Only a month into her tenure as president of State College of Florida, Dr. Carol Probstfeld is moving quickly to establish stronger relationships with the community and extend collaborative efforts with both private enterprise and other educational institutions. Those relationships suffered the past few years but the new president expresses confidence that she can foster strong bonds with her record of success over her 16 years in higher education.
Within days of her January appointment in a unanimous board of trustees vote, Probstfeld reached out to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee to demonstrate her determination to restore the strong partnership that once existed between the two schools.
After meeting with Dr. Arthur Guilford, USF's regional chancellor, the two celebrated a "new beginning" with Guilford enthusiastic after the "very positive meeting." That bodes well for the reinvigoration of the schools' educational partnership, a bonanza for students.
In a discussion with the Herald's Editorial Board, Probstfeld outlined plans to cultivate stronger ties with New College, Manatee Technical Institute and Ringling College -- all to meet the best interests of students and the community.
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In another welcome strategic move, she plans to establish relationships with the area's economic development organizations in order to best meet business demands and workforce training. In one example, she cited a marine industry management program to supply Port Manatee with well trained employees as this major economic asset grows.
At visioning sessions with the public during SCF's presidential search, Probstfeld heard time and again that partnerships with other educational institutions was imperative.
As one trustee observed, those visioning sessions came up with job goals that matched Probstfeld's qualifications and skills. Thus, the search ended.
When that search abruptly ended with her surprise appointment, Probstfeld knew the desires of the community, faculty and trustees and promptly went about pursuing those goals.
She'd already served as both acting and interim president since early November and gained the confidence of the board during the months up to her appointment.
As SCF's vice president for business and administrative services for the past decade with oversight of the school's $50 million annual operating budget, she brings the financial discipline that trustees wanted to the presidency. Resources are precious, she says, and SCF must be responsible to taxpayers.
With three campuses in Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice, the college serves a large region with educational opportunities for around 27,000 credit students annually and another 14,000 participants in noncredit classes and workshops. Probstfeld points to East Manatee as the place for SCF's future growth, though the 55-year-old Bradenton campus will remain the college's core.
When her predecessor changed the school's name from Manatee Community College, many long-time residents here felt a keen sense of loss, anger and alienation. Probstfeld understands that healing these valuable relationships is vital to the future of the institution and she's eager to build bridges.
By her words and deeds, Dr. Carol Probstfeld is off to a terrific start in her presidency.