Sarasota, Fla. (May 16, 2016) – Sarasota and Manatee counties are already known for the arts and gorgeous natural settings, but the area is quickly becoming recognized as a “college town” as well.
With four colleges celebrating commencements for the 2015-16 academic year, the region’s growing and diverse higher-education community is on full display. So far it’s shaping up to be a robust picture.
Together these institutions – New College of Florida , Ringling College of Art and Design , State College of Florida  and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee  – will confer close to 3,000 diplomas at this academic year’s graduations. The vast majority of degrees, about 2,100, will go to local students.
From accounting  and business  to computer animation, humanities, psychology , nursing, biology  and dozens of other academic programs, Sarasota-Manatee’s higher-education community offers an increasingly wide array of educational opportunities to set students on meaningful career paths.
Additionally, many of these programs include the potential for study overseas , to intern with any number of regional employers and to collaborate with world-class faculty online, in classrooms or in laboratories.
Closer than ever, these diverse institutions – including Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, with its 392 spring grad, and The Ringling/FSU – are pooling their resources under a collaboration called the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast .
Dubbed C4, the group is exploring potential areas of cooperation to further benefit their students and communities. The Consortium garnered support of a Foundation Partnership including Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation , Community Foundation of Sarasota County , and Gulf Coast Community Foundation .
Student housing, transportation, security, purchasing and cross-registration between campuses are among the topics being discussed. Others involve possible shared research between faculty, the exploration of grant and foundation funding for special projects, and shared activities for students, faculty and staff.
“Each year, we read about our local college graduations and it’s always impressive, but when you put them together, you understand that yes, we are a college town” said Dr. Laurey Stryker, C4 Initiative Manager.
Along with scores of dynamic scholastic programs, the region’s academic institutions offer a comprehensive education within beautiful campus settings close to home. This year’s commencements will serve as a testament to the depth and diversity of those educational opportunities along “the Creative Coast.”
Among the New College graduates will be one of only nine statewide Frost Scholarship winners, Nicholas Abboud, who won a full graduate scholarship to study high-energy physics at the University of Oxford.
The class also includes two Fulbright Scholarship  winners, Bradley Baker and Gerina Gjergji. Baker will study computer science and machine learning in Germany and Gjergii will continue research on international migrations and have an English teaching assistantship in Mexico. National Institute of Health research award winner Neal Lacey will conduct research at the National Cancer Institute laboratories near Washington, D.C., on a two-year post-baccalaureate training award. All of these students came from Florida high schools.
“We are very proud of our 2016 class and their accomplishments,” New College of Florida President Donal O’Shea said. “New College serves as a pipeline for world-renowned scientists, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs, and we are pleased with the impact that these and the nearly 3,000 other graduates in the region will make on the local, state and national economies.”
Ringling College will celebrate the commencement of nearly 300 emerging artists and designers this year, sending graduates around the globe to work at the world’s most creative companies, including Universal, Google, The Mill, Bluesky Studios, Sony and GM. To connect students with these opportunities, the college invites more than 80 recruiters to campus each year and guarantees every student the opportunity to work on professional client projects before they graduate.
“We congratulate the nearly 3,000 graduates of our regional higher education institutions,” Ringling College President Dr. Larry R. Thompson said. “We are proud to contribute to the diversity of talent and knowledge of that group. This year, Ringling graduates are seizing positions at some of the most prestigious companies and graduate programs in the world. We have a film graduate going to work on “House of Cards,” a photography student accepted into Yale, a computer animation graduate working at DreamWorks Television and a game art student at Google — and these are just a handful of examples. It is with excitement and anticipation that we say goodbye to our collective graduates and watch them grow into the creative leaders they are destined to become.”
State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) held its largest-ever graduation ceremony May 6. The spring graduates included 602 Associate in Arts degree graduates, 205 Associate in Science graduates, 79 baccalaureate graduates and 40 certificate graduates. The Outstanding Graduate Award was presented to Ella Starr, who came to Florida from Kazakhstan to pursue an education. That same day, SCF’s Collegiate School held a commencement, graduating 98 students who received their high school diploma and Associates in Arts degree.
“We are so proud to have graduated more than 1,800 students this academic year who came to SCF from around the region, state, nation and world and represent such diversity,” said Dr. Carol F. Probstfeld, president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. “Our students have achieved some of the highest academic honors at the national, regional and state levels – our community should be proud.”
USF Sarasota-Manatee, meanwhile, is honored to highlight six members of its graduating class who represent the campus’ first freshman class from 2013. These students entered as the campus was debuting its four-year undergraduate program. They have since completed accelerated programs of study and graduated after only three years on May 9.
“This commencement represented a milestone in USF Sarasota-Manatee’s history because members of our inaugural freshman class were graduating for the first time,” Dr. Sandra Stone , USFSM’s regional chancellor, said. “This achievement represents our commitment to keep local students in our community while they earn their degrees so they can join the workforce in this region. We are so proud of all of our graduating students and the impact that they will have on our community and in their careers.”