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Saint Leo 360 Podcast

Episode 55: The Jacksonville Education Center & Mayport Education Office

Posted by Greg Lindberg on March 15, 2022
Episode 55: The Jacksonville Education Center & Mayport Education Office

Download Episode 55 Transcripts

Speaker 1:
Saint Leo 360, a 360 degree overview of the Saint Leo University community.

Greg Lindberg:
Hi there, and thanks for tuning into another episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast. This is your host, Greg Lindberg. Here on this episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, we are showcasing the Jacksonville Education Center, as well as the Mayport Education Office located in the Jacksonville area. And to help us do so, we have two great guests joining us here on the podcast. First, I'd like to welcome Jessica Starkey, who is the director of these locations. Jessica, welcome.

Jessica Starkey:
Hi, great to be here.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. Appreciate your time. And then we also have Julius Collins, who is an academic advisor. Julius, welcome.

Julius Collins:
Hello. Thank you for having us.

Greg Lindberg:
Definitely. Appreciate your time as well. So let's just start off with a little discussion here about Jacksonville, Florida, and perhaps even a little kind of lighthearted start to the podcast, just some fun facts about the city of Jacksonville as well.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. We, sort of a large area. We're actually the 14th largest city by population in the United States, and we're the largest land wise in the continental US. So we serve a large area here in Northeast Florida. Some interesting facts in the music realm. We are the area in which Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers bands were formed. And then we actually are a very large land or water based city. We have 1100 miles of shoreline between our St. Johns River, and also the beaches and other waterways in the area. And we came to the national stage in 2005 by hosting in the Super Bowl. So we're definitely a big city, but we still have that small city mentality, which makes it special to be here in the Jacksonville area.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. And personally, I am a big music fan, so love those little music factoids as well. In terms of Saint Leo's presence and the history of our university in the Jacksonville market, let's explore that a little bit.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. Saint Leo has always been known for its ability to serve the military community. So our first established area was at the Mayport Naval Station in 1994. We're currently still there, and I am the director of that location as well. The military is also the largest employer in Jacksonville, so it was important for us to have that connection. And then our Jacksonville center, it was opened in December of 2017, and our classes began in January of 2018. And this was after a strategic move from our location on the St Johns River State College that we had a partnership with. And so due to growth and need for facilities, we made that move to where we're currently located for our Jacksonville education center.

Greg Lindberg:
Gotcha. I see. And that's wonderful. We were able to get our own facility and have our own space.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah, it definitely opened up opportunities to try new initiatives for us. Being the director of our own facility, we can make decisions based solely on Saint Leo's needs, so that was a nice benefit. And then of course, having your own facility brings on new challenges as well.

Greg Lindberg:
No doubt. For sure. Yep. Let's dive a little further into the specific locations. Let's just talk about the specific location of the Jacksonville Center, the Mayport Center in terms of the address, perhaps some surrounding areas, parking, whatnot.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. So like I spoke to us moving off of the St John's campus, our largest student population was in the Orange Park area. So we decided to make the move to our own facility, we kept that in mind, wanting to serve our current population of students. So where the Jacksonville Center is located is at the Oakleaf Town Center. This is in Jacksonville. It's on the west side. It's an open retail area with restaurants, but it is very close to the Orange Park, Clay County area, so we were still able to serve those students during the move. And so Clay County is kind of like a suburb to Jacksonville. Clay County might not like that description, but a lot of people love to live there, and then commute into Jacksonville. We're lucky parking is free because we are in that retail location. It's pretty readily available, especially in the evenings because our neighbors are typically closed by the time that we have classes in the evening time.

Jessica Starkey:
And we have the whole building, so it's easy to direct students to our location within the retail map. And Home Depot is the store we usually direct the students to find parking by us. So it's a really nice, convenient location here on the west side of Jacksonville. It's located at 9775 Cross Hill Boulevard. And like I said, it is Jacksonville, Florida. And it's 32222, so it's kind of easy to remember. And then our Mayport location, if I could speak to that, is on the other side of Jacksonville, on the north end. It is on the Mayport Naval Station, like I had mentioned earlier, and we are in with other institutions and the career services and the post office.

Jessica Starkey:
So we can be easily located. There's not a lot of signage. That's usually how we direct students to get to us, is by directing to the postal service. The parking in that situation during the day can be a little tough, but they did just open a new garage in the area that has alleviated some traffic if you're visiting the office during the day. All of our courses are offered in the evening time. So by the time classes begin, the parking lot has an emptied out. And so again, there's no cost for parking and it is plentiful for class time.

