Renown Social Architect and MacArthur “Genius Award” Fellow Bill Strickland Keynotes Student Affairs Conference

sapdc2014-groveThe Office of Student Affairs held its third annual Student Affairs Professional Development Conference, Thursday, February 27, 2014, on the West Campus.

Keynoting the conference was “social architect” Bill Strickland (William E. Strickland, Jr.), president and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and author of “Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary.”

Strickland, a winner of the coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program “Genius Award,” is also one of 25 members named to the White House Council for Community Solutions by President Barack Obama. The Council advises the president on the best ways to mobilize citizens, nonprofits, businesses and government to collaborate to solve specific community needs.

He credits a high school art teacher’s mentorship and belief in him with changing his life’s trajectory for the better through a potter’s wheel and provisional admission to the University of Pittsburgh. That relationship inspired his life’s work — using the arts and training programs in employable skills for adults-in-transition as well as urban and at-risk youth — to change the face of the inner city by combating poverty.

While sharing a slide show of Manchester Bidwell’s accomplishments, he espoused his core principles that environment shapes peoples’ lives, people are assets and creativity fuels enterprise. What’s more, he encouraged each attendee to harness the power they have to provide hope to students they encounter each day while urging, “Don’t give up on poor kids.”

“The conference is a day of renewal where we can reflect on our professional practice and strengthen our commitment to serve students better,” said Joyce Romano, vice president student affairs.

More than 325 attendees took part in concurrent workshops that addressed topics essential to their roles in areas of advising, counseling and financial aid.

“Students come with more than financial needs and they show progress when somebody cares,” reflected Maybelle Appoo, financial aid specialist at Winter Park. “I believe in my students and we have to induce hope in them and give them the courage that they can make it.”

Valencia College President Sandy Shugart made closing comments echoing Strickland’s message that people are to be treated as assets and that each employee is equipped to find solutions. Moreover, he stressed the importance of creativity, collaboration and caring as the College is doing more with fewer resources for a population of students who have 18 percent fewer resources than five years ago. Always hopeful, he shared that initiatives like the New Student Experience, with a focus on student learning and success, will help students find their career and life paths sooner.

Strickland’s attendance was made possible by the PATHWAYS grant that paid for his keynote and for the advising symposium component of the conference.

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