College's Focus on Careers Serves Students, Employers, and Region
Throughout his extensive career as an educator, Dr. Steven Wallace has been intrigued by computers and a proponent of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). He was ahead of the curve among many of his colleagues: "At two different colleges I was the first to buy personal computers, and the ICT faculty laughed at me. They said that personal computers were a fad and I was wasting my money."
Dr. Steven Wallace's impressive educator résumé began at his alma mater, Chaffey College in California, and continued in Minnesota, Ohio, and now in Florida. Dr. Wallace has held two previous community college presidencies: both in Minnesota — first at Austin Community College and then at Inver Hills Community College.
This technology-inclined educator, now the president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, is also something of an iconoclast. Dr. Wallace says: "My vision and priorities for the college are all centered on responsiveness to employers. That may sound heretical, but the reality is that the vast majority of people go to college for economic advantage." Students attend college in the hope of securing a better job, having more job security, and making more money. Dr. Wallace explains: "You simply have more choices if you go to college. Employers provide those opportunities."
On Board with Networking Academy from the Start
The Cisco Networking Academy technology education program was just rolling out when Dr. Wallace moved in 1997 to what was then Florida Community College at Jacksonville. One of the first things he did in his new position was bring his ICT and academic leadership teams together. He told them, "Cisco has this awesome initiative and we are going to be part of it."
In August 2009, Florida Community College of Jacksonville became a four-year state college. One of its first degrees offered to students was a bachelor of science in computer network administration, which was based on Cisco technology. Some stakeholders were resistant to building a curriculum around one company's technology system. Dr. Wallace countered: "When graduates go out to get jobs, employers are going to be looking for Cisco networking competency more often than not. So we won that battle."
Collaboration with Enterprises for Student Economic Development
The expanded mission of the new state college has increased its impact, first in terms of opportunities for students to continue their education, but also in response to employer needs in human capital. According to Dr. Wallace, due to the indispensability of computer networks, organizations looking to locate in northeast Florida want to make sure the pipeline of talented professionals will be available to keep their networks up and running.
Networking Academy uses its technology expertise to design and update curriculum in response to the evolving needs of the Internet-centric world. Dr. Wallace says: "Networking Academy is a shining example of a remarkably solid connection between employers and education."
Networking Academy for Career Changers and High School Graduates
Working adults change careers for various reasons. One of the main reasons for making a change is company downsizing. Dr. Wallace explains: "The economy evolves and many people in a group — for example, middle managers across many companies — are laid off." These individuals must look at changing careers. In order to do that, they probably need additional education to prepare and qualify for employment in another field. Dr. Wallace notes: "Computer networking is very attractive for them."
Traditional college-bound students right out of high school tend to be very technology-oriented. Technology has been around them all of their lives — both networking and the Internet. It is clearly ubiquitous and becoming increasingly crucial for success. Dr. Wallace says: "Of all of their career choices, networking stands out as a great potential opportunity. It is very popular among our traditional school students."
Dr. Wallace adds: "Our students — working adults and traditional students — are smart. They understand that networks are not going away. Long-term, networks provide great career opportunities right here in northeast Florida."
Networking Academy: Mastery Is the Constant
In traditional college classes, some students fully grasp the course content while others do not. Dr. Wallace says: "That is unacceptable in a Networking Academy course. All students are expected to fully master every aspect of the course —including the hands-on, practical exercises — because an employer is not going to accept a student who learned only half of the content." Dr. Wallace continues: "In Networking Academy courses, we have the ideal pedagogical situation because all of the students need to achieve the same outcome, but it is okay if there is variability in time to mastery."
Evaluation Model Gives Networking Academy High Marks
Florida State College at Jacksonville has a very rigorous program evaluation model called College Program Revitalization. The college runs all of their academic programs through this analytical model, which flags deficiencies of any program and highlights any areas of exceptional performance. Dr. Wallace notes: "Networking Academy has been among the top-rated programs year after year."