Message from President Patricia Okker

Welcome to New College, a proud member of the State University System of Florida and a nationally ranked public liberal arts college. Here, students experience a personalized education that’s tailored to their academic interests, career aspirations, and individual learning style. Innovative curricula, extensive research and experiential learning opportunities, customized career planning, and comprehensive student support are the hallmarks of a New College education.

Over 80 percent of our undergraduate population lives on our beautiful bayfront campus in Sarasota. We are regularly recognized as one of the most affordable small colleges in the country and listed in Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. All of our classes are taught by faculty, not by teaching assistants. Each student is assigned a personal career coach, who works with them all four years to plan for their future beyond graduation.

Graduates of New College can be found in leadership roles in government, business, education, law, and nonprofit organizations. Our alumni embody New College’s mission of preparing intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement. And I am proud to lead this remarkable institution into the bright future that lies ahead for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Patricia Okker
President, New College of Florida

About President Okker

Patricia Okker, Ph.D. was appointed president of New College of Florida on July 1, 2021. Dr. Okker’s teaching and scholarship focus on nineteenth-century American literature, particularly American periodicals and women’s writing. She is the author of two books and one edited collection: Our Sister Editors: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Tradition of Nineteenth-Century American Women Editors, Social Stories: The Magazine Novel in Nineteenth-Century America, and Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction. In 2003, she was awarded a William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.   

Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Okker graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English and a minor in religious studies. She earned her master’s degree in English from the University of Georgia, and her Ph.D. (also in English) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Prior to her arrival at New College, Dr. Okker spent 31 years at the University of Missouri, both as a faculty member in the Department of English and in a variety of leadership roles. From 2017-2021, she served as Dean of the College of Arts and Science, where she led efforts that improved student retention rates, increased the diversity of faculty and leadership in the College, implemented a College-wide initiative around career education, and successfully completed the College’s largest fundraising campaign. 

Dr. Okker was initially attracted to New College because of the reputation of the academic program, the unique approach to self-directed learning, and the innovative integration of academic and career education. Her presidential priorities include improving student outcomes; ensuring that New College is an inclusive and supportive community to learn, work and grow; and increasing the reputation of New College throughout the state, the nation and the world. 

Dr. Okker lives with her husband, Dr. Richard Edging; her mother; and their golden retriever, Blu. Dr. Edging and Dr. Okker have two grown children, Kate and Jack. In her spare time, Dr. Okker enjoys running, weightlifting and powerlifting. She ran her ninth consecutive Boston Marathon in April 2022.  

See President Okker’s curriculum vitae

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Patricia Okker New College President
Professor of English
Bradley Thiessen Chief of Staff
Director of Institutional Performance Assessment

Past Presidents of New College of Florida

George Fechtig Baughman
Sept. 10, 1960 – May 13, 1965

Dr. John Gaasbeek Elmendorf
Sept. 1, 1965 – Sept. 19, 1968
Jan. 15, 1969 – June 30, 1972

Dr. Victor Butterfield
Acting President
Sept. 20, 1968 – Jan. 14, 1969

Dallas W. Dort
Acting President, Fall 1972 – Fall 1973

Dr. Arland F. Christ-Janer
Sept. 1973 – June 27, 1975
From 1975 to 2001 New College of Florida was a school under the University of South Florida.  On July 1st, 2001 New College achieved independence as the 11th member of the State University System and was designated by the Florida Legislature as the “Honors College for the State of Florida.”  View University of South Florida Presidents from 1975 – 2001

Dr. Gordon E. Michalson, Jr.
Acting President, July 14, 2001 – Sept. 29, 2001
President, Sept. 30, 2001 – June 30, 2012

Dr. Donal O’Shea
July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2021