TARPON SPRINGS – Marvin Bright greets a student each day, introduces himself before his day starts. Before meetings and appointments and phone calls, he shakes the hand of a doe-eyed freshman or a seasoned senior.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Marvin Bright. I’m the new provost at St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs.”
Just two weeks into his new job, Bright says he’s still figuring things out and transitioning, but he has big plans for the college.
Bright, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Towson University, a master’s degree from Temple University and a doctorate in higher education administration from Morgan State University, comes to SPC Tarpon by way of the Virginia Community College System where he served as Chief Officer of Student Success Initiatives and Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk campus where he served as Chief Administrative Officer. He began as provost on July 14 after taking over for Conferlete Carney, who is retiring.
“I’m here to finish what our students started,” Bright said. “The access to education changes perception: college courses and degrees change lives.”
In a city as tight-knit as Tarpon Springs, Bright said he looks forward to involving the entire community in the college.
“I see myself not as a recruiter but as a conductor,” he said. “SPC is part of the community, not outside of it. I want residents to know that they’re part of the institution. It’s theirs.”
Bright also said he puts a strong emphasis on camaraderie and civil engagement among his students, including volunteer work within the community, and increased involvement with other schools in the area.
“That’s the future of higher education: working with the local high schools and middle schools to continue the pursuit and achievement of education,” he said.
The future, Bright said, is also in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In recent years, Florida schools from elementary to higher education have increased their focus on science and math classes based on the assumption that jobs of the future will require students to excel in these subjects. In the spring of 2011, the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics released their Florida STEM Strategic Plan, including goals for increased performance on all National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science and math exams.
In 2009, 40 percent of fourth graders scored proficient or advanced on their NAEP math exams and 31 percent scored similarly on science exams. By 2017, the plan calls for 60 percent of fourth graders to score proficient or advanced on math exams and 51 percent on science.
The plan also looks for a reduction by half in achievement gaps between white and black students by 2017.
“That’s the way in which the local, regional, national and global economy is going,” Bright said.
If his dreams of St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs come true, Bright says he sees a future with larger, national companies like Google and Amazon putting up shop because of the appeal of a more educated workforce.
“I’m here because of the wonderful sunshine of Florida and we should be able to share it,” he said. “The most important thing is our community, its tradition, its heritage, its culture.”