A NACCE Entrepreneurial President Profile
Like many regions around the country, the four counties served by Indian River State College-Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee-are striving to diversify their economy. The effort, begun in 2005, seeks to add research and education components to an economy primarily driven by agriculture, tourism and construction. Despite the recession, the region has had success in attracting companies and research facilities working in life sciences, information technologies, agricultural and marine research, and green technologies, including alternative energy. Long known as the Treasure Coast, a name reflecting the fact that Spanish galleons routinely wrecked off the coast in the 17th and 18th centuries, the region is re-branding itself with a name that reflects what everyone hopes will be a bright economic future: Florida's Research Coast.
As president of IRSC since 1988, Edwin Massey finds himself very much in the middle of this drive for economy diversity. With 32,000 students, IRSC is the eighth largest in the Florida College System, which includes 28 public colleges and state colleges. Known as Indian River Community College for most of its 50-year history, the school changed its name last year to reflect the fact that it began offering nine four-year degrees in 2008. Three additional four-year programs are in the pipeline.
According to Massey, the economic shift his region is undergoing has necessitated change at IRSC. "As we try to keep up with the significant enrollment growth that has come with the recession," he says, "we also face the challenge of retraining people as our region transforms its job base to research-based jobs, such as biotechnology, photonics, laser technology, health sciences, and energy. The challenge has been to generate revenues to build additional new buildings that accommodate these types of programs and also build a curriculum to train for these emerging technologies."
Preparing the Culture for Change
Fortunately, IRSC is well equipped to meet the challenge posed by the region's shifting economic focus, thanks to an effort Massey launched in 2000 to revamp the college's culture. The goal of the cultural enhancement initiative-called Jumping the Curve©-was to help the institution make the leap from good to great. According to Massey, this leap was necessitated by rapid-fire changes in technology, globalization, external competition, enrollment growth, budget cuts, student demand for access, and changing demographics.
"The value of an organization's culture is always depreciating," says Massey. "Change is inevitable, but it's much better to change from a position of strength when you're able to choose to change versus changing from a position of weakness when forced to change. Simply layering new approaches on top of an old culture will not work. Change that is not anchored in cultural change will prove to be just another 'project' and will fail to provide sustainable, long-lasting change. Our goal was to create a culture that supports organizational learning and anticipates change, seeks out change, receives change in the right way, understands the need to change to remain relevant and to constantly be creating the future."
As a result of hard work by people at all levels of the college, including students, IRSC is delivering on its value statement: "Where Student Success Comes First." IRSC has been ranked #1 nationally in technology for colleges of its size by the American Association of Community Colleges. Its foundation ranks #1 in the nation based on amount of private funds raised, and grants have increased from the NSF, NRC, EDA, DOE and similar sources. In 2006, IRSC received a MetLife Foundation Community College Excellence Award.
Entrepreneurship Program Launched
IRSC's Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI), launched in 2007, is emblematic of the many changes and growth occurring at the college under Massey's leadership. The EDI offers numerous types of training in the creation and support of new businesses as well as a high-tech incubator. "The EDI has quickly expanded to have close to 2,000 students participating in the program," says Massey. "We also have an endowed teaching chair in Entrepreneurship and an Entrepreneur of the Year award program that has become a very popular social event to recognize local entrepreneurs."
Private funds were raised and matched by the State of Florida to establish the Endowed Teaching Chair Program in Entrepreneurship. Revenue from this endowment is made available to fund competitive proposals presented by full-time faculty members. Successful proposals are funded with $6,000 for three years with $2,000 of those funds awarded going to the faculty member and $4,000 being used for the project as determined by the faculty member, i.e. stipends to other participating faculty members, equipment, supplies etc.
"The current Endowed Chair is developing a Trans-disciplinary Entrepreneurial Institute to introduce entrepreneurial skills across the curriculum," says Massey. "Participants are paid a small stipend to participate.The Institute holds roundtable discussions about how faculty can work together to take an integrative approach to spread entrepreneurship across the curriculum. This has been very well received by the faculty, and many new ideas have come out the roundtables. For example, we've created a course entitled Science for Business; with the development of the scientific community that has taken place in our area, it's just a natural for us to get the business and science people together through this new program."
Among the new building projects on the IRSC campus is a 60,000-square-foot facility called the Center of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. "This new facility will house an alternative and renewable energy institute, a sustainable building institute, an entrepreneurial institute, and a virtual incubator," says Massey. "By locating the entrepreneurial institute in this building we are immersing it with other programs focused on areas that are of growing importance to our community."
Advice from the Corner Office
Asked what advice he would give to other community college leaders, Massey says, "Essentially, we have to understand that there is a tremendous amount of potential in colleges like this. We have tremendous faculty members and administrators, and our job as president is to create a culture within our institution where these individuals can reach their full potential. I think many times we get so busy with our jobs every day that we can forget the culture and allow the institution to be run by rules and regulations that really don't encourage people to be the best they can be.
"The other thing that's important to understand is that our colleges, more than ever before, are in a position to make a tremendous impact on our local economies and our local communities," Massey concludes. "We need to take the risk of determining what the future is going to bring and then build buildings to attract economic development and diversification within emerging areas that would be determined by the colleges. Community colleges should become more proactive rather than just reactive to the workforce. In doing that we will lead our community and play a major role in the future economic development of the area. We have to be out front; we can't wait to build a building or training program today because change will move so quickly, as we've seen in our part of Florida."
How NACCE Has Helped
"Thanks to opportunities provided through NACCE, our college has received funding through grants to initially create and then expand our Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) "Lunch and Learn" Series," says Massey. "This program has provided a tremendous outreach service to the businesses in our community and continues to be very popular. Several staff are also very involved with NACCE through publications and workshops. We are serving as members of the Host Committee for the October NACCE Conference in Orlando. All of these activities are very relevant as we strive to serve our community in new and exciting ways."