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New Man on Campus

Wilson Bradshaw arrives in his new position as president of Florida Gulf Coast University with a doctorate in psychology, a boatload of academic experience—and a recognition that FGCU plays a key role in Southwest Florida’s economic development.

The 10-year-old institution’s third president, he took the helm in November, coming from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., where he served as president since 2000.

This is a return to Florida for Bradshaw, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida Atlantic University, and later returned there as professor and dean of graduate studies. As he prepared for his move from the Twin Cities, Gulfshore Business asked him what Southwest Florida’s business community can expect with him at the head of FGCU.

What kind of relationship have you had as president of Metropolitan State with the business community there?
I [just rotated off] the Greater St. Paul Chamber of Commerce board of directors. We do have a College of Management here at Metropolitan State, and many of our faculty are involved with consultancy with [local] businesses. We also design customized curricula when we are asked by various businesses in the area.

Can you give me some examples of customized curricula?
U.S. Bank wanted to upgrade the knowledge base and skill level of a group of their employees. [Metropolitan State] faculty met with the principals of U.S. Bank, discussed with them what those needs are, and designed a curriculum that would meet those needs.

Another unique partnership is with the Minnesota Society of CPAs. [Metropolitan State has] been working with them the past four years, and customized the delivery of our MBA program just for the members of the society.

We have heard from the business community—especially at the executive level—of the need for a doctorate in Business Administration, and [the school intends] to explore the development of such a degree program.

Your predecessor at FGCU was known as a strong fundraiser. How important is that role to you, and what do you bring to it?
Fundraising is important more and more for public institutions. [With] the fiscal situation in the state of Florida, public institutions are getting less and less from state appropriations, and it’s requiring us to be more creative and to find people who resonate with our mission and are willing to support that mission. Fundraising is a large part of what I do here in Minnesota, and I suspect I’ll be doing a great deal of that in Southwest Florida.

Is the business community a majority player in fundraising?
They have been a significant player in supporting Florida Gulf Coast University, and I expect that to continue and, indeed, expand.

How do the industries here differ from the Twin Cities’?
They are quite different. For instance, [Minnesota has] the corporate headquarters of 3M, Cargill and Travelers. In Minnesota we don’t have a lot of low-wage, low-skill jobs.

I need to learn more about the businesses in [Southwest Florida] and learn more about what their needs are and how we as a public institution can meet those needs. There is a consortium there comprised of FGCU, Edison College and public school districts. Collectively, we can meet needs the needs of the business community and others if we coordinate our efforts.

What are your goals for FGCU?
Part of what we need to do is continue to grow. I don’t expect the slope of the curve will be as steep. That’s not all bad, because that gives us a chance now to really solidify the programs that we have developed and also to enhance the quality of a very good education product.

What academic areas would you like to see changed or developed, and how could the business community contribute?
I need to consult more [and form] an advisory committee that can get me information from the business community in a way that I can translate into enhancing our programs. I think you will see the expansion of graduate programs; we need to see exactly where that needs to occur by talking to the business community and others. We need to find creative ways to work with our sister institutions in that region—public and private.

How will you begin to develop those relationships with businesses and sister institutions?
We’re already beginning to set up meetings with principals within the region. I’ve already had a wonderful conversation with the president of Edison College, Ken Walker. He sent me an article on two-year colleges offering baccalaureate degrees, and he has co-authored a book in that area as well. Dr. Walker is recognized nationwide as an advocate for two-year colleges offering four-year selected baccalaureate degrees. I meet with the two-year college presidents here, and they each got
a copy of Dr. Walker’s article.

What are your feelings about two-year colleges offering four-year degrees?
I think that’s a healthy discussion to have and I’m eager to be part of that. Metropolitan State University is the state university in the Twin Cities area. There are 10 public, two-year colleges [there] as well. In some disciplines, like business administration for instance, we brought the degree-completion program to their sites, so it obviated the need for those colleges to develop their own baccalaureate-degree programs.

Economic developers here try to encourage and recruit high-paying, high-skill jobs such as you have there. What steps could the university take to advance that?
We really need to be fully aware of what those jobs are, and then we need to make sure we’re involved with educating and training students to take advantage of those jobs.
I was talking to a CEO who said, "You know, if I don’t get [a highly skilled workforce] in Minnesota, I can get it other places. No longer do major corporations and companies have to do business in any one place."

That is part of what globalization means, so what we need to do is make sure that we’re responsive to the needs of our region.

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