The 5th president and first female CEO of Florida State College at Jacksonville, Dr. Cynthia Bioteau took time out from her busy schedule to share with us her thoughts on the ways community colleges serve communities, and how FSCJ is at the forefront of workforce development here on the First Coast.

What attracted you to FSCJ and the First Coast area?

I was impressed with all that was happening here. I’ve known for a long time that FSCJ had a national reputation for engaging in workforce development and for being on the cutting edge of technology. The icing on the cake was the thought of living in Florida after growing up with New England winters and spending nine years in Salt Lake City. I am just delighted to be here.

Describe a typical day at work.

There is no typical day for me, but it always involves engagement with people. I try to spend a lot of time walking around and talking with students and faculty and staff. I’m getting to know the college one person at a time. In addition, I’m frequently asked to speak at community-based groups such as Rotary or Kiwanis. As one of the new kids in town, I’ve been spending time learning about the community and hearing different peoples’ perspectives.

What role do you think FSCJ should play in our community?

FSCJ’s role has three legs to it: it is a provider of education, a community convener, and an essential partner in workforce development.

There are areas of Jacksonville where poverty is still a critical problem, and we are all responsible for solving it. Education assists in that. Higher education is an equalizer, a liberator, and a gateway. FSCJ provides that intergenerational stepping stone to a gainful wage, family literacy, and a healthy environment. We educate children, parents and grandparents, teaching them to problem-solve and make informed choices that are in their best interest.

We also serve the community by facilitating difficult conversations. FSCJ provides a safe gathering place for critical discussions to be had in a way that is respectful, neutral and constructive.

The last leg of the stool is workforce development. Our job is to guarantee employers a skilled workforce. We work as partners with JAXUSA and the chambers to show businesses that this a great place to be. There is no nimbler institution of higher education in the community than FSCJ. We ask employers, “What do you need?” We can, within weeks, create the kind of training that builds and stacks into degrees or industry-based certifications and ongoing work force needs.

Going forward, we want to embed our learning with more dynamic workplace experience like internships and co-ops. Soft skills, such as showing up on time and working well as a team, are just as important as the competencies that a degree evokes.