Current Features

Creating Opportunity Through Partnerships

Across the Tampa Bay region and beyond, USF’s faculty, staff and students are passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of others

By Tom Woolf

The Master of Health Administration program offered by USF’s College of Public Health sends students out into the community to practice what they’ve learned through capstone projects. The program is just one example of USF's myriad partnerships that benefit students and the Tampa Bay region.

CHRISTIAN WELLS, professor of anthropology at USF, knows first-hand the power of partnerships.

Since 2016, Wells and undergraduate and graduate students from USF have been working with a non-profit that is transforming an in-need community right in the Tampa campus’ backyard.

Community partnerships, he says, “offer authentic experiences for students to learn how the world works beyond the campus and how to apply what they learn in the classroom. University-community partnerships are also critical for the health and well-being of our residents because they allow USF researchers to share the university’s knowledge enterprise with communities in need.”

Throughout the Tampa Bay region and beyond, USF’s faculty and students are making a positive difference through a myriad of collaborative efforts.

For example:

  • In Polk County, the College of Education partnered with the school district to provide teachers the opportunity to earn an advanced degree on-site.
  • USF marine scientists are leading a three-year, NASA-funded partnership to better understand and forecast blue-green algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee and three south Florida estuaries.
  • The USF St. Petersburg campus partnered with St. Petersburg College to reduce barriers to a post-secondary education for Pinellas County students.
  • Graduate students in the College of Public Health are creating a plan to enhance the financial stability of Suncoast Community Health Centers.

As USF President Steven Currall says, “No organization is an island. Everyone has interdependencies with other institutions.”

With many members of the USF community involved in facilitating collaborative efforts, Currall focuses on a number of key partnerships. Those include Jabil, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital, MacDill Air Force Base, the Tampa Innovation District that includes the Tampa campus, and the state legislature.

“It became apparent to me early on that I can facilitate some key strategic partnerships that are significant to the university,” he says. “These are integral to our efforts to strengthen the university academically and enhance our role in the Tampa Bay region.”

The stories on the pages that follow feature just some of USF’s partnerships that enhance lives and communities.

Office of Corporate Partnerships

Focus is on creating external, internal connections

Wall of USF partnerships

The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, located in USF Tampa’s Research Park, is just one place where the business community can connect with USF.

NAVIGATING A LARGE AND COMPLEX UNIVERSITY such as USF can be a challenge for corporations interested in making a connection.

The USF Office of Corporate Partnerships (OCP) de-mystifies the process. And while some universities may move at what Michael Bloom describes as “geologic speed,” Bloom and his team understand the need to “move at the speed of business.”

The office, established by the USF Board of Trustees, opened in 2017 as a concierge service for corporate partners.

But Bloom, assistant vice president for corporate partnerships and innovation, and Morgan Holmes, OCP director, emphasize that the office also focuses on internal needs of the university.

“For the first six months after we opened, we learned about USF’s key areas of expertise, assets that we could provide to the community,” Holmes says. “Then we looked at how companies could take advantage of our assets. We are a regular presence at chamber of commerce and economic development group meetings, learning about companies’ needs. If they say ‘we need this from our academic partners,’ we can help facilitate that partnership.”

The office also actively promotes USF research activities on LinkedIn as part of its efforts to “prompt conversations about partnerships,” Holmes says.

Bloom recalled an OCP-sponsored conference on “Aging & Technology” last year that brought a wide range of faculty members together with corporate representatives.

“That happened because faculty identified this area of interest and we worked together to create that opportunity to connect with the corporate community,” Bloom says.

In addition to an External Advisory Board of industry and economic development leaders, his office has an internal advisory board composed of representatives from colleges and departments across USF’s three campuses.

“When a company expresses interest in a partnership with the university, we can call people on our board to determine where the appropriate matches might be,” he says. “Our mission is to make our colleges, our faculty and deans, successful. We make it easier for internal partners to connect externally.”

OCP’s efforts range from working with start-ups located in the USF Research Park to large national corporations headquartered in the Tampa Bay region to international corporations with an interest in USF’s talent and research expertise. OCP works closely with the Corporate and Foundation Relations team at the USF Foundation, as well as numerous partners across USF’s three campuses to support a cohesive, efficient engagement experience for companies at USF.

Bloom used the example of USF’s relationship with Jabil. Together, the university and the corporation have launched the USF Jabil Innovation Institute, designed to catalyze new collaborative efforts in innovative research, community engagement and talent development with the College of Engineering and Muma College of Business. It is expected to bolster the university’s student success efforts by providing new experiential learning opportunities and skills needed to remain competitive in the job market.

“One of the most important things we do is to listen,” Bloom says. “How can we effectively translate between USF and corporate partners? The first thing we need to be asking is ‘what are your needs, what can we do for you?’ and then seeing where connections can be made.”

Learn more here.


USF Alumni Association

Former Bulls track star joins alumni ‘in the BullEye’

AFTER EARNING DEGREES IN 2000 AND 2001, USF’s most decorated female track star always happily answered the call when asked by Athletics to lend a hand.

Still, Kerine Black’s connection to her alma mater remained minimal – until 2017. That’s when she attended one of the Alumni Association’s In the BullsEye luncheons at Citigroup in Tampa. Over a catered meal, Black and about 65 Bull co-workers learned what their university and fellow grads had been up to in recent years.

“I was impressed with the involvement of alumni, their unwavering personal support of USF and the impact of USF on the community,” Black says. “I said, ‘I want to be a part of this!’ ’’

She called hosts Bill McCausland, association executive director, and Kemel Thompson, development director, and told them she wanted in. Within a couple weeks, McCausland asked her to serve on the selection committee for USF’s spring, summer and fall Outstanding Graduates.

“It’s the best decision I ever made,” Black says. “Having the opportunity to interview these high-achieving students and learn about their involvement in school and in the community, they really motivated me to do more."
"
She became an Alumni Association annual member and then a Life Member, contributing to programs like In the BullsEye through her dues. She also became a Muma College of Business corporate mentor and a guide for current and aspiring USF student athletes. And she still serves on the Outstanding Grads committee.

That’s just what McCausland and Thompson envisioned when they launched their In the BullsEye road show in 2016.

“Alumni can be a university’s greatest asset, but if they don’t know how, where or why to plug in, they may also become its greatest untapped resource,” says McCausland, MBA ’96, Life Member.

He and Thompson, ’96, Life Member, have hosted more than a dozen In the BullsEye sessions at Tampa Bay area businesses, creating a springboard for Bulls like Black to become active partners in USF’s success.

“I feel like I’m making a difference and like I’m part of the USF community,” Black says. “It’s important for alumni to know what’s going on; if we don’t know, we can’t get involved.”

Businesses with 25 or more Bull employees interested in hosting In the BullsEye can contact Thompson.

- PENNY CARNATHAN ’82 | USF Alumni Association


College of the Arts

Engaging Public Spaces

USF Fine Arts students taking a picture on a bench outside

In 2018, USF students designed and built installations that rethink the role of a public bench. They installed their work at the Museum of Fine Arts.

IN 2018, USF STUDENTS DESIGNED AND BUILT installations that rethink the role of a public bench. They installed their work at the Museum of Fine Arts where the installations attracted hundreds of visitors.

The USF School of Architecture and Community Design continues to deepen its connection to the City of St. Petersburg.

Working closely with Mayor Rick Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and the city council, the architecture program brings talented students and faculty to important projects that enrich the community and urban environment of St. Petersburg.

“We really value our relationship with the city,” says Bob MacLeod, director of the School of Architecture and Community Design. “And it’s a great city, it’s so walkable, it’s done so many things right in the last dozen or so years.”

With support from the city, architecture graduate assistants help with projects and conduct studies in conjunction with faculty members. Research faculty member Josué Robles, MArc ’07, teaches architecture studio classes that empower students to apply their skills on research projects with the City of St. Petersburg.

For example, in a design-build studio class taught by Robles, students invited the public to interact with innovative installations that rethink how public spaces can be activated. Students design, fabricate and observe their works in the public sphere to ultimately judge and learn from the effectiveness of their designs.

In an ongoing research project, students in an advanced graduate design studio class are working on a proposal that examines a pair of sites as the home of a future African American history museum in St. Petersburg.

Led by practicing architect and adjunct faculty member Tara Wood-Dozark, MArc ’06, students will travel to the African American History Museum in Washington, D.C., and historic sites of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta to inform their research. They will also visit the Montgomery Civil Rights Memorial and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. This work will provide a vision for St. Petersburg to use in the planning and pursuit of the proposed African American History Museum.

Past USF architecture projects in the city have examined possible redevelopment options for the Tropicana Field site.

USF architecture alumna Sarah Jane Vatelot, MArc ’19, examined the Tropicana Field site as a student. Delving into the African-American communities that once inhabited the site, she completed a thesis on the African-American residents and businesses displaced after the city acquired the land in 1978 for redevelopment.

Vatelot began her St. Petersburg research project by mapping the buildings of the current Tropicana Field area. She was struck by the void of the 86-acre site.

In January 2020, she released her findings as a book, “Where Have All The Mangoes Gone? Reactivating The Tropicana Field Site On The Threshold of St. Petersburg’s History, Culture and Memory.” She provides insight into the area formerly known as Cooper’s Quarters and advocates for inclusive design that invites all people to be a part of future redevelopment.

“We’re hoping her good work will impact the way the city thinks about that site,” MacLeod says.

The School of Architecture and Community Design looks forward to expanding on this history of rich research projects and community collaboration. Right now, the school is in the process of securing its own studio space in St. Petersburg.

A proposed site on Mirror Lake near the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club will enable the school to establish a more profound, day-to-day presence for the city and its residents. The school will be able to hold studio classes in the space, and invite members of the community and government to create dialogue around urban design.

“It’s a special city, and we’re really honored to be a part of it,” MacLeod says.

- CONNOR MURPHY ’18 | College of The Arts

InsideART

IN A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP, the USF Contemporary Art Museum, the USF College of Education and the School District of Hillsborough County collaborate to present InsideART, an innovative arts-based learning and visual literacy program that combines social studies with contemporary art. A new partner has recently joined this collaboration: the University of Alicante in Spain. The program is being introduced in Spain by program co-directors Bárbara Cruz of the College of Education and Noel Smith, MA ’95, from the Contemporary Art Museum.

