Hodges University

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How Hodges is Changing Lives – One Student, Faculty and Staff Member at a Time

Fall has arrived at Hodges University, and students, faculty, staff and administrators are preparing for another successful semester. For members of the Hodges community, a strong sense of Panther Pride exists within the walls of our Naples and Fort Myers campuses. In this issue of Panther Press, we chose to focus on that sense of pride, asking students, faculty and staff to share their personal stories of what led them to Hodges and the impact this institution of higher education has made in their lives.

Andrea Fortin

Associate Professor, School of Liberal Studies
Andrea Fortin
A native Floridian, Andrea Fortin came to Hodges because of its hometown feel and dedication to the Southwest Florida community. As an associate professor of communication, her educational and professional background enable her to provide her students with the skills, knowledge and latest trends in order to be successful in the workforce.

Fortin earned her high school diploma and an associate degree in May 2006 because of the dual enrollment through Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly known as Edison State College) before attending Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and earning two bachelor’s degrees, one in communication and the other in English, in May 2010. Moving to New York, she attended Fordham University and earned a master’s degree in public communication. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in communication at the University of South Florida.

Throughout her educational career, Fortin obtained multiple student jobs, including interning at WGCU Public Radio, as well as serving as the editor-in-chief of FGCU’s Eagle News. Once in New York, she produced a radio show at WFUV Public Radio. Moving back to Southwest Florida in 2011, she became an adjunct at FCGU before accepting a position with Hodges that same year.

“I learned about Hodges through an old colleague of mine who knew some of the excellent faculty members working here,” she said. “I enjoy working with students inside and outside of the classroom. Helping our students succeed is what brings me joy. To see students dedicate themselves to learning and education even with all the other things going on in their lives is really inspiring.”

How is Hodges different than other schools?
I believe Hodges is different from other schools in many ways. Because of our size, we are able to have a stronger focus on each student in our classroom. Additionally, students have more opportunities for leadership roles within the institution. Our students are really what makes us different. I really enjoy having students from all walks of life in my classroom. I see teaching as an opportunity to also learn from our students, and our students never miss out on providing thoughtful conversations drawing from a variety of life experiences.

What would be your advice to someone about enrolling at Hodges?
If you enjoy being part of a family of hard-working individuals who care about your success, this is the place for you. Our faculty and staff are dedicated to providing you with the best educational opportunities in Southwest Florida. Our students are passionate and talented individuals who are not only willing to push themselves to work hard but to also help their peers succeed.

 Luz Chilson

Assistant Professor, English as a Second Language (ESL)
Luz Chilson
In 2007, Luz Chilson joined Hodges University’s English as a Second Language program as a way to challenge herself and assist adult students in furthering their education and English language skills. Since the age of 10, Chilson has displayed an interest in the art of teaching. From spending her Saturday afternoons teaching Catechism to individuals in poor neighborhoods to serving as a professor at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia for more than 23 years, she has dedicated her life to helping others become versed in the English language.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in modern languages from the Universidad del Valle (Univalle) in Cali, Colombia, she applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to attend school in the United States. “I chose to attend the Education School at the University of Kansas because they had a very solid and recognized program in language teaching, as well as a large Intensive English Center with students from all over the world,” she said.

Returning to Colombia after earning her master’s degree in education, TEFL and TESL, she advanced within the field of teaching, working with adults and executives through an English institute, as well as teaching English at a local school for students in grades 6 to 11. After serving one year as an adjunct at Univalle, she accepted a permanent position in the School of Language Sciences and served as a tenured professor until 2002 when she relocated to the United States.

“I moved to the United States in 2002. I started my life in this country as so many immigrants have done: leaving careers in their countries and starting from scratch at any job they can get,” she said. Starting at Barnes & Noble as a book shelver, she eventually found an ESL teaching job at the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs, teaching language and reading courses to adults and children. From there, she accepted a position with the Even Start program at Three Oaks Elementary and worked evenings with the ESL programs at Bonita Springs Middle School and Cape Coral High School.

It was through her search for available teaching positions in ESL that she discovered Hodges in 2007 and accepted a position in the university’s ESL program.

How is Hodges different from other schools?
The facilities are the best I have enjoyed in my life. I had never worked at a school that had such nice settings as this school. The classrooms are to die for; however, that is not the most remarkable thing about this school. What I have also found is the opportunity to continue growing academically. Hodges has challenged me to learn new ways to deliver content and improve language acquisition in our students. When I arrived here, I had never worked in a classroom that had the kind of setup this school has. There are many resources to enhance my teaching, and the program is student-centered, which makes my daily life very rewarding. I have found, in the ESL program, a conglomerate of mentorship, assistance and resources, everything one could possibly want to develop oneself and the people who count on you for their language needs. However, what I have found that I value the most is the friendship and support of this community. Hodges, especially my director, Leisha Cali, and my colleagues in the ESL program, has seen me through the hardest times in my life with kindness, giving me strength when I had none, and that is something I will forever be grateful for.

