Florida Southern College Leader Lands on Prestigous 40 Under 40 List
One local woman has been named to the 2023 class of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 – a rising star who, at 34, she is already vice president of student life at Florida Southern College.
Lauren Albaum, 34, “is dedicated to empowering students, fostering growth and positively impacting their academic and professional aspirations,” the magazine wrote. She was selected by a panel who judged hundreds of nominations before finalizing its list.
A Florida native, Albaum got her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Florida State University, master’s in education from the University of South Carolina and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of South Florida. She’s worked at FSC for seven years, working her way up from director of the Health Professions & STEM Career Development Center to executive director of Career Services for the whole campus to her current role.
She’s also active in the community, serving as a member of the Young Leaders Society Steering Committee of the United Way of Central Florida, a member of Polk Vision’s Talent Committee and more. Her husband, Kevin Albaum, is a lawyer at Clark, Campbell, Lancaster, Workman & Airth.
Students and employers benefit when graduates stay in Polk County, said Erin Myszkowski, executive director of Career Services. “Our recent graduates regularly express how much they enjoyed their engagement in the local community. Their experiences in internships, volunteerism and part-time jobs made them want to remain and begin their professional lives where they experienced their academic accomplishments.”
Employers have said “they love hiring our recent graduates because they are workforce-ready and bring innovative ideas and great energy to their companies,” Myszkowski said.
The Central Florida Development Council asked Albaum about her experiences in Polk County and more.
CFDC: Why do you think you were chosen for this honor?
ALBAUM: I have been fortunate to recognize the doors that have been opened for me and courageous enough to walk through them. While I have worked tirelessly, and at an unrelenting place, to show my daughter that women can be highly successful, educated and community-minded while also great mothers, partners and servant-leaders, it has taken sacrifice and a healthy dose of humility and gratitude for the mentors that guided me, the team members who continuously build me up and the leaders who have taken a chance on me, time and time again, at a young age. It is the culmination of these attributes and my incredible supporters that have gotten me to where I am today.
CFDC: Tell us what you learned at college and why you now work at an educational institution.
ALBAUM: Growing up, I was a classically trained singer who loved school. As a first-generation college student, I was keenly aware that education was the pipeline to success. So, I used my talents, singing, to secure a spot at the Florida State University School of Music. For me, it was the lessons learned in college – resilience, adaptability, how to strive and reach excellence, how to communicate both on and off stage, how to accept critiques, and even how to fail with grace and humility – that shaped much of who I am today. And it was this recognition, of the value of the experience of those transformative years, that made me want to continue to work with students to help them “find their fit.”
CFDC: What does FSC offer students to get them to move/stay here?
ALBAUM: FSC offers an individualized, experiential learning environment that is focused on student success and an incredible student experience. Students who come to FSC know that they will have dedicated faculty and staff who see them as a person, not a number, and will work with them to learn their interests and support them as they navigate this transformational time.
Florida Southern College has an incredible network of alumni and connections with the Polk County community. While we are ultimately invested in ensuring that our graduates are successful in their post-graduate endeavors, regardless of location, we are proud that many graduates utilize our incredible connections and opportunities to stay right here in Polk County. Many undergraduates will stay at FSC to complete a graduate degree, such as our Master’s of Business Administration degree, a Master of Accounting degree, a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, or one of our many graduate programs in nursing or education.
Local companies such as Publix, Lakeland Regional Health, Polk County Public Schools, CORE Wealth, Summit, CPS Investment Advisors, Amazon and many others are top employers of FSC graduates and interns year after year. For the class of 2022, Florida Southern College was proud to report that 98% of graduates had a positive placement within six months of graduation. We remain grateful to our local employer partners for fostering remarkable workplaces to attract and retain many of our incredibly talented graduates.
CFDC: What about FSC made you want to work there?
ALBAUM: When we first moved to Polk County, I continued to commute to the University of South Florida where, at the time, I was serving as the Director of the Division of Health Professions Advising and finishing a PhD. Working full-time and taking classes at night, plus a commute, became incredibly daunting. When FSC offered me the opportunity to build the Health Professions and STEM Career Center, the opportunity to transition couldn’t have come at a better time. Prior to FSC, my career in higher education spanned a variety of academic affairs and student affairs positions, but all at large, public institutions, so coming to work at FSC presented a unique experience.
Here, I was able to quickly, and efficiently, influence results. FSC embraced my appetite for transformational change, providing a space for me to truly make an impact. Working with faculty, staff, and students in a collaborative environment focused on student success has been incredibly rewarding and it is the relationships and success-minded energy in which we operate that has made the difference in my FSC trajectory.
CFDC: What have you achieved so far in your roles at FSC?
ALBAUM: Soon after creating the Health Professions and STEM Career Center, we were able to improve the FSC medical school acceptance rate to 100%. A few years later, I was given the opportunity to lead all of Career Services, where I reorganized our decentralized campus model into one centralized functional unit, led a full-scale renovation of the office space and services, and worked with our campus community and alumni to bring the career center to national acclaim, resulting in a ranking in the Princeton Review as a Top 25 Best Career Services in both 2022 (#24) and 2023 (#18).
About one year ago, I was promoted to Vice President of Student Life with a portfolio that includes student activities, student government, leadership programs, civic engagement programs, community living, counseling services, student conduct, orientation & family programs, student disability services, career services, first-year academic advising, academic fuel (tutoring, writing center, academic coaching), the Simmons Center for Multicultural Awareness and the Dean of Students Office and Initiatives.
CFDC: Why do you serve on the Polk Vision and CFDC Talent Pipeline Committee?
ALBAUM: When I was directing the Office of Career Services. In my role, I worked with current students, alumni and local employers to help forge strong connections for our soon-to-be graduates. It was through this role that I had the opportunity to begin serving on the Talent Pipeline Committee and welcomed the opportunity to connect more deeply with my fellow career center directors as well as the employers and stakeholders that were highly invested in the future of workforce development in Polk County.
As a staunch advocate for Polk County, I hope my time and my voice on the Talent Pipeline was beneficial for helping employers to understand the changing demographic of college graduates, including what they are looking for in a position. As college graduates and collegiate talent becomes more in demand, it is my hope that Polk County employers will continue to provide competitive salaries and positions to attract and retain our best and brightest.
CFDC: What are your thoughts on Polk County and what it has to offer?
ALBAUM: Over the last eight years, my husband and I have fallen in love with Polk County – finding our forever home. Both my husband and I have been embraced by the community both professionally and through service. I have been embraced not only at Florida Southern, but as a past president of the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, a member of Leadership Lakeland Class 38, Leadership Polk Class XVII and Leadership Florida Class 12, and in January will begin my term as president of the Florida Children’s Museum Board.
I am humbled to have been recognized by my community with the 2021 ATHENA International Young Professional Leadership Award by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, the 2022 Polk Emerging Leader Award and the She Knows Where She’s Going Award by Girls Inc. of Lakeland in 2023. To say that we have found our place in the community is an understatement. Polk County not only created a space for us to grow professionally and to welcome our daughter, Nina, who is now in kindergarten, and our two Goldendoodles, but also provided the perfect environment for us to give back and serve those around us.
For two “transplants” to Polk County, we have always been embraced, heard and provided spaces in which to thrive. Additionally, in the last five to 10 years, we have seen incredible growth and continue to be excited at the trajectory in Polk County. From new restaurants to employers to community spaces like Bonnet Spring Park and the Florida Children’s Museum, Polk County has so much to offer, and I look forward to the continued growth.