Cruz was awarded a spring 2020 Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Alicante and is working with faculty in the college of education there and with curators at the University of Alicante Museum to assist with the development of a program similar to InsideART for Spanish educators and students. Smith will be joining her for a week for key presentations to faculty and students.

Based on the USF Contemporary Art Museum temporary exhibition program of national and international art, InsideART provides a secondary school online curriculum (hosted on the museum’s website and free to all) as well as professional development workshops for teachers in Hillsborough County. InsideART facilitates the appreciation of socially engaged contemporary art and helps develop creativity and critical thinking skills, allowing students to view their communities and the world in new and more sophisticated ways.

- NOEL SMITH | College of The Arts

4-way Collaboration

THE 2020 VERSION OF THE “SKYWAY” EXHIBITION is a celebration of artistic practices in the Tampa Bay region, as it is a collaboration among four institutions: the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; the Tampa Museum of Art; and the USF Contemporary Art Museum on the Tampa campus.

Working together, curators from each institution will offer context for the diversity of art being created in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Artworks and projects in the exhibition will be selected by museum curators and the guest juror, Claire Tancons, an independent curator and scholar whose practice takes a global focus on the conditions of cultural production. Tancons has curated biennials around the world, including Prospect.1, New Orleans; the 2008 Gwangju Biennial; and the 2019 Sharjah Biennial.

The Gobioff Foundation is supporting the exhibition with a contribution to each participating museum.

Exhibition dates and locations are:

May 30 - Aug. 16 – Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

June 21 - Oct. 4 – The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota

June 25 - Oct. 11 – Tampa Museum of Art

June 22 - Sept. 5 – USF Contemporary Art Museum


College of Arts & Sciences

Neighborhood Transformation

Man explaining something to chidren.

The new Harvest Hope Park attracts children and adults from throughout the University Area community.

FOR CHRISTIAN WELLS, PROFESSOR OF anthropology at USF, the health and well-being of a community is tied directly to the health of the environment around it. It’s that belief that influences Wells’ work and has led to a productive partnership with a Tampa-area nonprofit transforming an in-need community right in the university’s backyard.

Since late 2016, Wells, along with graduate and undergraduate students from USF, has been working in conjunction with the University Area Community Development Corp. (UACDC), a public/private partnership focused on the redevelopment and sustainability of at-risk areas surrounding the Tampa campus.

“Our group looks at the relationship between environmental health and human health – and how if you improve the health of the environment, you improve people’s health,” says Wells, an AAAS Fellow and director of USF’s Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment. “Because our program is a very applied program, we’re constantly working with community partners and this project represented a good opportunity for USF students to help improve an area around our university.”

Much of Wells’ research focuses on the study and redevelopment of brownfield land – a key component of the UACDC’s revitalization efforts. Brownfields are former industrial or commercial sites currently vacant due to real or perceived environmental contamination. These areas of blight can greatly impact a community’s chances for investment and when redeveloped can help create jobs, expand the tax base and revitalize local economies.

That’s the UACDC’s hope for the community: develop these brownfields and help the overall community flourish. The organization identified an abandoned seven-acre site, just a few blocks northwest of the Tampa campus, it felt could serve as the catalyst for its community-wide efforts.

Thanks to an Environmental Protection Agency grant, Wells and his USF team assisted the UACDC with much of the research and assessment efforts needed to develop a report and implementation plan for the site. From 2017 to 2019, USF students and researchers conducted a variety of community needs surveys, engagement events, economic studies and environmental impact analyses to determine the potential for cleanup and redevelopment of the site.

Through their work, the once abandoned parcel of land has been transformed into Harvest Hope Park, a gathering site for the area featuring a multi-purpose sports field, fishing docks, a community center and garden.

“In partnership with USF’s Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment, we were able to secure an EPA grant that allowed us to assess stigmatized properties in the University Area community, that otherwise would have been ignored during redevelopment efforts,” says Sarah Combs, executive director and CEO of the University Area CDC. “Through this partnership we were able to create a project, like Harvest Hope Park, that improves the health of the community by identifying properties that need to be cleaned up and sustainably redeveloped, and actively participate in the economic growth of the University Area redevelopment process.”

“It’s been truly rewarding to see how our involvement in the community has helped uplift it,” Wells says. “As a public university, we have to have a responsibility to be leaders in our community, because you cannot have a strong community without a strong university.”

The team recently received a second EPA grant to conduct environmental site assessments of properties adjacent to the park that the UACDC acquired through its land-banking program. The UACDC has been purchasing abandoned or condemned properties around the park with the goal of creating affordable housing for neighborhood residents in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

Wells says several homes on East 138th Avenue have been completed. In addition, the UACDC is working on building a “cultural campus” to bring together many of the area’s nonprofits that provide health and human services for area residents.

“Before future housing and the campus can be established, these properties have to be assessed for environmental threats,” Wells says.

Wells and his students also have conducted an environmental inventory of hazardous waste sites and areas of potential concern to the community. They found several properties that may be contaminated, and plan to test the sites and begin the cleanup process.

Community partnerships are vital for the success of USF students, Wells says.

“They offer authentic experiences for students to learn how the world works beyond the campus and how to apply what they learn in the classroom,” he says. “University-community partnerships are also critical for the health and well-being of Tampa’s residents because they allow USF researchers to share the university’s knowledge enterprise with communities in need.”

Community engagement is a priority for USF, and, as Wells says, “It’s hard work.”

“Teaching students why this is important and how to get involved gives them the skills they need to become engaged citizens, ready to make a difference in their community and around the world,” he says.

Adds Combs: “Dr. Wells and his students have been an integral partner in launching our neighborhood transformation strategy, taking their learning out of the classroom and applying it directly in the community. This partnership has allowed University Area CDC the ability to see our work through an academic lens, which has greatly impacted our strategies and approach to community development.”

- AARON HILF and TOM WOOLF | University Communications


College of Behavioral and Community Sciences 

Exploring new treatment for childhood trauma

THERAPISTS AT THE CRISIS CENTER OF TAMPA BAY conducted more than 2,000 counseling sessions last year with children who had experienced some kind of trauma – what Meredith Grau, director of clinical services, describes as “anything that’s bad, sad or scary.”

She recalls a boy who had witnessed the suicide of his stepfather.

“His behavior and his performance in school changed, as did his relationship with his mother,” Grau says.

But, through a partnership with Alison Salloum, professor of social work at USF, the center has been field testing a different approach to treating childhood trauma that has resulted in positive outcomes.

“With that boy, I know the relationship with his mother was strengthened,” Grau says, adding that his behavior and performance in school also improved.

Over the past nine years, Salloum has conducted three research trials at the Crisis Center on the effectiveness of greater involvement of parents in the treatment of children who range in age from 3 to 12.

“Most of the children we see at the Crisis Center have experienced sexual abuse,” she says. “But I was interested in working with the center because they also serve children who have experienced all kinds of trauma. They have experienced or witnessed neglect, physical abuse, domestic violence; some are children of a parent who died in a car accident or by suicide, or children with medical trauma, such as cancer or multiple heart surgeries. There are a lot of children who are experiencing traumatic grief.”

Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, noted that Hillsborough County leads the state in the number of children removed from homes due to abuse or parental neglect.

“These removals are not voluntary, but are necessary to ensure the safety of the child,” Reynolds says. “Removing a child from even a very dangerous environment is extremely traumatic.”

In most cases, children are reunited with their families once the danger has been resolved, but additional trauma work with the family is necessary to get them “back on track,” she says.

According to Salloum, it is common for children to avoid thinking about what caused their trauma, so anything that triggers those memories upsets them to the point they won’t discuss those experiences.

“The effort not to think about what happened keeps traumatic memories, thoughts and feelings present,” Salloum says. “We work with the child to help them feel calm, to reduce the stress level by self-regulating. Once they learn how to do that, then we help them to process those traumatic memories so they learn what happened to them was in the past and they’re safe now.”

She used the example of a child who was sexually abused at a park.

“They might want to avoid the park and every time they go by one, they get upset,” Salloum says. “We work with the child so they learn that ‘yes, that happened, but now if I go to a park it doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen.’”

Using essential elements of a proven approach, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Salloum developed a “stepped care” program.

“We wanted parents to learn these proven tools in a way that allows them to work with their child at home so the child can start getting those post-traumatic symptoms to go away faster with more efficient treatment,” she says. “If a child is in a six-month treatment program, it’s hard for parents to get away from work, deal with traffic, and get to a therapist’s office every week.”

Among the keys to the new approach is “Stepping together: Parent-child workbook for children (ages 3 to 12) after trauma,” written by Salloum and three contributors, which was adapted from the Preschool PTSD Treatment program.

While the process calls for greater parental involvement, it is not, as Salloum describes it, “do-it-yourself.”

She explained the process: After the parent and child meet with a therapist, they have four parent-child meetings at home and work on the activity book together. They then again meet with a therapist and discuss what they accomplished and set up a plan for continued progress at home and with the therapist.

“Over a six-week period, there are three therapy sessions and 11 parent-child meetings,” Salloum says. “That’s the equivalent of three months of treatment.”

Interviews conducted with parents suggested the new process was effective.

“Parents like the tools because they help them to know what to do,” she says. “The activity book gave them a framework of how to talk to their child. When something traumatic has happened, many parents will say ‘tell me what to do.’ As a therapist, I might say ‘let’s help the parent,’ but the parent believes that by helping the child, we are helping them. With these tools, they can take action to help their child.”

Salloum recalled a father who came to the Crisis Center with his daughter, who had been sexually abused within the family. Though initially reluctant to participate in the stepped care trial – “he said he was so angry about what happened that he didn’t know if he could discuss it with his daughter,” Salloum says – he did finally agree to try it.

“When they finished stepped care, we conducted an interview with the father and the daughter, and they both said the same thing,” Salloum says. “The daughter said ‘I feel like I can talk to my father about anything now,’ and her father said the same thing about his daughter. I just thought, what a gift. We really empowered him and together they can get through this.”

Salloum and therapists at the Crisis Center recognize that the stepped care model may not be appropriate for every family. During the final research trial, which recently concluded, they explored the characteristics that might predict who would benefit the most from either standard therapy or the stepped care approach.

“We want to have the best outcome either way,” Salloum says, adding that she expects to have final results from the trial this summer. “There is always more to learn about children and trauma. This trial also will help us to see areas that were strong and those that need improvement. We don’t want them to have a lifetime of suffering from the trauma they endured.”

Reynolds, the Crisis Center president and CEO, calls the partnership “an amazing example of how the university and nonprofits should work together.”

