Summer Spotlight Series: Jacksonville University
Posted on July 27, 2016
Welcome to week three of our Summer Spotlight Series! This week our university partner in the spotlight is: Jacksonville University.
Jacksonville University was founded in 1934 and began as a junior college that offered only night classes. The university quickly transformed into a four-year, co-ed institution and currently offers 7 bachelor's degree programs—with more than 70 majors, programs and concentrations—as well as graduate programs in nursing, business, education, orthodontics, marine science, fine arts, math and public policy.
We recently got the chance to speak with Mike Fleming, the Senior Vice President of University Relations & Development at Jacksonville University.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your hometown and your background?
A: I was actually born and raised here in Jacksonville, FL, and I was in the military for many years. I was fortunate enough to move around some, but my last duty station was down in St. Augustine as the Assistant Adjutant General for the Florida Army National Guard. Then, when I retired, I was fortunate enough to work for Deutsche Bank as a managing director and now I’m with Jacksonville University as a Senior Vice President.
Q: What is your alma mater and what was your experience there as a student?
A: My alma mater for undergraduate is Jacksonville State University in Alabama. I went there because I was hoping to play football, but someone broke my collarbone for me, so I did not play football. But, I was fortunate enough to meet my wife and graduated from there. I also hold a MBA from University of North Florida and Master of Arts in Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.
Q: What drew you to Earn Up and why are you excited to be a part of the collaboration?
A: Earn Up really drew me because one of the [program’s] three focus areas is for military veterans. I currently chair an initiative called the Jacksonville Military Veteran’s Coalition—which is jobs-oriented—and when I went to Jacksonville University from Deutsche Bank, I saw an opportunity, really, to create something also for veterans and college attainment. So, we created the Northeast Florida Military Veteran College Network, which is part of the Earn Up initiative to try to connect to veterans through universities as well as training.
Q: Why is college attainment important to you?
A: Well, obviously college attainment is the reason we [at Jacksonville University] do things for our students, but overall—and really from the veteran standpoint—there is a strong focus on college attainment to ensure that veterans maximize their potential. I think, sometimes, veterans look and they think about college attainment only in the four-year degree area, but there are many ways you can have college attainment. For instance, there could be certificates—particularly in the IT area—and, really, there are a number of ways that you can get training that will make you very competitive. At Florida State College at Jacksonville, they have a lot of vocational opportunities with welding or plumbing or other specialties that really don’t require a four-year degree, but could result in a very productive career.
Q: What are some of Jacksonville University’s current major initiatives?
A: We’re doing a lot of different things and from the academic standpoint, we have many new initiatives. We have healthcare informatics, we are expanding our engineering program, and we are also really doing a lot of things in the STEM area through the EPIC program at Jacksonville University, which is a state-funded initiative to make sure that our students are work-ready and have relevant opportunities to gain that career experience while they are still students. We have something called Collaborate JU, which is made up of interdisciplinary programs in which we have our students work together in an environment and then have them produce a product that actually goes to an external stakeholder. We have one program where our aviation students fly drones over the St. Johns River and the oyster beds and then they take that information and give it to our geography students and they map it out and give that to our marine science institute students, who do an analysis and, finally, they give their anaylsis of everything to the State of Florida to determine whether or not the oyster beds can be opened for harvesting—which they haven’t done in a number of years. So that’s a huge benefit, both to our students and, in that case, to the State of Florida.
Q: What do you think sets Jacksonville University apart from other colleges and universities in Northeast Florida?
A: We often ask ourselves “Why JU?” and continually challenge ourselves. Our president, Tim Cost, has a great background; he is a JU graduate and came back after 32 years as a senior business executive. And then, I think the biggest thing we offer is a personal touch. We have a 14:1 student to faculty ratio and we say laughingly that if you want to hide at a college, don’t come to Jacksonville University because the teachers get engaged with all of their students and you can really see that personal touch. And we are also very nimble; we have a very short way of looking at new initiatives and if President Cost and the team likes it, we can do it. So, probably, the personal touch and our nimbleness and ability to react to market conditions and create new programs are really the defining qualities of Jacksonville University.
If you are interested in learning more about Jacksonville University and the programs offered, click here.