Monday marks one year since Dr. Paul Broadie II began his tenure as president of Santa Fe College.
He previously served as president for two colleges in Connecticut, but no amount of experience could have prepared Broadie for the year ahead when he took the job. A month after taking his role, the COVID-19 virus upended the country. One year later, Broadie reflects on what he’s learned from a year of adapting and the challenges that remain.
What follows is edited for length and clarity.
Q: What drew you to Santa Fe, and how have you seen that exemplified in your first year as president?
A: Right embedded in the mission was something that I stand for: was adding value to the lives of others, adding value to the students and enriching the community. It was nothing better for me than to be at an institution that embodied what I had been working towards for my entire life, which is to impact the community and to change a life through the power of education. Once I got here and started to experience the people, the faculty and the staff, what I saw very quickly was the culture of care that exists at the institution. That just made it an absolute pleasure, and it still is an absolute pleasure to serve as president of the institution.
Q: What was it like starting your presidency just a month before the pandemic hit?
A: On Feb. 4, I gave a presentation to the college community and pledged to listen, learn and lead during my first 100 days. Nowhere in that presentation did I talk about the pandemic that was coming because I didn’t know about it. The pandemic accelerated my ability to listen, learn and lead. I had to intimately get to know the institution, the inner workings of the institution and the people throughout the institution so that together we could address the needs of the pandemic.
Q: How did you and the college maintain public safety and continue to foster learning?
A: We noticed that students were being impacted in different ways. For example, we shifted our courses to online, and we noticed that there were some students who did not have the technology at home or did not have access to broadband or internet. So we opened up our parking lots so that students can have Wi-Fi service. We did a laptop loaner program; students that didn’t have a laptop at home or that needed a laptop, we provided a laptop service for them. And we placed a focus on virtual student support services, which is vital: virtual counseling, virtual financial aid, virtual advising, etc. So [online] students stayed connected to the institution and still received the services that they would have as an in-person student.
Q: Santa Fe College just received its largest single donation at the end of 2020 – how are you planning to use it?
A: We’ve just most recently received a generous $40 million gift from Ms. MacKenzie Scott. It will help us further impact creating a college-going culture, infuse some resources into our workforce development and address some of the challenges that are occurring in East Gainesville and in some of our rural communities.
Q: Speaking of East Gainesville, how have you worked to combat racial and class disparities in communities around the college?
A: Santa Fe College has always been front and center in addressing these challenges. We provide workshops to our own employees here at the college, helping them to understand racial bias and unintended bias. And we have also been very deliberate in programs. We have a very successful trio program that works with underserved communities. We have a very successful upward-bound program that works with at risk populations to help them learn about college and to eventually transition them to institutions of higher learning. And the success rates in those programs are significantly higher than in the national average.
Q: What are your long-term goals for Santa Fe College? Where do you see the college in five years, 10 years and, potentially, 15 years?
A: The overarching goal is to increase social and economic mobility. … Right now, in the immediate, what we’re seeing is that the community is being impacted by the pandemic as far as unemployment rates, as far as poverty rates, as far as healthcare; there are a number of factors that the pandemic has caused. We need to spend some time focused on our community and helping people put their lives back together. And Santa Fe stands ready to do that. We do intend to build, in the next five years, a workforce development center. … I like to say, we’re not a one-dimensional institution, and we won’t be. So for the next five years, 10 years, 15 years, we’re always going to be focused on student success, on learning and on increasing social and upward mobility.
Q: Now that you have been here a year, what would you say is the most significant effect the college has on others?
A: For me, it’s about impact. It’s about making sure that we are making a difference. Santa Fe College is very focused on: how do we make a difference, how do we move the needle, how do we change an individual’s life? So that’s been profound for me to watch that. The other thing is – and I like to say this – this is a result of the culture of care. So you can read our mission statement and our strategic priorities, but what you may not really be able to see is that there’s a culture of care that permeates this institution. And it’s those support services. It’s the mentorship from our faculty. It’s looking at the challenges that our community is facing and trying to address those challenges. It’s taking risks as an institution but doing the right thing.
We like to lead the way. We like to make a difference. And we like to have an impact.