A PUBLICATION OF THE USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
MAGAZINE VOLUME 2 | 2021
NEW RESIDENCE HALL page 6
CREATING A MORE JUST AND INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY page 16
RESPONDING TO COVID-19 page 24
INNOVATIONS IN THIS ISSUE: LETTER FROM THE REGIONAL CHANCELLOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 NEW RESIDENCE HALL: OSPREY SUITES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 PROVIDING COLLEGE ACCESS FOR PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 EXPLORING CAREERS THROUGH INNOVATION MENTORSHIP PROGRAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 HISTORIAN RAY ARSENAULT RETIRES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 RESPONDING TO RACIAL INEQUITIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 FACULTY PUBLICATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
• Aerial Views of Urbicide • Uncovering an Urban Stream • The Cost of True Crime
FROM ENDOWED CHAIR TO FULBRIGHT AWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 2 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
A PUBLICATION OF THE USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS VOLUME 2 | 2021
ADAPTING TO COLLEGE LIFE DURING A PANDEMIC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 ALUMNI PROFILES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
• Managing the Coronavirus Fallout • Covering the Civil Rights Protests • Fulfilling a Public Health Need • Keeping Hyperlocal News Alive • Opening a Hometown Business
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AWARDS GRANT TO LA FLORIDA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 LAB COMBATS HUMAN TRAFFICKING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 NEW ENDOWED PROFESSORSHIP IN FINANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 TEEN MENTAL HEALTH SAFETY NET . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 GENE BANK TO SAVE SPECIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 MANAGING INVESTMENT FUND DURING TUMULTUOUS YEAR . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Q&A WITH COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE DEAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
CREDITS: Innovations Magazine is written and produced by the USF St. Petersburg campus Marketing & Communications department. Editor: Carrie O’Brion Assistant Editor: Amy Harcar Holloway Art Direction, Design: Lily Hoddinott, Kate Phillips Content Contributors: Carrie O’Brion, Matthew Cimitile, Dyllan Furness Photography: Cliff McBride, Chris Campbell, Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, USF St. Petersburg campus archives, Equal Justice Initiative, La Florida, Dr. Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, Martha AscencioRhine/Tampa Bay Times, Thomas Smith, Google Earth Pro, Homeless Empowerment Program, Laura Mulrooney, Green Bench Brewing, 3 Daughters Brewing, Joan Reid, Melissa Wolfe, Jamie Boyle, USF Foundation and Sean Doody © USF St. Petersburg campus, 2021 INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE | 3
A MESSAGE FROM THE REGIONAL CHANCELLOR USF SYSTEM PRESIDENT Steven C. Currall USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS ADVISORY BOARD Stephanie Goforth, USF Trustee and Campus Board Chair Susan Churuti John Connelly Scott Goyer Lawrence Hamilton Melissa Seixas Debbie Nye Sembler USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS LEADERSHIP
This past year has been remarkable for many reasons. As COVID-19 began its assault, our faculty and staff jumped into action. Our response to the pandemic highlighted the collective strengths of our campus community, from swiftly transitioning to online classes to fostering research that advanced the scientific
Martin Tadlock, Regional Chancellor
knowledge about this complex disease.
Catherine Cardwell, Associate Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library
Then, in early summer, the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police
Patricia Helton, Regional Vice Chancellor of Student Success Deborah Read, Regional Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Nicholas Setteducato, Regional Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Financial Services Jacob Diaz, Regional Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Success and Campus Dean of Students Laura Zuppo, Interim Regional Assistant Vice Chancellor of Enrollment, Planning and Management David Everingham, Regional Associate Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Financial Services Michelle Madden, Campus Diversity Officer Carrie O’Brion, Campus Director of Communications and Marketing Sridhar Sundaram, Dean of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance Magali Michael, Campus Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Brenda Walker, Campus Associate Dean of the College of Education
officers set off a wave of social protest throughout the country. As a campus, we immediately moved to create additional initiatives to raise awareness about and to address the pervasiveness of systemic racism in our country. You’ll read about all of this and more in our second issue of Innovations. This publication is a snapshot of the groundbreaking, student-focused work that is infused throughout our campus. From important new insights into climate change to unearthing new information about Florida’s early history, we are always pushing boundaries and advancing our understanding of the rapidlychanging world around us. In times of adversity, we discover who we really are. This past year exemplifies the grit, determination and compassion that is the core of who we are as members of our campus community. I hope you enjoy this magazine and share it with others. I know I am biased, but I am so very proud of the work we do on the USF St. Petersburg campus. Thank you for your continued support, and I encourage you to stay engaged with us. Regards,
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Martin Tadlock, PhD USF St. Petersburg campus Regional Chancellor
THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF OUR SUCCESS USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS RESEARCH FUNDING DOLLARS ARE INCREASING $20M $20M $18M $16M $14M $12M $10M $8M $6M
FUNDING AGENCIES Our distinguished faculty receive research grants from some of the most prestigious institutions:
AT&T National Science Foundation The National Archives
National Institutes of Health National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration The U.S. Department of Education
Our work is enhanced by the valuable partnerships in our community and beyond, including:
STRONGER TOGETHER AS #ONEUSF As of July 1, 2020, the University of South Florida began officially operating under a single accreditation for the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses. Consolidating from three separately accredited institutions was a requirement of a Florida law passed in 2018 and amended in 2019. Consolidation provides a wide range of new opportunities for students, faculty and staff, and ensures that every USF student has the opportunity to earn their degree from a top-ranked, nationally-recognized research institution. USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
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NEW RESIDENCE HALL CALLED ‘TRANSFORMATIONAL’ FOR ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS Carrie O’Brion
In 2015, the demand for housing at USF’s St. Petersburg campus outstripped supply by so much that 78 students were relocated to a nearby Hilton hotel where they roomed near tourists and business travelers. It was clear a new solution was needed. A new residence hall would not only help with the overflow, it would create new opportunities for academic programming and bolster student success initiatives. The hall would also provide an affordable avenue for living in the heart of a thriving metropolitan area. “We were excited about the possibility of having students in close proximity to the campus and close proximity to downtown St. Petersburg,” said Jacob Diaz, dean of students at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “We just thought, in combination, all of those factors would provide a really rich experience for them.” In fall 2020, the campus officially welcomed students to Osprey Suites, a six-story, 375-bed facility on the northwestern corner of campus on 6th Avenue S. between 3rd and 4th Street S. USF officials called the project “transformational” and predicted it would bring new life and vibrancy to both the campus and the surrounding community. “This new facility will be a place where students hang out in the lounges, study together, learn from each other, grab a bite to eat and plan a future filled with hope and a promise for a sustainable future and a better tomorrow,” said Martin Tadlock, USF St. Petersburg campus regional chancellor. “It means more of our students will have the opportunity to live and learn in downtown St. Petersburg, just steps away from tremendous research and internship opportunities.” The building expanded on-campus student housing by nearly 70 percent, from approximately 550 beds to more than 900. A first-floor, full-service dining facility is expected to open in January. While Osprey Suites can accommodate 375 students, only about 173 were living in the hall during the fall semester due to social distancing restrictions and a reduced number of students on campus as a result of COVID-19.
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The $33-million facility was made possible by leveraging the collective strengths of the USF campuses, which were consolidated into one university on July 1, 2020. Revenues from USF’s Tampa campus student housing were used to provide bond capacity to fund Osprey Suites. Dallas-based Beck Group was the architect for the project. Before breaking ground, they and USF officials reached out to students to conduct focus groups and solicit their input on the design. The student input helped drive many of the design choices, such as the inclusion of a community kitchen on the first floor. Students also expressed a desire for sustainable building processes, which led to furniture and design features made of salvaged lumber from oak trees that were removed during construction of the building. “Honestly, something that I love about our campus is that they’re continually engaging us, asking us for our opinions and our feedback on things because they really want our spaces to reflect the things that we want to see,” said Alexius McZee, a residential advisor in Osprey Suites. The building is light and airy and features study lounges with floorto-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor. Rooms are suite-style in configuration, with the majority being shared two bedroom, one-bath suites. The remainder of the suites are three or four single occupancy bedrooms with two bathrooms. Byron Green, assistant director of residential education, said students told him they wanted a building that was homey, modern and lively. So they focused on creating spaces where students could gather and create a sense of community. “We wanted our students to have that experience, that this is home,” Green said. “And what is home without those livable spaces?”
USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
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PROVIDING YOUNG PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION Matthew Cimitile
Around 6 to 7 million people living in the United States have intellectual disabilities. Such disabilities can impact learning, reasoning and problem solving. They originate in the individual well before the age of 18, and examples include those living with Down syndrome and some on the autism spectrum. These barriers result in a population of students who rarely, if ever, experience higher education, nor the personal growth, job opportunities and independence that can come from such an experience. The UMatter program at USF’s St. Petersburg campus seeks to change that. A $900,000 grant establishing the new program will provide young people with intellectual disabilities the learning, social skills and career training to set them up to be competitively employed and live independently. 8 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
“It’s about providing the same kind of adult life opportunities that any other individual would want in our society,” said Lyman Dukes, professor of special education and principal investigator of the program. “There has been this misperception that people with these disabilities do not have the aptitude to learn. But we now know and the data clearly indicate that young people that participate in these types of programs are employed at much greater rates, earn higher salaries, live independently more often and have a better quality of life.” UMatter will focus on developing greater adaptive behaviors, which are everyday decisions regarding time management and healthy choices. Through support from professional staff and mentors, students will navigate the transition from high school to college, acquire skills in socialization and participate in internships.
McFatter Technical College
Florida Atlantic University
UMatter will join other programs throughout the state of Florida that serve students with intellectual disabilities, including Florida Atlantic University’s Academy for Community Inclusion, McFatter Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program and University of Central Florida Inclusive Education Services.
