Dr. Jackson Sasser
President, Santa Fe College
The spirit of a people defines a place. When I arrived in Gainesville almost 16 years ago, I was immediately impressed by the warmth and energy of its residents, who combine a strong sense of community with an openness to new ideas and fresh ways of meeting the needs of our community. The people of this city and surrounding region possess an indomitable sense of optimism that never fails to inspire me. They proudly devote themselves to intellectual pursuits and enthusiastically embrace an ethos of community service. Their spirit is the force that propelled Santa Fe College as it grew into one of the most successful community colleges in the nation.
Greater Gainesville’s spirit predates Santa Fe, which is an insight why the college was a leader in higher education long before it won the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence as the nation’s number one college. Back in 1968, just two years after opening its doors, Santa Fe was one of a dozen colleges to establish the League for Innovation in the Community College, a select group of institutions nationwide that set the standard for accomplishment in higher education.
No surprise, then, that Santa Fe’s founders and the members of our community shared a vision. That’s because most of them were of the community. They wanted to provide opportunities for people from all backgrounds to thrive, raise healthy families and lead productive, fulfilling lives. Santa Fe was created with that purpose in mind and we have lived up to our promise. Our students receive an outstanding education, whether they are pursuing a degree, enhancing their job skills or seeking personal growth. We graduate citizens who are engaged in their careers and communities and make meaningful and enduring contributions. They are distinguished by their desire to learn what the world has to offer them, and by what they have to offer the world.
We serve lifelong education needs even as the pace of change in our society continues to accelerate. Like the community, Santa Fe is constantly reinventing itself to provide students with new opportunities that include bachelor’s degrees, articulation agreements allowing transfer to more state universities, and comprehensive international educational experiences essential for today’s global economy. For all that bustle and drive, we, like the community, still care to nurture. We strive to make each student the most important person on campus. That, along with Santa Fe’s high expectations and commitment to student success, serves graduates well, no matter what their path. Many choose to remain right here in this community. No college has closer or deeper relationships with our great partner in higher education, the University of Florida, than Santa Fe. Our graduates who transfer to UF perform superbly at Gainesville’s world-class university and go on to pursue careers that are professionally and personally rewarding. They become educators, artists, hardworking public servants and leaders in engineering and information technology. They include risk-takers who start small businesses and form non-profit organizations to meet some of our area’s greatest needs. They continue to confirm the values and vision embodied by Santa Fe’s earliest leaders when they established what truly has become our community’s college.