I n his 30s, John Meyer, an auto technician shop owner, decided to go back to school—first for a bachelor’s degree, then for a master’s and then, a year ago, to take over the school itself. The Hodges University graduate—and now president—talks about his goals for the private, nonprofit college that launched his academic career.
In addition to his degrees from Hodges, Meyer holds a doctorate of business administration from Argosy University in Sarasota. He previously served as dean of business and technology at Florida SouthWestern State College and vice president of academic affairs at Hodges.
How does your experience as both a businessman and an academic help you bridge the gap between higher education and workforce development?
That’s been huge for me. I look back very fondly on the years that I spent as an automotive technician and as a business owner in the automotive industry and the lessons that I learned. Both practical lessons, but also how to make business decisions based on the environment. Do we want to start this program because we like the idea of it, or do we want to start the program because there’s a workforce need and a reason to support the program?
What challenges do higher education institutions in Southwest Florida face?
Higher education is in the middle of a tremendous disruption. There’s this entire challenge of a trillion and a half dollars worth of student loans outstanding nationwide; there’s the challenge of whether a degree, in and of itself, is worth getting; there’s the challenge in what kinds of things can or should result in credit awards. How are we to go about designing classes [and degrees] and delivering them? What are the workforce needs?
With that being said, what are some of your long-term goals as president?
I think the longest-term goal is to make sure the programs that the university offers, in whatever shape or form they take, are of maximum benefit and maximum utility to the students. There are a ton of industries and other employers out there that a lot of people are unaware of, or they don’t necessarily think about. Just an example, there’s a much greater manufacturing presence in Southwest Florida than most people give the region credit for. Those are the kinds of industries that I think Hodges University wants to make sure that we’re providing programs to help support.
What’s new at Hodges that you’re proud of?
We’ve got a nursing program that we started in January. It produces registered nurses who also hold a baccalaureate degree, which is a credential that the hospitals are particular about. And then we’ve got a number of human patient simulators. Each room is set up like a hospital room. Students work on the simulators before they’re actually going out in the field. In our physical therapy assisting program, for the third year running, we’ve got a 100 percent pass rate. We recently started, in September, courses that are delivered in a four-week format, one at a time. So instead of taking four courses over a four-month period, you take four courses in a four-month period, each one lasting one month.