University of Central Florida
Students will not only pursue their academic passions, but have opportunities to have a true college experience by attending sporting events and being part of clubs. “Young adults with these disabilities tend to not have been exposed to high expectations, such as going to college or pursuing a career,” said Danielle Roberts-Dahm, UMatter co-principal investigator and director. “But through training and support, they will learn practical and social skills in order to develop appropriate social relationships and know how to ask for help when they need it.” The program plans to start with an inaugural class of between 8-12 students for the fall 2021 semester and then welcome up to 10 students in the following years. Scholarship funds of up to $7,000 will be available to eligible students to cover tuition, housing, fees and other expenses. Most of the grant funding will go towards hiring trained special education professionals and student mentors. Dukes and Roberts-Dahm plan to engage with local high schools, attend college and agency fairs and list the program on the national database ThinkCollege and on the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities website to recruit eligible students. USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
“The target population are people with intellectual disabilities who want to continue their education in a university setting and are committed to taking classes, participating in internships and have a specific career goal,” said Dukes. Florida is an emerging leader in enhancing inclusive postsecondary educational opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities. In 2016, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Post-Secondary Comprehensive Transition Program Act, which established the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, the funding source for the UMatter program. This center receives funding every year, which then provides start-up and expansion grants as well as student scholarships to initiatives focused on improving the lives of students with intellectual disabilities. A similar program called Stages is already established at the USF Tampa campus. “UMatter will open a lot of opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, including expanding a person’s circle of support,” said RobertsDahm. “It is the relationships students build with their peers that will turn into lifelong friendships, leading to an independent and fulfilling life.”
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AS THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASES, RESEARCHERS COMMIT TO UNDERSTANDING ITS IMPACTS Dyllan Furness
Dodging raindrops on the morning of September 3, 2016, Kara Doran paddled a rust-colored kayak through an ephemeral pond in St. Petersburg’s Holiday Park neighborhood. One day earlier, Hurricane Hermine became the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in more than a decade. Despite its relatively low strength, the Category 1 storm brought flooding that stretched up the state’s west coast and along its panhandle, resulting in five deaths and $550 million in damages in the southeastern U.S. In 2019, an image of Doran, a physical scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, kayaking through Hermine’s flooded streets won a photo contest from the Initiative for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (iCAR) on USF’s St. Petersburg campus.
Seven more fatal storms have impacted Florida since 2016 and as climate change intensifies, future storms are expected to grow stronger. Experts predict that warming ocean temperatures could increase the average strength of hurricanes in the years ahead, adding to an expanding list of environmental risks associated with human-caused climate change. Across USF’s St. Petersburg campus, researchers are hard at work studying factors that contribute to climate and environmental issues, helping local communities better brace for its impacts. From coastal resilience and flood awareness to the effects of red tide and thawing permafrost, these projects demonstrate our faculty’s commitment to what’s been called the defining issue of our time.
ICAR BUILDS COMMUNITY RESILIENCY “Hurricanes go hand-in-hand with life in Florida,” said Rebecca Johns, an associate professor of geography and iCAR’s director of community outreach and education. “But residents sometimes underestimate the ways these storms can change the face of our neighborhoods. Kara’s photo perfectly illustrated just how impactful even a relatively weak storm can be.” 10 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
Coastal communities are among the most at risk from climate change. At iCAR, professors Barnali Dixon and Rebecca Johns have launched an interactive platform that allows citizens from across St. Petersburg to track and monitor the ways climate change is affecting their neighborhoods.
and remote sensing. “Residents know more about their own neighborhood than anyone else. Using CRIS, we can harvest information to build a system that offers two-way communication between community members and policymakers. That way, policymakers are not just handing out policies – they are able to develop policies using information collected from the community they intend to benefit.”
PERMAFROST THAWING INCREASES MERCURY POLLUTION The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. As a result, permafrost – so called because it is meant to remain frozen for at least two consecutive years – is thawing at a record pace. That could mean trouble for fish in Alaska’s Yukon River and wildlife that depend on those species for survival. If greenhouse gas emissions are not dramatically reduced, the concentration of mercury in fish in the Yukon River may exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury criterion by 2050, according to a paper co-authored by Yasin Elshorbany, assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate change at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Published this year in the journal Nature Communications, the report estimates that by 2200 levels of mercury emitted into the atmosphere annually by thawing permafrost could compare with current global human-caused emissions. In February, iCAR’s Community Resiliency Information System (CRIS) was awarded a $50,000 grant through AT&T’s Climate Resiliency Community Challenge. USF’s St. Petersburg campus was one of five institutions in the southeastern United States to receive the grant. Designed to “make smart cities smarter,” CRIS uses citizen engagement and crowdsourced data to gain insights on the local consequences of climate change. The system allows residents to input data related to issues such as flooding and power outages, which can then be used by policy makers and neighborhood leaders to make decisions about policy and resource allocation. The data also allows emergency managers to identify areas with concentrations of people who need transportation assistance or are reliant on power for medical needs. “Our goal with CRIS is to gather information and intelligence from the people,” said Dixon, executive director of iCAR and professor of geographic information systems
USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
“The thaw of permafrost due to climate change releases not only carbon emissions but also mercury,” said Elshorbany. Governments must comply with the emissions targets of two degrees Celsius set by the Paris Accord, “otherwise, under a high-emissions scenario, a significant portion of mercury will be released to the environment and it will continue for hundreds of years.”
Residents know more about their own neighborhood than anyone else. Using CRIS, we can build a system that offers two-way communication between community members and policymakers.
