Talking College with Chancellor Pumariega
Florida’s 28 state colleges are an increasingly popular option for students pursuing a postsecondary degree, with enrollees completing all four years there, completing a vocational or workforce program or getting their associate’s degree and perhaps continuing on to one of the state’s 4-year university institutions. Chancellor Madeline Pumariega, on the job since September 2015, is focused on making sure the colleges are ready for the increased demand, and that students get what they need to be successful. She also has strong feelings about the importance of saving early for college.
1. State colleges are increasingly the first stop for Florida students earning their 2- and 4-year degrees. What is your goal for the Florida College System over the next 5 years?
I am proud that our 28 Florida colleges offer flexible programs and schedules that enable residents to pursue higher education regardless of whether they recently graduated from high school or are returning to re-tool for another career path. My goal is to ensure that all students have a pathway to complete their degree or professional credential that lead them to meet their academic goals and ultimately helps them get a job. I hope that over the next 5 years, our colleges continue taking innovative approaches to meet the growing demand for postsecondary education and build upon their success of meeting Florida’s workforce needs.
2. What is the first thing you would tell a student walking into a Florida College System classroom for the first time?
You control your destiny, so make the most of this opportunity to continue your education, do your research and take full advantage of the resources that are available to you through the college. The professors, counselors and staff are there to help you achieve your goals and can guide you as you select a major that will lead into career pathways and a job. It’s important to constantly build your network so get engaged in campus and community activities.
3. The cost of college and student loan debate remain issues of importance and much discussion for Florida families. What advice would you give to families who want to give a child the best options for a post-secondary degree?
As early as possible, look into and consider emerging careers in Florida. Explore the Florida College System and the programs and degree offerings to select the best college for your child’s career goals. In doing this, I would encourage them to look at graduation rates, and if a career requires licensure, to pay attention to the licensure exam passing rates.
I take great pride in the strength of our “2+2” system. It allows students to transfer to a university after they complete their Associate of Arts degree, which saves both time and money and makes for a seamless transition.
4. Everyone in education is talking about STEM. What is the Florida College System doing to stay competitive with STEM-related programs?
In 2013, Governor Rick Scott challenged our state colleges to offer $10,000 bachelor’s programs in STEM related programs. Florida Colleges also offer the Associate in Science, Associate in Applied Science and bachelor’s degrees that all align with emerging workforce needs in STEM fields.
Our state colleges have developed industry partnerships to provide students real-world skills and experiences through internships and other “hands-on opportunities”. For example, Indian River State College (IRSC) has worked with science research companies to develop a biology program that will prepare the up-and-coming workforce. Local partners there have agreed to help engage students beyond the classroom through internship opportunities. A record 100 biology students interned off campus in the 2013-14 academic year. Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies donated over $70,000 to IRSC for biology scholarships and hired over 50 students part time.
The combination of quality classroom instruction and applied learning experiences in high quality research facilities is building a strong workforce to attract other life science companies and support economic growth in this industry for years to come.
5. You were appointed Chancellor in May. What has been your most rewarding part of the chancellor position so far?
I love visiting so many of our great state colleges and seeing first-hand the amazing work they are doing with our students. Our talented faculty is responding to local workforce needs, and it is inspiring to witness the positive impact our colleges have on their communities. I truly believe the Florida College System builds upon what makes Florida great.