Dr. Laurey Stryker manages the C4 consortium.

40th Anniversary in Focus: Colleges look to consortium to benefit Sarasota-Manatee area

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: April 25, 2016

Editor’s note: The story here is part of a series of 40 stories commemorating USF Sarasota-Manatee’s 40th anniversary this academic year. For more about USFSM’s history, please visit usfsm.edu/anniversary.

The Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast doesn’t have a long track record, but already it’s promising to redefine USF Sarasota-Manatee’s relationship with its neighbors.

Still in its infancy, the consortium, dubbed C4, was established a few years ago as a way for colleges on the Gulf Coast – specifically USFSM, New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and FSU’s programs at The Ringling – to cooperate in areas beneficial to each other and the region. The group received funding in January.

Student housing, transportation, security, purchasing and cross-registration between campuses are among the topics being discussed by C4. Others involve possible shared research between faculty, the exploration of grant and foundation funding for special projects and shared activities for students, faculty and staff.

Supporters say allowing and encouraging cooperation among the universities will only broaden their appeal collectively – and possibly slow the “brain drain” of students to universities outside the region.

New College of Florida President Dr. Donal O’Shea, who suggested the consortium idea three years ago, said the concept isn’t new and has been in practice for years in pockets of the country, including Massachusetts.

Dr. Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art & Design, said that together the institutions could form a “multi-versity” to lift the region’s educational profile and draw students and economic benefits to the area.

Together, organizers said, the institutions could create platforms for shared research to raise the potential for research grants and foundational support.

Former USFSM Chief Executive Officer Dr. Laurey Stryker was hired to manage the consortium. She said it’s too early to say which topics C4 will tackle first. Together, she said, the institutions comprise 20,000 students, but each college maintains its own priorities. Leaders representing the colleges meet monthly.

Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor at USFSM, said that in the short term she envisions cooperation around security and emergency preparedness. Already, the colleges have discussed the potential for shared resources. “I think we’ll explore that first,” she said.

Long range, the institutions might collaborate in areas of transportation and student housing, though more discussion and planning needs to occur. “This is still in its infancy,” Dr. Stryker said.

The consortium is supported by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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