Led by Elshorbany, the Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Laboratory is using funds from several federal and internal grants addressing atmospheric chemistry and climate issues through state-of-the-art in-situ measurements, remote sensing and 3D modeling approaches. Elshorbany and his team hope to unlock the secrets of climate change in order to reduce its impacts.
FLOOD AWARENESS SURVEY FINDS RESIDENTS UNDERESTIMATE RISK Despite years of extreme weather events fueled by climate change, consumers significantly underestimate their risk level of
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UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS
flooding, leading many to forego flood insurance. That was the finding of a national survey of flood risk awareness conducted by the USF Institute for Data Analytics and Visualization in partnership with Neptune Flood, an artificial intelligencedriven flood insurance company. The Neptune Consumer Survey of Flood Awareness polled more than 1,000 residents in 36 states to measure perceptions of flood risk and insurance. Around 63 percent of total respondents said they have no to low risk of flooding. Of the 188 Floridians surveyed, 65 percent believed they were at no to low risk of flooding. “This survey highlights the challenge of consumer adoption of an important, but mostly non-mandatory, product,” said Phil Trocchia, professor of marketing at USF’s St. Petersburg campus who designed and conducted the survey. “The data indicate that the low level of demand for flood insurance is largely driven by misunderstanding of risk, lack of knowledge of cost and confusion around private versus government flood insurance.” Many respondents perceived flood insurance as too expensive to buy or keep. About 45 percent of those who don’t have flood insurance elected not to purchase it for financial reasons. Others said they did not know the cost or didn’t want to consider the consequences. The results provide a potential roadmap for the industry and government to work together to address issues around flood risk and flood insurance coverage across the U.S.
The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System and NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science have awarded $277,122 to a two-year project co-led by Heather O’Leary, assistant professor of anthropology at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Working with Sergio Alvarez, assistant professor at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and the Sustainable Coastal Systems Cluster at the University of Central Florida, O’Leary will examine the economic impacts of red tide events across 80 different sectors, based on varied bloom occurrence and intensity. The team will investigate the idea that social media is in part fueling these economic consequences.
These findings can help bolster educational campaigns and public service announcements with the goal of enhancing public awareness on both the risk of flooding and value of flood insurance in coastal areas.
“These findings can help bolster educational campaigns and public service announcements with the goal of enhancing public awareness on both the risk of flooding and value of flood insurance in coastal areas,” said Trocchia.
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When red tide emerges off the shores of Southwest Florida, the noxious fumes can cause beaches to clear and local businesses to flounder. In fact, industries across the U.S. are estimated to suffer millions of dollars in economic losses from red tides and other harmful algal blooms, natural phenomenon that can kill marine life as oxygen levels in water plummet and toxins surge. Although these blooms are of national concern, their true economic impacts remain unknown.
“When everyday people make the small-scale and large-scale decisions that ultimately impact Florida’s economy, they’re not necessarily checking biophysical monitoring or formal economic metrics,” O’Leary said. “They’re more likely making those decisions by checking with friends and colleagues on social media. By keeping one eye on social media and the other on economic metrics, we’re able to get a better sense of how these interact to make the events worse, or to lessen their impact.”
As harmful algal blooms become more frequent, understanding their true costs is key to developing effective response and adaptation strategies that meet the needs of impacted communities in Florida and around the country.
STUDENTS EXPLORE CAREER PATHS THROUGH
INNOVATION MENTORSHIP PROGRAM Dyllan Furness
When Chuck Egerter was a young engineering student, an internship at Lockheed Martin proved instrumental to the career he later built for himself. “It wasn’t just the ‘on the job’ experience that was key, it was the oneon-one mentoring I received with a few senior folks who were genuinely interested in helping me,” said Egerter, founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm Guardian Eagle. “It is largely that experience that motivates me to do the same thing with younger people whenever I can.” This fall, Egerter returned as a mentor in the Innovation Scholars Career Exploration Program, a job-shadowing program that offers first-year students a head start in exploring their interests and career paths. More than 70 students were paired with professionals in downtown St. Petersburg, giving them a sneak peek into day-to-day activities in the professional world. “Giving students a deeper look into careers while they are still in their freshman year gives them a chance to make sure they are on the academic path they want to be on,” said Egerter. “Finding out that a career in a specific field isn’t what you really want to do is just as useful as finding out that you love it. The sooner students can evaluate things like this the better.” For Egerter’s mentee Cassandra Bernard, a freshman pursuing a major in marketing and minor in business analytics, the Innovation Scholars program helped her make an informed decision about her goals and course of study. ”From my experience in the program, I was able to solidify my major, minor and academic path quickly and with confidence,” she said. “Being able to learn about different career paths directly from people in that field has been very beneficial. I gained more of an understanding of my interests
USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
and disinterests, and was able to learn how my current skills are relevant to certain jobs that I wasn’t aware of before.” Launched in 2019, the Innovation Scholars program is a collaboration between USF’s St. Petersburg campus and the St. Petersburg Innovation District. The first year saw a cohort of around 30 incoming students matched with mentors representing organizations and businesses just a short distance away from the university. This fall semester nearly 100 incoming freshmen applied for the program, many of whom secured mentorships at places like Duke Energy, Pinellas County Schools, Raymond James, NOAA Fisheries Service and the Florida Orchestra. “This program is a unique opportunity for students to gain early exposure to careers and career advice from local professionals,” said Kasey Kobs, coordinator for internships and career experiences, who oversees the program. “Students are able to broaden their network of connections while testing out potential occupations – both of which are invaluable for future career success.” Over the course of the semester, Innovation Scholars students meet with their mentors at least three times, shadowing their daily activities, attending business meetings and getting a glimpse of what it’s like to join the workforce. Fall semester meetings were held virtually due to the coronavirus. For many students, the benefits of the Innovation Scholars program don’t stop when their mentorship is over. Egerter was so impressed by Bernard’s passion and performance that he offered her a part-time position as a marketing systems administrator at Guardian Eagle. “I’m excited to learn from hands-on experience in my field of interest alongside schooling,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity the Innovation Scholar Program and Chuck gave me.” INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE | 13
DECORATED CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORIAN AND CAMPUS CHAMPION RAY ARSENAULT RETIRES Matthew Cimitile
Historian Ray Arsenault was taken aback the first time he arrived on the USF St. Petersburg campus in 1980.
