In today’s world, earning a degree is not the only variable that will help an individual get a job or advance in a career. Employers are looking for individuals with the necessary professional skills as well. In an effort to address this need, Professor Gail Sabo is working with students to ensure they have the proper leadership, communication and social skills needed to become career professionals.
With a background in psychology and sociology, Sabo serves as the program chair for the Interdisciplinary Studies program (IDS) at Hodges University. Earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bowling Green State University, and her master’s degree in psychology from National Louis University, she spent 10 years teaching psychology at various universities. She has also spent more than 20 years working in the nonprofit sector overseeing Carlton Manor, a foster care program in Florida.
As the program manager, Sabo often trains and supports foster parents and staff members, and develops and manages the program and coordination of services for children and families. “We train various foster parents, and once an at-risk child is identified, we work to support the child through their placement into a foster home,” she said.
While balancing her duties as a professor and nonprofit program manager, she was offered a position as an adjunct faculty member for Hodges teaching IDS at its satellite campus at Pasco-Hernando Community College. As a result of her experience teaching IDS in a traditional and online setting, in July 2015, she accepted the position of IDS program chair.
“Bill Griz [former IDS program chair] moved into the position of dean of the School of Allied Health, so I was approached to interview for the position,” she explained. “The Interdisciplinary Studies program at Hodges focuses on degree completion. It is for the adult learner who is interested in professional studies and skills that can be translated into the workplace,” said Sabo.
Passionate about her work, Sabo began looking for ways to enter into the community and promote the IDS program, saying, “I talked with Brian Hawkins [employee and alumni relations manager] and asked him to take me with him when he goes out on his visits.”
After visiting with Dr. Bernardine Carter, senior trainer and college coordinator at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LSCO) in Fort Myers and Hodges adjunct faculty member, Sabo pitched the idea to offer a cohort program for LSCO officers who wish to obtain a bachelor’s degree in IDS. “This program is for officers who have been working in the field for several years and who are looking to polish their professional skills and prepare themselves for advancement,” she said.
Offered as a one-year program, there are currently 38 officers enrolled. In order to receive a bachelor’s degree, students must have 60 credit hours prior to enrolling; however, Sabo explained, “We do have some students who are working toward their associate degree, but have already said that they plan to enroll in the program again next year to achieve their bachelor’s degree.”
Throughout the course, students learn about research methodology, communications, strategic management, leadership, social and political process, ethics, diversity and global issues. As the instructor, Sabo creates activities that allow the students to learn about other jobs within the sheriff’s office, make connections and build camaraderie.
In addition to her instruction, Sabo invites representatives from Hodges’ library and other staff members to come and speak about the resources available online and on campus. “We have had such a tremendous response from the LCSO. I am anticipating we will be able to offer this program again next year,” she said. She even hopes to expand the IDS cohort program to other groups in the medical, law enforcement, education and civil service fields.
Receiving an honorary badge from her sheriff’s office students, Sabo feels grateful to be able to help all of her students reach their full potential. “It is the age old saying of ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself.’ So many times, fear holds us back, and in reality, all it takes is finding the support you need to get through it. Once you are in, it all gets better; you adjust and in the end, it’s all worth it.”