After a year heading up Central Florida Community College's Lecanto operations, provost Frank Wright can describe his feelings about the job quite simply:
With two decades of college administration experience, including stints as dean of instruction and vice president of academic affairs at other institutions, Wright was fully prepared for the decisions he has to make daily.
But the CFCC job comes with a bonus: a strong element of community involvement for Wright and a deep demonstration of community interest by surrounding residents.
Wright finds himself calling heavily on both of those elements as the CFCC Citrus campus moves into its new quarters to begin operations this week and opens classes to students Aug. 26.
"I never did want to be a president," Wright said recently. "I just didn't like all the things you have to do with that job that take you away from the college's primary job, which is academic.
"This is the best of both worlds."
Wright, 62, was appointed provost and a CFCC vice president last summer, replacing Scott Elliot, who resigned to lead a community college in Texas.
The appointment came at an important time, just as the college was in the midst of planning for the construction and opening of the new Citrus campus. Now that event is upon him, and Wright is wrapped up in the excitement that comes with moving.
"Got any extra boxes?" he quipped amid the packed boxes stacked all around the quarters the college is vacating at Lecanto High School.
Wright came to CFCC because he and former college President William Campion had a common acquaintance at East Texas University, where Wright got his doctorate in education.
The mutual friend had encouraged Wright to seek a job with Campion, but Wright didn't have much interest in Florida until several years ago when he interned at Valencia Community College.
During that internship, he said, he came to know the "Florida experience" and learned such basic lessons about living in the Sunshine State as hurricanes and mosquitoes.
After that, a position came open at CFCC and Wright applied. He met Campion for the first time during that interview. Wright didn't win the job, but he stayed in touch with Campion and when the provost job came open last year, he applied for it.
Wright said the position was very appealing to him.
"The bulk of the responsibility here has to do with instruction, and providing good quality instruction is what community colleges are all about," Wright said.
Wright, who is married and has four children, came to Citrus from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he was dean of instruction. Before that, he worked at Clovis Community College in New Mexico and Delgado Community College in New Orleans.
He started out with a business administration degree from Texas Tech University, then earned his master's in theology from Southern Methodist University and his master of sacred theology from Chicago Theological Seminary.
Originally Wright, who spent 12 years in the clergy, had wanted to teach at a Methodist college, but after getting drawn into the public college system and taking a leadership development program, he got very interested in community colleges.
"Community colleges are doing so many good things for good people that I never saw a conflict there" with the spiritual side of his belief system, Wright said. "I've never regretted my decision."
He was so interested in the community college topic that his doctoral dissertation was a comparison of how faculty and administration in the Texas community college system differed in their views of the community college philosophy.
Although Wright has previously worked in small communities, he said he has been pleasantly surprised by the level of interest the Citrus community has in the college.
"The community just really appreciates the college being in the county," he said. "People have been so supportive about the opening of the new campus. We feel kind of humble about it."
Wright has immersed himself in groups dealing with local issues that tie the college to the community, such as the Citrus 20/20 group, which has been mapping out the community's future, and the Economic Development Association of Citrus County.
"I'm thankful that the college is a part of these two initiatives," he said. "We need to provide programs that will not only make people employable, but also to attract development."
As provost, Wright will help shape the growth of the new campus.
Educating students to be productive members of the community is not just about teaching the basics in academic courses, he says.
For example, he envisions the new college campus someday housing a child-care center where students could be trained in child-care techniques while students with children have a place to leave the youngsters while they are in classes.
The center would also provide college students with classes such as parenting or parenting for the single parent. The program would help students be in "functional families as functional people," Wright said.
He said he favors a developmental approach to education. "I know that training is important and learning is important, but you need to see that in the development of the person," Wright said.
By providing the right courses, services and events through the community college, "we will help people to understand how to make a living and also teach them how to make a life."
Annual cost of attending CFCC-Citrus
versus selected four-year state and private universities
(figures based on the 1994-95 academic year)
College Tuition Room/Board Books Total
CFCC-Citrus $1,092 N/A $558 $1,650
Central Florida $1,661 $3,400 $600 $5,661
of Florida $1,820 $4,180 $630 $6,630
University $1,860 $4,285 $600 $6,745
University $12,315 $4,565 $600 $17,480
College $16,895 $5,220 $600 $22,715