teacher and historian of civil rights and the South, while playing a vital role in the transformation of the USF campus by the bay.
After four years of teaching at one of the biggest universities in the country, the University of Minnesota, Arsenault took a chance on a professorship at a small regional campus in a resort town on the Florida Gulf coast.
He was a constant champion and a faculty leader of the campus as it grew in students, buildings, academic programs and reputation, transforming as the city evolved into a hub for the arts, culture and education. He became one of the most beloved teachers at USF during his tenure as the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and cofounded the interdisciplinary Florida Studies graduate program that gives students the opportunity to explore the history, environment and politics that highlight Florida’s critical role in regional and national affairs.
“All my Minnesota colleagues thought I was crazy to leave. But my Floridaborn wife hated the winters,” said Arsenault. “When we arrived, the campus was so small. Davis Hall hadn’t opened and there wasn’t even a separate library building. I’d never seen any other university like it.” But Arsenault, who graduated from Princeton and received his PhD from Brandeis University, fell in love with St. Petersburg and the campus community. “The campus perfectly reflected and fit in with the spirit of the city. It felt like a place that could grow into something special.” Over the next four decades, Arsenault compiled a remarkable record as a 14 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
After 40 years, Arsenault retired from the USF St. Petersburg campus at the end of the fall 2020 semester. “One of the reasons why I stayed here pretty much all of my career was the community feel and beauty of this place, a perfect small liberal arts college,” said Arsenault. “I feel very fortunate to have ended up in such a welcoming place to live and raise two daughters – an environment where
years researching the events of 1961 and interviewing more than 200 individuals who took part in the rides. Following the book’s publication in 2006, he collaborated with the noted African American documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson to produce the two-hour PBS American Experience documentary “Freedom Riders,” which went on to win three Emmys and a George Peabody award and become part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ We the People project. It also landed Arsenault a seat on the set of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show along with several Freedom Riders – with another 180 Freedom Riders in the studio audience – to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the rides.
Ray Arsenault marches in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade along with USF St. Petersburg faculty and staff in 2006.
“They believed in racial justice and nonviolent struggle so deeply that they were willing to die for their cause,” said Arsenault when asked why the story of the Freedom Riders continues to resonate today. “They wanted freedom now, not later.”
I was fully supported by administration and colleagues to pursue my teaching, research and community service.” That service included consulting for national and local museums such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and St. Petersburg’s own Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum that he helped to found, serving a term as Florida president of the American Civil Liberties Union and becoming the city’s de-facto “public intellectual guy” due to his popular book “St. Petersburg and the Florida Dream, 1888-1950.” After the book’s publication in 1988, he was asked to serve on countless city committees and boards.
Arsenault’s book on Marian Anderson is the basis for a PBS American Masters documentary to be broadcast in 2022, and he is under contract with a Hollywood studio to produce a major film on Arthur Ashe based on his biography.
The campus perfectly reflected and fit in with the spirit of the city. It felt like a place that could grow into something special.
Arsenault is best known as one of the most celebrated historians of the civil rights movement, writing an authoritative history of the Freedom Riders, a group of hundreds of civil rights activists who in 1961 assembled on buses and trains and headed into the Deep South to fight against the segregation of interstate travel. He also wrote a book on Marian Anderson, the great African American singer, and her fight to sing at Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall in 1939. More recently, Arsenault authored the first comprehensive biography of tennis legend Arthur Ashe, charting Ashe’s transformation from a shy African-American boy from segregated Virginia to a cosmopolitan human rights advocate who transformed the world of sports and activism.
“I always wanted to write for a broader audience as I see my books as an extension of my teaching. And starting with ‘Freedom Riders’ I got into a habit of writing big books that take eight to nine years to complete,” Arsenault said with a chuckle. The history of the Freedom Riders became a much bigger project, and sensation, than Arsenault could have ever imagined. He spent nearly eight USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
“I’m proud that I threw myself into and somehow managed to complete these challenging projects,” he said. “So many people have told me reading my books made them feel empowered. They thank me for bringing these stories of courageous activism to light. I feel honored to be part of the community of scholars that works on race, civil rights and social justice.” Arsenault looks forward to his retirement and plans to spend more time with his family, including two young grandchildren Lincoln and Poppy who live in Washington D.C. But he will still be a presence on a campus and in a community he has given so much to and received so much from.