What would be your advice to someone about enrolling at Hodges?
Enrolling at Hodges is the first right step in the pursuit of success in this country. Speaking the language is key to opening doors and achieving the American dream. I would also say the ESL program is a worthy program to enroll in. We give great English instruction and go the extra mile and help students through the study of language and to understand many aspects of this culture. This is a great place to study because everybody in this school, from administrators to academics, is committed to helping students succeed.

 Dr. Wesley Boozer

Professor, School of Liberal Studies
Wesley Boozer
Raised by educators in Dover, Delaware, Dr. Wesley Boozer grew up understanding the importance of education and earned an associate degree in modern foreign languages and a bachelor’s degree in theatre and speech.
Displaying a passion for the theatre at an early age, Boozer spent much of his time performing in a children’s theatre troupe and community theatre. After performing in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, he decided to leave acting and pursue education. Earning a master’s in education from Wesley College, he went on to earn a doctoral degree in rhetoric and linguistics/composition & TESOL from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

In spring 2005, Boozer learned of an open position with Hodges University (formerly known as International College) through the Chronicle of Higher Education. After participating in a telephone and in-person interview, he accepted a position in the School of Liberal Studies where he currently teaches English.

Why Hodges?
I have always been a teacher who enjoys working with struggling populations, whether they are second-language learners, returning adult learners or students whose prior experiences in the classroom left them feeling out of place in school. My personality is particularly geared toward students like this. I find it easy to be patient, welcoming and non-judgmental; I am also well-versed in practical methods of teaching writing, and I enjoy making lessons not only illuminating but fun and interesting, as well. The student body at Hodges made me feel like I would be a good fit here. As an educator, I have always bristled at the misconception that there is a hierarchy of greatness regarding colleges and universities.  A school that is a good fit for one student is by no means a good fit for all students; likewise, a school that is a good fit for one professor is by no means a good fit for all professors. In Hodges University, I found a very good fit for my particular talents.

What do you enjoy most about Hodges?
Being in the classroom with my students! I leave the classroom after four hours feeling like I have helped others to better understand English grammar, the research and writing process, and the cultural and historical background of the English language–and that is a good feeling. It is not uncommon for a student on week one to stay behind after class simply to tell me, “I am a bad writer.” Deconstructing students’ fears about writing and guiding them to success in our writing class makes me feel I have accomplished something worthwhile.

Gayle Sauer

Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling student
Gayle Sauer
At 55 years old, Gayle Sauer made a decision that would change the course of her professional career. After earning her MBA from Simmons College in 2003, she spent many years in the corporate world before deciding it was time to give it up and pursue a passion that would allow her to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2011, she started on her journey to becoming a licensed mental health counselor.
Earning her certification as an addictions counselor from Austin Community College, she went on to attend St. Edward’s University to complete a bachelor’s degree in human services in 2014. While looking at master’s-level programs at St. Edward’s and Simmons, her husband retired in 2015 and the family moved to Southwest Florida.

“I was accepted at both St. Edward’s and Simmons, but neither school had exactly what I was looking for in a program. That is when a friend told me about Hodges,” she said. “The school had everything I wanted – classes that were in-person and online, small class sizes and dedication from the professors.”

Enrolling in Hodges’ clinical mental health counseling master’s program in summer 2016, she is expecting to graduate in December 2018 and continue to specialize in the addictions field.

How is Hodges different from other schools?
Hodges’ smaller class sizes mean more individualized attention. Also, the accessibility of the professors and college staff makes it convenient for students. Lastly, the fact that Hodges offers the flexibility of a fully online program, as well as on-campus classes is a great benefit.

What would be your advice to someone about enrolling at Hodges?
Grab on and go! Hodges is a CACREP accredited school, and you can be assured you will receive a comprehensive education that will prepare you for your career in mental health counseling at a reasonable education expense.

Robert Cortes

Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Technology student
Robert Cortes
With less than one year to go before graduating with his bachelor’s degree in computer information technology, Robert Cortes is putting in the time and effort to ensure he is equipped with the necessary knowledge, tools and certifications to make it in the world of information technology, specifically within the federal government.
A veteran of the United States Navy and former police officer in Washington, D.C., Cortes’ passion is to serve and help others in need. A police officer at Dulles International Airport before working security with the Washington Nationals baseball team, he stepped back into uniform and served on the police force at Georgetown University. Learning of an opportunity to work for the Department of the Army at Fort Mead in 2012, he attended the academy in Virginia until an unfortunate accident during a training session ended his career in law enforcement.

