Vet­eran ed­u­ca­tor Mike Martin takes the belm

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CON­TENTS - IN­TER­VIEWED BY JEFF LY­TLE

Meet the man who will take Florida Gulf Coast Univer­sity to its next level. The new pres­i­dent, Mike Martin, talks about his vi­sion for a school with great prom­ise.

T o face the press­ing chal­lenges of growth and fi­nances, Florida Gulf Coast Univer­sity (FGCU) launches its third decade with a new leader who has been there, done that across the coun­try.

Michael V. “Mike” Martin, Ph.D., who turns 71 in Jan­uary, suc­ceeds Wil­son Brad­shaw, who re­tired last sum­mer af­ter serv­ing for 10 years as FGCU’s third pres­i­dent.

A na­tion­wide search seized on Martin’s know-how from lead­er­ship po­si­tions at the Color ado State Univer­sity Sys­tem, Louisiana State Univer­sity, Univer­sity of Florida, Univer­sity of Min­nesota (his na­tive state) and Ore­gon State Univer­sity.

His ar­eas of spe­cial­iza­tion in­clude in­ter­na­tional trade and pric­ing, pub­lic pol­icy, trans­porta­tion and busi­ness lo­gis­tics. This in­ter­view was con­ducted for Bonita & Es­tero Magazine by Jeff Ly­tle. He is the re­tired ed­i­to­rial page edi­tor

of the Naples Daily News and for­mer host of the Naples Daily News­Mak­ers tele­vi­sion show. Ly­tle also in­ter­viewed FGCU’s pre­vi­ous three pres­i­dents.

You did a lot of home­work on FGCU and the com­mu­nity be­fore com­ing here. Since ar­riv­ing, what has sur­prised you—what new things

have you learned? Most sur­pris­ing to me is how much FGCU and the re­gion around it have grown and ad­vanced in just two decades. The qual­ity of the stu­dents, the fac­ulty and the staff is re­mark­able for such a young univer­sity. The com­mu­nity has em­braced the univer­sity in many sig­nif­i­cant ways. The out­comes to date could not have been en­vi­sioned or pre­dicted by con­ven­tional ob­servers.

Each of the first three FGCU pres­i­dents has had a niche. Roy McTar­naghan was the univer­sity sys­tem in­sider and builder; the late Bill Mer­win was the fundraiser; Wil­son Brad­shaw was

the grower. What do you con­sider as your spe­cial role? The role I be­lieve I was hired to play is to take FGCU into its next era by con­tin­u­ing to strengthen the aca­demic core, en­hanc­ing stu­dents’ suc­cess and their trans­for­ma­tional ex­pe­ri­ences and to build on the es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ships in the re­gion so as to serve cit­i­zens as well as stu­dents. Mak­ing ef­fec­tive change, it seems, is cen­tral to my main mis­sion. It is clear you are more than a care­taker pres­i­dent, as ev­i­denced by your strate­gic ad­min­is­tra­tive changes and re­solve to im­prove the grad­u­a­tion rate. What fu­els your pas­sion for that hard work

at this stage of your ca­reer? Over more than four decades, I’ve had a ca­reer much more re­ward­ing than I could have hoped for. In­ter­ac­tions with those in the cam­pus com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially stu­dents, make ev­ery day chal­leng­ing, in­ter­est­ing, re­ward­ing and al­most al­ways fun. It is ad­dic­tive and even at my age I re­main an ad­dict.

