By Daphne Kotschessa Almodovar, University Communications and Marketing
Tallahassee was glistening in green and gold Wednesday as more than 100 students, alumni and leaders from USF’s three campuses convened for USF Day at the Capitol. The early morning trek for students began at 5 a.m. as they boarded buses for a four-hour ride that placed them directly in sight of lawmakers and state government movers and shakers.
“Seeing how government works on a larger scale as it relates to our state has been extremely insightful and I’m very grateful for this experience,” said Myriam Marc, a senior biomedical sciences major from St. Petersburg.
"As a proud alumnus of the University of South Florida, there are no words to express the sense of pride I have for my alma mater when I see how many students, faculty and staff make the trip and show their bull spirit for USF Day at the Capitol,” said Sen. Danny Burgess, who graduated from USF in 2008.
The annual gathering in the state capitol is organized by USF Student Government and coincides with the current legislative session, which concludes March 8. The visit allows Bulls to rally support for university priorities while lawmakers provide a glimpse into the democratic process.
Following its invitation to join the Association of American Universities last year – one of two institutions from the State University System of Florida to serve as an AAU member – USF seeks to build on its position as a leading research university that provides extraordinary benefits to the Tampa Bay region, the state and beyond.
With a total $6 billion economic impact, state support shows big returns that translate into USF becoming a top university for generating new U.S patents while meeting workforce needs and driving economic development. The university received its largest operational budget increase in its history last year – $63.3 million – with a large portion coming from the state’s Preeminent State Research Universities Program, a designation that rewards high-achieving universities based on 12 metrics, such as graduation and retention rates and research expenditures.
“The support the University of South Florida continues to receive from the Florida Legislature allows us to maximize the benefits of our position as a new member of the Association of American Universities and advance toward our goal of becoming a top 25 public university,” said USF President Rhea Law. “We are proud to have so many students representing our university at this year’s USF Day at the Capitol, and we are grateful to our state leaders for recognizing our institution’s impact on the Tampa Bay region and the state of Florida.
Law was joined on the visit by USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree, Dr. Charly Lockwood, executive vice president of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, and Mike Griffin, a USF alumnus and vice chair of the USF Board of Trustees. He helped organize the first USF Day at the Capitol when he served as student body president more than 20 years ago.
“Our elected officials have been very supportive of USF, and this is an opportunity for them to hear from our students about how valuable that support is in helping them earn a degree with the skills necessary to fill critical workforce needs in our region and our state,” Griffin said. “The experience at USF Day at the Capitol also allows students to gain a much deeper understanding of how state government operates, which will make them even stronger advocates for USF in the future.”
Students infront of capitol building
students on the senate floor
Taking advantage of the opportunity to engage in Tallahassee were Student Government leaders and students of all majors seeking to better understand policymaking and tour the historic buildings where state business is conducted.
Among the day’s activities was an advocacy and leadership panel that included Rep. Lindsay Cross, who represents Pinellas County, and Andres Montero, a USF alum who now is the legislative aide to House Speaker-designate Danny Perez. The panel was followed by a tour of the Supreme Court and meeting a justice. The group then visited the House and Senate chambers, concluding with a reception hosted by the USF Alumni Association.