Despite being the second youngest member of the State University System of Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, which was founded in 1991 and began classes in 1997, has become a leading economic engine in Southwest Florida.
New university President Aysegul Timur spoke about FGCU’s role in economic growth, as well as the synergy between the business community and the university during a Real Estate Investment Society of Southwest Florida luncheon Tuesday in Fort Myers.
Timur was selected to become the school’s fifth president on May 4 following a unanimous endorsement from the FGCU Board of Trustees. Her presidency was then confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors on June 22.
“I am beyond excited to serve our remarkable students and also the outstanding faculty and staff that I work with every day,” Timur said, “but most importantly, the outstanding community that we are a part of.”
In a quarter of a century, FGCU built 64 undergraduate programs, 33 graduate programs and has had nearly 47,000 graduates.
As a regional comprehensive university, FGCU comprises 87% of students from Florida, 47% of which are from Southwest Florida. Just13% of the student body are international or out-of-state students.
“We are really truly serving Southwest Florida,” Timur said.
Part of meeting the needs in the community is providing access to affordable higher education, which is evident considering the university hasn’t raised its tuition or fees in the last decade.
FGCU also holds the second-highest graduate employment rate among Florida universities.
Students continue to give back to the region through service-learning hours, requiring all undergraduates to complete at least 80 hours of service in the community. In total, students have performed more than 4.4 million service-learning hours throughout the region and beyond.
“They have to know our community, they have to integrate our community, they have to be part of our community,” Timur said.
Internships are another way to ensure students are connected to opportunities in the community, Timur said. Her goal is for every student to graduate with at least one internship or connection to careers.
The opportunity for students to be involved members of the community, create connections and have linear job opportunities following graduation also is due to efforts of local businesses and their relationships with the institution.
Timur also listed FGCU’s Water School, which focuses on water research and quality, and the university’s commitment to being a driving force behind new small business owners as cornerstones of its place in the community.
The school’s entrepreneurship program is rated first in the state and 15th nationally, according to data presented by Timur. About one out of every five FGCU entrepreneurship students go on to start their own businesses, with most residing in Southwest Florida. The almost 400 businesses launched by entrepreneurship students have generated more than $100 million in gross revenue since August 2016.
In addition, FGCU is the main provider of health care workers and teachers in the region. Graduates of the school of nursing and the college of education have a 100% employment rate upon graduation.
The institution itself creates more than 3,500 jobs and contributes almost $600 million annually to the economy.
“We are doing this all together in many different ways,” Timur said. “This is your university and is your university not just the degree programs, not just the labor force, but arts and music and the integration to our community in multiple ways. In 25 years, FGCU has made an incredible cultural, intellectual and economic impact. It is our great pleasure to serve you, partner with you and grow our community together.”