Academic Leaders Council Convene on April 18

The BDB convened the Academic Leaders Council on April 18 to continue the work it started on October 21, 2016. The council, comprised of Palm Beach County’s academic leaders, works to strengthen business and education partnerships. While October’s meeting focused on AAE, IT/Telecommunications, life sciences and trades, the dialogue on the 18th was focused on healthcare, distribution/logistics and manufacturing.

(From left to right) Gary Vonk, Flagship President of Keiser University, Kimberly Lea, West Palm Beach Campus President of Keiser University, William “Bill” Fleming, President of Palm Beach Atlantic University, John Kelly, President of Florida Atlantic University, Robert Avossa, Superintendent of Palm Beach County School District, Ava Parker, J.D., President of Palm Beach State College, George Hanbury, President & CEO of Nova Southeastern University, and Kevin Ross, President of Lynn University

The following individuals participated in the robust discussion that focused on preserving and expanding the intellectual capital in the county and ensuring the curricula taught in classrooms align with the targeted industries that are present in Palm Beach County.The discussion was centered on the hiring process to ensure a good company-fit, necessary skills and experience an applicant must possess for success, and experience with new-hires who came through a local high-school, certificate program, college or university.


Academic Leaders

  • David Christiansen, Deputy Superintendent, Palm Beach County School District
  • William “Bill” Fleming, President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Belinda Keiser, Vice Chancellor of Community Relations and Student Advancement
  • John Kelly, President, Florida Atlantic University
  • Kimberly Lea, West Palm Beach Campus President; Keiser University
  • Keith Oswald, Chief Academic Officer, Palm Beach County School District
  • Ava Parker, J.D. , President, Palm Beach State College
  • Kevin Ross, President, Lynn University
  • Yong Tao, Dean & Professor of Engineering, Nova Southeastern University
  • Gary Vonk, Flagship Campus President, Keiser University

Healthcare Industry Leaders

  • Jerry J. Fedele, President & CEO, Boca Raton Regional Hospital
  • Molly Ferguson, Director Program Development, Florida Community Health Centers
  • Gina Melby, President & CEO, JFK Medical Center
  • Robbin Lee, President & CEO, Wellington  Regional Medical Center

Distribution/Logistics Industry Leaders

  • Barbara Miedema, VP Public Affairs, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida
  • Warren Newell, Director  of  Development , Cheney Brothers
  • Adam Runsdorf, President; Larry Hotz, Marketing Manager, WDSrx – Woodfield Distribution, LLC
  • Caroline Villanueva, Project Manager, Florida Crystals

Manufacturing Industry Leaders

  • Sandie Foland,  CEO, Baron Sign Manufacturing
  • Scott Frum , Plant Manager, RGF Environmental Group
  • Subi Katragadda, General Manager, SV Microwave
  • Kim Lukich, Human Resource Manager , Viking
  • Sean Quinn, President & CEO, Wafer World
  • Paul Roraff, Plant Manager, SolarTech Universal


During the health care conversation, Jerry Fedele, President & CEO of Boca Raton Regional Hospital, articulated that almost all new hires are coming from Palm Beach County. He is pleased that the local educational institutions can guarantee students have the technical competency but he would like to see a demonstrated effort of instilling teamwork, work ethic, and customer service skills at the college level.

Palm Beach Atlantic University’s president, Dr. Fleming said, “We’re extremely grateful to our healthcare colleagues for the way they create pathways for nursing students, undergrads and doctorate students.”  He expressed that he is very satisfied with the collaboration between pharmacy professors who need clinical pharmacy practice sites and that they allow pharmacy students to complete rotations.

Caroline Villanueva, Project Manager for Florida Crystals, participated in the workforce discussion pertaining to Distribution/Logistics.  Villanueva expressed that the company hires college students with engineering backgrounds who need to learn Florida Crystal’s unique company culture and manage expectations as starting employees. “Even if a new-hire has a terrific degree, he or she still needs to learn the businesses from the ground up and it takes hard work, humility, and self-assessment,” she said.  Employers are looking to hire individuals committed to teamwork and with the ability to collaborate with others.

Subi Katragadda, General Manager of SV Microwave indicated that his manufacturing company offers internships to individuals they would like to eventually hire. With this process, the interns are able to familiarize themselves with the company and learn the skills necessary to succeed at SV Microwave.

The Academic Leaders Council will meet again in the fall of 2017 where its discussion will be centered on a countywide Workforce Skills Gaps Study and ways in which to further align curricula with the jobs being created by Palm Beach County’s employers.



About the BDB: The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is the official public/private economic development organization for Palm Beach County and Enterprise Florida.  Founded in 1982 as a not-for-profit corporation, our primary purpose is to attract and retain new industry, business investment, high quality jobs and workforce development through corporate relocations, expansions and international trade. During the past five years, the BDB has assisted companies that have created more than 13,000 direct jobs with average salaries greater than $68,000, resulting in more than $627 million in capital investment to Palm Beach County and an economic impact that exceeds $6.95 billion. Additional information can be found at the BDB’s website,


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