Brevard director loves academia
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 17:02
When Denise Young first embarked toward college, she had no intention of one day becoming an administrator in higher education. But looking back, she should have known.
"When I look back, it's kind of funny because my first experience with education and administration was when I was in the third grade," Young said. "I asked to go help work in the principal's office instead of go to recess, and I don't know why. I just thought it was fun to see what was going on in there."
For Young, the newly appointed associate vice president and director of UCF's Brevard campuses, the trend continued.
"Then when I was in junior high, I was the principal's student assistant," Young said. "I guess I always liked it, and I always loved being at a university. What better world is there?"
Young is now responsible for overseeing the Brevard regional campuses which include the Cocoa and Palm Bay campuses. Both feature a partnership with Brevard Community College.
She has been holding the director job since October, when she was named the interim director of the Brevard campuses. The title was given to her last Monday, ending the nationwide search.
Even before she took on her new role, she's always had strong visions for the regional campuses.
When she was with Strategic Planning, she, along with Michael Sweeney, the chair at the time, came up with the concept that the regional/branch campus model was really important to UCF's future. They felt that they had to develop it more, make it so that it was more accessible, more understandable and get it ready to do great things.
Young is currently in the midst of working with various businesses to plan degree and certificate programs. By doing this, she and her team can find out what employers expect out of future employees - the same future employees who are students in college. The task is challenging, as the regional campuses are limited in what they can offer.
"We are looking at continuing to look at all our processes, seeing what we're able to streamline," Young said. "Another major initiative is working hand-in-hand with the community college that we're co-sited with, Brevard Community College, to co-offer as many degree programs as we can."
Jose Fernandez, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, knows what it is like to work with Young.
"She would not ask of you what she wouldn't ask of herself," Fernandez said. "And it's a pleasure to work with her, really. She demands a lot, but at the end, she's very respectful of others. She has a great, what I want to call, interactive personality, great interpersonal skills and a great sense of humor."
It's that sense of humor that showed itself during a UCF delegation visit to Brazil. After arriving there late at night, UCF delegates were walking to their motel room, which was in the countryside, when Fernandez stopped cold in front of his room door. In front of him were two huge bull frogs.
"I am terrified of frogs, terrified," Fernandez said. "She [Young] said, 'What's the matter,' and I just pointed."
Young calmly walked over, picked up the two bull frogs and gently placed them away from Fernandez.
"But every time when we're working on projects or something, you know, because I wasn't getting the stuff done on time, she said, 'Well, I'm going to get the frogs,' and that makes me work harder," he said.
One of Young's colleagues, Frank Juge, professor emeritus at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said he thinks they picked the right person for the job. He worked with Young on Florida's Board of Regents even before Young came to UCF in 1990.
"She has very good administrative skills and has good experience at planning and developing programs," Juge said. "And that is one of the goals on those campuses is to get different programs going and to make sure that they run well, and I'm sure she will be very good at that."
Young has always managed to keep herself busy. Along with UCF President John Hitt, she has co-chaired the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation review for UCF. This was her second go-around with the accreditation process.
In January, SACS renewed the university's accreditation for 10 years. When Hitt sent an e-mail out to all UCF students announcing the re-accreditation of UCF, he acknowledged the work Young did during that time.
"I am proud of the recognition UCF received from the SACS review committees
during the review process, and I am delighted with the reaffirmation of our
10-year accreditation," Hitt wrote in the e-mail. "My sincere thanks go to all of you who
participated in the reaffirmation process and particularly to Dr. Denise
Young for her extraordinary leadership."
For Young, though, the process was stressful.
"First of all, preface it with saying that none of my other jobs went away so this was on top of everything else, so it was incredibly demanding," Young said. "It was a lot of responsibility, but I felt confident that I'd be able to do it. Part of that confidence was because we have such a good team spirit at UCF, among our administrators and faculty. And when I went to people and said, 'I need your help,' … they always helped."
Young said she feels like she was meant for her position as an administrator to help better serve her community.
"I'm a person that feels like I need to make some kind of difference," Young said. "Money doesn't motivate me. It's nice to have money, but that's not why I work, and so being able to improve things, which is what that knowledge base allows you to do, is very important to me in my meaning in life."