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When I became president of Florida Gulf Coast University eight months ago, I promised our stakeholders that I would use my passion to continue building regional partnerships on behalf of the university. Last month, I reaffirmed this commitment to our community during my installation ceremony.

As I explained that day, FGCU is the economic engine for Southwest Florida. Not only is this something the region expects of our university, but it is a way for FGCU to grow the local economy and help Southwest Florida prosper.

Our graduates are your nurses, teachers, bankers, financial planners, builders, biologists, journalists and digital media designers. Our alumni are your skilled workforce, and they are involved in the decisions of our future. Several of our Eagles have gone on to become your elected officials.

FGCU is everywhere, affecting your life in countless ways, and I am honored to lead this institution.

As you may know, I am an economist—but I don’t just look at the numbers. I visualize the influence on people with every economic decision we make, because people matter.

Our population in Southwest Florida tends to skew older, which means participation in the local workforce is lower. As a society, we must collaborate to create opportunities to help working adults excel in their communities.

I’ve watched as businesses search for workers to fill open positions. If the local population cannot qualify for jobs within our regional industries, we have a big problem.

That’s a challenge FGCU can—and does—address. Talent lives here.

FGCU has become an institution that partners with industry, local governments and nonprofits. We created an accelerated degree pathway called FGCU Complete, where navigators guide our learners to obtain the best possible support from the beginning of their program to graduation.

We have also developed a policy on credit for prior learning for our experienced learners. And now, we have pathways for micro-credentials in specific sectors to upskill and reskill existing and incoming workers, making it possible for employees to qualify for high-paying jobs.

Beyond that, our current students can take advantage of these programs, too. We plan to give each graduate another leg up in the job search, which means our talent will stay in Southwest Florida.

During the global pandemic, we launched FGCU’s Return to the Nest initiative to bring students who never finished their degrees back to campus so they can graduate. We are committed to removing barriers, such as past debt, to encourage learners to reenroll. Once again, this initiative provides personalized navigation and additional financial assistance for students to pursue their studies and return to FGCU.

We are committed to making this region’s growth and economy work for everyone.

Our leadership principle at FGCU is that every resident of Southwest Florida should have some reason to be glad our university is here in their backyard. Since opening our doors 26 years ago, we have held this perspective, and the Southwest Florida community is an essential partner in everything we do.

As we turn toward the future, FGCU’s economic influence will continue to grow—and so will Southwest Florida. We will accomplish this vision together.

Aysegul Timur, Ph.D., is Florida Gulf Coast University’s president.

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

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