Dr. Scott Fitzgibbon

Given the extraordinary regulatory and political challenges facing career education, what improvements/innovations does the sector need to implement to remain a leader in higher education?

Most politicians are not products of career education. It seems hard for them to support that which they do not know. We need to become more innovative at telling our story to better educate the political leaders who make the decisions that affect our students. The infrastructure of this country is supported greatly through the careers by which our industry trains. Numerous graduates from our sector are leading productive, contributive lives directly related to the education they have received. We need many more of them to tell their story of support, compassion and understanding by caring faculty and staff that gave them an opportunity – an educational opportunity, which has directly lead to the life they are now leading. It is extremely powerful when we hear about the life-changing effect that our education has had on many of our students and their families. Traditional colleges and universities, for the most part, perpetuate the cycle of higher education within the familial structure of the students they serve. In our sector of education, we help start that cycle. As we know, many of our graduates – in most cases, a majority of our graduates – are the first to complete their education from their family. The ripple effect might even lead to descendants with doctorates. My grandfather was the first in our family, an Art Institute of Pittsburgh graduate, nearly 90 years ago.

Please explain the innovations you’ve brought to (or observed in) career education. What led you to recognize the need for these innovations? What has been their impact on students and higher education?

In conjunction with The Pacific Institute and Dr. Joe Pace, we have had the privilege to help implement both the Thought Patterns for a Successful Career and PX2 curriculum to more than 1million students in the career college sector. This curriculum is designed to help students release their potential through understanding how the mind works and applying that information toward their own education. Through directly affecting the growth of their Habits, Attitudes, Beliefs and other EQ skills sets, they release potential to solve life’s challenges while attending school; thus, they develop their soft and hard skill capacities. Career colleges have always done a fabulous job training individuals in the technical skills necessary to create the careers they desire. We hope that through the delivery and customization of The Pacific Institute curriculum, we help our students develop the soft skill sets that not only keep them on course to complete their education but also deliver on approximately 80 percent of the skills that employers most want from our graduates.

What quality about career colleges or their students motivates you personally?

I had the privilege to be introduced to this sector of education in 1991. Having the chance to work in admissions, career services, education and student services, it doesn’t take long to see the impact our education has on the lives of the students we serve. As part of the education department at the Sawyer School in Pittsburgh, Pa., I had the fortune of participating in an exercise that left me with an indelible feeling that keeps me going every day. Participating in a faculty meeting, our Director of Education, Dr. Linda Richert, began our meeting by passing around a list of the last 100 students that had dropped out of school. During the meeting, she asked us to pass the list around the room and to please mark the names of the students on the list that are no longer with us “because he or she did not have the capacity for the education.” She proceeded with the meeting and the list made the rounds. You could see the impact her exercise had on most of my colleagues in the room. We had fallen into a rut of complaining and pointing fingers to all the “other reasons” why these students were no longer with us rather than taking as much accountability as we could through our own position. As you can imagine, when the list came back, there were only two names checked off on the list (and truth be told, those were debatable). She had made her point – or so we thought. Just before the meeting ended, she asked us to consider one more question when we went home that evening. Do you think those students are better off where they are or where they would be if they were still with us? For most of our students, career colleges are the only option. Traditional colleges and universities don't recruit them, and community colleges don’t provide the network of support they need. Career colleges provide an opportunity for most of our students to truly change the direction of their life.

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