Bill Garrison student spotlight Bill Garrison had a successful career in the real estate development industry until the economic recession forced him to reconsider his career options. Knowing he needed to sustain his marketability during the financial crisis, Bill enrolled at SJR State. He graduated in 2012 with his AA degree and in 2017 with his bachelor’s degree.

A custom home builder with 35 years of experience in construction and real estate development, ranging from hands-on site work to C-suite executive, Bill previously served as the president of the Clay Economic Development Corporation and the CEO of the Northeast Florida Builders Association, the largest builders association in Florida. Bill credits his education at SJR State with helping him become a viable candidate for both of those senior executive positions.

“With my degree, my years of development industry experience, and my years of senior executive experience, I was successful in competing against other national candidates for this position (CEO). The classes at SJR State have been genuinely instrumental in my understanding of management theories and practices. Even after 20 years as a business manager, I learned so much more about business management through the education at SJR State. I was constantly impressed by the quality of instruction, and the commitment of the professors and administrators in making SJR State a first-class education institution.”

In addition to his current custom home builder role with Higginbotham Custom Homes, Bill is also an instructor at AAA Construction School and serves as the planning commissioner for Clay County Planning and Zoning Commission.


Lori Slaven student spotlight At the age of 54, Lori Slaven was the first in her family to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree. While Lori said the decision to go back to school was outside of her comfort zone, she did not let that stand in the way of earning the necessary credentials to advance her career. “You can’t let fear get in the way,” she said. “When I first went back, it was intimidating and a little scary… but all the students, of all age ranges, were so kind. They were so welcoming.”

Lori said earning her degree definitely played a role in attaining her job as Executive Director of the Lee Conlee House, a local domestic violence shelter. “A formal education is key to being in this type of position,” she said.


David Mack student spotlight David Mack credits his bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management for his promotion into a supervisory position at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. He now serves as the school’s dormitory program supervisor. David understood the need to go back to school and gain the qualifications necessary for advancement. The father of five juggled his full-time job while earning his degree at SJR State. “I am 100% sure that if it wasn’t for SJR State, not only would I not have received a bachelor’s degree, my promotion may not have happened.”

David has continued his education at Bethune-Cookman University where he earned his master’s degree in transformative leadership. He is now working toward his doctorate degree in education.