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Northwest Florida State College Appoints A New Leader

Northwest Florida State College

Dr. Martha Saunders is not the only new institution of higher learning president on the panhandle. Earlier this month the Northwest Florida State College Board of Trustees selected Dr. Devin Stephenson as the fourth president in the college’s 53-year history. He spoke with WUWF's Bob Barrett about his new position.

Dr. Stephenson comes to Northwest Florida State from Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Prestonburg, Kentucky, where he is currently serving as president. He says coming to the panhandle is a bit of a homecoming. He is from Alabama, where his 89 year old mother and his grown children still live. Northwest Florida State College's search firm contacted him after he was nominated for the position by Dr. Ed Meadows, the President of Pensacola State College. After coming for a visit he and his wife decided that they were a perfect fit for Northwest Florida State.

When Stephenson visited again for his interview, he was able to interact with many members of the college's staff and faculty. He had breakfast, lunch and dinner with different groups and also held open forums that were open to the staff and faculty. He said he came away from those meetings believing "these were outstanding, professional people that have the community, and that college's best interests at heart"

The biggest challenges Dr. Stephenson sees for the college include improving the school's performance measures, which have a huge effect on funding. "We've got to look at how we address completion, retention, job placement (and) the wages that (our students earn) when they leave our institution. He says while funding is important, the process they use to improve their performance on those measure is the key.

Dr. Stephenson also sees networking in the community and with college personnel as an important part of his position.  He says his position is "a twenty four-seven, three hundred and sixty five day calling, and that we are to be the ambassadors and champions of the college and of higher education in the region". Stephenson also says strengthening the development of grants for the college is a priority. "There must be attention paid to bringing in those grant dollars that help us expand capacity".

Another priority is developing a good relationship with the University of West Florida. Most of our student at Northwest Florida will transfer to UWF. We're also co-located with them at our Fort Walton campus so it's going to be very important to develop a really strong relationship with UWF, as well as the Panhandle Alliance of Colleges.

Dr. Devin Stephenson will assume his new position at Northwest Florida State College in early 2017.