Created by the Florida Chamber of Commerce in 1982, the nonprofit organization is a growing consortium of more than 800 leaders in business, commerce, education, government, law and medicine. Each year, a new “class” is chosen. Petrila readily accepted his invitation to be part of the 33rd class.
“It’s an honor to be chosen,” Petrila said. “It’s a great opportunity because of the class selected. As is the case every year, there’s a great variety of kinds of people in the class, so you have business leaders, you have county commissioners, you have people from big philanthropic foundations, you’ve got some academicians, you’ve got people of different ages at different points in their careers, so it’s a nice opportunity in terms of the mix of people.”
More than just a consortium, the group is a massive network. The whole idea is to connect the state’s best and most productive, positive minds to solve problems and spearhead advances in multiple sectors. Collaborative learning is the key, Petrila said.
“The program has a tremendous reputation in terms of opportunities to learn from other people and doing leadership roles in other types of settings,” Petrila said. “It’s a great opportunity for networking. One of the core principals of Leadership Florida and its graduates is that, if anyone who’s participated in the program sends an e-mail or a phone call to someone else who’s been in the program, the general idea is that you respond within 24 hours, so there’s a real, active network that has emerged over the years.
“You have your cohort for your year, but then it puts you into a much broader network from three decades of folks in Florida, so that also is just a wonderful thing to be plugged into. There aren’t a lot of people picked from academia, so it’s nice to be represented in that way, as well.”
Each year’s group spends several weekends together, each at a different location in a different part of the state. The group chosen this year – designated Class XXXIII – will spend six weekends together, visiting the Daytona Beach area, Sarasota, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Miami, then conclude its travels at the Leadership Florida 2015 annual meeting in St. Petersburg.
As an educator, Petrila sees the vast networking opportunities as a springboard for his other classes, too – the ones he teaches in the College of Public Health.
“One of the things we’re trying to do here in the department and in the college is expand opportunities for students,” he said, “so meeting people from across the state, many of whom have executive positions – and given that every business is concerned with health care – presents opportunities for growing our network for student purposes and student opportunities, as well, and students is what we ought to be about.”
Story by David Brothers, USF College of Public Health