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- by  Abby Weingarten
On a picturesque slice of the Sarasota bayfront, the dream of founding a college that would be a hub for freethinking innovators came to life in 1960. New College of Florida was a grand experiment at the time.

While the country was steeped in the controversies of the ’60s, New College was creating a program that reflected the ideals of an individualized academic program that focused on mastery rather than competition.

That spirit of trailblazing continues at New College, taking the form of a new grand experiment that is being launched this fall.

Called The New College Challenge, this first-of-its kind yearlong initiative will transform the campus into a community incubator for exploring the future of higher education, as well as social and coastal resilience.

“From its beginnings, New College has been an innovator. The Challenge takes that further,” said New College of Florida President Patricia Okker, Ph.D. “Now we’re working with higher education, business and community partners to reinvigorate our campus. This is a way to help us jump headfirst into a more resilient, sustainable and eco-friendly future.”

And New College is the ideal setting for this collaborative undertaking. Students at New College embody the values of creativity, curiosity and individual thinking above convention and conformity. The College is also a launching pad for entrepreneurs who go on to solve the world’s biggest problems and positively impact the global landscape.

Modeled after two endeavors in the Northeast (“Envision Resilience: Nantucket Challenge” and “Envision Resilience: Narragansett Bay”), The New College Challenge will build partnerships with students, leaders from major statewide and national universities, and experts across key industries. These visionaries will address the social, economic and environmental challenges that face the region and the world today.

New College has the potential to serve as a sustainable model for a new era in higher education—one that will have the socioeconomic fortitude to nurture the leaders of tomorrow.

“The New College Challenge is designed to ensure that our institution is recognized for its tremendous value, is relevant to future generations, and is resilient to the pressures from our ever-changing world,” Okker said. “We know we can become the model for an honors liberal arts education in the 21st century.”

Challenge Launch Week Events

Tues. 10/25 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Kickoff Brunch

Join us as we launch the New College Challenge. Brunch includes regional leaders, design experts and special guest speaker William C. Dudley ’71, former President & CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who helped to successfully navigate the 2008 financial crisis.

Event on the New College bayfront.

Wed. 10/26 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. New Topics Public Lecture, Chris Reed, Harvard University

A leading national voice in transforming landscapes and cities, Reed will share his ambitious vision to be climate ready in order to protect our coastlines. Topic: “Climate Crisis Now! Learning and Landscapes in a Changing Environment.”

Event in the Sainer Auditorium. 

Fr. 10/28 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. “Designing for Resilience”

A one-day symposium on coastal resilience and adaptive strategies. How can we design more resilient communities in the face of coastal threats like storm surge? Engage with national experts as they present case studies and research relevant to the Gulf Coast.

Event on the New College bayfront.


RSVP HERE for any or all of the FREE events.


For more information, contact [email protected] and visit