“We don’t always have the luxury to conduct research and find these new treatment modalities,” she says. “The clinical trials opened doors for us that we wouldn’t have explored otherwise, specifically in the child welfare arena. We’ve done a much better job of interfacing with children in the system because of this work.”

The work with Salloum, Reynolds says, “has benefitted hundreds of children in the community.”

“It has made our clinicians better and our clinical practice is stronger,” she adds. “This has been great for our center and for the university, and amazing for the clients who had an opportunity to participate in these trials.”

- TOM WOOLF | University Communications


College of Education

Program offers on-site graduate studies

TO PROVIDE EDUCATORS IN THE Polk County school district access to graduate studies, the USF College of Education partnered with Polk County Public Schools to create the USF-Polk Academy Program, a collaboration that empowers 70 teachers in the school district to earn a Master of Education degree in educational leadership or a Master of Arts degree in reading education.

With research-focused courses and training delivered by College of Education faculty, the curriculum for the program explores everyday scenarios and challenges educators face in the school district. This ensures topics covered in the academy are relevant to those participating.

“The research is pretty clear – teachers who get advanced degrees tend to stay in their profession and tend to be committed to their profession for many more years,” says William Black, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at USF. “So it becomes a kind of investment in personnel that, in the long run, reaps dividends to the district.”

To keep the academy affordable, participants receive tuition reimbursement and a stipend from Polk County Public Schools to help offset costs.

“What we did was create the opportunity for teachers who are in Polk County Public Schools to be able to obtain a master’s degree with USF in either reading or educational leadership,” says Maria Longa, senior director of federal programs for Polk County Public Schools.

The program is a spin-off of a previous collaboration led by USF’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program and Polk County Public Schools that offered teachers at Kathleen High School on-site courses as part of a $4.4 million Schools of Hope Whole School Transformation Program grant. With the success of this model, the program was expanded in 2019 to include two cohorts of USF’s master’s in reading education and to allow more educators from across the district to participate.

With classes hosted on-site at local schools, students study at one of two locations determined by which degree program they choose, eliminating a barrier many full-time professionals face while pursuing graduate school — the lengthy commute to the university’s campus.

“This program is convenient because, one, it’s at my home school. I live close by. It’s on Saturdays, so it gives me a lot of time that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Marina Peters-Green, ’95, a teacher in Polk County Schools who is pursuing a degree in educational leadership.

Classes take place on Saturdays to allow students to continue balancing their teaching and personal lives during the school week, and educators in Polk County benefit from the academy’s flexible format.

“I’m also a mother of three, so I have a lot of activities with my children during the week,” says Melissa Dorman, a teacher in Polk County Schools who is pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership. “By having the class on a Saturday, all day, I’m able to still be a mom, still be a teacher, still attend the events at my high school, but yet still be able to obtain my master’s degree.”

Tutor-a-Bull Provides Support

THE TUTOR-A-BULL PROGRAM IS a partnership between the USF College of Education, Hillsborough County Public Schools and MJH Children’s Charities that provides one-on-one and small group tutoring to middle school and high school students at high-needs schools throughout Hillsborough County.

Through the program, USF students are hired as paid tutors for various academic subjects to work with students who might otherwise slip through the cracks, especially due to mathematics and reading comprehension challenges. Along with supporting the education of students in local middle and high schools, the program also provides teaching and coaching experience to the USF student tutors, who learn what it takes to effectively motivate and engage with young learners.

“With Tutor-a-Bull, we really do emphasize the relationship that the tutor has with the student and being able to give them that individualized, one-on-one support or work in a small group setting,” says Sasha Keighobadi, ’11 and MA ’16, a Tutor-a-Bull program coordinator and doctoral student in the College of Education. “By doing so, (the USF students) not only become just their tutor, but their mentor and their role model as well.”

The program has seen tangible successes over the past decade. Since its inception, Tutor-a-Bull has provided more than 5,300 students with almost 95,000 hours of instruction. Students participating in the program say the USF tutors helped them better understand the subjects they’re learning about in the classroom, and that the personalized instruction helps them learn confusing topics and ask questions they may be too nervous to ask aloud in a larger group. In a 2019 survey conducted by the program, 97 percent of students who received tutoring agreed that the sessions were helpful in improving their knowledge of the material and that they would like to work with their tutor again in the future.

The Tutor-a-Bull program is currently offered in 15 different schools across the Hillsborough County school district, including the Joshua House, where the program first began in 2007 when established by the late Olin Mott. A businessman and philanthropist who believed in the power of education, Mott passed away in 2013, but his legacy continues through the Tutor-a-Bull program. Today, the program is supported financially by the generosity of numerous community partners and sponsors.

“Youngsters today have more opportunity than anyone ever in the history of this country has got,” Mott said in 2012 at the College of Education’s annual Education in Action Luncheon. “They can move forward, just get the education, that’s the main thing. Without that, there’s no hope.”

- Stories by ELIZABETH ENGASSER ’15 | College of Education


Patel College of Global Solutions

Solving Real Problems

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND BUSINESSES in the Tampa Bay region are benefiting from the expertise of faculty and students in the Patel College of Global Sustainability.

This semester, George Philippidis, associate dean for research and director of renewable energy in the college, and Kebreab Ghebremichael, director of water sustainability, are leading their graduate students in developing a greenhouse gas inventory of Manatee County’s buildings, facilities and operations.

Eric Caplan, manager of Manatee County’s energy and sustainability division, anticipates that the project “will allow us to look at ourselves in the mirror and discover the level of greenhouse gasses that we are emitting and how much environmental harm we are in control of as a county.”

In another Manatee County initiative, Joseph Dorsey, director of Academic Capstone Experience internships and the food security program in the college, and his students are conducting a solar energy leadership project. The goal is to reduce the county’s dependency on typical sources of energy.

“The project will allow students to have exposure and get a chance to learn about real problems,” Dorsey says. “It also gives them an opportunity for internships and future employment.”

The project is designed to help county officials learn if their goal of having net-zero carbon public buildings is economically feasible. Students will evaluate the county’s electricity consumption, review potential locations for solar energy production and conduct an assessment of staff and funding.

Another faculty member, Heather Rothrock, director of the college’s sustainability policy program, and her students will create an environmental review technical manual for Manatee County Building and Development Services. The manual will provide protocols for environmental reviews.

In Pinellas County, a climate change project is ongoing with the city of Tarpon Springs. The partnership between Brooke Hansen, director of sustainable tourism, and her students, and the city started last fall.

Teams worked to assess effects of flooding in Tarpon Springs. Surveys and interviews were conducted with local businesses, city departments and community members. The student teams compiled the survey results and presented the city council with recommendations. As part of the sustainability project, students were asked to create material for community outreach and education.

The college also works with corporate partners to help develop new sustainability solutions.
During the fall 2019 semester, a team of graduate students led by Sharon Hanna-West, director of sustainable business, partnered with Clearwater-based Tech Data. The corporation has helped distribute technologies for such companies as HP, Apple and Microsoft.

Project components included a sustainability assessment, vision and plan for the company, as well as specific recommendations for solutions and next steps in seven sectors based on return-on-investment. Students performed an industry analysis as well as a sustainable investing performance analysis, and made the business case for adopting sustainable practices. In addition, the students included some internal and external marketing strategies to help Tech Data secure the buy-in of stakeholders.

Recommendations presented to Tech Data in December 2019 were enthusiastically received. Other corporate partnerships and sustainability projects have been completed with the Tampa YMCA, Busch Gardens, Armature Works and Campus 1 Real Estate.

- MARIA WHALEN | Patel College of Global Solutions


Judy Genshaft Honors College

Making Connections Through Art

USF student talking about a painting

Judy Genshaft Honors College student Erica Ginsberg leads a “Connections” tour.

FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA, depression, substance use disorder, HIV/AIDS, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the psychological and emotional toll of the illness can be as debilitating as the physical symptoms. “Connections,” a partnership program between USF’s Judy Genshaft Honors College and the Tampa Museum of Art, is working to address these challenges through therapeutic interactions with art using methods that have been shown to improve both mental and social well-being.

“Giving individuals opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings through guided conversations in the museum’s safe setting is a proven approach to help these patient groups,” says Catherine Wilkins, ’00 and MA ’16, a faculty member in the Judy Genshaft Honors College and co-coordinator of “Connections.” “Our innovation is to train students to facilitate these beneficial sessions – and we’ve found that they, too, are reaping rewards from this program.”

The program was inspired by the “Meet Me at MOMA Alzheimer’s Project” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a program focused on making art accessible to people with dementia. Michael Tomor, the director of the Tampa Museum of Art, approached USF about the possibility of starting a similar initiative here in Tampa.

“He thought our Honors students would be a great fit to facilitate the therapeutic museum sessions because of their strong work ethic, passion for community service and interest in research,” says Wilkins. The “Connections” program began in 2015, and a new cohort of approximately 35 student facilitators is trained each year.

These students, who pursue a variety of majors, are trained in methods of art exploration that allow participants to give their own personal interpretations of works of art without fear of judgment or failure. Research from other museums reveals that this is an effective way for people to access and express memories, practice or regain their communication skills, externalize emotions, relieve stress and anxiety, and promote positive feelings. This experience provides meaningful benefits to patient-participants, enhancing emotional well-being, reducing social isolation and combating the stigma associated with their health conditions.

Close interactions with patient-participants provide students the opportunity to build empathy and deepen their understanding not just of a disease itself, but the human condition in general. Brittney Gaudet, a 2016 biomed alumna who participated in the program during its first year, fondly remembers how impactful the program was for one particular Alzheimer patient who, upon joining the program, could not even remember her name. After exploring the galleries, however, and engaging in group discussions, the woman “was overflowing with words. She spoke of long car rides through valleys with her husband, and articulated ideas in full and complete sentences,” says Gaudet. “In all, this program is worth every minute of the work it requires, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to work with patients in their future.” More than 50 alumni of the program have gone on to graduate studies in medicine, bringing with them the humanistic understanding of healthcare acquired in the course.

Last year, the program served more than 800 patients and their caregivers at the museum, from organizations including Wounded Warriors, DACCO Behavioral Health, and Inspired Living.
“In a short period of time, we’ve seen remarkable benefits for museum patrons and students alike, and outstanding undergraduate research emerging from the program,” Wilkins says.

