Summer Spotlight Series: Florida State College at Jacksonville
Posted on August 10, 2016
Welcome to week five of the Summer Spotlight Series! This week, our university partner in the spotlight is: Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) was established as Florida Junior College at Jacksonville (FJC) in 1965 and had an initial enrollment of 2,610 students. Today, the state college serves more than 52,000 students annually and offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs. FSCJ currently has five campuses and two centers in the region and also offers classes at Naval Air Station Jax and Naval Station Mayport.
This week, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Chris Holland, the Vice President of Student Services at FSCJ.
Q: What is your hometown?
A: I am originally from Olean, New York, but I grew up in Cape Coral/Fort Myers here in Florida. So I consider both, actually, to be my hometown, for different reasons.
Q: What brought you to Northeast Florida?
A: I grew up in Florida, as I mentioned, down on the Gulf Coast. My dad has always lived in Jacksonville, and so as I made my professional journey in life—we were moving around and I had a child—we decided to come up here and back to kind of a “home”, if you will.
Q: Tell us a bit about your alma mater and your experience there.
A: Well, it depends which degree we are talking about! It’s funny, you know, I would say the place that most shaped me is where I got my bachelor’s and first master’s, and that was State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia. And I say that only because, developmentally as an undergrad, that is where I kind of found myself—my calling, my ambitions in life. But I really wouldn’t have even been able to go there if I hadn’t gotten my associate’s degree from Jamestown Community College in Olean, NY, where I’m originally from. And, from SUNY Fredonia, I went to SUNY Albany—where I got my second master’s—and then I went to the University of Alabama where I got my doctorate.
Q: What drew you to Earn Up and what makes you excited to be a part of the collaboration?
A: I think what really attracted me was the ability for all of these colleges of different backgrounds (for profit, private, community colleges, regional university systems etc.) to come together to really help shape the community in a way that says: “higher education is important”. A formal higher education is a great mobility factor for so many people because it helps them to be able to improve not only their lot in life, but to be able to promote and provide for the community which they come from. And I think that’s what really drew me to Earn Up. Additionally, I really liked the fact that it was intentionally looking at specific populations and how we could not only help them enter and get access to higher education, but also to complete that education. So, those are broad initiatives, but also high, lofty goals that definitely speak to my values.
Q: Why is college attainment important to you?
A: I’m a first-generation college student and I come from a pretty poor family so, for me, being able to break the cycle of poverty in my family was really important, and higher education provided me with the ability to do that. Looking at our community here, where we have such a need to improve in so many areas, higher education and college attainment is definitely going to be that vehicle for us to improve our schools, our hospitals, etc.
Q: What are some of FSCJ’s current initiatives and big focus points right now?
A: We are really looking to reshape the student experience. We want to help the student not just get access to higher education, and not just complete, but to really make that experience transformative for them—to help them figure out: “who am I?”, “what am I trying to do?”, “how can I do it?”, “how can I do it without running up a lot of debt?” and “how can I do it without taking a lot of time away from my ability to either earn or to be able to go on and do the things that I’m really supposed to be doing once I want to transfer?”. And I think, again, that’s what fits what we are trying to do so nicely with the mission and vision of Earn Up.
Q: What do you think sets FSCJ apart from other colleges and universities in Northeast Florida?
A: Here, in this community, I truly believe that we are the community’s college. We are the college that is most likely to attract a person from our backyard to come in here and not only have a chance to have an affordable education, but a quality education that can get them started smartly on the path towards what they are looking to do—whether it’s getting into the workforce immediately or trying to transfer and earn higher wages. But then, also, what sets us apart in being that “community’s college” is that our graduates are more than likely going to go right back into the backyard and do that work. So, I think ours is definitely more of a local impact.
If you are interested in learning more about Florida State College at Jacksonville and the programs offered, click here.