University of South Florida


USF Heroes

Moez Limayem

Recognizing that many in the business community were shut down, laid off or working remotely, Moez Limayem, dean of the Muma College of Business, established the “Post-Crisis Leadership” certificate program, offering the expertise of faculty and business leaders to those eager to get back to work and begin repairing the economy. The seven-week virtual program, which typically would have cost students upwards of $3,000, was offered free of charge. More than 8,000 people from 80 nations registered for the certificate, and another 1,200 were on its waiting list.

Limayem also led efforts to strengthen the college’s relationships with outside business partners and the community. Part that effort involved collaborative research endeavors with the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast. Research revealed the sentiments of Tampa Bay residents regarding their outlook in the post-pandemic future. The dean also facilitated research to assist with COVID-19 prediction algorithms that can help Tampa General Hospital deal with spikes in the disease and the demand for ICU beds.  Some of that research was related to cell-phone tracking and the "denseness" of areas as people began to leave their homes once the "safer at home" orders began to lift.

James Hatten

Driven to provide educators with the skills and tools they need to be successful while teaching online, James Hatten, an instructor in USF’s Instructional Technology program, collaborated with the David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching to develop a training course for K-12 teachers to help prepare them for online teaching and learning environments in the new school year. More than 500 teachers from across the world participated in the summer sessions, which were offered for free as an emergency response to support teachers who are making the rapid switch to online instruction. The online course helped participants learn how to humanize their online teaching experience, create purposeful structure in their learning management system and measure their success as online teachers with an assessment framework called the R.A.T.—the Replacement, Amplification and Transformation model.

“I’d say 50 percent of (participants) said that they haven’t taken an online class before and then they were asked to teach online,” Hatten said. “That’s like thinking about how many teachers you have in your life that have never gone to school before. So, even them just being in an online course is accomplishing something huge.”

Steven Long

Steven Long has been volunteering with Feeding Tampa Bay to help reduce food insecurity, which has been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In volunteering directly at food distribution sites, as well as communicating with the organization’s leadership team, Long has helped develop goals and initiatives that will help increase student awareness of food insecurity. Through these efforts, he’s helping support Feeding Tampa Bay’s mission to create a hunger-free Tampa Bay by 2025. 

Michael Celestin

Within a matter of days, Michael Celestin transformed his Mini-Circuits Design for X Laboratory into a facility dedicated to helping solve the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment. He and his students developed an assembly line to create nearly 10,000 face shields, using materials such as mylar, elastic and foam, for health professionals at Tampa General Hospital. The team also 3D printed 500 ear savers, which are special plastic strips lined with hooks, that loop onto face masks, alleviating pressure from behind the ears.

Facilities Management

Hollie Chancey, Wayne Wilcox, Tobin McCall, Orlando Ware, Lourdes Velez-Garcia, Walter Bartley, Harry Ward, Dontae Alexander, Dorian Crews, and Boniswa Joseph

The Facilities Management Supply Chain team dedicated countless hours to develop a COVID-19 response plan for personal protective equipment and supplies for the entire university, ensuring faculty, staff and the student population have the necessary supplies to keep them safe. This included building a budget, ordering product in a strained supply chain environment, and packaging and delivering them across all campuses for a university-wide response. It was a true logistical challenge that was overcome with great success!

USF Heroes Graphic

In a matter of weeks, this team conceived, coordinated and led the rollout of a telehealth platform via Microsoft Teams never before used by USF Health. While many contributed to this herculean effort, this would not have been possible without their leadership. The level of technical and operational challenges they overcame through innovation, creativity and grit was simply astounding under crushing time pressures and adversity. Since its implementation, USF Health has completed about 60,000 telehealth visits and is being considered for a national center of excellence in telehealth in partnership with Microsoft.

Carla Vandweerd

Carla Vandweerd helped develop a drive-up screening program at The Villages, the nation’s largest senior community. Vandeweerd researched the patterns of COVID-19 infection and provided its 4,230 residents the opportunity to determine their infection status, allay their concerns and learn how to protect themselves. Due to their age, the population has an elevated risk for complications from COVID-19. Details of the community-based field-testing project were published in the New England Journal of Medicine Innovations in Care Delivery series.

Terry Hutchings

As operations manager, Terry Hutchings and his team have designed a new seat reservation system that will allow students to safely study at the USF Tampa Library. Much like the Libraries’ system to reserve study rooms, students and faculty will be required to reserve a study space in advance of entering the building. This carefully devised plan allows for appropriate physical distancing, reinforcing the library’s mission to support the USF community’s mission to continue their studies and research. Hutchings is also preparing to resume the laptop loan program, ensuring all students have access to appropriate remote technology.

Alexis Naguib

Alexis Naguib says she lost her best friend when her grandfather died in June of mesothelioma at the age of 76. Today, the sophomore at USF’s St. Petersburg campus channels her grief into helping senior citizens who may be feeling lonely and isolated as a result of the pandemic. Every week, Naguib calls a woman more than 50 years her senior to chat and listen to stories about the woman’s travels as a scuba diving instructor. It’s part of a new initiative called St. Pete Friends, which matches USF students with seniors in assisted living facilities at a time when many are craving connections as a result of social distancing restrictions.