How do you ex­plain to the lay­man why it is so hard to grad­u­ate in four years? Time was, that was the norm. Is it be­cause to­day’s un­der­grad­u­ate is more likely to be older and/or have work

and fam­ily roles to jug­gle? Many of our stu­dents face unique chal­lenges which make com­plet­ing in four years dif­fi­cult. They of­ten face fi­nan­cial con­straints which re­quire that they work. Many are first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege at­ten­dees who have to learn to nav­i­gate a col­lege ca­reer with lit­tle help from home. Some, though smart, have de­fi­cien­cies in their col­lege readi­ness which means they need a bit of ad­di­tional time to catch up. And, quite hon­estly, a few so en­joy col­lege they are re­luc­tant to leave. Still, in ev­ery case we in­tend to sup­port them in ev­ery way so they can suc­ceed and suc­ceed in min­i­mal time. Cre­at­ing flex­i­ble path­ways to de­gree com­ple­tion, min­i­mize stu­dent debt and ac­cel­er­ate join­ing the work­force will be cen­tral in our com­mit­ment to ev­ery FGCU stu­dent.

How do you sum­ma­rize FGCU’s place in the over­all state

univer­sity sys­tem? Should that change over time? FGCU is and should re­main a com­pre­hen­sive, re­gional univer­sity in a broad-based, 12-in­sti­tu­tion sys­tem. While earn­ing na­tional, in­deed in­ter­na­tional, recog­ni­tion, FGCU should never for­get its re­spon­si­bil­ity to serve the state and most cer­tainly the South­west Florida re­gion. This in­volves, and will con­tinue to in­volve, ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents who can find a ca­reer in Florida, serv­ing cit­i­zens—cur­rent and fu­ture—and en­gag­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Many peo­ple in the com­mu­nity knew your pre­de­ces­sors. Do you plan to get out into the com­mu­nity to meet and greet

as they did? Yes, I have al­ready be­gun to in­tro­duce my­self to many lo­cal lead­ers and the re­gion’s cit­i­zens. This will con­tinue to be cen­tral as I lis­ten to those we serve so as to serve them bet­ter.

How do you sum up the level of com­mu­nity and phil­an­thropic

sup­port for FGCU? To date the level of phi­lan­thropy from the lo­cal cit­i­zen-boost­ers has been re­mark­able. With a rather small, young alumni base we have to rely on those who have adopted FGCU as their univer­sity. Many have gen­er­ously done so. Still, we will con­tinue to seek out those who wish to make an in­vest­ment that will trans­form lives and cre­ate a pow­er­ful legacy. In an era when costs of higher ed­u­ca­tion are un­der the mi­cro­scope, what is the right mix for fees ver­sus the high­est-pos­si­ble qual­ity? Cer­tainly qual­ity comes at a price and those we at­tract and serve un­der­stand this. Both stu­dents and the state must sup­port our on­go­ing jour­ney to ex­cel­lence. Some­times fees to pro­vide stu­dents with what they need are nec­es­sary. At the same time, those of us who lead FGCU must be able and will­ing to en­sure that ev­ery dol­lar, from what­ever source, has max­i­mum im­pact.

We will not com­pro­mise on qual­ity so this some­times means fo­cus­ing on those things we can and must do well and let oth­ers pro­vide pro­grams that don’t meet this FGCU stan­dard.

On a scale from 1 to 10, where does foot­ball rank in your

pri­or­i­ties? Right now foot­ball would rank for me as a 2. Per­haps some­day foot­ball will be fea­si­ble at FGCU but it isn’t now. We will, how­ever, com­pete at the high­est level in the sports we spon­sor. Our stu­dent-ath­letes will rep­re­sent FGCU with dis­tinc­tion.

What should the pub­lic know about FGCU that it may not

al­ready know? FGCU is a com­mu­nity of schol­ars—stu­dents, fac­ulty, alumni and friends—who are com­mit­ted to learn­ing and serv­ing oth­ers. They are sup­ported in ev­ery way by ded­i­cated, tal­ented staff pro­fes­sion­als. These folks bring a pas­sion for what they do that tran­scends just do­ing their job; it’s a call­ing. I’m ex­tremely proud to be their col­league.

FGCU Pres­i­dent Mike Martin wel­comes a fresh­man at a cam­pus dorm on move-in day in Au­gust 2017 with Direc­tor of Hous­ing Brian Fisher.

FGCU Pres­i­dent Mike Martin greets fresh­men at a cam­pus dorm on move-in day in Au­gust 2017.

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