“I tore apart my left knee. It was destroyed – my meniscus. I was on light duty for a while, but because I hadn’t recovered, they medically retired me,” he said.

In June 2013, after speaking to his in-laws who lived in Southwest Florida, Cortes and his family moved from D.C. to Port Charlotte. With only a high school diploma, he contemplated what he should do with his life. Tinkering with computers for many years, often taking them apart and rebuilding them, his wife suggested pursuing something in the technology field, so he did.

Earning his associate degree from State College of Florida in 2016, he went to the University of South Florida that summer to try and pursue a bachelor’s degree; however, after learning no certifications were offered in the program, his Veterans Administration (VA) counselor suggested he consider Hodges.

Why Hodges?
Hodges offers the certifications you need in order to succeed in the IT field. You can’t get that anywhere else. By the time I graduate in May 2018, I’ll not only have my degree, but I’ll have the certifications. Without them [certifications], you can’t get your foot in the door. Employers want to know first what certifications you’ve earned.

What do you enjoy most as a Hodges student?
I enjoy the professors. They are all so personable and are truly there for the students. At so many other schools, you don’t get the personalized attention, but at Hodges, the professors encourage you to talk with them. As an adult learner, you expect to hear “good luck,” and the professor will be on their way, but here, they stop and take the time to listen.

Marcela Lorenzo

Associate in Science in Business Administration student
Marcela Lorenzo
Immigrating to the United States from Bogotá, Colombia, in February 1991, Marcela Lorenzo has spent the last 26 years working to build a life for herself and her children in Southwest Florida. Arriving in Fort Lauderdale at only 18 years old, she had no knowledge of the English language and found herself working various jobs in order to make money. Over time, her English improved with each position, working at a local shopping area, in restaurants and eventually private banking.
Meeting her husband in 2009, she and her daughter, Shannon, moved to Naples in June 2010. For the next six years, Lorenzo was a stay-at-home mother to the couple’s young daughter, Zeah, who was battling what they would later discover to be autism. By 2016, Lorenzo realized she was losing the language skills she had learned over the years due to the lack of communication and conversation she was having at the time. Looking at various schools, she discovered Hodges’ English as a Second Language (ESL) program and enrolled in winter 2016.

“I took the ESL test and placed in the third level,” she said. “The ESL program helped me to become more prepared for college, as well as learn how structured English works.”

After graduating from the ESL program, she took the summer off to focus on her daughter but made sure to enroll in the Intensive English Program Bridge (IEP) in fall 2016, saying, “People in the ESL program need the confidence to go to college. The IEP Bridge and Professor Leisha Cali provided me with exactly what I needed to advance into college.”

Since completing the IEP Bridge in December 2016, Lorenzo decided to pursue her associate degree in business administration through the Johnson School of Business. Focusing on human resources, she plans to graduate in May 2019 before taking the next step and earning a bachelor’s degree.

What do you hope to take away from your experience at Hodges?
I want to show my daughter and my family that no matter how many struggles I went through, I found the courage to walk through college and earn a degree. In telling my daughter that although I started older, I was able to do it and do it right. As the first one in my family to earn my degree, in the United States, in English, it will be a great accomplishment.

What would be your advice to someone about enrolling at Hodges?
Don’t wait. Give yourself a chance. People at Hodges care about your success, and as immigrants, the ESL program will give you the boost to start as a professional. Why wait? No matter how old you are, if English is what’s keeping you from becoming a professional, it’s keeping you from getting a better job and giving your family a better life. Give Hodges’ ESL and IEP programs a chance.

Christine Manson

Chief Student Success Officer
Christine MansonAs an alumna of Hodges University, Christine Manson can attest to the benefits of earning a degree at Hodges. Prior to enrolling at Hodges in 2006, she earned an associate degree in paralegal studies from South University in 2002 before moving to West Palm Beach and working for the Clerk of Courts; however, her desire to join the United States military led her to enlist in the Air Force Reserves in December 2002.
After relocating to Fort Myers in 2004, Manson began looking at various schools in the Fort Myers area in an effort to better herself. “I looked into FGCU; however, their traditional class schedule was not compatible with my schedule. I then discovered Hodges University and appreciated how their evening classes catered to the working professional,” she said.

She enrolled in the management wheel program, as she liked the concept of focusing on one subject at a time and thought the subject matter would help her as she advanced within the military, saying, “I thought management studies could mold me into a better non-commissioned officer.” After earning her degree, she continued to work as a real estate paralegal and serve as an Air Force reservist before receiving the opportunity to become a commissioned officer. “I credit a large part of my composure and qualifications that contributed to me being selected into the office core to my experience and education at Hodges,” she said.

