September 1, 2014

Educating Tomorrow's Thinkers and Leaders

Greater Fort Lauderdale is abuzz with education.

Jeff Zbar | 3/1/2011

Greater Fort Lauderdale is abuzz with education — especially collaborative education. From a strong group of K-12 institutions — public, private and charter — to higher ed, the community can almost be viewed as a self-sufficient educational environment.

SeaTech
Florida Atlantic University's Institute for Ocean and Systems Engineering — or SeaTech — in Dania Beach is home to ocean engineering research in acoustics, marine vehicles, hydrodynamics and physical oceanography, marine materials and nanocomposites.
The K-12 ranks are strong. College preparatory schools like American Heritage, Pine Crest and St. Thomas are joined by Broward County Public Schools and charter schools countywide, says Jon Hage, founder/president/CEO of Charter Schools USA, the Fort Lauderdale-based pioneer in charter school programs.

"Fort Lauderdale is more than housing, manufacturing and tourism. Education is becoming the great equalizer, especially in this new economy," says Hage, who helped write legislation to foster introduction of charter schools in the state. "These opportunities are driving quality people into the workplace, which is helping us drive our business and growth."

The area might be better known for its network of higher education schools. Nova Southeastern University, Florida Atlantic University, Broward College and several for-profit schools make the county essentially a kindergarten-to-postgraduate educational environment, says Arthur Keiser, chancellor of Keiser University.

"You're developing within this community these new and dynamic forms of education," he says.

Mary Jane Saunders arrived last year as president of Florida Atlantic University amid the buzz of a growing and collaborative academic community. Though based in Boca Raton, FAU has a strong presence around greater Fort Lauderdale. The school's SeaTech facility in Dania Beach has been named the nation's Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center. In Davie to the west, the university's newest building is silver LEEDS certified. This year, FAU will open a medical school.

David Armstrong
"The development of talent is the real nexus here. This will help us coming out of this recession quicker and stronger than many other markets." — David Armstrong, President, Broward Colleges? [Photos courtesy of Broward College, Charter Schools USA and Nova Southeastern University]

Research labs there are shared with the University of Florida, and FAU's growing architectural program is housed in downtown Fort Lauderdale buildings shared with Broward College.

Collaboration is a growing philosophy here. The Broward Educational Consortium brings together the heads of grade school and higher-education institutions to discuss how to create a "seamless transition" for students from K-12 to FAU, Broward College or Nova Southeastern University, itself the home to a coral reef institute. A similar initiative seeks to build an IT/education corridor along Interstate 95 from Miami to Orlando, Saunders says.

"All the presidents talk to each other and want what's best for the citizens," she says. "Everyone has the same goal of making this a great place to live and work."

Educational leaders touch many sectors. David Armstrong, president of Broward College and a relative newcomer to the region, is chairman of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and chair-elect of the United Way of Broward County. Leading allows him to home-grow future employees and leaders — from public and private grade schools that rank high nationally, to the colleges they can attend. Armstrong is former chancellor of the state's Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Education, and he understands the role education plays in workforce issues.

Ray Ferrero Jr.
"We are a community poised to really go to the next level."
— Ray Ferrero Jr., Chancellor, Nova Southeastern University

"The development of talent is the real nexus here," says Armstrong, whose nursing program is the third-largest in the U.S., whose teaching program is graduating its first bachelor's students, and who enjoys the second largest community college endowment in the U.S. "This will help us coming out of this recession quicker and stronger than many other markets."

Creativity will drive the schools into tomorrow, says Ray Ferrero Jr., chancellor of Nova Southeastern University and a leader throughout the academic, business and cultural communities. In the not too distant future, the school's 23,638 students for associate's, bachelor's, graduate and professional degrees will study in a Jeffersonian-style "academic village" where education, living and retail merge.

Ferrero says the school contributes $1.4 billion to the state's economy — even more when you weigh its community impact. It's the county's third-largest employer. In 2010, Nova Southeastern received a $15-million stimulus grant and was named a Center of Excellence in coral reef preservation. In December the school was named a Carnegie Institution for Community Involvement.

"We are a community poised to really go to the next level," Ferrero says. "People are recognizing the potential here, the importance of education and the role it plays in our economic development."

Dr. Bernhard Riege
Dr. Bernhard Riegel is a professor at the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center and associate director of NSU's National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI). [Photo: Nova Southeastern University]

School Degree Areas Enrollment
Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
Diploma to Bachelor's
2,800
Broward College
Certificate to Bachelor's 66,687
Florida Atlantic University
Undergrad through postgraduate 3,876 (Broward)
28,325 (total)
Kaplan University
Certificate to graduate 1,200
Keiser University
Certificate to graduate 19,000
Nova Southeastern University Undergrad through postgraduate 23,638

Tags: Southeast

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