“St. Petersburg has given me a sense of place, an identity,” Arsenault explained. “I never lived anywhere more than five years before coming here. I’ve been here 41 years now, and it has become my home. I have developed such a deep affection for the city and this campus. All the students and colleagues who have worked and studied here have a lot to be proud of in making this place what it is.” And though he says he is slowing down, Arsenault is still pursuing social justice and still writing, set to begin work on his eleventh book, a biography of the late John Lewis, the U.S. Representative and Freedom Rider who he was privileged to know and befriend. The book, Arsenault promises, will be relatively short, giving him plenty of time to enjoy other retirement adventures. INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE | 15
USF’S ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS RESPONDS TO RACIAL INEQUITIES BY WORKING TO CREATE A MORE JUST AND INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY
On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer killed an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
FIRST LYNCHING MEMORIAL MARKER TO DOCUMENT LOCAL HISTORY OF RACIAL VIOLENCE
The Floyd killing, coming on the heels of other deaths of unarmed Black Americans such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, led to nationwide and worldwide protests denouncing police brutality, an unequal justice system and systematic racism.
A coalition of scholars, activists and civic leaders are working to install the first lynching memorial marker in St. Petersburg, designed to document the history of racial violence in the city.
Chants of “Black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace” filled the streets around Tampa Bay and many other communities. Protesters called on their elected officials for police reform, while demanding institutions act now for change. The movement prompted faculty, staff and students at USF’s St. Petersburg campus to call awareness to the long and painful history of racism in this nation that still lingers with us today and demand action aimed at overcoming that past to create a better future.
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The initiative is led by the Pinellas County Community Remembrance Project Coalition, whose mission is to “bear witness to the legacy of racial terror, epitomized by lynchings in America.” The coalition members include representatives from USF’s St. Petersburg campus, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, the Florida State Senate, the NAACP and many others. Their work is part of a larger nationwide effort by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to document thousands of lynchings that have occurred in America’s past and increase public awareness on the history of racial violence that has impacted present-day racial issues, mass incarceration and poverty.
the pole. Eventually, a woman in a car drove by and shot Evans. Soon others in the crowd began shooting, killing Evans. “His body was left hanging there for quite some time after as a reminder to the black community,” said Julie Armstrong, professor of English at the USF St. Petersburg campus who is part of the coalition’s research team. “This event was the very definition of a spectacle lynching, and it sent a message about white supremacy and white hierarchy.” More than 10 years later, Parker Watson was lynched in St. Petersburg. This time however, the local Black and certain elements of the white community denounced the act, according to newspaper articles and other historical documents that have been reviewed and verified by EJI and the Pinellas coalition. Along with installing a marker on the site of the 1914 lynching, with the land being donated by the city of St. Petersburg, the coalition is researching and uncovering other potential lynchings that occurred in the region, gathering soil samples, organizing an essay contest and encouraging public conversations around these issues. “The marker is really just a jumping off point,” said Armstrong. “There are deep race and class divides still that we need to honestly address and the marker is one step in that process that we hope can lead to greater community conversations.” The marker is planned to be installed on Martin Luther King Jr. Street and 2nd Avenue South, the site of the lynching of John Evans.
TASK FORCE SEEKS CAMPUS-COMMUNITY COLLABORATION TO ADDRESS SYSTEMATIC RACISM “By memorializing victims of this racial terror, hopefully you get people to pay attention to and talk about this history and perhaps it leads to some reconciliation of racial tension that exist in the United States,” said Jacqueline Hubbard, co-chair of the coalition and a retired lawyer.
USF’s St. Petersburg campus is working to bridge efforts between the campus and the greater community to address pervasive racial inequities. A diversity, inclusion and equity task force is examining current policies and practices alongside ongoing efforts in the city of St. Petersburg, with the intent of strengthening actions that promote greater equity and a more inclusive environment. Members are researching best practices, developing collaborations and looking into adapting successful programs from other localities.
Advancing innovative, interdisciplinary research is a key element of our active commitment to addressing racism in society.
In 1914, the laborer John Evans was accused of the murder of Ed Sherman and attacking Sherman’s wife. Evans was recently fired by Sherman, who was a local real estate developer. Though never identified by Mrs. Sherman and never given a trial, Evans was arrested on charges of the crime and thrown in jail. On the night of November 12, a mob took him from the jail, and in front of 1,500 people from the local community, hanged him from a light post.
Evans struggled for a time to hold himself up by wrapping his legs around USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
“As a campus absolutely committed to the values of diversity and inclusion, where our students launch initiatives such as You Belong Here that reflect the community and compassion they want to see in the world, we have an obligation to dedicate financial resources, talent and time to further those INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE | 17
values and to live our lives in accordance with those values,” said Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. To date, the task force is pursuing:
Members of the task force include campus administrators, faculty and students as well as city officials and representatives from nonprofits, business, local high schools and higher education institutions.
• The establishment of a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation
“The work of this task force will have lasting impacts on our community that resonate far beyond the obvious intersections between the university and broader city,” said Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. “We expect the thought leadership, innovations and outcomes produced by the task force will serve as an example of integrity and prioritization of systemic inclusion that lifts us all.”
