PANAMA CITY – Randy Hanna is about to go from a first-generation college student to the dean of a university campus.
As of Aug. 1, Hanna became interim dean of Florida State University’s Panama City campus. He has spent the majority of his career moving between the worlds of law and higher education, and discovering places the two intersect along the way.
He was most recently an attorney at Tallahassee law firm Bryant Miller Olive, where he has represented colleges and universities. He has also served as chancellor of the Florida College system and on the board of trustees for Florida A&M University, the University of West Florida and Tallahassee Community College.
“I’ve been involved in higher education all my life so while it will be a change going to a campus, I’m actually very excited about it and it’s been very welcomed by community,” Hanna told the Florida Record.
FSU Panama City opened in 1986 and currently has about 1,500 students in 34 degree programs. Hanna said he hopes to expand the college’s student-centered mission during his tenure as dean.
“Panama City is a great place and there are a lot of great things going on there,” Hanna said. "The provost and the president said what’s best for the students is the number one goal, to be student focused to meet the needs of the community and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Though practicing law and serving as an administrator in higher education may seem different, Hanna said he has found a lot of similarities over the course of his career.
“A significant part of my practice has been focused on higher education, and I’ve also been involved in the community in economic development, which are key issues in higher ed,” Hanna said. “When you look at the combination of those things, it all kind of works together.”
Hanna, 58, was a first-generation college student and went on to earn a law degree from FSU, an MBA from Emory University and a Ph.D. in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. He said his interest in higher education was sparked in 1991 when he was appointed to the board of trustees at Tallahassee Community College.
“I had been involved in local activities and asked to serve,” Hanna said. “Before then I had not been interested in higher education, but once I served I saw the impact that it had on first-generation college students like I was and it really took off from there.”
Hanna received FSU’s Grad Made Good award in 2014 and, outside of higher ed, served as chairman of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.
He replaces Carol D. Edwards, who was named dean last August. Edwards will become a faculty member of the FSU College of Fine Arts. Hanna said it is too soon to know whether he will apply for a permanent position.
“Randy Hanna is a dynamic and respected leader in Florida higher education,” Sally McRorie, FSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said in a press release. “His invaluable experience leading the state’s largest system of higher education will dramatically benefit FSU Panama City.”