For the last year, seemingly every leadership meeting at Florida Gulf Coast University has included a special guest – Craig T. Cobane. Cobane is the leader of the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University, but he made a beeline for FGCU upon receiving a prestigious American Council on Education (ACE) Fellowship. Why FGCU? Look no further than President Mike Martin and Provost Jim Llorens.
“The fellowship is all about mentoring – who is mentoring you and the experiences that they have,” said Cobane, one of 43 fellows selected to the ACE class of 2018-19. “Between President Martin and Provost Llorens, they’ve been president or chancellor of five different places. That’s a lot of success and experience to be able to learn from.”
Martin is starting his third year at FGCU and served as chancellor of Louisiana State University and the Colorado State University System and president of New Mexico State University. Llorens previously led Southern University and A&M College as chancellor.
“We’ve been delighted to host Dr. Craig Cobane, ACE Fellow,” said Martin. “He’s contributed to our on-going conversations about FGCU’s journey to excellence. And hopefully we’ve contributed to his journey as a leader in higher education.”
Martin and Llorens gave Cobane substantial access to FGCU. That fulfills ACE’s promise to provide fellows with the chance “to immerse themselves in the study and practice of leadership and experience the culture, policies and decision-making processes of another institution.”
“I jokingly say, ‘It’s an internship for adults.’ I have done some research and writing, but my 8-5 time is shadowing Drs. Martin and Llorens and others – whoever will give me some time and help me understand how universities work and what presidents need to know,” said Cobane, who hopes to become a college or university president.
Outside of the individuals Cobane worked with over the last year, he said FGCU itself taught him a few lessons.
“I’ve never been, in my professional environment, at a place that didn’t have tenure. That’s been an education. I also have never worked in a union environment. That’s been a great education, too,” Cobane added.
Cobane also observed that the 22-year-old FGCU is still learning what it is and will become. The presence of founding faculty members and an ever-changing world makes this an exciting time for FGCU. Cobane looks forward to seeing the university develop over time.
“There are questions the university community has to ask itself: ‘What part of the founding spirit of FGCU is worth retaining and building upon and growing to make it part of the foundation of the institutional culture? And what parts need to change?’” Cobane said.
As the soul-searching continues at FGCU, the 2018-19 ACE fellow believes the right leaders are in place to guide that process.
“Dr. Martin has given me great insight into how to develop institutional culture. I believe that leaders are builders of culture. And Dr. Martin is subtly and slowly and, I think extremely effectively, enhancing an institution-wide culture of student success,” Cobane said.
Cobane’s ACE Fellowship concluded July 19. In August, FGCU will welcome a second ACE Fellow – James Cousins, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University.
For more information about the ACE Fellows Program, visit https://acenet.edu/leadership/programs/Pages/ACE-Fellows-Program.aspx.