New College Tomorrow: Arts and Sciences for Florida’s Future

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared Oct. 17, 2019, in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

By Donal O’Shea

Dr. Donal O'Shea
Dr. Donal O’Shea

We have proposed a program, New College Tomorrow: Arts and Sciences for Florida’s Future, that will further our mission of preparing intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement, make New College a model for educational excellence, produce graduates who will fill some of the most challenging regional, state and national workforce needs, and drive innovation locally and globally.

New College Tomorrow advances our institution along three parallel directions, each emerging from a distinctive strength of the college:

1. Execute our strategic plan to grow enrollment.

Through the implementation of our strategic plan, we aim to grow to 1,200 students and 120 faculty, add support staff and programs that will drive our four-year graduation rate above 80%, and achieve recognition among the top 20 liberal arts colleges in the nation. We have made crucial additions to our faculty, strengthening our programs in computer science, data science, and finance, and adding new lines in environmental design and health-related fields.

We are seeking state funding to build a 107,000-square-foot facility on our campus that will support academic and student programming. We are raising private funds to renovate existing residence halls, including our architecturally significant halls designed by I.M. Pei., and exploring partnerships to build new residence halls.

2. Inflect student experience towards the world of work.

We will continue to provide an individualized educational experience particular to the needs and interests of each of our students while systematically integrating opportunities for professional development and practical applications into every student’s experience at New College. Experiential learning will be more deeply embedded into the curriculum. Students will be able to pursue more than one target of study, one appealing to their intellectual passions and another to their potential career interests.

Starting in their first year, students will work with a dynamic team of faculty, fellow students, career and experiential counselors, and alumni mentors to explore their passions, talents, and aspirations, and to design a college experience that both broadens their vision and sharpens their competitive edge, whether their post-college intent is immediate employment or a graduate degree program.

3. Increase articulation and collaborative agreements with regional institutions.

The Sarasota-Manatee area is the most densely populated region in the state without a full-scale research or comprehensive university. However, the Cross-College Alliance, which has more than 16,000 students and 500 faculty at our five member institutions serves as a proxy. With New College at the geographical center, playing the role of the college of arts and sciences at the heart of every major American research university, we believe that we are seeing the beginnings of an exciting emergent phenomenon that takes advantage of the dispersed, independent nature of this region’s institutions. We will build on this with more articulation and collaborative agreements, creating more opportunities for students, faculty members, and our larger community.

These directions not only further the college’s distinctive mission, they do so in ways that are particular to New College. They engage in educational reform by combining educational innovation with educational excellence, and they provide programs of study that allow students to design their educational experience as much as possible in accordance with their individual interests, values and vision. The design of our curriculum, the close interaction between faculty and students, and the tradition of challenging students not only to master existing bodies of knowledge, but to extend them in new ways makes New College the ideal institution to prepare students for a future where the only certainty is change. Those students, in turn, will drive Florida’s economy.

New College Tomorrow: Arts and Sciences for Florida’s Future will propel New College from very good to great, and from great to national and global distinction.

— Donal O’Shea is president of New College of Florida.

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