Lisa Mead

Interdisciplinary Studies 2005
Executive Director at Collier County Bar Association

When talking to an adult learner who is currently in college, one response that is often heard is “I am much more focused now than when I was 18.” Combining years of personal growth as well as real-world experience, many adult learners return to school with a determined mindset and deep-seated appreciation for higher education. Lisa Mead was no different. Even as a successful businesswoman, returning to school gave her the additional knowledge and confidence to further excel as a professional.

As the executive director of the Collier County Bar Association, Mead is responsible for “a diverse set of tasks including financial planning, staff management, technology, marketing, event planning, member/community relations and fundraising,” she explained. The ability to understand, strategize, communicate and think critically are key aspects to making any business or organization succeed, and these particular skill sets are areas she built upon while participating in Hodges University’s interdisciplinary studies program.

Enrolling in the bachelor’s degree program in summer 2004, she admits, “It was quite challenging, but it enabled me to finish quickly and with fewer class hours. I also selected it because while the focus was on business, it was a holistic approach that included topics not normally addressed within a business degree. I believe that including related course work in the areas of psychology and sociology have helped to make me a well-rounded professional.”

It had been 20 years since Mead entered a classroom when she started her first class at Hodges. Although she began college at 18 years old, she was unable to finish due to financial reasons. She made a promise to herself and her grandparents that she would earn her degree one day.

“When I turned 40, I felt like it was just something I needed to do for myself. I was running a home-based business, but knew I wanted to get back into the traditional workforce and going back with a degree would give me a huge boost,” she said.

Visiting with multiple schools in the area, it was the flexible schedule and accommodations for adult learners that led her to Hodges (or International College as it was known at the time). As an adult student, returning to the classroom was not an easy task. Many aspects of learning had changed and it all felt a bit daunting. “It had been 20 years since I had entered a classroom and things were very different. Not just the technology for presentations, but also research methods and citing were not like anything I had done before,” explained Mead. Another challenge included taking 16 credit hours per semester while working full time at her home-based job in addition to a part-time job in the evenings.

“I had the support of my family and the motivation to make it work, so we pushed through,” she said.

Although as a student she did not have much time for extracurricular activities, she credits the faculty and staff for providing support and encouragement, saying, “The entire staff was helpful and welcoming…The professors were encouraging, knowledgeable and friendly. It felt like everyone there was rooting for my success.” Mead remembers Dr. Judith Kolva, who possessed an “interactive” style of teaching and encouraged her students to go far beyond anything they thought possible. “She had a tremendous impact on my life and I gained a great amount of confidence and determination,” she said.

Graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2005, she didn’t go far as her first job after graduation was serving as the administrator for Hodges’ Department of Institutional Advancement. Working closely with students who shared a similar story and life experience as Mead was immensely gratifying. However, 10 years ago, she left Hodges to accept a position as the executive director of the Collier County Bar Association, saying, “Ironically, I got the job through connections I made while attending and working at the university.”

As a leader in the community, she believes her achievements are in part because of her time spent at Hodges. Through the interdisciplinary studies program, she is able to better serve and lead her organization in a way she never thought would be possible.

“I had a solid career before entering Hodges, but don’t believe I would have had the education or the presence to obtain the position that I currently hold,” she said. “Going back to school, especially after a prolonged absence, is really hard, but everything worth doing is difficult. You’ll get so much more than you expect from furthering your education. It changes you in ways you cannot quite explain. Begin with determination and proceed to give it everything you have. The more you put into your experience there, the more you will gain from it.”

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