Sylvia M. Thomasson Educational Leadership Enhancement Program
palm tree image Sylvia M. Thomasson
Monday, May 20, 2024

Class of 2012

Program orientation

Program participants selected from Pasco-Hernando Community College, College of Central Florida and Lake-Sumter State College first met for an orientation at Lake-Sumter State College in September. After enjoying a breakfast and making introductions with the twelve people who we would be working with over the next ten months, we were welcomed by Dr. Barbara Howard and Dr. Michelle Balon of LSSC. This was followed by a team building activity and an overview of the program. Our final session of the day was an alumni perspective from past participants. Overall, it was a great meeting that resolved many of our unanswered questions and anxieties about what to do next.

Fall conference

Our second meeting was at the lavish Naples Grande Hilton hotel for the Fall Educational Leadership Enhancement Program Conference. These three days were full of informative and engaging sessions and an opportunity to network with colleagues from across the state. In addition to our Sylvia Thomasson cohort, participants from Florida International University, Hillsborough Community College and Polk State College participated in this conference as part of their leadership enhancement program. Our first day began with lunch, followed by a welcome session from Dr. Barbara Bader of Florida International University. Judy Alicea from HCC led us in a first impressions icebreaker activity, and then Dr. Marie McDemmond, President Emeritus of Norfolk State University, spoke to us candidly about the responsibilities of leadership. The first day was finished up with Dr. Bader facilitating a conversation with Sharon Miller, Provost at Polk State College.

The next couple of days did not disappoint. Tracey Moore, professor from Western Kentucky University, led the group in lessons on public speaking. Barbara Larson and Rhonesia Dennard from Hillsborough Community College spoke to the group about college finances. Our final day featured Nancy Lemon, President of Professional Development Group, leading us in a session to identify and focus on our strengths— not our weaknesses. Then Dr. Barbara Howard and Dr. Michelle Balon from Lake-Sumter State College spoke to the group about where we go from here. With such a full schedule we all walked away from our fall conference with many realizations and insights about leadership.

When we were not engaged in one of the sessions, our group set aside some time to begin working on our group leadership project for the year. We knew we could only meet in person once per month, so we wanted to make the most of each meeting— in hindsight, we were very glad we did as we used every last minute we could. This opportunity was also a great time for us to get to know each other better as we spent some free time and dinners together in a beautiful setting.

Leadership lessons

Our third meeting was at Pasco-Hernando Community College in November. Bonnie Clark, Associate Provost of PHCC, and Donna Burdzinski, Dean of Student Enrollment and Retention of PHCC, spoke to the group about Lessons in Leadership providing insight from their own experiences and advice from leadership researchers. Lori Bainum, Director of Professional Development at PHCC, led the group in a DISC exercise and evaluated our own core values when it comes to ethical decision- making. We also had the opportunity to engage in conversation with some of the program’s alumni about their experiences in the program and their advice to us.

Presidents’ Forum

The Presidents’ Forum was the highlight of the program for most, if not all, of our participants. In January, we met in the Lake-Sumter State College boardroom with college presidents. Dr. Katherine Johnson of PHCC, Dr. Charles Mojock of LSSC, Dr. Eileen Holden of PSC, and Dr. Jim Hennigsen of CCF graciously answered our questions and engaged in conversation with each of us. Their wisdom, insight, and wit left us all feeling enlightened and honored to have had the opportunity to speak with four college presidents at one time. After the forum, we participated in a session about leadership and the book Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson. We concluded our day with more work on our group leadership project and developed how we would feature our topic of improving soft skills.

Tallahassee experience

Talahassee tripIn February, we spent four days in Tallahassee during the legislative session. We had the opportunity to observe several house and senate committee meetings and learned more about issues facing education. On our second day we toured the Florida Supreme Court building and had the honor to meet with Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince. On our third day, we visited the Florida Department of Education where we heard from Chancellor Frank Brogan, Chancellor Randall Hanna, Interim Vice Chancellor Julia Alexander, Vice Chancellor John Holdnak, CFO Tim Jones, and Director Matthew Bouck. Later that afternoon, we visited the AFC state office and met with Florida College System lobbyists to learn more about what issues they are focusing on and how they impact our schools’ policies. On our last day, we joined the leadership enhancement program participants from other colleges for a breakfast and opportunity to hear from Senator Anitere Flores before she had to run back to the capitol. Our trip to Tallahassee was concluded with a tour of the governor’s mansion.

Of course, throughout this trip, we utilized time around the Capitol and at our hotel to film some video and write scripts for our project that was to be complete in May.

Envision, planning and mentoring

In March, we had our first visit at the College of Central Florida. Our day began with a panel discussion from the College of Central Florida’s Library Access Services Coordinator Marian Smith, Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lois Brauckmuller, Coordinator of Retention and Student Success Services Dr. Leonard Everett, Provost Marilyn Kern-Ladner, VP/Provost Dr. Vernon Lawter, and Manager of E-Learning Josh Strigle. The afternoon featured a session with Joanne Bellovin about mentoring and being mentored, and tips for creating your own self portrait and looking your best with Delores Hunt.

Leadership in action

The group was back at Pasco-Hernando Community College in April for Leadership in Action. Dr. Katherine Johnson, President of PHCC, spoke to the group about facing challenges in leadership. Dr. Stan Giannet, Provost of PHCC’s North Campus, enlightened the group about the psychology of leadership. Following lunch, we collaborated in a creative team competition where we maximized the resources we had at hand. The last session of the day was facilitated by Dr. Cheri Kittrel and explored what social identity theory can teach us about successful leadership.

Leadership communication and team building

Our final meeting before our culminating summer conference was held in May at the College of Central Florida at their Appleton Museum of Art. We started the day with some up close and personal team building exercises led by the Director of Student Life at CF, Marjorie McGee. After lunch, Dr. Henri Benlolo spoke to the group about enhancing their leadership through communication skills. Our day ended with a tour of the Appleton Museum and some finishing touches on our group leadership project.

Summer conference

Our program concluded with the summer conference at the scenic Sarasota Hyatt, where we were once again joined by other Leadership Enhancement Program participants from HCC, FIU and PSC. The primary focus of these three days was to hear from each of the participants on what they have been working on and present our leadership project as well. It was an exciting time to culminate all of our hard work and hear about the wonderful things others were doing at their colleges. Throughout the three days in Sarasota, we also heard from Polk State College President Eileen Holden, a presentation on financial literacy with Joel Thornton, and a session from Dr. Barbara Bader and Dr. Michelle Balon about where we go from here as aspiring leaders. The Sylvia Thomasson participants wrapped up their summer conference with a private graduation ceremony where each received their program certificate and had an opportunity to reminisce with one another about their “aha” moments from this ten month journey. Each participant expressed their personal appreciation for the opportunities and information they’ve gained. The sharing also underscored the importance of diverse collaboration and professional relationships.

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