SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 30, 2015) – Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone was vice president for academic affairs at Dalton State College in Georgia when a unique opportunity came up 600 miles south.
Regional Chancellor Dr. Arthur Guildford announced his retirement after seven years at USF Sarasota-Manatee. The campus wanted not just a leader to take his place but a visionary type to guide its transition from what used to be an upper-division-only college to a full-fledged, four-year institution.
In stepped Dr. Stone and immediately she saw USFSM’s potential.
“One thing that was most appealing was the enormous opportunity I saw for this campus to grow and develop,” she said. “I knew this area was in a high-growth mode and I knew that this was an opportunity for me to help shape the future of a great institution. I liked the opportunity to build something. It was exciting.”
Now a year later, even she is amazed at how much has changed.
“In the past year, we have worked extremely hard to lay a foundation for the campus to build upon over the next five years,” she said.
Stepping into the regional chancellor’s position in November 2014, her first order of business was to form a committee of faculty, staff, students and community leaders to draft a five-year strategic plan to guide the campus’ development.
The result, approved by USF trustees this past June, called for increased faculty research, a boost in student support services, additional laboratory space, expanded community engagement, a plan to address student housing options and an NCAA women’s rowing team.
She wasn’t finished, however. Also high on the agenda was a proposal to tackle the campus’ cap on freshmen and sophomore admissions. Removing the cap, Dr. Stone and other USFSM leaders said, would allow the campus to grow at a pace commensurate with the surrounding community.
The state’s Board of Governors concurred, and two weeks after trustees approved USFSM’s strategic plan the board voted to remove USFSM’s enrollment cap.
“We were able to get a lot of support from the economic development councils and the chambers of commerce, so that was really helpful,” she said.
Still, there was more work to do. For months, USFSM leadership and faculty had met to discuss realigning the campus’ four colleges to better serve the community and its employers.
In May, the College of Hospitality & Technology Leadership became the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership. With that change, the Information Technology program was realigned under the College of Business.
Then last week came word of another realignment: the creation of the College of Science & Mathematics. Starting in the fall 2016, courses in science and mathematics – STEM areas – will be offered through this new college.
The College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education will also merge to become the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, which will include a School of Education. The College of Business and College of Hospitality & Technology Leadership will remain unchanged.
“This realignment puts us in a better position for future growth of science and math programs, which are programs of strategic emphasis and demand at the local, state and national levels,” Dr. Stone said.
Looking ahead, she sees more goals to strive for – from continued enrollment growth to an NCAA women’s rowing team to eventual new buildings – but she’s confident a foundation is in place to build upon.
“I am so excited for what the future holds for USF Sarasota-Manatee,” Dr. Stone said. “The quality of our programs, faculty, staff and students put us in a prime position to capitalize on the exciting growth that is happening in our community. There is no ceiling for what USF Sarasota-Manatee can become.”