Patricia Okker, Ph.D.
Patricia Okker, Ph.D.

From SRQ on 10-9-21:

By Patricia Okker, Ph.D.

When it comes to career coaching and preparation, New College of Florida is all business.

We don’t wait to equip our students with the tools they need to thrive in the real world; we start working with them one-on-one as soon as they enroll. And when they arrive on campus, they find that a solid foundation for career success is built right into their academic experience.

It’s an incredible approach—unlike anything I’ve ever seen during my decades-worth of work in higher education.

So, you may be asking: What’s our secret? Well, since I became president of New College in July, I’ve done everything I can to make our approach to career education less of a secret.

First, every student at New College is paired with a career coach. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for education, nor does it work for career preparation. By ensuring that each student has a career coach, we can provide the robust attention that career education deserves.

Second, a career focus is fully integrated into the academic program at New College. Our first-year seminars combine academic rigor with career exploration. Community leaders and alumni serve as professional mentors to our students, helping them hone the skills they need to flourish in every career sector. And we aim to have 100 percent of our students pursuing at least one internship for academic credit before they graduate.

We would be doing a disservice to our students if we didn’t give them every boost they deserve before they head out into the professional world—especially during an era of economic uncertainty. At New College, we nurture intellectual curiosity while giving students the practical experience to fulfill their dreams for the future.

And we do this while keeping higher education affordable. While many of our academic peers are private institutions (costing upwards of $75,000), New College is a public honors college—and our in-state tuition and fees (including room and board) hover right around $17,000. Our average net cost is approximately $6,000. This means that nearly 60 percent of our students graduate with zero debt (well above the national average of 42 percent), which gives them the financial freedom to pursue their big career ambitions.

After a decade or more in the workforce, our graduates earn a median salary of $106,300—the second-highest median salary among state universities in Florida.

Since 2019, student engagement with career education and services at New College has increased by 275 percent, and employer engagement has gone up by more than 1,000 percent. Our students just can’t get enough of our career resources, and we are thrilled to provide them.

Last academic year, 177 employers and graduate schools recruited students on campus through virtual services and fairs, and thousands more recruited through job postings in Handshake designed specifically for New College students. We also have active relationships with more than 7,000 professional organizations.

Our objective at New College is to make career pathways evident for students no matter what they choose to study—knowing that their skills will be transferable to numerous industries (not just one).

We point students toward professional internships and community engagement opportunities, like the Sarasota-Manatee Arts & Humanities Internship Program (a Mellon Foundation-funded initiative that allows students to pursue paid internships locally in areas like web development and youth outreach).

Also, New College is situated on the beautiful bayfront, so students can study red tide and water quality (conducting graduate-level research as undergraduates) without ever leaving campus.

New College attracts students who are bright, driven and ready to go places. We aim to give them everything they need to get there.

Patricia Okker, Ph.D. is the president of New College of Florida.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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