Jacob Winge is a true example of what it means to be a leader, and just like Winge, most students who choose to earn a degree aspire to become something more – to take charge and make an impact. Only in his mid-20s, he is more involved in community-wide efforts than most adults twice his age, serving on numerous boards and building his reputation as a leader in Collier County. Combining his experience, education and personal initiative, he is well on his way to making his mark in his hometown of Naples.
For someone with an educational and professional background in supervision, leadership and management, enrolling in a Master of Science in Management (MSM) degree program was a natural next step for Winge.
“I think it is critical if you want to be a leader in an organization that you have the educational background. Sometimes people say, ‘there’s no substitute for experience’ or certain fields may call for different levels of education, but in my mind, it’s not about where you in are in the organization but where you want to go. I think if you want to be a leader, in my mind, I needed to have that graduate-level, organizational leadership focus in a management setting,” he explained.
When looking for the right degree program, it was actually Dr. John Meyer, Hodges’ president, who suggested Winge look at Hodges. While as a student pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW), Winge grew to know Meyer, who served as the dean of the School of Business and Technology at FSW.
“The closer I got to the end of my baccalaureate, we would talk about the idea that if I entered the nonprofit world, I would pursue an MPA, but he said, ‘You know, you’ve already completed this management track, you should stick with a Master of Science in management. Hodges has a great program and there are other schools with a lot of other great programs,’ but he would always go back to Hodges, and he was a great influencer,” he said.
After doing his research, Hodges’ longevity and role in the community, as well as possessing that small, niche feel, is what led him to enroll in the MSM program in September 2016. “If you want that close community, student-focused feel, Hodges is the place to be,” he said.
Hodges’ MSM program incorporates concepts that encourage students to focus on decision making, leadership, team building, best practices and how to facilitate change within an organization. As an online student in the program, Winge admits the diverse experiences of his fellow students lead to insightful dialogue even though the discussions are occurring online and not in the classroom.
“A lot of us talk about what’s going on with our own teams or in our own organizations. I’ve taken a class with a student who is an HR manager at Lee Health as well as classes with entrepreneurs; there are all sorts of students with different backgrounds,” he said. “Hodges represents a community-based higher education model rather than the standard, big box, one size fits all type of school.”
Taking many of his classes online, Winge admits he was never an evening class type of person, so the online format allows for the flexibility he needs in juggling a busy schedule, and he isn’t exaggerating when he says “busy.”
Although preparing to graduate in fall 2018 or spring 2019, Winge works full time as a field marketing manager for United Group of Companies while maintaining full-time status as a student. Based at the company’s Naples location at Sandalwood Village, which is a 55+ luxury, senior living community, Winge joined the company in August 2017 and performs outreach, public relations, as well as marketing, social media, community relations and event planning.
“It’s a really positive work environment, which is something we talk about a lot in the discussion boards in our classes–workplace culture,” he said. “In my Business Research Methods course, many of us are doing our papers on job satisfaction and tying in what makes employees satisfied to work in a place, how does that drive retention, etc.”
Finding ways to incorporate what he is learning in the classroom into his day-to-day job responsibilities is not difficult. As the marketing lead for his property, he is often looking at the return on investment (ROI), budgets and targeting specific areas or demographics when marketing.
In addition to his full-time job and commitment as a Hodges student, Winge is also actively involved in the Collier County community. Currently, he is an advisory board member with Conservation Collier and Growth Management Oversight through Collier County Government, a board member with the East Naples Civic Association and Greater Naples Better Government Committee, vice president for the Collier Republican Club, president for the Friends of the Collier County Museum and upcoming president-elect for the East Naples Kiwanis Club.
“I’m a fourth generation Collier County native. My family has been in Naples since 1928, and the area has changed quite a bit over the years, which stemmed my interest in getting involved within my community,” he said. “I had an offer to go away to college, but I said, ‘You know what, I’m just going to come back, so I stayed.”
As Winge progresses through the MSM program at Hodges and continues to build a better Naples community, he hopes his decision to complete a master’s degree will lead to greater leadership opportunities, whether it is in politics, local government or education.
“I’m very involved in the community, and I hope to be able to utilize some of the tools I’ve learned to be able to give back to institutions such as Hodges and FSW.”