By Jessica Simmons
I recently attended the Student Voice Summit that was held on February 23rd. The virtual event was hosted by the FSW faculty, the FutureMakers Coalition, and representatives of Neogenomics. The FutureMakers Coalition hosted these events in five Southwest Florida counties, but this was the first held at FSW.
“FutureMakers Coalition is a collective impact initiative working to help Southwest Floridians earn the high-quality credentials needed to enter the workforce. Our goal is to make sure 55% of adults between the ages of 25-64 in our region have education beyond high school by 2025. Our target population includes traditional-age students who are facing significant barriers to education beyond high school, adults with no education beyond high school, and adults who started a degree or certificate program but never finished.”
Neogenomics is an oncology research company based in Fort Myers, with the several US and international facilities.
The event was structured as five breakout Zoom rooms where a different topic was discussed. The facilitators of each room sought feedback from student attendees about our college success and shared information with us.
The Neogenomics talent engagement team, Heather Carter and Ben Sylvia, spoke to us about seeking a medical and laboratory field career, saying that licensed careers in these fields are stable. 87% of authorized people work full time, have half the average unemployment rate, and earn 35% more pay than average. Neogenomics employs people locally with no degree, two-year certificates, four-year degrees, and beyond. Ben Sylvia says, “A career with Neogenomics contributes to the community.”.
In another room, we discussed educational modalities. As we all know, the last year has presented unprecedented challenges in this area, beginning with an abrupt shift toward online learning in the spring of 2020. The faculty and students discussed challenges and preferences around on-campus, asynchronous online, hybrid online, and synchronous remote learning. I found this discussion helpful as I’ve been unable to complete my foreign language requirement remotely. The faculty shared that gaining the necessary accreditation to move a class online can take up to a year. Amanda Lehrian, Director of the Hendry Glades Center, contacted the Department Chair who handles language classes.
The other rooms’ themes were: Solutions and pathways for students getting their degree, challenges and barriers they experience, student retention, and graduation rates. One topic that came up repeatedly is working with our advisors. The summit’s goal was to inform and improve practices and policies, and I feel productive. I would encourage students to attend any future meetings. We all have unique needs and challenges. Let’s share them with the people who can help us succeed.