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  1. The Education Gradebook

New leader at Hillsborough Community College's Brandon campus

BRANDON

It has been a little more than 60 days, but Nancee Sorenson is starting to feel at home in her expansive office on the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College.

Just a few mementos and paintings are scattered around the room on the second-floor administration building, perhaps a telling sign that Sorenson has hit the ground running since being selected as the Brandon campus president in January.

Sorenson, the former vice president for student development at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., took over from retiring president Carlos Soto. The two worked side by side for about two weeks to ensure a seamless transition.

"It's not usual that you have a chance to be mentored by a retiring president," Sorenson said of the experience. "It was a rare opportunity and Dr. Soto was so generous with his knowledge and expertise."

With more than 30 years of experience in student development in the community college setting, including an emphasis on workforce partnerships, Sorenson was chosen from a national search that narrowed down four candidates. She spent 22 years at Pima, which like HCC, has multiple campus locations. She worked her way up the ranks and held positions as the school's first director of administration, dean of student development, director of enrollment services and registrar.

"She is going to be a wonderful fit for the Brandon campus and will build upon Carlos Soto's success to bring HCC to new heights," HCC president Kenneth Atwater said in a news release announcing Sorenson's selection.

Even in Arizona, HCC was already on Sorenson's radar. She knew of the college's reputation for innovative programs, including Black, Brown and College Bound, which aims to increase student success, retention and graduation rates among African-American and Latino college males; and the college's participation as a Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, a workforce development and industry partnership.

"It just felt so good," Sorenson said of her time on campus, which led her to accept the presidency. "I could see the passion that staff, students and faculty had. That told me they had pride and focused on student success."

Her first priority as HCC's Brandon leader is to embark on a listening tour of the campus and community over the next few months, seeking input not only from students and faculty, but local business leaders and elected officials, as well. The goal, she noted, is to assess how the college is doing and how it can better serve the area.

She plans on asking what stakeholders are proud of, what concerns they have and where they see HCC in the future. Those comments will become part of a long-range strategic plan and mission for the campus, which Sorenson plans to have complete by mid summer.

"Of course, we want to grow enrollment, but we also have to concentrate on what's best for citizens," she said.

Sorenson also hopes to encourage the community to utilize more of the college's resources, such as its conference center, auditorium and Black Box Theater.

Student leaders who have met Sorenson are already impressed.

"It's exciting to do something new," said Antonia Bell, a second-year student, a Student Government senator and member of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society. "When you get someone new, you're skeptical. But she's made it clear what she wants to do, and that put us at ease."

Bell added that Sorenson told students she hopes to find ways to make online students more involved in campus activities.

For now, Sorenson is getting used to living in her new hometown. Her son, a college student, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren have already been to visit.

Contact Candace Rotolo at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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