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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 20, 201907:33 AM EST

FSCJ narrows presidential search to three finalists

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The three out-of-state candidates will visit the campuses in early April.
by: Scott Sailer Staff Writer

After interviewing eight semifinal applicants Monday and Tuesday to succeed retired President Cynthia Bioteau, the Florida State College at Jacksonville’s presidential search committee narrowed the list of candidates to three finalists.
The nominees comprise two community college presidents and a chancellor.
They will visit FSCJ campuses in early April to meet with students, faculty, administration, the board of trustees and the public.
The three finalists are from out of state, with two from Illinois and one from Louisiana.
They are:

Avendano

• John Avendano, Ph.D., president and CEO, Kankakee Community College, Kankakee, Illinois. Avendano has more than 30 years of administrative leadership and experience in higher education and president and CEO of KCC since 2009. 

Avendano said in his interview, when asked about academic rigor, “no one rises to low expectations.”
Asked about his strengths, Avendano said he “builds relationships based on trust and honesty; a commitment to student success and live it;
relationships to raise money.”
He said in his application, “I believe our institutions are the economic engines of our respective communities. I believe we are the primary providers of the skilled and educated workforce that strengthens the businesses we serve, and advances the quality of life for our students.”

Harder

• Natalie J. Harder, Ph.D., chancellor, South Louisiana Community College, Lafayette, Louisiana.

Harder has more than 24 years of higher education leadership and economic development experience and has been chancellor since 2012.
Harder champions herself as chief fund/friend raiser and government, community and public relations advocate.
Harder believes that creative effective teams are based upon culture. “Culture is the end game that is the only thing that matters because when you build the right culture all things fall into place.” 
She said in her application cover letter that personal engagement with the community is one way she continues to spread the message that workforce development must be a top priority for the region.
Harder says her track record shows her ability to deal with economic challenges and operational disruption and that she has been able to transform her current nine-campus institution to record levels of financial and student performance.

Sam

• David A.F. Sam, Ph.D., president and professor, Elgin Community College, Elgin, Illinois.

Sam has more than 32 years of higher education and leadership experience and served as president of two colleges since 2000. He became president of ECC in 2007.
Sam said student success is the bedrock of his presidency and his greatest professional satisfaction is from student graduation, emphasizing completion.
“The day you don’t bring your ‘A’ game (is) the day you turn off a student,” he said.
Sam believes he has the training, skills, experience and qualities needed at the presidential level to lead FSCJ.

Trustees Michael Bell and Thomas McGehee Jr., who are members of the search committee, said the desired characteristics of the new president would be someone to lead the effort to work together and break down barriers; provide a level of stability; listen to faculty; clarify processes; communicate effectively; and create a standard of how FSCJ does business.
The 16-member FSCJ Presidential Search Committee, along with contracted Washington, D.C.-based AGB Search firm, narrowed the 74 applications to three final candidates.

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