Campus Center. This program prepares the next generation of strategic leaders to break down racial hierarchies by implementing actions that erase structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity. About 25 universities already host these campus centers around the country. The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg has provided a $50,000 grant to the campus to support the planning of this center.
• A set of strategies to assist high school students from historically underrepresented families as they move through available pathway programs to get into USF.
• The mentorship and training of historically underrepresented youth through the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keepers initiative and the Cohort of Champions training program, a city of St. Petersburg program that offers mentoring, support networks and skills training. 18 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
In recent years, USF has worked to address inequities in higher education. In 2017, the St. Petersburg campus hired its first diversity officer to advance initiatives around diversity. The following year, the campus’s first Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan was instituted. So far, the plan has resulted in the campus adjusting search processes and hiring policies, developing partnerships with local civil rights organizations and dedicating greater resources to recruit, retain and graduate students from underserved communities.
“Through feedback we received as part of the plan’s listening sessions, students of color are saying they want to see more students and faculty like them on campus and that the population should be reflective of the community,” said Caryn Nesmith, who leads strategic initiatives for the regional chancellor’s office.
The USF Research Task Force on Understanding and Addressing Blackness and Anti-Black Racism in our Local, National and International Communities selected the projects as a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to create deeper understanding of complex issues while forging solutions and productive community partnerships.
The community of St. Petersburg, like other major cities across the nation, continues to deal with racial disparities that lead to unequal outcomes. A 2020 report from the Tampa Bay Partnership found African Americans, when compared to white residents in the region, are more likely to live in poverty, to struggle in school and earn less.
Projects spanning eight USF colleges and all three campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee are part of the year-long effort funded through $500,000 provided by the Office of the Provost and USF Research & Innovation. The Florida High Tech Corridor Council also supported the effort.
How much less? A 10 Tampa Bay WTSP news investigation this year uncovered that in St. Petersburg white families earned a median income of $58,828, whereas black families earned $22,488 less, or $36,340. “The economic disparities really drive two distinct livelihoods in St. Petersburg that almost exactly fall on the racial divide,” said Michelle Madden, USF St. Petersburg campus diversity, inclusion and equity officer. With this as the backdrop, and the recent episodes of racial violence and protests, it led to an awakening for greater action, said Madden, who is also a member of the task force.
We expect the thought leadership, innovations and outcomes produced by the task force will serve as an example of integrity and prioritization of systemic inclusion that lifts us all.
Though the work of the task force is just beginning, the group meets regularly to highlight progress and enhance collaboration among the various stakeholders in the community. And the activities on the St. Petersburg campus reinforce USF’s commitment to this vital issue.
“Addressing diversity and equity concerns is not a job for one person and if there are no resources and people in place to help move this along, it won’t happen,” said Madden. “But there are so many people across our campuses and in the community who are doing the work and are invested in addressing these inequities that have existed for a very long time. I am excited about the direction in which we are moving.”
USF FUNDS 23 RESEARCH PROJECTS IN ANTI-RACISM EFFORT The University of South Florida funded 23 projects that explore a wide range of issues in systemic inequality, economic and health disparities, black history and contemporary challenges.
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The projects include a series of efforts within the Tampa Bay region to address systemic issues in education, health care, economic inclusion and identity, while other projects will take USF researchers to as far away as Brazil and South Africa to examine those same issues. Including co-principal investigators, nearly 90 USF faculty members are involved in the research projects, some of which will include undergraduate and graduate student researchers.
One of the projects led by Brenda Walker, interim associate dean of the College of Education on USF’s St. Petersburg campus, will talk and listen to students and families affected by the disproportionate rate of school punishment for African American students. Talking to students and families affected by this disparate treatment, researchers hope to explore the extent to which perceptions of racism or differential treatment are held by African American students and elicit opinions on how schools should address this corrosive problem. Another project led by psychology Professor Tiffany Chenneville will assess racism and resulting HIV health disparities among black adolescents through focus group discussion and in-depth interviews. The goal is to refine, improve and culturally adapt existing HIV stigma intervention and treatment programs. “The University of South Florida has a responsibility to help create a civil, humane and compassionate society that deeply values diversity and inclusion,” USF President Steve Currall said. “Advancing innovative, interdisciplinary research is a key element of our active commitment to addressing racism in society.”
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FACULTY PUBLICATIONS Dyllan Furness
AERIAL VIEWS OF URBICIDE In modern day Turkey, ancient cities like Diyarbakır are at the center of an armed conflict between the government and Kurdish residents who call the cities home. Using satellite imagery, political science Professor Thomas Smith has studied Turkish attempts to raze and rebuild these historic sites in a neo-Ottoman fashion promoted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Smith traveled to Diyarbakır to survey the “urbicide” – the destruction of cities – up close in January 2020 and is submitting a paper on his findings to a human rights journal. While visiting Diyarbakir, Smith inspected the destruction and reconstruction, spoke with residents and interviewed historical preservationists. He witnessed a profound economic divide embodied by new high-end housing developments. “There’s a sort of ‘disaster capitalism’ at play there,” Smith said. “Developers who are in the good graces of Erdogan get the contracts to redevelop the bulldozed areas. In the Kurdish area, the redevelopment is intended to diminish and in some cases erase Kurdish culture, history and built environment.” The contrast between old and new is perhaps most stark within Diyarbakır’s historic walled district, Sur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Erdogan’s idea is that this will become a tourist destination,” Smith said. “The state’s development plan is to turn it into a sort of Ottoman Disneyland.”
