By Bradley Osburn
Every business can be better, whether they’re run by seasoned veterans or novice entrepreneurs. Maybe you need help with retention, business development or brainstorming to find solutions in order to drive results. The University of Florida offers all of this through its Professional Development and Executive Education programs, a suite of specialized programs and online offerings designed to help business owners overcome obstacles and build their best company.
Professional Development began as a correspondence program in the early 1990s, said Laurel Brown, the program coordinator for the department. Since then, it has gone in and out of evolution periods and grown to encompass other programs.
What this allowed for a two-pronged approach to business education. Executive Education focuses on specialized in-person programs put on for specific companies or a mix of executives. Professional Development takes place all online, and offers certification programs in insurance, information technology, project management and process improvement, and provides a suite of programs on health care.
“This furthers the mission of UF in terms of service to state entities both public and private,” said Brian Marchman, the director of distance learning. Professional Development has grown to consider the needs of the customer first, he said, and strives to meet them where they are, so having an always-available online program allows the department to be available any time, any place.
Professional Development primarily offers non-credit, non-academic offerings by the university that are designed to be continuing education for people out in the field, as opposed to the usual university offerings, which are pre-service. The department has worked to trim and narrow its focus and provide a pipeline to further opportunities, Marchman said.
Professional Development’s new initiative focuses on health care. The field is dramatically changing, Brown said, and the department is offering programs to physicians and other practitioners who need new or expanded skill sets to further or change their career. They will also soon offer online programs for preschool and K-12th grade education and child safety.
There are some complimentary programs, Brown said, but most of the time there is a fee. The fee structure is based on a sliding scale depending on the program and the number of days it covers.
For example, the Leadership Essentials course in March lasts four-and-a-half days in Gainesville — four Fridays and a special Thursday session with the Leading Edge Business Theater — and costs $1,595.
The department also surveys participants on their satisfaction and makes changes according to feedback. The survey responses, Marchman said, have by and large been very positive.
Since the department has been in a merger transition period, it hosted only 587 people from July 2012 to July 2013, but Brown said that it enjoys ongoing relationships with numerous institutions that use their services every year. Executive Education is amenable to working with corporations by going to their site, she said, which furthers the “meet them where they are” attitude.
The department tries to leverage the talent of the university and local experts in different fields during in-person seminars, Marchman said. Many of them are professors, and getting involved allows them to practice their theory and disseminate their expertise.
Seminars try to train attendees in the art of “Yes, and,” and to have an open and creative mindset toward problems, instead of picking apart ideas in the draft phase.
“The big takeaway is that we are offering the opportunity to think differently and act differently,” Marchman said, “by providing them with new information that they can use to improve upon things that they’re doing. We provide for professionals to step out and improve or develop new skills with colleagues or on their own.”
Those looking for more information about UF’s programs should contact Laurel Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.