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Due to COVID-19, doctoral students in the School of Aging Studies have been required to adjust how they volunteer for Meals on Wheels. The service has reduced its regular delivery of food items to the elderly to once a week. However, the students have been able to keep their clients engaged through the Tele-Pals program. They’re in regular communication, asking questions about how they’re coping with the current circumstances and about their pets. It’s an effort to help Meals on Wheels recipients feel safe and less socially isolated. 

Steve Saddow

Concerned with failure of the supply chain to offer rapid delivery of critical medical equipment in the Tampa Bay area, Steve Saddow reconfigured his laboratory to allow for rapid prototyping of medical equipment needed to combat COVID-19. Using bioelectronic systems, he converted a manual respirator bag into an automatic ventilator by using simple controls and mechanical parts. This will allow for deployment in the event that ventilators are in short supply. He’s also engaged in the development of a COVID-19 rapid breath analyzer, the BullNose, and is helping support the conversion of photo electrochemical oxidation technology from a table-top air purifier system to a portable power plant for a wearable breathing device.

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Drs. Asa Oxner and Elimaryz Perez-Colon and Christine Jennings created an innovative clinic for Hillsborough County COVID-19 patients discharged from the hospital. They organized volunteer staff and students to utilize innovative technology, allowing them to monitor patients through telehealth and follow-up phone calls. This clinic has been critical to prevent additional medical complications, improved outcomes and helped prevent re-hospitalizations. The clinic also offered much needed contact hours, educational opportunities and credit for students in health science training programs, which were suspended due to COVID-19.

Justin Knight

Justin Knight has helped the College of Engineering maintain health and safety standards through the distribution of PPE and disinfecting supplies to support ongoing critical research. He has gone above and beyond in addressing a variety of scenarios that do not fit within his typical duties and has been a critical contact in assisting those authorized to enter campus with building access to support research and readiness for the upcoming semester.

Tobin McCall

Tobin McCall implemented the USF Sanitizer Vending Program across all campuses. This required intricate logistical coordination with vendors to secure 29 machines and hand sanitizer, Information Technology to identify data, Environmental Health and Safety for approval of vending locations, and multiple building managers across campus. The sanitizers were customized and labeled with the USF logo. All of these efforts required countless hours and weekend work to bring the system on-line for the opening of the campuses.

Sandra Law

Sandra Law quickly developed an interlibrary lending operation. Since the university transitioned to virtual learning, she and her staff have been coming into the Tampa Library almost daily to manage book requests. As a library operations supervisor, Law utilized her extensive knowledge of bibliographic information in the USF Library catalog and experience in locating books to process and mail about 40-50 books a week to the homes of USF faculty and students. This helped make sure research and studies remained uninterrupted.

Ashley Rehmann and Chelsea Deluca

Doctor of Nursing Practice students Ashley Rehmann and Chelsea Deluca helped lead student nursing teams who performed COVID-19 risk assessments at long-term care facilities that have not reported any positive cases. Their goal is to help identify ways to strengthen the facilities’ infection control measures and to slow the spread of the coronavirus within the county’s most vulnerable population. 

Sara de la Cantera

Sara de la Cantera spent six weeks volunteering for the Florida Department of Health, helping collect samples at COVID-19 testing sites. She was responsible for labeling the testing tubes and entering them into the state’s database. de la Cantera and her team spent time at the Southshore Community Resource Center in Ruskin and at a testing site in Plant City. 

Angelica Bernal

Angelica Bernal spent nearly two months caring for COVID-19 patients in New York City hospitals during the height of the coronavirus crisis there. She was among thousands of nurses who signed up to be deployed to the hardest hit neighborhoods. She worked at a city hospital on Roosevelt Island.

Denis Davis-Cotton

With summer camps closed this year, Denise Davis-Cotton created new opportunities to engage with families and provide arts-based learning opportunities for children by collaborating with local arts organizations and offering free art-themed videos. Davis-Cotton has produced multiple videos to encourage families to engage in fun creative projects over the summer. The first discusses arts integration – a combination of arts and academics – and how the teaching technique promotes learning. Another video explores Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday that commemorates the emancipation of slaves. “Any time you can do something for children to promote learning, count me in,” she said. “These videos are yet another opportunity for children to continue to learn and thrive, and that’s important to me.” The videos are free and available through Manatee Arts Education Council.  

Geri Chaffee

As a result of the pandemic, Geri Chaffee recognized that many Spanish-speaking parents are having trouble navigating the demands of distance learning since many school’s lack Spanish-speaking support services. To help these families, Chaffee created a weekly radio program called Por Nuestros Niños (For Our Children). “It really touches on a broad range of educational topics,” Chaffee said. “The theme of the program is how to empower Spanish-speaking parents to help and support their children from kindergarten through high school.” The radio program continues to grow its following and talks are underway to expand nationally. The show is broadcast Mondays at 11:30 a.m. on WZSP (105.3-FM) and WTMY (99.1-FM) and (1280-AM), or online at and Univisión's Uforia streaming platform La Numero Uno, 99.1-FM, Sarasota. A repeat broadcast is aired Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Chaffee graduated in August and hopes to open a bilingual public charter school in summer 2021 called the Dreamers Academy. 

Additional USF Heroes can be found here.

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