Greg Lindberg:
Excellent. And I should mention that Saint Leo does have several locations, a presence on multiple military bases around the country. And I know it's just so convenient for many of our military students to have that convenient access literally on base. And I know that's another perfect example with Mayport as well.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. Yeah. It is nice for them to be able to come on their lunch breaks or right after their duty is served for the day.

Greg Lindberg:
Exactly. In terms of the physical attributes of these two locations, let's get into the size of the locations and perhaps some of the resources that we offer at each of them.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. So I'll go ahead and start and speak to the Jacksonville location. This facility is a little bit larger. So we have 8,400 square feet that is designated for our location here. We do have a lobby that has computer station for students that want to just come in. They can do their applications here. They can upload any kind of documentation that might be needed for financial aid or for their classwork. So those are quick in and out type of service areas. And we also do have a small kitchenette area that students are allowed to use. Like I said, we do have evening classes, so sometimes bring some dinner with them to make it convenient. We do have our staff offices up front so it's easy convenience for our students to come in. We have our advisors up front, and then we also have a staff coordinator that helps greets individuals that come to visit us.

Jessica Starkey:
We have five classrooms, and one of those classrooms also is computer lab. What I like about the computer lab is we allow students to come in during the day to utilize that if they really need to delve in and do some work. It's a quiet environment. We don't typically have classes in there. We do offer CLEP testing. So we ask students if they could call ahead just to make sure we don't have a test scheduled for the computer lab. And then we also have... Two of our classrooms have a partition that can be opened up, which allows us to have seminars or conferences. And then all of our classrooms have teaching technology in them. So there's a podium that controls our... We have a ELMO, which is a camera that can show documents. So anything that we don't have digitally, we can still share with the class.

Jessica Starkey:
And then our to televisions also can act as a whiteboard. So they're smart. And we do have our wonderful wifi and high speed internet here. So if students are bringing their own technology with them, we can support them in that way. And then into regards to our Mayport location, the physical location is relatively small. We have an open office that has our two full-time staff members there. And then we have one dedicated classroom, which is also set up with a teaching podium, has the capability to bridge in and out of courses, has the document camera, and that kind of thing. And so a lot of the Mayport resources are virtual, just because we are guests on the military base. And they do have a base library that our students can utilize. And then for the students at the Jackson location, they also utilize a lot of virtual services, like tutoring can be done online, but we do serve the locally too. So we do have workshops and things for them to do at our local locations.

Greg Lindberg:
Gotcha. Interesting. Each location definitely offers a lot of unique services, resources, it sounds like.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. Even though we're two separate locations, because we operate together, we can really coordinate. And we do have some students that are assigned to our Mayport location that will come to Jacksonville. When we have events, we always encourage those students to come here. And then we also have some of our Jacksonville students that work at Mayport, but they live over here, so they might attend a class at Mayport. So it's nice that we have that close working relationship to serve the students seamlessly between the two locations.

Greg Lindberg:
Exactly. Great point. As far as the degree programs that we offer, let's dive into specifically the degree programs and majors that students can take at these locations.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. I'll let Julius speak to the Jacksonville, most of those programs at that location.

Julius Collins:
Yes. So at the Jacksonville location, we offer the associate of arts and liberal arts. Then we have bachelors in accounting, business administration management, criminal justice, with specializations and criminalistics and homeland security, human services, psychology, with three specializations, clinical counseling, developmental, and general, and also computer information systems and healthcare administration. And we also offer education programs, elementary education, middle grades, education specializations in English and social science.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. And I would say our largest programs that seem to be of interest are our business programs, as well as our psychology. We do get a lot of students very interested in those programs. And then with our education program, we have a large population in our elementary education, because that is a state endorsed program. And what that means is the students that are in our elementary education program can apply to the state for their permanent teaching certificate. And everything that they took within our program meets those state standards. It also includes their reading and ESOL endorsement, which are important for educators because those are also required by the state. We have been lucky and able to work with a lot of the school districts in the area. So we have a special program called Para To Pro, which the district will offer additional support for district employees that are attending our academic program.

