Celebration reception in honor of the 10th anniversary of DirectConnect to UCF
Live Oak Event Center, UCF campus
November 9, 2015
Welcome everyone to this milestone celebration of DirectConnect to UCF, a great success story in American higher education.
I am delighted that our vital state college partners are well represented today. From our charter member institutions are Eastern Florida State College President Jim Richey; Lake Sumter State College President Chuck Mojock; Valencia College President Sandy Shugart; and, from Seminole State College on behalf of President Ann McGee, Vice President for Academic Affairs Laura Ross.Because of DirectConnect, all of our participating institutions are more popular, more effective, and more relevant. Together, we are better able to serve our students and to advance prosperity throughout our region.
As many of you may know, Chuck, Sandy, and Ann, along with the late Tom Gamble, then president of what is now Eastern Florida State College, were founding presidents of our landmark DirectConnect program – which keeps getting better and bigger.
It is also my pleasure to recognize the two newest members of our DirectConnect to UCF family: Daytona State College, with President Tom LoBasso, who is a UCF alumnus, and the College of Central Florida, with President James Henningsen, who is also an alumnus of UCF. Let’s give all our DirectConnect partners a big hand!
UCF prides itself on being America’s Leading Partnership University, and DirectConnect shows how the power of partnerships can create opportunities and results that no one entity could achieve alone.
Because of DirectConnect, all of our participating institutions are more popular, more effective, and more relevant. Together, we are better able to serve our students and to advance prosperity throughout our region.
Of course, the biggest winners from DirectConnect are our students and their families.
Education transforms lives now and for generations to come. And, like no other place in this country, our students in DirectConnect have a guaranteed pathway to a high-quality baccalaureate degree that is accessible, affordable, and impactful. What a beautiful thing!
In higher education, as in life, sometimes circumstances and the right people align to create something extraordinary.
Aiding the advent of DirectConnect was a tradition in Florida of articulation agreements between community colleges and state universities. Our institutions already had common course numbers and common prerequisites.
But we in Central Florida advanced that state-led initiative.
Much of the credit for DirectConnect goes to our partner presidents, who were willing to reach beyond convention for the greater good. But the person who really fostered the DirectConnect concept was David Harrison, who will address us via video in just a moment.
Before David became our UCF vice provost for regional campuses, he worked with Ann McGee at Seminole State as a vice president and chief academic officer.
His background gave him an ideal vantage point to understand the philosophical and operational similarities and differences that needed to be addressed among the partners. We wouldn’t have a DirectConnect today without the efforts of David, who is now president of Columbus State Community College in Ohio.
We also wouldn’t have a DirectConnect to celebrate without the outstanding work of our staff members at UCF and at the state colleges. They have a deep knowledge of higher education. They understand what students need to succeed, and they know how to make things work at their institutions.
Together, they shaped the shared facilities and nurtured the collaborations with course alignments, advising, registration, financial aid, and orientations that make DirectConnect work. And these staff members are always looking to make our best practices even better. Let’s show them our appreciation!
DirectConnect is all about student success and improving lives and livelihoods.
Since our first graduating class of DirectConnect students in 2008-09, UCF has conferred 26,822 degrees in this pioneering program. In addition, more than 140,000 state college students have expressed a desire to enroll in DirectConnect.
Some students in Florida are so determined to participate that they are bypassing their nearby state colleges to enroll in our partner colleges. To those students, we at UCF proudly say: “Welcome to DirectConnect!”
Students from DirectConnect are among UCF’s highest achievers. Consider Elizabeth Connor, a Valencia graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration this year from UCF and is pursuing a master’s degree.
Among her many accomplishments, Liz serves on the elite President’s Leadership Council, and this year she was inducted into the Order of Pegasus, which is the highest honor a UCF student can earn. And this DirectConnect story gets better.
In December, Liz’s big sister, Rebecca, a Valencia alumna, will graduate with high honors from UCF with a baccalaureate degree in industrial engineering. In December, younger sister, Sarah, will graduate with honors from Valencia and begin her studies at UCF in business management.
And, by the way, their mother, Kathleen, a nurse, shares a Valencia-UCF connection with her daughters. She earned a degree at Valencia in 1976 and later a master’s degree from UCF. Liz would you please stand, and would your sisters and mom also please stand to be recognized.
Meanwhile, national attention for DirectConnect is growing. This year, DirectConnect has been praised by the PBS NewsHour, Politico, Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, and by the Ithaka Foundation.
Politico concluded that “Central Florida’s institutions of higher learning are creating a seamless pipeline of social mobility.” It’s no wonder that institutions in Ohio, Georgia, Hawaii, Arizona, Virginia, and Vermont are among those emulating DirectConnect.
Together, UCF and our state college partners are transforming more lives than ever through the power of education.
UCF stands for opportunity, and we are particularly proud of the impact of DirectConnect among our first-generation and minority students.
Together, UCF and Eastern Florida State College, Lake Sumter State College, Seminole State College, Valencia College, Daytona State College, and the College of Central Florida have devised a national model for higher education in America.
We are producing a high-caliber workforce that our region needs. And, friends, we are just getting started!
Let’s keep reaching for the stars, and happy anniversary, everyone!
Dr. Dale Whittaker, UCF president-elect and executive vice president, will succeed UCF President John Hitt on July 1. Learn more about President-Elect Whittaker's plans and aspirations for America's Partnership University as he prepares to become UCF's 5th president. Also, see the full story about Dr. Whittaker's appointment and learn more about UCF's next president.