As the new College of Business Dean, Emmanuel Hernandez-Agosto is applying his longtime expertise in developing incubators and student programming to St. Petersburg College.
“In less than six months into the role, I felt this was my home. I belong here,” said Agosto, who began last June.
Although fresh to the St. Petersburg community, Agosto, who has 15 years of experience in college administration, is embarking on a major mission to reshape the College of Business’ digital strategy.
“In the early 2000s, we were Florida’s first two-year college to offer bachelor’s degrees. SPC leadership thought the best route was to offer the business bachelor’s degree program through online courses. It was the right call,” Agosto said.
SPC offers over 110 degree and certificate programs and has received multiple recognitions for its online programming.
“The school grew exponentially. Our strength is online, and that’s not going away, but after the pandemic and other colleges shifted to having more online courses, we started looking at new opportunities,” he said.
While a robust online presence allows SPC to expand outside the walls of its four main brick-and-mortar centers, the primary online approach limits the types of students the college could serve.
“We need to target our veteran and international students,” Agosto said. “The Department of Veteran Affairs requires veteran students to attend at least one in-person class throughout the semester to be fully eligible for financial benefits. With international students, we are facing the same thing; we cannot recruit international students for our programs because we don’t comply with visa requirements.”
However, he said the St. Petersburg Downtown Center can become a key part of the solution if it starts offering more in-person business courses.
Students who attend the integrated St. Petersburg Collegiate STEM High School at the downtown center can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate degree tuition-free.
“The expectation is that the high school classes are going to grow. Once students finish their associate degree, they can earn their bachelor’s degree in-person inside the center,” Agosto said.
Launching new cohorts
This summer, through the College of Business, SPC is launching a boot camp for students creating green businesses, which are enterprises that have a positive effect on the environment or economy.
“The boot camp will be focused on teaching the students about corporate social responsibilities through an assessment process,” Agosto said.
The program is funded through a $25,000 grant from Massachusetts-based private organization VentureWell, formerly known as the National Collegiate Inventors.
Agosto expects to have at least 18 participants. Two faculty members will lead the program.
Additionally, SPC is developing a cohort for the culinary sector, which will leverage SPC’s relationships with restaurateurs to access test kitchens and deliver real-world experiences to students, including how to market and finance their business.
“These boot camps and programs are experiments to see how the community responds and where we can grow,” Agosto said. “Most of our students have full-time careers and need to earn a degree to switch industries or go into management. In the younger student generations, we are seeing they value education, but not in the sense of a traditional degree. Many of them are interested in earning certificates and experiences.”