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Community College President's Spotlight | E. Ann McGee | June 2010
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A NACCE Entrepreneurial President Profile:
E. Ann McGee, Ph.D., Seminole State College, Sanford, FL

E. Ann McGee has led Seminole State College since 1996. When she became the school's second president, Seminole State had only one location; now it has six locations spread across what is one of Florida's smallest counties but also one of its wealthiest.

"Our county is a story of haves and have-nots,” says McGee. "We have a migrant farm population as well as high tech industries on the I-4 corridor. Seminole County is a very diverse county that used to be a bedroom county for Orlando, but years ago the County Commission decided to try and attract high tech business and provided business incentives for the companies to locate in Seminole County. We are fortunate to have a lot of clean industry, and we do training for this workforce through the Business Center.”

"We may have the smallest service district, but with 32,000 students we are the ninth largest of Florida's 28 community colleges,” says McGee, who was named 2006 Marie Y. Martin "Top CEO” by the Association of Community College Trustees and was honored in 2009 as the "Most Outstanding Graduate” by St. Petersburg College. "Seminole State's immediate service area includes about 400,000 people, but the school also draws from the Orlando metropolitan area just across the border in Orange County. One of our campuses is just a half mile from the Orange County line, so we pull about 20 percent of our students from Orange County. Another 13 percent comes from Volusia County, which is to our east.”

According to McGee, the four community colleges in the region really cooperate with each other. "We are looking at doing some bachelor programs together,” she says. "We all partnered to pick up programs the University of Central Florida in Orlando dropped and share the curriculums.”

Seminole State already offers 11 bachelor's degrees with faculty from University of Central Florida (UCF) teaching the courses at Seminole State campuses. "Now, we're starting our own bachelor degrees,” says McGee. "These will not be in competition with UCF, and they are degrees the community needs. We started last January with a degree in Interior Design; we have 44 students enrolled. Next, we will be adding programs in Construction Management and Information Systems Technology. Our entrepreneurial culture is developing as we look at moving into bachelor's programs, particularly in the technical areas, and as we look at developing degree programs in a three-year format or an online format.”

Community Challenges
"We're facing the same kind of challenges other communities are facing-declining property values that have impacted the tax revenue for our cities and towns, a lack of start-up capital for business or to upgrade businesses that are here already, and layoffs,” says McGee. "Also, we're a tourism area and, of course, the big question mark with the oil spill coming in on the shores is whether tourists will not come to Florida because there is the specter of oil on the beaches. There is a huge multiplier effect from tourism dollars.”

"We're a community that is starting to rebound, but we're still struggling. The housing market has a lot to do with that because we were definitely overbuilt,” McGee adds. "Right now 70 percent of the housing and condo sales in the Orlando area are distressed sales, so it's going to take time for us to recover. The potential for the oil spill to cause a number of businesses to close is scary on an economy that was just starting to rebound.”

Helping Entrepreneurs and Being Entrepreneurial
Seminole State got an early start on providing support for businesses; it opened its Florida Small Business Development Center in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1993. "The Center now serves 300 to 400 clients a year,” reports McGee. "We do a whole host of workshops and provide one-on-one counseling and guidance.”

"In 1997 we founded the Seminole Technology Business Incubator, which is the third oldest incubator program in Florida,” McGee adds. "We are the only program in the state to have two of the businesses in our incubator earn the state's Client of the Year award.”

The Small Business Development Center and the Incubator are located in the Port of Sanford on the St. Johns River. "We formed a partnership with the Seminole County Commission and the Port Authority. We receive funding from Seminole County, and the Port built two buildings to house our programs. In 2005, we did a study that showed that for every dollar invested by Seminole County in what we were doing produced $7.31 cents in tax revenues and 1,100 new jobs have been created by companies in the Incubator.”

Next year, the school plans to launch a certificate program that will focus on entrepreneurship skills. "We have seen a demand for that, and we're seeing more and more people turning to entrepreneurship so they can control their own destiny and really capitalize on what they're most interested in,” says McGee.

NACCE's Impact
"Our staff has enjoyed contributing articles to the NACCE journal, but we've also enjoyed the articles and the feedback we get from colleagues all across the land,” says McGee. "Our New Horizons Program for Boomer Entrepreneurs is a direct result of input we got from other NACCE members. The boomer entrepreneurship trend is going to find a whole new audience based on our economy, with people who now find a whole new direction and have a lot to give.”

Advice from the Corner Office
Asked what advice she has for other presidents who are at early stages of providing entrepreneurship education, McGee laughs and says, "I'm usually seeking advice! But one of the things our staff has really taught me is that entrepreneurs are skill seekers; they're not always degree seekers. We saw this back in the IT explosion. I've seen it in the construction trade program; once people get skills they go out and work. They need to; they want to.”

"We have a donor who was a student at the college years ago. He has a video delivery business that does high-end conventions that he started when he was still in college. He said to me, ‘You cost me money because I had to pay someone to run the business while I got my degree!' He now has a $43-million a year company.”

"When I think about entrepreneurs, I think about him and what he did coming right out of high school. They're skill seekers. They want to learn the skills to put their ideas into action and not necessarily have that paper that says they have a degree. And they want to have a relationship with people who have been there/done that. They want to be mentored. They want to hear the highs of entrepreneurship and the lows. So I think entrepreneurship education is about providing training from and access to people who have already done it. It's not just remaking the industry that you're trying to go into, but rather trying to learn from other people and then enhancing and advancing the ideas you have.”

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