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Community College President's Spotlight | Sanford Shugart, Ph.D | Aug 2010
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A NACCE Entrepreneurial President Profile
Sanford Shugart, Ph.D., Valencia Community College, Orlando, FL

Ask anyone what drives the economy in Orlando, FL, home of Valencia Community College, and they will instantly answer tourism. But while the city is the epicenter of Florida's massive tourism and hospitality industry, what many people don't realize is that the school Sanford Shugart has headed for the past decade serves a region that is seeing significant growth in fields requiring advanced education in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.

"The Orlando economy in fairly sensitive to economic downturns since discretionary travel is one of the first things to go when people cut back,” says Shugart. "But what is little known to most of the country is that the region's payroll in the knowledge sector, largely the defense industry, is as large as the payroll in hospitality and tourism. That means both the short- and long-term opportunities for our community really are going to be on the technology side.

"Recently we also have seen a huge explosion of activity in the medical and health world,” he adds. "We already have very large hospital systems, and we're adding more hospitals, including a VA hospital and a children's hospital. These are going to be competing for talent, so the health care world represents a huge opportunity for our local people and a big challenge for us.”

On the downside, the winding down of manned space flight at Cape Canaveral will have some negative impact on the Orlando region. "Cape Canaveral is 50 miles east of us so there is some impact on the Orlando area from the demise of the shuttle program,” says Shugart. "We watch those issues closely because most of that workforce lives in our county.”

Rapid Growth

Shugart's school, which is one of the state's largest community colleges, has seen enrollment rise 56 percent in the last five years to reach an unduplicated head count of 70,000. The school, which operates four campuses and two centers, is making several responses to the growing demand for more STEM-related programs and more health care programs. These include:

1) Developing very robust programs for students to get into the engineering and STEM fields. Students at Valencia are now able to earn a bachelor's degree in Engineering through the University of Central Florida without leaving the Valencia campus.

2) Creating partnerships that enable fast track programs in allied health fields.

3) Adding some bachelor programs, including a BS in Engineering Technology and a BS in Radiology and Imaging that will begin this fall.

"We've also made our financial aid model much more aggressive so students can have access to our programs,” says Shugart. "Over a three-year year period, we grew our financial aid disbursements from $45 million to over $150 million.”

Key to helping the school provide much-needed financial assistance for students is the Valencia Foundation. "When I came here in January 2000,” says Shugart, "we already had a very viable foundation with nearly $14 million in endowment. We've been able to grow the assets to more than $60 million through the college's first major gifts campaign and thoughtful management of the portfolio. Just like any other entrepreneurial effort, growing an endowment requires a very compelling vision and the discipline to work at it every day for a long time.”

Like other community colleges across the nation, Valencia Community College has had to change its funding model dramatically as state funding has been slashed due to a poor economy. "When I came here 10 years ago 70 percent of our funding came from the state and 30 percent came from tuition,” says Shugart. "Now 38 percent comes from the state and 62 percent comes from tuition. That trend is going to continue for another couple years. The recession has greatly accelerated the cost shifting to students and our growth has gone unfunded by the state. We now pay a lot more attention to tuition revenues and that's why financial aid has moved from being a service to a strategic goal at the college.”

Taking an Intrapreneurial Approach

Shugart has worked to build an intrapreneurial culture at Valencia with a focus on disciplined innovation. "We made major reforms in what students experience in our programs,” he says. "Lots of colleges have done modest-sized pilot projects in supplemental instruction, but we've been able to bring that to scale for ten of thousands of students rather than a few hundred. I think that's what sets us apart. That requires cross-disciplinary work; lots of logistics are involved with scheduling those programs and in supporting the faculty for them. We have a number of learning communities, particularly for students in the first 15 hours of their experience with our school.”

Shugart says he is often asked how he got buy-in to make these changes. "That question assumes that one person had an idea and persuaded others, but that's not how it happens,” he explains. "Instead, it's about very productive and disciplined collaboration; that's what intrapreneurialism is about.”

Imbedding Entrepreneurship

Of Valencia's entrepreneurship education program, Shugart explains that the school's philosophy has been not to have a separate degree program but to imbed entrepreneurial ways of thinking into the basic business curriculum. "For example, one of our business programs focuses on international entrepreneurial studies and the Far East in particular as a emerging market,” he says. "This program includes international travel; the cohort of students in that program visit China and the Asian market directly.

"Even in the general business classes we emphasize entrepreneurship,” he adds. "Some professors give a micro-loan to students based on a business plan they present. They have to give a report to stockholders at the end of the semester. Most of the businesses are mundane, like t-shirt companies and so on, but some of them have been very successful. For instance, some students ran a live bait business and turned their $50 micro-loan into $18,000. They found a way to provide live bait very inexpensively.”

Valencia takes on its own entrepreneurial activities with Valencia Enterprises, which serves as a profit center for the college. Valencia Enterprises does seminars and workshops focused on the entrepreneurial public, and also does a lot of contract training with some of the area's larger employees, such as Disney and the parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants.

Advice from the Corner Office

Asked what he would advise other schools that are interested in making entrepreneurship education part of their school's focus, Shugart says, "The history of this area is that if you create special programs they don't scale very large. I believe a better philosophy is to look at where most of our students are going to be employed, which is in small businesses that require an entrepreneurial bent. All of our students need to have an entrepreneurial model of business in their heads so it should be imbedded in all of our curriculum and therefore scaleable to all of our students.”

As an example of this approach at work, Shugart points to the college's Music Recording Arts program, whose students run a record label. "They run a business called Flat Foot Records, so in addition to learning the engineering side of recording business, they have to learn how to run the business.

"There are other examples as well. In our Film Technology program, students have to learn not just how to operate cameras but the business side of film as well. Most of their program leads toward real film projects, not just student films. We have two or three funded feature films a year with budgets of $1 million. Our students serve as the skilled craftspeople for those films and they learn the business from the inside out. They graduate with a portfolio of several real film projects and they understand the industry. Programs like these fit the profile of Orlando as a film-making and entertainment hub.”

Help from NACCE

Shugart says NACCE has helped his school by keeping "the issue of entrepreneurship in front of us, both in terms of how entrepreneurism is being taught and in terms of the ways in which colleges practice being entrepreneurial. We participated in the very first national conference. Also, through the NACCE journal and other programs like the webinars, we can inexpensively benchmark what other people are doing without having to travel to their colleges.”

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