Jessica Starkey:
And the nice thing is there's no difference between somebody who is just really interested in education, they're coming in, they've never worked for a district. So they're getting the same academic program, regardless whether they are a district employee or not. But the district's able to support their employees in unique ways, so it's been nice to be able to cater to that community. And then within our business programs, it's nice because a lot of our students do like to go on to our graduate programs, well, we don't offer those locally, but we do encourage them to learn about our online learning options. So that's been a nice transition for those programs.

Greg Lindberg:
Excellent. And then in terms of Mayport, if you just want to touch on... I would imagine we offer some similar programs at that location as well.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes, we do offer similar... A little bit fewer options. These programs are catered mostly to those that are in the military. So a lot of these programs can utilize military credits. And so we have, in addition to the AA and liberal arts, we also have one in business administration. And then we have a few additional options for the business administration program. We have logistics, and then technology management. And the nice thing about the technology management program is a lot of our military students come in with a lot of technical experience. A lot of them work on aircrafts. They also work on electrical systems and that kind of thing, so we can utilize their tech credits in that program.

Greg Lindberg:
Interesting. Very nice. As far as the demographics of the students who attend these locations, I would imagine it's like a lot of our education centers. We tend to cater to the adult learner, the individual who's working full time, maybe several years into a career, might have a family, might be a parent, whatnot. Would you say that's pretty accurate as far as Jacksonville as well?

Julius Collins:
Yes, absolutely. The majority of our students are non-traditional working adults. We have a large military and veteran population for just most of those that are attempting to go back to school if they've started and had to stop for life reasons or career, military, but definitely a large nontraditional population.

Greg Lindberg:
Right. And I know, Jessica, you also did touch on the evening courses that we do offer. And if we just want to get into, as far as scheduling and flexibility of coursework, I know that we offer a lot of options really to meet those adult learners' needs as well.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. So we do have in classroom options, and they're usually in the evening. They don't start before for 5:00 PM. Most begin at 6. And this is because most of our students do work, and because we are a very large city with a lot of traffic. So we like to give them a little bit of time to be able to come into the centers for those courses. We utilize our video technology courses. So we might be bringing another center's course, which is nice because some of those are offered by full-time faculty that we might not have here. So they really do get some inclusion in the university as a whole through that option. And then we also have some of our instructors who teach out to other locations as well.

Jessica Starkey:
And then one of the other things that we like to utilize is the internet connected classroom, which is kind of like a hybrid of the VTT courses. It utilizes Zoom and the students can be at home to do those courses. And that's what primarily our education program utilizes, because we are serving a lot of districts that are close to our location. But because of the large distance for travel, the students might not be able to attend, but they need those courses to have interaction with other students and the faculty.

Greg Lindberg:
Right. I see.

Jessica Starkey:
And then we also are able to utilize our all online courses, which is sometimes convenient. A lot of our students like to do a blended schedule. They'll take one online, and then one in the classroom. So that just adds to the flexibility. So maybe they only need to commit one evening a week to come in versus two or more. So having those online options available makes it even more convenient for our student population.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. Well said. Speaking of our faculty, let's speak about the faculty that teach at these locations. I know that in general, Saint Leo has a lot of practitioners teaching in the classroom. And I would imagine that applies to Jacksonville as well, correct?

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. I believe all of our faculty members here are currently in the field in which they teach to. So especially in our education program, some of them are current teachers that do the evening courses, some are principals, and then we have some that have recently retired that are able to go into the classrooms to do the observations. And then with our business program, we have a few that are still working in the business area. So they are keeping their skills up to date. And in our psychology program, we have one, Dr. [inaudible 00:18:36]. He's actually a clinical psychologist in the pediatric hospital here in Jacksonville. So it's nice that he's keeping up with all the trends in mental health, and it's that he's got a specialization in pediatrics. A lot of our students are interested in developmental psychology, which can focus on any time period from birth to aging. And so he does a lot of those type courses for us.

Greg Lindberg:
Excellent. That's wonderful.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. For Mayport, it's a little bit more difficult to get faculty on site there, because they do have to have access to the base. So a lot of our instruction is bridged into that location, but that's why I feel sometimes our students like to travel here for class as well, so they still get that base to face interaction

Greg Lindberg:
For sure. Definitely understandable. In terms of the staff that we have supporting students, let's just speak about the staff in general, and then Julius, perhaps if you want to give us some insight into your role specifically as an academic advisor.

