Santa Fe leader says PBSC was instrumental to his success

When Thomas Beckwith graduated from Santaluces Community High School, he dreamed of being a college student far away from home.

That dream, however, didn’t immediately come to fruition as he lacked discipline and struggled academically. Instead, Palm Beach State gave him a home advantage that developed him and gave him the skills which would lead to success at future institutions and in his current role as the associate director of the Academic Advisement Center at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla.

Beckwith had a rocky start at PBSC, as he struggled to get through his developmental education courses.

“The deck of cards was already stacked against me when you examine the uphill battle that it takes for most college students to complete these courses and transition to college-level classes, much less graduate with a degree,” said Beckwith. “Luckily, I did not know this at the time, or I probably would have given up.”

Even though it took him three years, Beckwith graduated in 2008 with an Associate in Arts degree. When he reflects on how he has grown, he says attending PBSC was instrumental.

“Now as a higher education professional, I understand the challenges that many students encounter as they attempt to acquire knowledge and upward social mobility,” Beckwith said.

Growing at PBSC
Beckwith remembers several PBSC staff members and professors who made a lasting impact on him.

Marc Webb, a former academic advisor and adjunct instructor, gave him the encouragement he needed.

“His unwavering support guided me through several bouts of depression.”

Beckwith also recalls Dr. Steven Konopacki, who taught him the value of time.

“One of the reasons I got a B in his LIT2110 course was because I never showed up on time at the beginning of the semester.”

Beckwith also remembers Penny McIsaac, former dean of Student Services, through volunteering in her office.

“Penny made me believe there are great people in the world regardless of race, gender, creed and nationality. After I had graduated, she also helped me gain experience and exposure in higher education. I will forever be grateful.”

Through this support, Beckwith became very involved on campus which led to many of his fondest memories.

He was the parliamentarian and secretary for the Student Government Association; a Center for Student Leadership participant; a Save Our Sons founding member; a member of the Black Student Union and Florida Community College Student Government Association; and a Florida Campus Compact Scholar.

Completing an associate degree was just the beginning of Beckwith’s journey. After PBSC, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech and earned two master’s degrees: one in higher education administration from the University of Arizona and another in public administration from Florida Gulf Coast University. Today, he is a doctoral student in the Doctor of Education in Leadership Program at Valdosta State University.

Leadership at Santa Fe
At Santa Fe, Beckwith is the direct supervisor of 11 advising specialists, 1 advising support specialist and co-leads the execution of academic advising strategies and practices to support the college’s mission, goals, and initiatives. He also co-leads the college’s efforts related to maintaining their software retention system and plans professional development for academic advising.

These skills have led to him receiving the 2014 Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Lourdes Acevedo Student Advocate Award and the 2019 Student Advocate Award from the Florida Academic Advising Association, among others.

Advice to PBSC students
For graduates entering any field, Beckwith says they should gain as much experience and exposure as possible. He also added, “Not all experiences are going to be supplemented from a monetary standpoint. However, all experiences count for something, whether they’re good, bad, or indifferent.”

In recognition of Palm Beach State College’s 90th anniversary, the weekly Alumni Spotlight Series showcases the College’s role in preparing generations of graduates to achieve success in myriad careers and give back to their local communities.

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