In the 2018-19 school year, dozens of students shared their research findings about “Connections” at the USF Undergraduate Research Conference, marking a significant institutional impact through the dissemination of the new knowledge they created. The impact of the program also transcends the local community, with students presenting their research at state and regional conferences including the Florida Collegiate Honors Council and the Southeastern Museums Conference.

“An intergenerational service-learning opportunity like ‘Connections’ is something unique that USF offers students, and it is making a difference in the community. The Honors College looks forward to continuing this partnership for years to come,” says Wilkins.

Partnerships and community service are valued pillars in the Judy Genshaft Honors College.

“‘Connections’ is a great example of what is possible when our talented and collaborative faculty partner with important organizations throughout our community with a goal of making lives better,” says college Dean Charles Adams. “This program is serving an important population of Tampa Bay’s residents, and we are very proud of the work that Dr. Wilkins and her students have done, and continue to do, to help our wonderful community thrive.”

Learning Through a Global Lens

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TWO globally focused and diverse universities from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean decide to partner for a semester abroad opportunity designed to immerse students in a new and captivating culture? According to USF Judy Genshaft Honors College Assistant Dean Benjamin Young, MA ’07 and PhD ’12, great things happen.

Building on an existing partnership with the University of Exeter, Young led a class of 15 USF students for a full spring semester in Exeter in 2019. Located approximately three hours west of London, the university was founded in 1855 and is ranked among the top 10 universities in Europe. It is also a member of the Russell Group, a consortium of the elite universities in the United Kingdom, similar to the American Association of Universities.

While in Exeter, the USF students took one course with Young and their other courses in their respective majors with Exeter faculty. This allowed them to bond with their cohort while also experiencing true campus life and forging friendships with scholars from all over the world. They joined “guilds” (clubs), played on the university’s sports teams, and participated fully in the community.

“Though we were visitors ourselves, we were able to be interwoven into the Exeter culture and way of life,” says William McClellan, a senior cell and molecular biology major. “Over the course of those five months, Exeter became home. When we would travel outside of the city, or even outside of the United Kingdom altogether, and arrive back at the Exeter St. David’s train station, there would be a sense of relief of being back home.”

Located in a corner of that train station is a café where Young held office hours during the semester. “It allowed us to discuss the coursework in a diverse and inspiration-rich location,” says Young. “That train station is an international gateway where people from all walks of life and backgrounds gather.”

His office hours were not the only unique component of the Honors course. Young met with the students in a classroom for the first two weeks of school, and after that they convened in different parts of Exeter, the local countryside, and in other cities including St. Ives, Bath and London. “We went to museums, visited the sea, studied the local geology, took train rides around the country, and went on multiple excursions, all while discussing the ideas of the course, interpreting our experiences, and bonding over good food and shared stories. England itself was our seminar room.”

It was important to Young that the students had an opportunity to use his course as a space of connection, interpretation and personal growth.

“They were able to make sense of their experience and disciplinary coursework at the University of Exeter through a globalized lens, learn from each other, and then bring that knowledge back to their studies at USF,” says Young. “It created an opportunity for reflection on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and understanding of diverse views, both personally and culturally.”

McClellan valued the opportunity to participate in this semester abroad opportunity and says it solidified to him the importance of a global perspective.

“Something really meaningful that I took away from this experience, was the true beauty of diversity,” he says. “If our generation wants to accomplish positive changes, we will have to work together on an international scale. That makes it so important to gain a global view of the world.”

A second cohort of Honors students is currently studying in Exeter with faculty member Lindy Davidson, PhD ’16; Young will return with a third group in 2021. Young says that institutions at the University of Exeter have been impressed by the USF students and have expressed interest in additional partnership opportunities.

“The University of Exeter is an internationally relevant research center in a historically and culturally rich city, full of bright and motivated scholars from all around the globe,” says Young. “It is a great opportunity to make connections with other leaders and those who have a shared goal of making a positive difference in our world.”

- Stories by AMY HARROUN | Judy Genshaft Honors College


College of Engineering

Program Teaches Real-world Job Skills

USF program director visits CARRT labs

Hands On program director John Ficca and program training manager Mike Cornelius visited one of the CARRT labs at USF for Stover’s graduation. (From left to right: John Ficca, Karen Stover, Jillian Stover, Mike Stover, Mike Cornelius)

IN THE ASSISTIVE ROBOTICS LABORATORY in the Kopp Engineering Building on USF’s Tampa campus, Jillian Stover was surrounded by tools, prototypes and robotics projects. She held a small, four-wheeled robot that she had assembled and programmed herself.

A Hillsborough Community College computer engineering technology student, Stover spent 80 hours in a lab of the USF Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation and Robotics Technologies (CARRT) as part of a collaboration with the Tampa-based nonprofit Hands On Education through which she learned the basics of coding and developing Android apps. The robot, and the certificate of completion she received during her graduation ceremony, were tangible representations of all her hard work.

“It was great working at USF for my internship,” she says. “I did learn a lot through this program.”

Developed in 1998, Hands On Education provides paid vocational training experiences to young adults with mild or moderate learning disabilities or physical disabilities. Program director John Ficca said Hands On Education currently has 15 of its students employed at partner organizations across Hillsborough County, including at parks and recreation facilities, animal control, fleet management and at USF.

“We are so strong because of all our community partners coming together,” Ficca says. “What USF has done is given us a successful setting for employing (program students). We see that as an opportunity for developing skills and for self-discovery.”

The program focuses on matching students’ abilities to potential employers, and program training manager Mike Cornelius says students who work at CARRT all have potential for working in tech.

“The focus on participants at this lab is on those who are on top of their cognitive abilities and have high levels of aptitude,” Cornelius says.

Redwan Alqasemi, CARRT lead researcher and mechanical engineering research professor, says that every student CARRT staff meets through the program is unique and that, as a center focused on assistive and rehabilitation technologies, these students’ time in the lab can offer valuable new perspectives.

“I’ve often found that engineers need to get outside the box,” Alqasemi says. “We can make something that we think is great, but we don’t see the people who use the technology. That’s why this particular merger of machines and humans is unique.”

This partnership also fits into CARRT’s existing vocational rehabilitation projects. CARRT director Rajiv Dubey says the center spent more than four years working on a virtual reality system built for vocational rehabilitation and tested it specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. More than 25 publications and conference papers were written about the system — Virtual Reality for Vocational Rehabilitation — over the life of its corresponding research project.

“(In this internship program), CARRT provides a close to real-world, flexible and friendly environment to learn various job skills,” Dubey says. “Such a setting with graduate students as mentors is best suited for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, as they need customized training.”

Stover told her CARRT internship mentor Urvish Trivedi, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, about her ambitions to study cybersecurity after getting an associate degree. Trivedi tailored her curriculum for the semester appropriately.

Toward the end of her internship, she was able to program a moving robot resembling a small remote-control car. Stover says if she has the chance to take a repeat internship with CARRT, she’d be interested in learning another coding language through the program.

Stover recently started taking honors classes in her program and plans to transfer to USF once she finishes at HCC.

- RUSSELL NAY ’18 | College of Engineering

Institute to help SOCOM address key challenges

A NEW PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN USF’s Institute of Applied Engineering and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) paves the way for researchers and students to collaborate with SOCOM to help solve significant challenges facing the nation.

The new five-year contract is worth a maximum value of $85 million. The partnership calls for utilizing the USF institute’s expertise in applied research and advanced technology development to support SOCOM’s needs in a range of scientific and engineering disciplines.

“I firmly believe it’s the role of a public research university to catalyze regional economic development, and that can only be achieved through high-impact partnerships with government and private industry,” USF President Steven Currall says. “By forming this type of partnership, USF is helping to elevate the Tampa Bay region as we seek to shape a more knowledge-based economy.”

Over the course of the contract, the USF institute will complete individual task orders for projects within its core competency areas. SOCOM may look to the institute to address issues in fields such as autonomous systems, human performance, transportation, cybersecurity, data analytics and sensor technologies. Students and faculty may also have opportunities to gain real-world experience through internships at MacDill Air Force Base.

The USF Institute of Applied Engineering is a direct support organization of USF that was formed in 2018. Robert H. Bishop, dean of the College of Engineering and president and CEO of the institute, says competing for contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense is one of the primary reasons for creating the institute.

“Our goal is to leverage the intellectual and creative firepower of the USF Institute of Applied Engineering and academia to address the many significant challenges facing our country. This contract supports groundbreaking research, hardware and software development, test and evaluation, demonstrations and prototyping, while providing SOCOM access to world-class education and training resources in support of their global mission,” Bishop says.

Later this spring, the institute will move into a renovated 4,000-square-foot space inside nearby University Mall as part of the Uptown District transformation. In June 2019, Hillsborough County Commissioners awarded a $5.2 million grant to support the institute as it increases capacity in the new location and aims to attract additional industry and government partners.

“There are big plans for the mall, and I believe we should be a part of that,” Bishop says.

“Engineering should be on display. When people go out to movies or to dinner, I want them to see engineers working; it’s important for engineers to get out in the community. We want to create more understanding in the general public about the work of engineers.”

He also believes the mall location will help in recruiting engineers and scientists for the institute as well as other tenants.

“This will be a place where you can live, play and work,” Bishop says. “Small companies, in particular, are looking for talent, they’re looking to make connections, they’re looking for networking opportunities. If they see an institute such as ours in that space, they’re going to want to be around it.”

- ADAM FREEMAN and TOM WOOLF | University Communications


Muma College of Business

CITI Mentors

FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS face an added challenge of going through the college experience without the help of family members who have been there to guide them along. They miss valuable insights – voices of experience – about courses to take, how and when to decide on a major, which internships to seek and where to go for help to transition from student to young professional.

For those students in the Muma College of Business, there is the Corporate Mentor Program, part of the Collier Student Success Center. The program enlists mentors from Tampa Bay area businesses and corporations to help steer these students on their journey to well-paying corporate jobs. And the biggest partner of the program: Citi.

Citi currently has 64 – more than a third of the mentors enrolled in the program – mid- to senior-level executives volunteering as mentors. Citi also provides funding the program needs to fulfill its mission of student success. The number of corporate mentors from Citi has grown markedly over the past four years, getting first-generation juniors and seniors ready for their leap from the classroom into the boardroom.

Mentors teach students how to ace an interview, how to compose an effective résumé, how to network and how to navigate the ins and outs of corporate culture. Students participate in workshops, seminars, dinners and other opportunities that help them develop professionally and build the underlying skills needed to become tomorrow’s leaders.

