Donald W. Wortham, the new president of Hodges University, moved from the “ice box” of America to, he says, its “oven.” Since 2012, he served as vice president of strategic initiatives at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota.
Wortham hopes to bring leadership stability to Hodges, a private nonprofit institution that offers career-focused undergraduate and graduate degrees. It has campuses in Fort Myers and Naples, as well as an online learning compenent. He follows interim president David Borofsky.
Wortham holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.
What was your biggest accomplishment at St. Scholastica, and how does it relate to your new role? In six years at my last institution, we were able to expand substantially. We grew from about 3,000 to almost 4,500 students, and had substantial revenue growth. I would really like to grow Hodges [which had 2,094 students in the spring 2016 term] in the same kind of way.
What has prepared you for your first role as president of an institution? I had the advantage of being mentored by an absolutely excellent president, Larry Goodwin. I got to watch him execute the affairs of our institution very effectively. Most of the programs I ran at my previous institution were for responsible adult college students. Fortunately, Hodges works primarily for students who need a transformational education. Hodges and my old institute go hand-in-hand in that aspect.
What are your main goals? We really need to understand two things: the needs of the employer community in Southwest Florida, and the sort of skills that students need to move the community forward economically.
Have you faced any challenges with Hodges? Many Americans do not understand [how to answer the question]: What does a student get for going to college? Hodges is relatively inexpensive for a private, nonprofit school [$530 per credit hour]. However, we need to make it even more affordable.
How will you do that? We can offer different loans that will be less expensive for students. We can work on developing scholarships for students who are very highly qualified, or otherwise cannot afford to attend Hodges. I will look into more merit aid.
How will you address stability at Hodges, after a long time without a president? I think it is going to be a lot easier than many people think, because there is a wonderful core of vice presidents here. For the most part, those vice presidents are long-standing at Hodges, and really understand the institution. I think we have a great team that is going to provide stability moving forward.