Since then, Manson earned a master’s degree in global studies from Liberty University and served as the director of Hodges’ Veterans Services Center. In 2017, she was promoted to chief student success officer where she oversees the Student Success team, which includes retention, veterans services, counseling, career services, disability support services, scholarships, student organizations and more.

What do you enjoy most about Hodges?
I get to work alongside amazing people who all have a passion and desire to help our students. Helping our students achieve their goal of earning a degree is extremely rewarding, and nothing beats seeing them at their graduation.

What would be your advice to someone about enrolling at Hodges?
Enroll! You will never regret bettering yourself through education, and you will never regret becoming a member of the Hodges University family. Working at Hodges has been nothing short of incredible for me. I get to come to a place every day that exists for the sole purpose of bettering our students and community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this amazing team and mission?

Noah Lamb

Director of Student Accounts and Auxiliary Services
Noah Lamb
Dedicated to the mission of higher education, Noah Lamb has spent his entire educational and professional career learning about an industry devoted to helping others succeed academically. Moving to West Virginia for college, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in business and organizational leadership from Marshall University before completing a master’s degree in administrative leadership studies with an emphasis in higher education.
While attending Marshall University, he received his first experience working on the administrative side of higher education, serving as a work-study in the Bursar’s Office. His proven abilities led him to accept a full-time position as an accountant before receiving a promotion to business manager of account receivables in 2011. By 2013, he was promoted to senior budget/fiscal analyst for the Finance Department and assisted with institution and state implementation of the new payroll system.

“In 2015, I relocated to Fort Myers where I accepted the director of business office and campus stores position at Hodges,” he said. Looking for opportunities with more responsibility and leadership, he discovered Hodges, saying, “The institution was completely different from where I had spent all of my professional career. Marshall University was a public, state, nonprofit university with approximately 15,000 students in comparison to Hodges, which had approximately 2,800 students and was a private, nonprofit school.”

Why Hodges?
After completing two interviews (one phone interview and one in-person), I concluded this was the place for me. I saw a professional family who really cared about each other and wanted the best for each other. I remember being able to joke with the other directors, vice presidents and president while I was interviewing and realized I would be able to work very easily with all my co-workers. I also saw professionals who truly cared about the institution and its students, which was something else I loved and couldn’t wait to be a part of.

How is Hodges different from other schools?
I believe Hodges is truly “student-focused.” Students at Hodges are not just another number to us; they are working mothers, single fathers, well-established professionals, etc. who are attending Hodges because of that personal touch we can provide when other large institutions in the area cannot. I watch the teams in the Student Services area and see their drive and desire to assist the students in any way possible – that’s what makes us different than anyone around.

Luisaura Fox

Manager of English as a Second Language (ESL) Student Services
Luisaura Fox
Since 2010, Luisaura Fox has served as an enrollment coordinator, admissions coordinator and currently, manager to English as a Second Language (ESL) Student Services at Hodges University; however, her experience with Hodges began in 2007 as a student in the university’s ESL program.

“It was a week after we moved to Pine Island when I received a personalized letter in the mail from International College (today Hodges) inviting me to enroll into the ESL program. At the time, my English was very limited, so my husband called the number on the letter and a week later, I was sitting in class,” she said.

A native of Venezuela, Fox worked for P.O. Box Air International as an aid to the president from 1990 to 1992 before working as a branch manager for Santander Central Hispanic Bank for 10 years. After moving to the United States in 2006 and completing the ESL program at Hodges in 2007, she decided to pursue an associate degree in paralegal studies, as well as a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from Hodges, all while working in Hodges’ admissions department.

Just as she supports and encourages Hodges students to continue their education, she is doing the same as a student in Hodges’ Master of Science in legal studies program.

How is Hodges different from other schools?
Its people. In comparison to other schools, we might have similarities in programs, but the professionalism and kindness Hodges’ faculty and staff give to each person who comes to our campuses is its distinction.

What do you enjoy most about Hodges?
Meeting new people every day. As the ESL manager of student services, I have the privilege to work with people from all around the world. It gives me the opportunity to learn about other cultures, encouraging me to always have an inclusive and diverse mind. It is also a great opportunity to embrace our diverse culture as a diversity committee member at Hodges.

What do you hope to take away from your experience at Hodges?
There is a pride that goes along with knowing that Hodges changes people lives for the better. Being a part of that process brings fulfillment and joy, especially when I see so many of the students I enrolled graduating and sharing the experience and success with their families.

Do you want to hear more from these individuals? Check out Hodges’ recent YouTube video titled, “Why Hodges?”