A potent collaboration of the Sarasota-Manatee region's colleges and university could ignite a transformation in the regional delivery and impact of higher education. First kindled by funding from Gulf Coast, the effort is called the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast-or C4 for short.
C4 got its start nearly two years ago, when Gulf Coast funded a retreat for the presidents of New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, and University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee. The college leaders met to explore ways their institutions could collaborate and share resources. A second Gulf Coast-funded retreat built on that work by including academic leaders and other administrators from each school as well as expanding the group to include Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and Florida State University/The Ringling.
While C4 collaborated under the radar for the past two years, the consortium formally announced an initiative manager and the group's first two shared goals at a press conference in January 2016. Funded by Gulf Coast, the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the manager position was create to coordinate and expedite the vision set forth by the college leaders. Dr. Laurey Stryker, an education consultant and former president of USF Sarasota-Manatee, was selected to fill the newly created role.
At the press conference, Stryker touched on two early priorities of the group: implementing cross registration at four institutions; and working with economic development officials and other community leaders in both Sarasota and Manatee counties to brand the area as an educational destination and to secure business partnerships.
A "Multiversity" Approach
The official announcement of C4 came at a time when the participating colleges' collective student body was preparing to return from winter break. "Combined, we have almost 20,000 students returning to campus next week," said Ringling College President Dr. Larry Thompson.
Thinking collaboratively and strategically about the resources at each institution will enable the colleges to offer better educational opportunities to all of those students, he said. "Think of us holistically. It's like a 'multiversity.'"
"When the strength of these institutions͛ faculty, programs, and leadership is assembled and leveraged, our region has almost all of the resources of a major research university,"noted Mark Pritchett, Gulf Coast Community Foundation president and CEO. "C4 has developed plans to attract more quality students to our communities, provide a stronger workforce for our businesses, and help diversify our economy. This can be a real 'calling card' for our region."