2017 Business Leaders of the Year | Education & Talent Pipeline
After three weeks as a student at St. Petersburg Junior College (SPJC), Ann McGee was not fully engaged and on the verge of dropping out of school. However, she knew if she did not graduate college, her future options would be limited. Instead of calling it quits, she went to the dean’s office and got involved in student activities, later becoming sophomore class president and president of the honor society. She also worked in the dean’s office, gaining key experience that would serve her well later in life.
McGee recognized the importance of engagement in the college setting, thus setting herself on the path that eventually led to the presidency of Seminole State College in 1996. During the last 21 years, Seminole State has grown immensely. When McGee arrived, it was the only college of the 28 in the state system that had only one campus. Today, the school has four campuses and is the ninth largest in the state with approximately 30,000 students. It has seven bachelor degree programs and an annual budget of more than $84 million. In January 2018, Seminole State will start classes for its newest bachelor’s degree in nursing and open a 77,000-sq.-ft., $24 million student center on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus.
Throughout her career, McGee has believed in cultivating ownership in employees and students through communication. The student center aims to keep students connected, as well as help with any questions they may have as they move towards their degrees and careers. For employees, McGee emphasizes the contribution each individual can make in the future of the college.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve emphasized to our staff to lead from where they are,” she said. “I believe everyone, including custodians, security, faculty, administrators, and clerks in the library, can influence the school’s environment in a positive way. In turn, their own lives are also impacted positively.”
Another way employees can make an impact is through the college’s Leadership Academy. Launched 11 years ago, it is open to full-time employees, competitive to get into and has seen approximately a third of the faculty and staff enroll. Class members participate in seven all-day leadership development sessions, including a two-day trip to Tallahassee and a graduation ceremony. The training also includes meetings with legislators and key administrators across the state, all with the intent of developing a better understanding of college operations. A similar version of Leadership Academy is available for students.
“I believe in arming people with knowledge,” McGee said. “The more they understand the workings of the college, the budget, and the outside influences that impact us, the better connected they’ll be and the more they’ll realize how they can positively impact the overall experience here.”
There is also a monthly “exchange of views” between the executive team and faculty senate leadership. Once a term, McGee and her staff meet with employee groups and student government leaders with the goal of hearing their concerns and providing a better employee and student experience.
As the seventh largest employer in Seminole County, the school also affects the economic potential of the region by preparing students for their careers with a quality education, thereby earning the school the reputation as “an economic engine for the community producing a quality workforce for Central Florida.”
On July 31, 2018, McGee will step down as president. Over the last 21 years, she has seen many improvements at the college and is deeply proud of them. However, she also knows there is still work to be done, such as securing improved funding from the state, hiring more full-time faculty and staff, expanding international programs, renovating the school’s wellness facility, and building the second, third and fourth buildings in Altamonte Springs.
For a college that has achieved so much, there is still significant growth on the horizon. “There’s so much to do,” joked McGee, “maybe I’ll just stay.”