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- by  David Gulliver

Some of its furniture still sits in boxes, awaiting assembly, but the newest department at New College of Florida is already drawing crowds.
The Center for Engagement and Opportunity, or CEO – the name and acronym chosen by students – brings together three aspects of post-college life: internships, fellowships and career planning.
In that sense, the furniture and the location, in renovated classroom space in Jane Bancroft Cook Library, are apt metaphors for the CEO. “We’re building everything from the ground up,” said Kim Franklin, the newly hired director of career services.
“This is a brand-new way to operate here,” said Courtney Hughes, assistant director for national fellowships.
Andrea Knies, the center’s internship coordinator, said they have been so busy, sometimes students dropping in are having to make appointments.
The center opened August 27, and in just its first month, 535 students and 62 parents have already visited or attended programs.
One example was a career conversation with Sarasota native Kate Byrnes, a diplomat with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a former staffer with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The CEO also sponsored a campus job fair, drawing both college departments and off-campus businesses, including Wells Fargo, Asolo Theater, and several retailers from the soon-to-open University Town Center shopping mall. More than 100 students attended in the first hour alone.
The CEO’s community networking is also paying off. Knies notes that students have landed internships at sites including the Institute for the Ages, a regional non-profit; the Roskamp Institute, a neuroscience research center; Sarasota Magazine, a high-end publication; Maglio, Christopher & Toale, a Sarasota-based law firm; and Sarasota County’s Green Map, a geographic information system project.
The CEO staff also is working with political science faculty to start an internship program in the Florida legislature, called the Semester in Tallahassee.
Interest in fellowships — already a strong suit for New College — is soaring. This year’s class of Fulbright applicants is the biggest ever, Hughes said. And for the first time, New College is having an internal competition to select its applicants for the prestigious Goldwater fellowships, for excellence in math and science. Goldwater limits each school to four applicants, and 10 students want to apply this year.
It’s all in keeping with the CEO’s mission: To get every student thinking about the future from day one, to integrate career planning into the academic program, to build  presentation  and job search skills, and to track students’ successes.
Improving career services has been part of President Donal O’Shea’s plan since he took office in July 2012.   New College was able to hasten the CEO’s launch when the state university system’s performance metric assessment called for more graduates in high-paying jobs in Florida. The state legislature provided $500,000 for the college to take steps toward that goal.
The result of that investment – the CEO – should get more students participating in experiential learning, such as community service, internships, independent study and fellowships.
The goal is that New College students will have even more career options, and be more likely to stay in the region or in Florida. “We want jobs for New College students in the community. The way to do that is to be more connected to our community,” Franklin said.
Contact: David Gulliver, News Services Manager, 941-487-4154, [email protected]
New College of Florida is a national leader in the arts and sciences and is the State of Florida’s designated honors college for the liberal arts. Consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts colleges in America by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and The Princeton Review, New College attracts highly motivated, academically talented students from 38 states and 20 foreign countries. A higher proportion of New College students receive Fulbright awards than graduates from virtually all other colleges and universities.