“The partnership with Citi enhances students’ chances for success in the business world and beyond,” says Olivia Davis, director of the Corporate Mentor Program. Citi sponsors tours of its main campus and funds some large-scale events while also providing guest speakers who talk about professional development. Students are required to meet with their assigned mentors at least once a month.

Overall, the program hosts more than 150 mentors matched with more than 161 students.

“There are numerous mentorship programs available in the Tampa Bay area but Citi enthusiastically supports the USF Corporate Mentor Program because it is a direct tie to the highly sought-after business school students we want to hire,” says Craig McKenney, managing director of Citi’s Tampa campus and head of the bank’s enterprise supply chain. “The experience students receive in the program gives them the support and confidence they need in the workplace.”

Citi employees in Tampa take pride in giving back, he says, and giving back to first-generation students aligns with the corporation’s community focus.

The corporation strongly encourages its executives to serve as mentors.

“We promote the opportunity, stay in contact with mentors throughout the year and support our employees who give back,” McKenney says, “because we know we are training the next generation of corporate leaders.”

Data Citizens

EVERY STUDENT AT THE MUMA COLLEGE of Business graduates with a Data Citizen Scientist certification, with an emphasis on analytics. And to present meaningful, impactful and relevant analytics, you’re going to need a bigger data base.

Enter Nielsen, a world leader in collecting and measuring data. The company is best known for tracking home television ratings, which in turn set advertising rates, but it also collects information related to consumer behavior, what entertainment choices are trending and which products sell and which ones fall short. In a nutshell, the data gathered by Nielsen has impact across a wide range of commerce, not only in the realm of television advertising, but the marketing of all those advertised products as well.

In the fall of 2012, after two years of negotiations, Nielsen agreed to open its treasure trove of data to the business college’s Information Systems and Decision Sciences department, ensuring a steady stream of real-time, real-life data for students to analyze, organize and categorize to come up with innovative conclusions that can have a real impact on retailers and consumers. It was a groundbreaking partnership that has yielded impactful results over the years:

  • In 2015, using TV viewership data from Nielsen, researchers in the college built predictive models that held the potential to forecast election outcomes in swing states.
  • In 2016, the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey was published, becoming a definitive survey on a wide range of economic, social and topical issues facing voters in one of the nation’s largest and most diverse states. USF and Nielsen administered the survey, analyzed the results and issued conclusions.

Over the past eight years, data generated by Nielsen has been crunched by business students and professors researching consumer behavioral trends, often coming up with findings that alter the course of marketing. It’s an obvious benefit for the college, a recognized leader in infusing data analytics and creativity in its curriculum, but Nielsen also benefits from the collaboration.

Brian Fuhrer, ’84, senior vice president and cross-platform product leader at Nielsen, says his company benefits in a number of ways from the partnership.

“Globally, we have more employees who have graduated from USF than any other college in the world,” he says. The company has about 45,000 employees. Fuhrer works out of the Nielsen’s Global Technology and Innovation Center, located in a sprawling complex in Oldsmar.

“But there are some intangibles here also,” says Fuhrer, who has more than 20 years’ experience in media research and product development. “The projects we do with USF are typically outside our sweet spot. When we work with USF, we are thinking about data in different ways and that gives us a real sense of accomplishment and that stimulates our employees to stretch their muscles a little bit.”

Besides students and Nielsen, a third beneficiary of the partnership are the doctoral researchers who are able to use Nielsen data for their projects, research and publications that are relevant to the marketing industry. Nielsen also has the ISDS Department faculty to draw on as a resource.

Lightning partnership creates opportunities

ON A TOUR OF AMALIE ARENA on any given day, you are far more likely to run into USF alumni, or students serving fellowships, than you would a Tampa Bay Lightning player. That’s because the franchise and the Muma College of Business have a collaboration that is unique.

“I don’t know of one anywhere that has this level of integrated partnership,” says Michelle Harrolle, director of the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program, a dual-degree graduate business program that boasts a near 100 percent job-placement rate after graduation, and which benefits most from the arrangement.

Steve Griggs, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena, says the partnership between the Muma College of Business and his organization is something special.

“This partnership has been working for a long time,” Griggs says. “We now are integrated on so many levels, not only with the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program.

“The success is two-fold,” he says. “First we have access to the college’s entire team of incredible researchers. Second, we have access to the best and brightest students at USF and this has a tendency to elevate our game as well. And, we get to see sports and entertainment through the eyes of a younger generation.”

Between 10 and 12 student interns, called fellows, from the program work at the organization each semester, Harrolle says, and that’s part of the reason for the high job-placement rate. Those students graduate with master’s degrees in sport and entertainment management and MBAs, plus the real-world experience they get at a well-regarded, internationally known corporation that does so much more than simply field an NHL hockey team. The multi-industry conglomerate owned by Jeff Vinik involves the Vinik Family Foundation, Tampa Bay Sport & Entertainment and the Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties. Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners is spearheading a multi-billion-dollar development of downtown Tampa and he recently began investing in esports. Harrolle says fellows from the program and recent graduates get plugged into all those opportunities.

Student fellows gain valuable experience in business intelligence and analytics, business operations, marketing, sales, partner development, “across all types of segments of any industry,” Harrolle says.

They all benefit because of the “amazing mentorship opportunities,” she says. Those who aren’t hired by Vinik’s companies aren’t out of luck, Harrolle says, as Lightning business leaders actively “help our students find jobs. Students are there on fellowships for a year and mentors assist students with résumés, cover letters; teaching networking skills and other avenues of professional development.”

Vinik struck the partnership with USF eight years ago after making a donation to assist with program costs, including faculty salaries and student fellowships. In 2017, the Vinik family donated $6 million to the program and the college attached the Vinik name to the program that was recently ranked fourth best in the world by SportBusiness International, No. 3 in North America and is the only sport and entertainment management program ranked in the state of Florida.

“This program is creating a pipeline of in-demand talent,” Vinik said at the naming announcement. “Our graduates are becoming known as top employees who make better, stronger companies, which in turn benefits our entire region.”

- Stories by KEITH MORELLI ’78 | Muma College of Business


College of Marine Science

Uncovering the mysteries of blue-green algae blooms

IN 2018, A BLOOM OF BLUE-GREEN ALGAE choked Lake Okeechobee and gummed up waterways in several south Florida estuaries. The return of the stinky scum to Florida’s largest lake and several other hot spots in 2019 prompted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to establish a Blue-Green Task Force to address this vexing challenge – and now USF is helping out as well.

USF marine scientists are leading a three-year,

NASA-funded partnership to better understand and forecast blue-green algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee and three south Florida estuaries: the St. Lucie Estuary on the east coast, Caloosahatchee River Estuary on the west coast, and Florida Bay to the south. This partnership is the first of its kind. Together with scientists from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and water resource scientists from the South Florida Water Management District, the team will use state-of-the-art remote sensing, models and field surveys to improve understanding and forecasting of two types of blue-green algae called Microcystis and Synechococcus.

“There is a lot of blame going around, and a lot of assumptions about rainfall, discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and algae blooms,” says Chuanmin Hu, a remote sensing expert who runs the Optical Oceanography Laboratory in the USF College of Marine Science. “But at the moment there is no scientific evidence of a connection.”

Blue-green algae exists naturally in fresh water. In healthy doses it can be a small part of a thriving ecosystem. But under the right conditions, it can grow into blooms that can cause problems for people and wildlife on lakes and in estuaries.

The team will leverage the tools of remote sensing (USF), computer models (FAU Harbor Branch), and improved water monitoring techniques (SFWMD and FAU Harbor Branch) assessing blue-green algae blooms and their environments such as water clarity, temperature, nutrient concentration and more. Their goal: To better understand if and how the water discharge from the lake and rainfall impacts the concentration of blue-green algae in the three main phases of a bloom – initiation, maintenance and dissipation.

“With this knowledge in hand we hope to make additional information available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their Lake Okeechobee management decisions,” Hu says.

Lake Okeechobee is surrounded by a dike to protect communities south of the lake from flooding. When lake levels are too high, water is discharged from the lake to the estuaries to prevent a dike failure that could flood residents living south of the dike. This is a balancing act between maintaining flood protection, the lake’s health and regional water supply needs across south Florida.

The new effort will add a better understanding of algae blooms while also providing new information from improved satellite sensors and algorithms to interpret data.

Using remote sensors to study estuaries in south Florida is a challenge, says Hu, who will use a suite of NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) sensors for the study. Clouds and sun glare interfere with satellite signals, particles in the water make it hard for the sensors to tease out the information of algae from the rest, and smaller estuaries require sensors with a finer resolution than have been available in the past.

“It’s indeed a big technical challenge, but with experience gained from past NASA-funded projects we are confident in using NASA and ESA satellites to study these blooms,” says Hu, who recently used NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to discover the largest seaweed bloom in the world, a discovery highlighted by Discover magazine as one of the top 50 scientific discoveries of 2019.

- KRISTEN KUSEK MA ’98 and MS ’98 | College of Marine Science

Guardians of the Gulf

FLORIDA IS GROUND ZERO FOR CLIMATE CHANGE and natural hazards that threaten its future. Hurricane Michael, the record-hot October of 2019, “sunny day flooding”: signs of new realities abound, and it’s tough to keep pace and make sense of it all.

Enter “Guardians of the Gulf,” a new program launched by USF’s College of Marine Science with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast that aims to take an inaugural step toward educating youth communities who will inherit these challenges and opportunities for innovation.

“We hold deep, cross-disciplinary expertise in climate change and coastal resiliency at USF, but until now have not had an effective way to share this information with lay audiences,” says Jacqueline Dixon, dean of the College of Marine Science. “Guardians of the Gulf is a great start because it hits on a critical need to serve communities who arguably need this education the most, and the program can scale in time to other stakeholder groups as well.”

While in the early stages of development, the program is designed as an eight-week summer STEAM experience for children who participate in the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast (ages 5-18).

“Many of the students this program serves have never been to the beach,” says program lead Kristen Kusek, the science communication strategist the college who also has extensive experience developing education and outreach programs. “Safeguarding the coast begins with caring about it, so our first goal is to make sure the kids have fun while also instilling the values of hope, wonder and innovation along the way.”

Multisensory learning activities will foster an appreciation of the natural environment, empower children to realize what’s at stake and inspire them toward action, Kusek says. A key goal is to use the power of technology to take kids where they can’t normally go; it will combine web-based educational experiences (news-style broadcasts, gamified learning journeys) with hands-on activities and in-field excursions that reinforce concepts, stimulate inquiry and sustain engagement.

