The military context is a somewhat unique background for a Higher Education (HE) leader to come from, but it brings many great advantages — from decision-making, delegation skills, and the ability to nurture and grow young talent.
Linda Herlocker, Vice President of Student Services at Florida State College, Jacksonville, sat down with Kitty Hadaway, GoodCourse Universities Lead, to discuss her journey into HE, the importance of good leadership, and more.
My role here is the Vice President of Student Services, which covers just about everything that happens outside the classroom — recruitment, admissions, orientation, housing, academic advising, registration, support services, student life and leadership, student conduct, athletics, financial aid, and careers services.
I’ve got a great team — around 350 colleagues working with 37,000 students.
I always think that’s a trick question — I say it’s a combination of questionable decisions, fate, and serendipitous timing. This is my third career. I was a military officer on active duty for nearly 11 years. I decided I wanted to give civilian life a shot. I took the job that would pay the bills at first, which was investment banking. It took me eight months to realize I had neither the talent nor the interest to make money, so after eight months, I found an ad in the newspaper for someone to run a small university branch. Having been a nontraditional student, I figured I knew something about that, and because I’d been on the base before and had connections, they figured I’d be a good fit. I’ve worked at a number of different places since then — I’m at my third state college right now.
I hear people say, ‘If I could make a difference to one student, it’s been worth it,’ but I think that’s far too limiting.
I hear people say, ‘If I could make a difference to one student, it’s been worth it,’ but I think that’s far too limiting. I think of my work as actually changing the trajectory of that student’s family's entire future. It makes my job magic.
It has, but I did mentally make the switch from military to civilian life — my leadership style is different, but in both cases, I’m a servant leader; I’m working for the people in my division. I have a very participative style, but in cases where I have to make a decision quickly, I always ensure I explain my decision-making process in a structured way afterward. I’m generally very structured; I have rules for breaking rules. I’m also very mission-driven, and I’m good at weeding out distractions along the way.
State colleges used to be community colleges and have a reputation for being commuter schools. We have residential housing, but it’s very small, so we’re still a commuter school. For this reason, our student life and leadership program are very robust, and we make sure there are clubs for students of all academic backgrounds.
We try to embed this within the community. We’re working with JAM the Gym, a Saturday basketball game that intends to bring students, faculty and staff in for a whole afternoon of engaging activities.
We learned during Covid that beefing up our e-sports club was beneficial, subscriptions to Twitch, Switches etc. We now have a very robust club with twenty-one e-athletes.
It’s a big concern. We make clear up front that we have a zero-tolerance policy for hate crimes and harassment, and we make it easy to report. We also have a very robust infrastructure behind it. Our Title IX coordinator is a quick responder and works closely with the director of security, who has a number of retired police staff who used to work on special victims' units.
We have a big awareness campaign, See Something Say Something, so that all faculty and staff members can access intervention too.
We have a wide range of clubs and organizations, some of which began organically out of student interest or requests. We also have a director who’s very intentional about creating opportunities that align with academic programs. Student nurses, STEM, Student Veterans of America are also robust; e-sports is where we see the most growth and traction.
I don’t feel like attendance at our sports events is as high as it could be, so we’re trying to encourage actual physical support and participation.
Study your craft, don’t just wing it. Know what you know and know what you don’t know, and know where to go when you don’t know something, and learn when you don’t know something.
Dr Joyce Romano, who was a supervisor of mine. She invented something called the LifeMap model, which was an approach to academic advising and development. She helped me understand you can’t just wing it.
The one I turn to the most is a book called Paradigms, by Joel Arthur Barker.