When Patti France (BEd ’11) wanted to gain insight into the needs of adult learners, she turned to Brock University.
Driven by a passion for lifelong learning, she graduated in 2011 from the Adult Education degree program, which later helped her in securing her role as President of St. Clair College.
France was appointed to the college’s senior leadership position in 2015, becoming the first female and first St. Clair graduate to become President, and the first internal appointee chosen for the post.
Her working career at the Windsor and Chatham-Kent college began in 1990 as a staff support employee in St. Clair’s registrar’s office. She continued to work her way through a variety of positions and departments as a faculty member, support staff and administrator. At the same time, she acquired a mix of college and university education — making her “a real-life spokesperson for the sort of college-university hybrid education which is increasingly common today,” she said.
Along with her Brock degree, she has a diploma in Computer Science from St. Clair and a Master of Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
France said she was drawn to Brock’s Adult Education degree program because it provided her “a bit of introspection” as an adult learner, and also affirmed the important role adult, lifelong learning plays as part of the function of colleges.
She began her Adult Education studies in the 1990s at a time when Second Career programs were launched in the country to retrain people who had lost jobs during the recession.
“As part of the college’s senior management, I thought it was essential that I acquire in-depth knowledge of the specialized needs of adult learners. Brock provided me with that expertise in a convenient, supportive and academically exceptional manner,” she said.
France said her career at the college was bolstered by the eager attitude with which she approached every task.
“Sometimes I had some expertise, sometimes I was flying by the seat of my pants, but it was always my willingness to tackle the job and to spearhead the effort that led to the successful completion of one job and the reward of the next challenge that led to new opportunities,” she said. “Leadership — or how that quality is perceived by others — is created by grasping significant challenges, and plowing through them. That, in a nutshell, is my story.”
France described her journey as a success story that is within reach of today’s post-secondary education students.
“When I was first appointed as St. Clair’s President, there was some media publicity associated with the fact that I was one of a few presidents, as far as we could determine, whose initial post-secondary education actually took the form of a college diploma. At the time, St. Clair’s marketing motto was ‘Start Here, Go Anywhere’ and I sort of became the poster child for that sentiment.
“It really does provide me with a unique and wonderful opportunity to say to students and grads that I have the same basic education as you. I worked hard, I’ve been a lifelong learner and here I am. You can do it all too.”