“As much as we’d love to take the kids to the beach or on the boat every day, we simply can’t do that, and that’s where technology can play a critical role,” Kusek says.

The team will leverage the power of underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to capture underwater footage that they beam back to the Boys & Girls Club facility, distance learning technologies to hold live Q&A sessions with scientists while they are at sea, and more. Additional program leaders from the college include Sarah Grasty, manager of USF’s fisheries/mapping program, and Teresa Greely, director of education and outreach for the college.

A pilot of the program, made possible by a grant from Duke Energy Foundation, will take place over spring break at the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club facility in south St. Petersburg. It will include excursions to the Florida Aquarium and Clam Bayou, a waterfront educational facility a few miles from the Royal Theater that is managed by the college.

The program is being endorsed by St. Petersburg’s new “smart city” initiative. In early 2019, St. Petersburg’s Innovation District secured the city as the first in Florida to join U.S. Ignite’s Smart Gigabit Communities, a consortium of 25 U.S. and two international cities. Guardians of the Gulf was chosen as one of its pilot efforts.

“There’s not one person I’ve spoken with about this program who doesn’t light up in response,” says Alison Barlow, who leads St. Petersburg’s Innovation District.

In addition to USF, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Innovation District, program partners include Spectrum (Charter Communications, Inc.), the city of St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg College, the USF St Petersburg campus, U.S. Ignite, and Future Vision Multisensory Media, a local science education production company.


Morsani College of Medicine

Improving access to health care

USF medical student helping a patient

Former medical student Michael Carr examines a patient visiting the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic, while Dr. Frederick Slone, medical advisor to BRIDGE and assistant professor of medicine in the Morsani College of Medicine, reviews the patient’s medical record.

THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE MARGINS of health care, outside the typical stream of doctors, nurses and clinics that you might experience.

Some are completely isolated from health care options. Others simply fall between the cracks – the working poor who have no insurance to cover the cost of care and no money to pay directly for care.

It is for these men, women and children – families throughout the Tampa Bay area – that students and faculty in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine create outreach programs to provide easier access to health care.

While there are many outreach programs, three in particular are great examples of how outside-the-box thinking, coordinated efforts, and community support can directly impact someone’s access to quality care: the Ybor Youth Clinic, the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic and Tampa Bay Street Medicine.

All three have a mix of volunteers, committed faculty physicians and idealistic students driven to do all they can for people in need. But also supporting these programs are community partners, organizations that offer money and medical supplies to make these programs truly succeed. Without that added help, especially direct underwriting, these outreach efforts would likely close, and maybe not even open, says Elizabeth Simoneit, a senior medical student in the Morsani College of Medicine and a co-director in the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic.

“We absolutely rely on our local community partners and donors,” Simoneit says. “These partnerships are what helped us launch BRIDGE and allow us to keep our doors open and provide the necessary care our patients wouldn’t otherwise get.”

Grants from organizations such as the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, whose funding allowed BRIDGE to offer endoscopic procedures for patients who need them, make the programs real. In addition, Quest Diagnostics provides lab work and Moffitt Cancer Center and Advent Health take BRIDGE patient referrals.

Beyond direct funding, donations of medical supplies are also a critical part of the equation for these efforts. For Tampa Bay Street Medicine, donations of supplies and basic medications, including those from Lily Pharmacy and Pioneer Medical Group, mean students can give direct support to the homeless, people who are unlikely to go to any form of clinic to treat their conditions.

“We have a lot of great partners who help provide over-the-counter medicines and fill prescription medications at cost for our homeless patients, people who wouldn’t get necessary medications without the support of our partners,” says Lauren Buckley, a senior medical student and co-president for Tampa Bay Street Medicine.

Sometimes, partnering with community organizations is more than ongoing donations. For example, the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Tampa provides the Tampa Bay Street Medicine team with space in their church buildings for providing direct clinical care to the homeless, including a women’s health clinic opened with the help of a $15,000 donation by the Florida Medical Clinic’s Foundation of Caring. The space at First Presbyterian helps providers “get a better, complete clinical picture of our patients.”

A real “storefront” is central to the care provided by the Ybor Youth Clinic, and the added effort to make the space welcoming and accessible is succeeding in bringing teens off the streets, says Dr. Lisa Istorico Sanders, assistant professor of pediatrics/infectious disease and executive director of the Ybor Youth Clinic.

“For many people, especially for teens, these outreach clinics are an entry way into the health care system,” Sanders says. “Given the myriad non-medical issues complicating our patients’ lives, it really does take a group effort to meet their needs.”

Ybor Youth Clinic was able to open because of donations provided by Lazy Days Employee Foundation and a tightknit collaboration with other agencies means these young patients have the tiered support required to successfully meet their range of needs, including help from the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for assault and trauma, DACCO for substance abuse, and Camelot Community Care for homelessness.

The medical outreach efforts of these three programs helps extend USF Health’s reach into the communities with people who might not otherwise get the care they need. Here is a glimpse of three models of care that are removing barriers for many marginalized patients.

BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic

  • Opened in 2007
  • A student-directed free clinic for uninsured patients living in the University Community adjacent to USF
  • Website

The clinic collaborates with community partners to provide routine care for non-emergency medical needs for uninsured adults who make 200 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines.

USF Health students (medicine, pharmacy, public health and physical therapy), social work students, and attending physicians volunteered nearly 9,000 hours to this once-a-week clinic in the last fiscal year.

Some of the many community partners supporting the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic include: Advent Health, Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, Florida Department of Health, Moffitt Cancer Center, Quest Diagnostics, Temple Terrace Rotary Club, and University Area Community Development Corporation.

Tampa Bay Street Medicine

  • Opened in 2014
  • A student-run organization working to improve access to health care by providing services directly to the homeless on the streets and in shelters.
  • Website

Tampa Bay Street Medicine is a student organization at USF Health dedicated to improving the medical care of the homeless in the Tampa Bay area. Through direct outreach on the streets and in shelters, the group of medical, physician assistant and pharmacy students seeks to provide medical care, education, community connections, and health care access to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Some of the many community partners supporting Tampa Bay Street Medicine include: First Presbyterian Church of Tampa, Florida Medical Clinic Foundation of Caring, Lily Pharmacy, Pioneer Medical Group, and Metropolitan Ministries.

Ybor Youth Clinic

  • Opened in 2012
  • Only area health clinic designed for underserved and at-risk youth in Tampa Bay
  • Website

Opened in September 2012, the USF Health Ybor Youth Clinic has become an invaluable resource for local youth ages 13 to 24, providing high quality, innovative, compassionate and nonjudgmental health care for all youth, regardless of income. The clinic is unique in its offering of specialized care to high-risk youth and those most typically marginalized, including homeless, gay, lesbian, transgender, and HIV infected individuals. Many of these young patients are also facing other stresses, such as no health insurance, no other access to health care, homelessness and food insecurity.

Some of the many community partners supporting the Ybor Youth Clinic include: Adolescent Health Resource Navigator by Healthy Start Coalition, DACCO, Camelot Community Care Tampa Bay Youth Outreach, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County Department of Health, UNITY@ Moffitt, and Walgreen’s Pharmacy.

- SARAH WORTH ’86 | USF Health Communications


College of Nursing

Students meeting needs of children, older adults

A PROMISING PARTNERSHIP THAT PAIRS USF pediatric nursing students with at-risk youth in neighborhood community centers is expanding to include the health needs of older adults.

Over the past year, the College of Nursing has seen successes with its Peds to Succeed program, a new community outreach initiative between the Tampa Police Department’s Resources In Community Hope (R.I.C.H.) Houses and the nursing school.

Nursing leaders hope to build on that collaboration and expand the college’s impact in the Tampa Bay community by launching the EnRICHed Families: Improving Health Outcomes for At-Risk Communities project.

Bull nurses will join with USF athletic training students to provide preventative screenings, health literacy and nutrition education. The program will begin in earnest this summer.

And while Peds to Succeed focuses on school-aged children, its spin-off will concentrate on the seniors also living in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Sulphur Springs and Robles Park.

Sharlene Smith, MS ’12 and DNP ’15, an assistant professor in the college, says this program is just the beginning for more community outreach. She and other faculty plan to bring pediatric nurse practitioner students to the neighborhoods for health fairs, back-to-school physicals and sports physicals.

“As health care deliverers, we need to meet people where they live and try to focus more on preventative rather than reactionary health care,” Smith says. “This program is allowing the College of Nursing to do just that by getting back into the community and giving back.”

One of the goals of the nursing partnership is to help train pediatric nursing students in a community setting by providing wellness education programs to underserved neighborhoods. These student-led lessons will concentrate on wellness through student engagement, outreach and service.

At one of the on-site visits, nursing students created and presented a lesson on feelings and anger to help young campers.

Nursing students welcomed the new partnership and said working with the children was engaging and enriching.

“We’re getting a lot of therapeutic communication with the pediatric population and learning about how to handle and talk with this population. We’re definitely going to see this population in the nursing setting, so it’s nice to be exposed to it now,” student Courtney Bennett says.

- ELIZABETH L. BROWN | College of Nursing


College of Public Health

Finding Solutions

“IT’S EASY TO OPEN UP a business – anyone can do that,” Bradley Herremans, CEO of Suncoast Community Health Centers, said. “Now try keeping it open for the next 20 years. That’s the challenge.”

And so began a meeting late one January afternoon at Suncoast’s Brandon facility, one of the organization’s eight nonprofit, federally qualified community health centers serving 63,000 patients a year throughout southern and eastern Hillsborough County and parts of Lakeland. Suncoast provides children and adults, most of whom are uninsured or insured by Medicaid or the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan (health insurance for low-income county residents that’s funded by sales tax), with a host of health care services – everything from well visits, to vision exams, to dental care and pharmacy needs. Patients without insurance pay on a sliding scale based on their income.

Seated around a conference table were Herremans and members of his executive team, including Natalie Wrightson, a recent USF College of Public Health graduate and former Suncoast intern who now is a pharmacy compliance and financial analyst for the organization. They were joined by four Public Health graduate students and their advisor, Assistant Professor Zachary Pruitt, MHA ’08 and PhD ’13. The students, all pursuing their master’s degrees in health administration (MHA), are taking part in Pruitt’s Advanced Seminar on Health Care Management, a course that develops analytic and decision-making skills regarding issues with health services.

