University Partners with City to Offer Leadership Degrees

Boynton Beach employees who are pursuing their organizational leadership degrees gather for class in a city fire station. Through a partnership with the University, they are able to take core classes in the degree program at the fire station with their colleagues.A new partnership with the University has positioned Boynton Beach to build a leadership pipeline from within the ranks of current city employees, who can earn bachelor’s degrees.

Fourteen municipal employees — police, firefighters, administrative support and public works staff among them — are enrolled in the bachelor of science in organizational leadership program, said Joe Sharp, director of graduate, evening and online admissions.

“Every organization can benefit from developing the leadership capability of its employees, and we are excited about our partnership with Boynton Beach to grow theirs,” said Dr. Craig Domeck, dean of the Catherine T. MacArthur School of Leadership.

PBA faculty, including Domeck, teach two core courses per sub-term at the city’s Fire Rescue Station 5, reducing time Boynton Beach students would otherwise spend commuting to and from campus. Future courses may be taught online or during the summer, said Tim Worley, vice president for admissions.

Thanks to scholarships, state and federal financial assistance and the city’s generous tuition reimbursement program, the Boynton Beach students can earn their degrees for less than the sticker price. Many city employees may be able to shorten the time it takes to complete their degree through professional education credits, which recognize their training, experience and certifications, Sharp said.

Sharp and Worley see opportunity for expansion to other cities.

“We’re hoping people look at this and say, ‘Hm, this is unique,’” Sharp said.

Boynton Beach Fire Chief Glenn Joseph was an early proponent of the partnership, and City Manager Lori LaVerriere M.B.A. ’98 and Director of Human Resources Julie Oldbury quickly recognized a citywide opportunity, Sharp and Joseph said.

Completing coursework with like-minded professionals will help the Boynton Beach students get more out of it, said Joseph, who earned his organizational leadership degree from PBA in 2001.

“Many firefighters have a lot of technical knowledge and experience, but they tend to put academic education on the back burner,” Joseph said. “We need a well-rounded pool to develop future leaders in the organization.”

The fire service’s responsibilities have expanded to include providing emergency medical services, handling hazardous materials and responding to chemical and biological threats, Joseph said. A PBA education develops leaders that look at the broader picture.

Said Joseph, “It’s a broader picture of issues that we have to address.”

Photo: Boynton Beach employees who are pursuing their organizational leadership degrees gather for class in a city fire station. Through a partnership with the University, they are able to take core classes in the degree program at the fire station with their colleagues.