Dr. Thompson Guest Column: Bradenton Herald

Dr. Thompson Guest Column: Bradenton Herald

Irma is history! Six-college alliance strikes back in Manatee-Sarasota



While we experienced a bit of a hiccup (named Irma) to the start of the fall semester, I think I can safely say that all of us at the Cross College Alliance institutions are thrilled to be back up and running. And running we are. Losing such valuable time in the academic year to the storm’s fury changed the pace of things on myriad levels.

As president of Ringling College of Art and Design, I know our students were eager to get back on campus and resume their studies with fervor. I’m sure it was the same at our neighboring campuses. Our students are the reason we do what we do. Without them, we, as institutions, have no purpose.

They are the life force, the fuel, the pulse, prana, chi — however you wish to refer to it — that simply make our schools go. Their enormous talents, passions, diversity and commitment are a constant inspiration to our faculty and staff, and to our community as a whole.

This fall brings a new wave of energy to the area, as we welcomed thousands of students to our campuses. And, here at Ringling College, we welcomed the second-largest freshman class in our history. That freshman class, comprised of young creatives from 33 states and 24 countries, is a testament to our growing reputation as a premier art and design institution on both the national and global level.

Some 453 students passed through our gates in mid-August to pursue our 12 degree programs and chase their artistic dreams, and we are delighted to help them succeed. With our new state-of-the-art Goldstein Library, Soundstage and Post-Production Complex, and the Basch Visual Arts Center now complete, we are starting off the fall semester with fabulous new facilities to help guide their studies on a whole new level.

Our colleagues at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee also saw a larger wave of freshman students this fall with a 26 percent increase over last year, as well as a 13 percent jump in the number of undergraduate and graduate transfer students. They attribute this gain to their increased recruiting efforts in our area high schools, along with new academic programming, scholarship opportunities and upgraded facilities.

Just north of us, our friends at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota welcomed more than 11,000 new and returning students, many who are just beginning their academic journey as first-time college students. The fall semester for SCF is an exciting and busy time for its accelerated dual enrolled, nursing, fine and performing arts and athletic students who are busy studying, practicing and performing their craft.

All of their students enrolled in the Science and Manufacturing, Corporate and Community Development, Gator Engineering, Honors and Sustainability programs are receiving invaluable hands-on experience, with newly implemented classes and high-caliber equipment. SCF has also announced to the community plans for a Parrish campus in Manatee County, just another sign of the rapid growth in our area and across our campuses.

New College of Florida welcomed another academically strong and geographically diverse class. Nearly 40 percent of incoming students were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, and their average high school grade-point average was 3.99. While most incoming students are from Florida, they also are representative of the world: They come from 19 different states and 13 foreign countries.

Together, the Alliance is a powerful force on Florida’s West Coast, with growing popularity and growing student populations. Together we are creating the “multiversity” of the future!

Dr. Larry R. Thompson is the President of Ringling College of Art and Design. 


The Cross College Alliance is comprised of six colleges, universities and campuses with our own, distinct identities and offerings who share a common vision: to build an educational network among the region’s educational organizations that amplifies and expands learning opportunities for our collective 18,000 students and the communities that surround us. Learn more at crosscollegealliance.org

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