The MHA program develops students’ knowledge and skills in contemporary management methods and policy decision-making, integrating a population health management approach. Upon graduation, students are prepared for management and leadership positions in health services and related organizations throughout the nation.

The student group, which includes Marjorie Brelsford, Samer Hussamy, Nishat Jerin and Emily Zapf, has been tasked with enhancing the financial stability of Suncoast’s health centers, which must provide medical services to roughly 950 individuals a day in order to break even. The capstone course requires the development of a team-based project to be presented in April. The students will conduct a financial and operational analysis to propose a plan by which Suncoast can assure success into the future.

“These are very involved students who are excited to apply what they’ve learned from operations, finance and marketing on this project,” Pruitt says. “They will define the problem, look at data and literature to identify best practices, interview personnel and then explore and present interventions.”

And the timing couldn’t be better. “Sustainability is a key issue for community health centers across the country,” Herremans says. “So we’re looking at everything, and we will change some things.”

The College of Public Health began its partnership with Suncoast several years ago, when Pruitt cold-called the organization and explained the college’s commitment to the community and to health care management as a profession. As a result of that call, Suncoast invited students to intern.

From there, the relationship blossomed.

After those initial health administration interns presented their internship projects, the college and Suncoast endowed a scholarship, which led to more interns. Suncoast began attending the college’s career fairs and providing speakers for its Healthcare Management Student Association, further solidifying its collaboration with the college.

By all accounts, the partnership is a win-win-win – for Suncoast, the college and its students.

“It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you do this work every day,” Herremans says, noting that the students “come in here with a fresh set of eyes and shake things up a bit. It’s good to get different perspectives. We learn, and they hone their skills.”

And what about the students? What do they gain besides the obvious – an impressive highlight for their growing resumes and a post-graduation employment contact to mine?

According to the four from Pruitt’s class, the Suncoast partnership allows them to practice their passion -- one of the college’s mottos – in a real-world classroom while making a difference in the community where they live and go to school.

“What’s great about this project is we get to apply our work in the real world and see how it might affect patients, and that’s really satisfying,” says Samer Hussamy, whose career interests lie in health analytics. Nishat Jerin, who hopes to land a job in finance, operations or strategy at a hospital or skilled-nursing facility after graduation, agrees. “We’re gaining professional experience but also giving back to the community,” she says. “We’re getting the best of both worlds.”

- DONNA CAMPISANO | College of Public Health

Policy change means healthier snack options

WHILE COMMUNITY RECREATIONAL facilities offer plenty of options for physical activity and getting healthy, the snacks offered at concession stands and vending machines are anything but that, often loaded with fats, salt and sugar.

That’s where public health and social marketing step in.

The USF College of Public Health has used social marketing to improve health and prevent disease for more than 20 years through its Florida Prevention Research Center (FPRC).

Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, PhD ’16, an assistant professor and associate director for the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Social Marketing and Social Change, says success for USF has resided in the empowerment and engagement of communities to achieve sustainable change.

She says this can be achieved through use of the community-based prevention marketing framework, which combines social marketing, community wisdom and control, along with public health advocacy.

Social marketing is the use of commercial marketing principles to achieve change in behavior that is of benefit to society.

The bottom line for social marketing – change in behavior (such as wearing a seat belt, getting a mammogram) verses financial gain.

A successful example of social marketing in action was with USF’s Carol Bryant, professor emeritus, who worked with the Lexington, Ky., Tween Fitness and Nutrition Coalition to create the policy initiative “Better Bites: Snack Strong.” The result was healthy food offerings on menus at public pools, government cafeterias, school concessions, movie theaters, restaurants, summer camps and the Kentucky State Park system.

Hearing of this program’s success in Kentucky and wanting to replicate the effort in Florida, the Healthy Pinellas Consortium, a Florida Department of Health community coalition, worked with Khaliq Pasha, who provided training and technical assistance, to bring Better Bites to Florida.

“In Pinellas, an estimated 29 to 33.5 percent of preschool students are overweight or obese, as is one in three high school students,” Khaliq Pasha says. “Recreational facilities and sporting events encourage physical activity and healthy living, yet send a contradictory message by offering unhealthy snacks and limiting a person’s ability to make healthy choices.”

Using the community-based prevention marketing framework with a focus on policy development, the team of researchers and students from USF and community members from Pinellas worked together to select, tailor, implement and evaluate a strategy that would promote behavior change. The group concluded that part of the solution was to make nutritious choices easier for families managing after-school activities for their children.

Through research with parents and children, owners of concession stands and policy makers, the Healthy Pinellas Consortium decided to adapt and tailor Better Bites for Florida and improve the availability of healthy snack options at recreational facilities in Pinellas.

As a result, Fun Bites was born.

Fun Bites aims to provide healthier food options for tweens, ages 8 to 12-years-old, at municipal recreational facilities, including concession stands and snack bars.

“In some instances, facilities were contributing to a net increase in caloric intake as the tween would eat more calories than burn through exercise,” Khaliq Pasha says.

The City of Largo was the first to use Fun Bites in its city concessions, followed closely by the City of St. Petersburg.

“Fun Bites has led to healthier options becoming more affordable, attainable and placed in close proximity to the tweens so that the right choice was the easier choice,” Khaliq Pasha says. “Generally, healthy items added to menus increased sales and were popular with customers. An evaluation by FDOH revealed that one out of every two who purchased an item, typically selected a ‘Fun Bite’ item.”

In fact, implementation of this initiative has led to institutional policy changes, making way for 13 locations to serve Fun Bites in Pinellas County, and an enactment of city-level policies in two municipalities related to community events and festivals.

Municipalities also mandated that any food vendor at an event offer at least one Fun Bite option using the program guidelines, and the City of St. Petersburg enacted a policy related to concessions sold at internal events and programs.

Kim Lehto, the Healthy St. Pete coordinator currently managing Fun Bites efforts in St. Petersburg, said policy change was instrumental in ensuring sustainability of the program.

She said they updated current parks and recreation policy language on what types of food could be offered at their facilities and also provided healthier options at 40 different vending machines.

“We followed up with a policy that was more precise and indicated that we would only serve items listed on the healthier concessions options list,” Lehto says.

Rosy Bailey, food system consultant and facilitator for the Healthy Pinellas Consortium, says they were looking to make changes that impacted a community as a whole.

According to Khaliq Pasha, there is now an interest in expanding Fun Bites beyond Pinellas County, with a pilot test being run at a cafeteria in Tallahassee. The current focus is on establishing an online certification system for vendors, so that they can receive materials to make their establishment a Fun Bites location and to ensure adherence to nutritional guidelines.

“It’s important to have many people at the table in addressing systemic changes, especially in regard to healthy food access,” Bailey says. “It’s amazing how the assistance we had with USF really helped us to unite individuals to make changes in a way that was effective.”

- ANNA MAYOR | College of Public Health


USF St. Petersburg Campus 

Blazing a PATHe

NAVIGATING THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS can be challenging, even for the most well-informed families. For those with less experience with higher education, it can be downright daunting.

Representatives from St. Petersburg College (SPC) and the USF St. Petersburg campus were concerned the barriers were too high for many Pinellas County students. So they decided to work together to create new initiatives aimed at helping all students explore a route to post-secondary education.

It’s all part of building what Tonjua Williams, president of SPC, calls the “educational ecosystem,” a community network designed to help all students succeed, with SPC and the USF St. Petersburg campus leading the way.

“Our relationship with the USF St. Petersburg campus has never been stronger than it is right now,” says Williams, MA ’96, Life Member, Alumni Association board member. “As the key institutions of higher learning in Pinellas County, we are unified in our commitment to provide educational pathways that will lift up our community by preparing students for careers and providing businesses with a pipeline of qualified employees.”

The newest venture launched by the two institutions is called Pinellas Access to Higher Education (PATHe). PATHe was formed in 2018 with support from the Florida Legislature to expand educational access and assist Pinellas County students who want to earn a college degree. More than 60 percent of jobs in Florida will require a degree or credential by 2025. Currently, more than two million Floridians have some college credits but no degree. In Pinellas County, there are 109,000.

The program puts four counselors in Pinellas County schools to guide middle and high schoolers through the college application process and answer any questions they may have. Two of the PATHe counselors are based at the USF St. Petersburg campus, while the other two are at SPC. In addition to visiting the various schools, the counselors also present to community groups on college preparedness.

Students can apply to the PATHe program, where they start their post-secondary education at SPC before transitioning to the USF St. Petersburg campus. PATHe also offers financial aid and scholarships at both institutions.

“PATHe is just one example of the strong working relationship between our campus and SPC,” says Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “Our goal is to provide access to higher education for all students in Pinellas County and beyond and to support them as they strive to fulfill their potential.”

There are currently 48 students in the PATHe program, with plans to expand in the near future.

“We’ve already had a big impact on the students,” says Carolina Nutt, director of COMPASS first year experience on the USF St. Petersburg campus, who helps oversee the PATHe program.

“We’re really starting to build awareness about the program, ensuring the entire county knows that we’re here to support them.”

PATHe is just one of several partnerships between the two institutions. Both also participate in the FUSE program, a partnership that allows students to start earning an associate degree from SPC while receiving many of the perks of being a USF student. That includes access to campus events and specialized advising.

FUSE guarantees students who earn an associate degree in three years with a minimum grade point average of 2.0 will be admitted to either USF’s St. Petersburg or Tampa campus, based on which academic path they pursue.

Not every partnership is focused on academics. For the second year, students from the USF St. Petersburg campus and SPC are teaming up to create the Good Vibes Only Art and Music Festival on April 25, a celebration of the arts in St. Petersburg’s Williams Park.

- CARRIE O’BRION | Marketing & Communications

Students explore career possibilities

DURING FALL 2019, 30 FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS paired with professional mentors from across St. Petersburg as part of a new Innovation Scholars Career Exploration Program on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Students from a variety of degree programs – from business to biology – were matched with local CEOs, doctors, politicians and teachers for an opportunity to explore their interests and potential career paths. Each student spent at least six hours shadowing their mentor over the course of the semester.

While many students are still exploring their interests, Johnette Williams, a political science major, is driven by public service and has her mind set on pursuing public office. The coordinators of the Innovation Scholars program immediately saw a fit with St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Gina Driscoll.