Julius Collins:
Sure. So we have a staff assistant, Ms. Michelle Frazier, that is one that kind of a jack of all trades for us here at this location. She greets our students, helps out wherever she can just to assist the students in whatever their need is when they come into the center. And then we have myself as academic advisor, who meets with the students, also available for when they walk in and for appointments to review their degree plans, registration, or just want to come in and talk sometimes. And then we also have Ms. Kendyl O'Grady who does primarily the education degree programs, also helping out charting out students to get them successfully through their degree programs. And then we have two new hires. I'll let Jessica speak to those, if you would.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. So we're bringing on our new assistant director for admissions. So they are going to really go out into the community and help promote our programs, reach out to organizations that may be looking for educational partner, and that kind of thing. So he'll begin soon. And so it's really just about getting out in the community and sharing what Saint Leo has to offer. And then under Mayport, we have an assistant director there, Mr. James Barnett, and he does academic advising, but what he also does is he helps set the schedule there. He's basically my site manager, because I can't be there every day, so I really depend on him to be the leader. So he'll go to base meetings. If they're having any special events, he's kind of the name of Saint Leo at that location.

Jessica Starkey:
And then we also do have a student advisor there as well. And she has a really vast knowledge on utilizing VA benefits and TA benefits, which is important to that veteran and military community. And the nice thing about Mr. Barnett and Michelle Hicks is that they're both veterans themselves. So they also can talk to the experience to our student population there. And then just so recently, I've been tasked to take the leadership of the Lake City Center as well. And we've just recently hired an assistant director, which will take on a similar role as Mr. Barnett at Mayport. And so I just really feel like, even though we have separate locations, we do operate as one unit and we support each other to make sure that the students are being served appropriately and above standards.

Greg Lindberg:
No doubt. Yeah. And I really like how you mentioned the veterans that we have in terms of staff, and I would imagine even some faculty as well, that can really relate to the military students specifically.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. It's definitely a unique experience. My father was in the military for 30 years, so I have the experience of being a dependent, but it is nice to have those on the staff that can really walk that walk and live that type of life.

Greg Lindberg:
No doubt. Very invaluable experience. So Jessica, I know you did touch on some of the partnerships, in terms of say Para to Professional, in terms of education and whatnot. Anything else you want to mention as far as partnerships and anything that we have there in the Jacksonville area?

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. A lot of what we do is working with the nonprofit community, because a lot of our programs are kind of geared for that. We have the human services, we have psychology, and I even promote it with our business, because in Jacksonville, we have this organization called the Nonprofit Center, and they have a job board. And a lot of the jobs are not only in the helping field, in the mental field, but they need accountants, they need financial advisors, they need leaders that can go out and build partnerships themselves. So it's nice because I feel, sometimes in the business community, that nonprofit's overlooked as a type of business. And so we do a lot of that. We're also part of the First Coast Higher Education Alliance, which is a group of all of the regionally accredited higher education institutions in our area.

Jessica Starkey:
So a lot of businesses sometimes can't make a partnership with one individual institution. So then being part of this group allows us to go in, as a whole, to reach out to their employees about opportunities for increasing their education. And then, like I mentioned, our assistant director for admissions is going to be coming on board. And we used to have a really strong relationship with the chambers, so I'm hoping to bring that back. With COVID, that kind of threw us for a little loop as far as face to face meeting, events and that kind of thing. So we're really looking to get back kind of into a little bit of the more normal operations on that front.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. Sure. Speaking of events, you did reference COVID, obviously, has taken a toll on a lot of in-person events, activities. But across the university, our locations, we are starting to begin offering more and more in-person events outside of the traditional courses. And let's just speak about some of the events that Jacksonville has offered and perhaps even looking ahead.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. So one of the things that I like that we do is we do offer the CLEP testing. And even throughout COVID, we were able to continue the testing because that's not the only thing that we were doing. And so a lot of the CLEP testing centers had closed down completely during COVID. So obviously, we would only have one or two testers at a time, but it was nice to be able to continue that service. And for active duty CLEP testing is covered, so they don't need to pay for that. And then it's just a nice opportunity for those that have the knowledge to get college credit that way. And then with our education program being so important to our location and the districts, there's just such a high need for good educators. We do a lot of support outside of the courses that we offer.

