely missed admission into UF's competitive engineering school, said SF College spokesman Dave Houder.
Students spend their first year of college at Santa Fe, taking core courses they will need for the engineering program. If they're successful, they transfer to UF.
Houder said there were 50 available seats in the program in fall 2013, its inaugural semester.
This fall, the program will expand to 200 seats.
In light of violent events in U.S. schools over the last year, SF College has also expanded its online system for reporting suspicious or threatening incidents through the campus police department.
"It's an easier online version," Houder said.
Although there's no groundbreaking date yet, SF College plans to expand its Kirkpatrick Center, near the airport, starting this year.
Sasser said building out the facility is the college's No. 1 construction priority.
The Kirkpatrick Center is home to SF College's aviation, fire science, EMT, police and criminal justice programs. Houder said there are several portables at the facility to accommodate growing enrollment, but the whole area needs an overhaul.
"We actually have to turn students away at this point" due to lack of space, he said.
Houder said the Kirkpatrick Center's plans are essentially finished, but the college must still find some funding to start the project.
One of the programs offered at the Kirkpatrick Center — a Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Management with a Public Safety concentration — will be the first $10,000 degree offered by the college, per Gov. Rick Scott's challenge to Florida colleges to create lower-cost degrees.
SF College still has no legal opinion on whether it can grant in-state tuition waivers to the children of unauthorized immigrants.
Miami-Dade College and Florida International University, both in Miami, sparked the debate last year when the two institutions decided to allow in-state tuition for students who had been brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
"Dr. Sasser wants to support undocumented students ... but I don't think we are at this point," said Houder, referring to SF College's legal counsel, which has not yet released a solid ruling on the issue.
After months of meeting with students and faculty, Houder said the college has solidified its service philosophy: "We honor learning and put students first."
Houder said the phrase boils down SF College's cultural essence.
"I think everybody's always known what we're about," he said.
Erin Jester is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.