“Councilwoman Driscoll was so enthusiastic about working with USF St. Petersburg students from the moment we approached her about mentoring,” says program organizer Caryn Nesmith, who oversees special projects for the campus. “We are so grateful to the mentors. Really, I think all of them realize that this is an opportunity to change the course of a student’s life.”

Innovation Scholars mentors commit to a minimum of three visits with a student, during which they’re encouraged to tailor their discussions to the student’s interests. Williams said Driscoll went above and beyond, meeting almost every week during the semester.

“I have been able to meet some other city staff along with going out and working in the community too,” Williams says. “The program has been a great learning experience. It has made me realize that I want to continue on my political journey.”

Councilwoman Driscoll adds, “This is a terrific program, and Johnette has been so engaged and enthusiastic.”

One of the first things Williams and Driscoll did together was a program called Park, Walk and Talk, which accompanies police officers as they stroll and converse with citizens throughout the city. Williams also volunteered with Driscoll at Feeding Tampa Bay and got to see how the councilwoman engages with her constituents.

“The program has helped me realize that this is the path I can take in life,” Williams says. “My goal is to be president of the United States one day, but I want to start as a councilwoman at the local level and be able to create a good foundation of supporters.”

More than two-thirds of students who participated in the fall 2019 semester requested to continue in the program during spring 2020. Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus, aims to double the program’s participation in its second year.

Williams is among those returning in spring, shadowing St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. She encourages other students to follow her lead.

“Even if you are unsure about what you want to do, just try something,” she says. “There’s a big difference between thinking you like something and actually experiencing it. This program could help you figure it out.”

- DYLLAN FURNESS | Marketing & Communications

Campus harnesses the power of the sun

IN 2015, A 100-KILOWATT SOLAR ARRAY and Tesla battery system were unveiled on the USF St. Petersburg campus. Measuring approximately 7,100 square feet and consisting of 318 individual panels, the vast array powers lights and elevators in the campus’ parking garage and can produce enough energy to propel an electric car half a million miles.

Three years later, the Tesla battery was upgraded, ensuring additional solar energy unused by the parking garage would not go to waste. Instead, it would be stored in the battery and used for backup power during an outage. It could also be fed back into the grid for immediate use by neighboring entities.

And just last year the campus added new electric vehicle charging stations. Two are high-powered stations that can charge any electrical vehicle and two are DC Fast Charge units that are powered by the solar array and battery system, also called a microgrid. The microgrid’s battery discharges stored solar energy when an electric vehicle is charging in the garage, lowering the cost of operating the DC Fast Chargers.

Each of these technological advances reduced greenhouse gas emissions, expanded research around and use of alternative energy and boosted the university’s progress toward a more sustainable campus. Each also involved a vital partner: Duke Energy.

“Every day, we need to make choices that will preserve and protect the natural world, such as harnessing the power of the sun to help reduce our use of fossil fuels,” says Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “We’re so pleased to have Duke Energy as a valued partner in our efforts toward creating a better environment and a brighter future for all.”

Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States, operating in six states and serving 7.7 million customers.

The installation of the microgrid system on the USF St. Petersburg campus was aided by a $1 million SunSense grant for exploring the storage of solar energy in new battery systems. The electric vehicle charging stations came to the university at no cost as part of the company’s Park and Plug pilot program.

“USF St. Petersburg is an extraordinary institution. Our partnership allows Duke Energy Florida to provide clean energy resources and to deliver unique and flexible grid reliability on campus,” says Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida state president. “We are proud to offer sustainable, diverse and smarter energy solutions that our customers have told us they value.”

In recent years, Duke Energy employees have contributed to the campus’ Climate Action Plan, which guides the university in reducing greenhouse gases, and have engaged with students through the Student Green Energy Fund as they develop, fund and install alternative energy and sustainability projects on campus.

- MATTHEW CIMITILE | Marketing & Communications


USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus

Focus on the arts growing

An Arts teacher speaking to students

Arts-integrated teaching is an instructional method that combines the arts with core subjects to help students understand academic material.

USF’S SARASOTA-MANATEE CAMPUS is gaining a reputation as an arts influencer, and it’s no wonder given its emphasis on arts-integrated teaching – through the campus’ School of Education and separate Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts Integrated Teaching (PAInT) – and affiliation with the Perlman Music Program Winter Residency.

Arts-integrated teaching is an instructional method that combines the arts with core subjects to help students understand academic material. School of Education students learn these teaching techniques and apply them during internships and later as professional educators.

“Research has shown clear links between arts integration and student success,” Marie Byrd, director of the School of Education, says.

In addition to promoting these ideas during their internships at local schools, the students apply them for several weeks each summer thanks to a unique partnership with United Way Suncoast and Booker Middle School in Sarasota.

Also raising arts awareness, the campus-based Florida Center for PAInT helps develop cross-curricular resources for use by schools, museums, non-profits and arts organizations statewide.

Created by Florida lawmakers in 2016, PAInT partners with the Florida Studio Theatre, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County and the Circus Arts Conservatory, among others, to stage workshops, theatrical performances and concerts that align the arts with learning.

Collaborations have included PAInT Across Florida, in which PAInT and the Florida Alliance for Arts Education united to offer professional development to educators in Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Manatee and Sarasota counties. In the Arts Literacy Program involving PAInT and Embracing our Differences, organizers revealed to elementary school teachers how arts integration can improve grade-level reading in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“PAInT provides expertise and a significant statewide context for arts integration to position the arts as a valuable and useful learning tool,” says Denise Davis-Cotton, director of the Florida Center for PAInT.

The campus’ arts focus hits a high note in winter when young world-class musicians from the Perlman Music Program (PMP) practice and perform on campus for three weeks during the holiday break.

Faculty, staff and community members are invited to the rehearsals and performances inside a white tent in the campus’ courtyard. Celebrated violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman leads many of the sessions himself. The PMP Winter Residency has called the Sarasota-Manatee campus home since 2007.

Now, the campus is gaining more arts recognition thanks to two awards to Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor of the Sarasota-Manatee campus. This past fall, Holbrook was named a national recipient of the Arts Schools Network Higher Education Award, recognizing higher education partnerships that support quality arts education in K-12 schools.

And this month, she will receive the Dr. Larry Thompson Arts Education Advancement Award. Named for the president of Ringling College of Art and Design, this annual award goes to an individual or organization that has significantly impacted arts education in Manatee schools.

Workshops Benefit Business Community

ALREADY POPULAR ON CAMPUS, “Incredi-Bull Critical Thinking” is now making inroads off campus.

The university-wide initiative to enhance undergraduate students’ critical-thinking skills is gaining a larger audience thanks to efforts at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus to introduce critical-thinking to the local business community.

“The principles of critical thinking are universal,” Michael Gillespie, ’99, an associate professor of psychology, says. “What we’ve been able to do was to take a program designed initially for students in a university setting and apply it to a professional workplace setting in an effective, practical way, so it can be of use to working professionals, entrepreneurs and CEOs.”

Started at Sarasota-Manatee, the program urges students to apply critical-thinking strategies to problem solving: to rationally assess problems, gather information, reason out potential solutions and develop sound, coherent courses of action that can be communicated to others.

Now the campus is exporting these techniques to business owners, CEOs, entrepreneurs and nonprofit executives to encourage critical-thinking among their workers. Last fall, the campus organized a series of Critical Thinking Certification Workshops. The sessions attracted about 40 people. Attendees received an introduction to critical thinking, performed online assessments, examined case studies and engaged in group discussions.

Bolstered by the reaction, organizers now propose two additional workshops this spring, with the first one possibly in late March or in April.

“Critical thinking is one of the top skill sets required of today’s workforce,” organizer and presenter Greg Smogard, assistant vice president of innovation and business development at Sarasota-Manatee, says. “These workshops provided the university for the first time, an opportunity to present elements of its ‘Incredi-Bull Critical Thinking’ program to the public.”

An announcement about dates for the next two workshops will be forthcoming.

- Stories by RICH SHOPES | Communications and Marketing

Transforming Education

AS AN ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER of the Sarasota Institute, Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, was delighted to work with other educators and community leaders to help plan the organization’s first community symposium on the future of education in the 21st century.

The symposium, “An Educated Person in 2035,” brought together about 225 educators, futurists, business and community leaders and students on the Bradenton campus of the State College of Florida to discuss a range of topics centered on an acute need to transform education.

The Sarasota Institute bills itself as a 21st Century think tank with a vision to examine solutions to the 10 most significant issues facing the region, including education, technology, natural resources, health care and more.

“You hear a lot about how young students need to be prepared to enter college,” Holbrook says, “to develop sound reading and study skills at an early age, achieve excellent grades in high school and score well on standardized tests in order to be accepted into a quality university and earn scholarships.

“That is all true, but my concern is deeper. Students in today’s digital era learn so much more at all levels. Many of our local schools are both utilizing and teaching new technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), automation, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, chat bots and virtual assistants, many of which rely on big data and data analytics. How do we ensure that colleges and universities are prepared to receive the students who are already accustomed to using advanced technology?”

Holbrook, who has held leadership positions at some of the top universities in the nation, views education as a continuum that begins in pre-kindergarten programs and continues throughout a person’s entire life. She naturally seeks ways to improve the undergraduate and graduate academic programs currently offered at USF to meet the workforce needs of the community, and she relentlessly thinks about, questions and plans for the future of education.

She fully understands that because technology is at the core of the ever-changing academic landscape, it is more important than ever for educators at all levels to embrace the possibilities technology provides – and to be in sync with each other – to develop relevant academic programs that provide the skills and experiences employers value and seek.

“We also have a responsibility to provide continuing education options so that members of our community can learn new skills that will enable them to prosper in the marketplace. It’s an entire spectrum of education, a continuum of education in how we connect with the community.”

The symposium began with a presentation by futurist and Institute co-founder David Houle, in which he described the exponential information explosion that is occurring and how emerging technologies that once seemed unfathomable – chips embedded in humans to control gaming devices for example – will become commonplace in the not too distant future.

Attendees then engaged in a variety of breakout sessions that explored various aspects of education and participated in a panel discussion with four of the presidents/chancellors from the colleges and universities in Manatee and Sarasota counties that comprise the Cross College Alliance (CCA).

So where do we go from here?

“This conference was a good starting point and opened the door to a more focused symposium on work force development and the future of higher education,” Holbrook says. “I believe that a conference that focuses on what employers want, what students need to be prepared for, and how this all fits together would be beneficial

- SHAWN AHEARN | Communications and Marketing