Jessica Starkey:
So we do mock GK testing. And GK is the general knowledge test that's required by the state for these individuals. So they get to kind of do a practice test and get experience doing that, as well as prep sessions and seminars. So we're currently in the middle of our February Saturday series. So it's all day and covers all four sections or subject areas of the exam. And that's been brought to our location and partner with our Duval County partnership. They are one of our partner districts that have their employers attend our program. So it's great to have that partnership and be able to offer our space to have that. We've also, in the past, when meetings of face to face for happening, some of our community partners would come in and use our space to host their meetings. We would have a Saturday morning meeting on Tuesdays that had a lot of the nonprofits in the area would come in and have their meeting here.

Jessica Starkey:
So we're looking to maybe bring something like that back. We've also had vendor fair here, so small businesses. And it was nice because a couple of our students also had small businesses that came and represented themselves in that vendor fair. And that was on a weekend. And because we are in a retail area, it was nice to get some traffic for that. And we also do orientations for our new students coming in. And then we do community service projects. There were these inspirational rocks that you receive. You paint them, have inspiration on them, you leave them at parks, and things like that. We had some schools come in and the kids painted rocks here. And then we were able to donate them to the school to have a rock garden. So we do a variety of things just outside of teaching our courses.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. That's a fun little event. And just in general, I love how the center there is so engaged with the community. And like you said, inviting business owners and then whatnot into the center, it's a strong partnership, it sounds like. So just to summarize here, I just wanted each of you to provide basically an overview of the general benefits of attending either of these locations, the Jacksonville Education Center or the Mayport office. And Jessica, we can start with you.

Jessica Starkey:
Yeah. I'll speak to the Mayport location. I think one of the benefits is right there on the base. And so it's just a convenience factor of they can pop in on their lunch break to find out what the next step is in their program. They have a constant point of contact. So with the military, their plans could changed unexpectedly. They could get duty orders. So it's nice that they have a point person that could be like, "I just got duty orders. I'm going to be gone next week. What do I need to do to prep for that?" And then the other thing is just having that staff that has that veteran background, I think really just makes it a better relationship with the student population there.

Greg Lindberg:
Excellent. Very well said. And Julius.

Julius Collins:
Yes. So for the Jacksonville Center, I would say, in addition to the facility and the resources available here, the computer lab, the classroom, the work stations, I would say the personalized attention from the staff is the biggest benefit. We'll all take as much time needed to work with students to resolve any issues and create a positive experience with Saint Leo, and then knowing that they could come back and get their questions answered, concerns addressed, and just make their experiences at Saint Leo just a positive one while going through their degree programs.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. I appreciate both of you with that great insight. And so to wrap up here, let's provide the contact information. If someone listening to this is interested in reaching out to either of the Jacksonville locations, what's the best way they can get in touch?

Jessica Starkey:
I think it's easiest to provide the one email address and phone number, because like I said, we do work cohesively. So if they're interested in Mayport, we can get them directly there. So it's just jacksonville@saintleo.edu. And then the phone number, it's (904) 771-7825.

Greg Lindberg:
Excellent. And I'll definitely include that info in the show notes as well so everyone can easily access that that way. Okay. So again, we've been chatting with Jessica Starkey and Julius Collins of the Jacksonville, Florida locations that Saint Leo University has. And Jessica and Julius, thank you so much for your time. Really enjoyed the conversation, and thank you so much for everything you do for the university.

Jessica Starkey:
Yes. Thank you for your time.

Julius Collins:
Thank you.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely.

Speaker 1:
To hear more episodes of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, visit saintleo.edu/podcast. To learn more about Saint Leo's programs and services, call (877) 622-2009, or visit saintleo.edu.

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, our discussion focuses on Saint Leo University’s two locations in the Jacksonville, FL region – the Jacksonville Education Center and Mayport Education Office. Our two guests are Jessica Starkey, the director of these locations, and Julius Collins, an academic advisor in the region. They discussed:

  • Some fun facts about Jacksonville, FL as a city and region.
  • The history of Saint Leo University’s presence in the Jacksonville market
  • The physical attributes and services offered at each location
  • Degree programs offered and class schedule flexibility at each location
  • An overview of student demographics at the locations
  • An overview of the faculty
  • An overview of the staff members and how they support students
  • Notable partnerships with local companies and organizations
  • Types of events held at these locations
  • The biggest benefits of attending these locations
  • Contact info for these locations

Links & Resources

Learn More about Saint Leo University’s Jacksonville, FL Locations

Learn more about the Jacksonville Education Center.

Learn more about the Mayport Education Office. 

Contact the staff for both locations by email at jacksonville@saintleo.edu or by phone at (904) 771-7825.

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