Starting the conversation: Christie Fitz-Patrick

Christie Fitz-Patrick
Christie Fitz-Patrick

By Su Byron

Christie Fitz-Patrick was recently appointed New College’s associate vice president of administrative affairs. That begs the question: What does an associate vice president of administrative affairs do, exactly?

According to Fitz-Patrick, it’s a long list.

She works directly with Chris Kinsley, the vice president of finance and administration, on the budget. And she serves in an oversight role in key areas, including application support and development; information technology; environmental health and safety/emergency management; and campus police matters. Basically, she helps keep things working and moving.

That’s a lot of responsibility. But Fitz-Patrick is used to that.

Before coming to New College, she served at the Florida Department of State in a variety of different roles, including legislative affairs director, budget director, grants director, deputy secretary of state, and deputy chief of staff. Fitz-Patrick oversaw government affairs, agency operations, and prepared and managed annual budgets exceeding $100 million. She successfully secured additional funding for state government programs and passed key legislation to build a better election process in Florida.

It’s an impressive 10-year track record. But Fitz-Patrick left it all behind to come to New College. Why did she make the change?

“The position aligned with my skillset,” she said. “I thought I could bring a lot to the table. And I feel a strong connection to the College. I support the president’s vision, and am extremely impressed with the students and faculty.”

Fitz-Patrick knew she made a difference at the Florida Department of State. By joining the New College team, she could see the results of her work on a daily basis.

“Working at the state level, your sense of satisfaction is very abstract,” she said. “A project might take years to complete—and you don’t see a day-to-day impact. At New College, I can contribute directly to its growth, and see the impact I’m making quicker.”

Fitz-Patrick definitely has the skills to make an impact. Having worked with a $100 million budget and a large team, it’s a safe bet that she knows how to hit the ground running. A typical Type-A manager with her qualifications might step into her position, burn everything down, and start from scratch. That’s not Fitz-Patrick’s style.

“I didn’t want to come on like a storm,” she said. “Before I suggest changes to anything, I want to understand how the campus and its people work. Right now, I’m in the listening and learning phase.”

According to Fitz-Patrick, it’s all about grasping the programmatic logic behind budget. Why is the money being spent? What needs are being met? Do some programs need more funding? There’s only one way to get the answers: Talk to people.

“As you probably guessed, I’ve been through a flurry of meetings,” Fitz-Patrick laughed. “I’m trying to pace myself.”

Because of the pandemic, most of those conversations aren’t face-to-face. It translates to lots of phone calls, and Google and Zoom meetings.

“I start at a higher level to get a sense of the logistics,” she said. “From there, I find specific points of contact and start conversations. I get a sense of each individual’s goals and visions. And I’m interested in ideas they may have had that were never acted on. Five years ago, they might have had a great idea—and dropped it for lack of funding. I’ll try to draw that out of them and see if it’s possible now.”

For Fitz-Patrick, it’s a lot of detective work. Each area of responsibility is a thicket of granular details. But Fitz-Patrick never loses sight of the big picture.

“My two main goals will come as no surprise,” she said. “They’re the same goals of any university administrator—obtain more funding and attract more students.”

That’s the big picture. How will she make it possible?

“By looking at the small picture,” she said. “One conversation at a time.”

Fitz-Patrick has just started the conversations. She can’t wait to see where it leads.

Su Byron is the communications specialist for the New College Foundation.

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 data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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