New College of Florida students, faculty and staff are joining elected officials, business leaders, community advocates and higher education professionals to launch The New College Challenge.
The launch event spotlighted the new initiative, which focuses on coastal, economic and social resilience in higher education and beyond.
“I’m excited that you’ve joined us at this important moment for our college and our community as we begin a unifying yearlong initiative to dream big and innovatively,” Patricia Okker opened at a two-hour brunch with panelists and speakers.
The initiative launches as ongoing recovery efforts unfold in Southwest Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, providing new urgency for the school’s mission.
“If ever there was a time to embrace new solutions, it is now. Whether through the unprecedented disruptions in the world of work, pressures on higher education, or the urgency of coastal resilience, this is no time for the status quo,” Okker said. “Our launch of The New College Challenge today is, at its heart, a commitment to resilience of all kinds and to the transformations necessary to achieve that resilience.”
The Tuesday event welcomed three expert panelists to discuss the topic of resilience: associate professor of research at the University of South Florida, Taryn Sabia; President and CEO of Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Teri Hansen; and Florida Department of Education Division of Career and Adult Education Chancellor Kevin O’Farrell.
Special guest William C. Dudley, a New College alumnus and the former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, also discussed the topic of “resilience” from an economic and financial perspective.
“One size does not fit all, you need a lot of different people with a lot of different perspectives — let’s do the work and we’ll have a great future together,” Dudley said.
New College has enlisted community and business leaders and higher education experts from Harvard, Yale, the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, Kean University, Syracuse University and the University of Miami to provide important perspectives for the Challenge.
Under the Challenge, New College will transform its campus into a community incubator for exploring coastal resilience. The yearlong initiative will engage leaders and experts to address social, economic and environmental challenges facing the region and the world.
The Challenge will engage student leaders to play a central role in shaping the campus of the future by exploring practical responses to sea level rise and developing leadership skills for collaborative problem solving in diverse communities.
The Challenge is modeled on two endeavors in the Northeastern U.S., including “Envision Resilience: Nantucket Challenge” and “Envision Resilience: Narragansett Bay.”
Sens. Ray Rodrigues, Jim Boyd and Joe Gruters and Rep. Fionna McFarland attended the kick-off brunch.
Other first-week special events include a New Topics lecture with Harvard professor Chris Reed on Wednesday and a Designing for Resilience Symposium on Thursday.
“My vision for the future of New College continues our story of transformation to create the best environment for our students who have big, bold ideas and who stand out to employers as the resilient problem solvers of tomorrow,” Okker said.