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UNCOVERING AN URBAN STREAM For hundreds of years, Booker Creek has been bridged, buried and built into communities along its banks by people living on the Pinellas peninsula – from native Tocobaga Indians to contemporary city planners. This summer, a collection of writings and photographs chronicling this often-overlooked urban waterway was published by English Professor Thomas Hallock and three graduate research assistants. “Voices of Booker Creek” reveals a local history of living alongside the storied urban stream. Beginning when racially segregated communities began to form in the 1920s, the book includes historical photos and news articles, as well as contributions from professional writers, public officials and high school students. “The intent was to provide as many perspectives as possible,” said Hallock, who from 2018-2020 served as the Frank E. Duckwall Professor of Florida Studies. “We wanted to include this diversity because discussions of the creek have come from the top-down, starting from purposes of economic development and examining the area’s longer history only peripherally.” “Voices of Booker Creek” is the third book in a series produced by Hallock and graduate students that explore urban waterways and challenge conceptions about natural environments.
THE COST OF TRUE CRIME From hit podcasts like “Serial” to documentaries like “Making a Murderer,” fans can’t seem to get enough of the true crime genre. Criminology Professor Dawn Cecil’s “Fear, Justice, and Modern True Crime” examines the current wave of true crime entertainment to uncover its impact on society. The book began as a personal pursuit for Cecil, who teaches courses on crime, media and pop culture. Ever curious about how crime and prisons are depicted in popular culture, Cecil was drawn to the hit podcast “Serial” for the way the series seemed to unravel what was otherwise a closed case. After reviewing other true crime podcasts, Cecil recognized that the genre was changing and set out researching for the book. In her book, Cecil explores key questions about the ways modern true crime represents, assists in and complicates the criminal justice system. “There are complex relationships between producers, criminal investigators, victims and the accused,” she said. While some programs, such as “Serial,” have led to new developments in the cases they cover, others have wasted law enforcement resources and forced victims’ families to relive their grief. “My book explores a number of ethical concerns raised by the genre.”
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FROM ENDOWED CHAIR TO FULBRIGHT AWARD 2020 IS EVENTFUL YEAR FOR PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR Carrie O’Brion
As protests for racial justice raged and COVID-19 disproportionately ravaged communities of color, Professor Tiffany Chenneville watched the situation unfold from an ethical standpoint.
HIV health disparities was one of 23 awarded a grant as part of a USF initiative aimed at racial issues and attitudes.
“Maybe it’s just because of the way I view things but I do see social justice as an ethical issue,” said Chenneville, who chairs the psychology department at USF’s St. Petersburg campus.
“I’m so thrilled and honored,” said Chenneville, an expert on HIV prevention and treatment in youth and the psychosocial issues affecting youth who have acquired the disease. “It’s just so gratifying to be a part of so many exciting opportunities.”
As an ethicist and a scholar, Chenneville had a very busy year in 2020. In February, she was appointed the Marie E. and E. Leslie Cole Endowed Chair in Ethics. A few months later, she was awarded the Fulbright Canada Research Chair position to conduct research and enhance international collaborations at York University in Toronto, Canada. Then,
The Marie E. and E. Leslie Cole Endowed Chair in Ethics was previously held by philosophy Professor Hugh LaFollette, who retired in May 2019. Chenneville was nominated for the position and a committee of USF College of Arts and Sciences professors from the St. Petersburg and Tampa campuses unanimously recommended approval.
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“I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone and get into a different environment,” she said. “I hope to share information about the methods and findings of my program of research by hosting workshops, conducting guest lectures and engaging in mentoring opportunities with graduate students while also collaborating on research with faculty in pediatric psychology.” Chenneville plans to expand the HIV SEERs (Stigma-reduction through Education, Empowerment, and Research) project in Canada that she began in Kenya in 2015. SEERs is a collaborative initiative between USF’s St. Petersburg campus and Springs of Hope Kenya, an orphanage for children affected by HIV.
Maybe it’s just because of the way I view things but I do see social justice as an ethical issue.
The endowed chair was created in 1990 with a $500,000 gift from Edward L. Cole Jr., a former St. Petersburg mayor and City Council member, which was combined with a $100,000 gift from Florida Progress Corp. and a matching $420,000 contribution from the state of Florida. The holder of the position is responsible for organizing and hosting an annual public symposium in the field of ethics. In October, Chenneville hosted a virtual panel discussion on “Promoting Ethical Behavior through Social Justice Research, Advocacy, and Civic Engagement.” The panelists were Kanika Tomalin, St. Petersburg deputy mayor; Jagadisa-Devasri Dacus, postdoctoral research fellow from Columbia University; and Sam Obeid, a social justice advocate. If the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t occurred, Chenneville would be heading to Toronto for the spring semester as the Fulbright Canada Research Chair. However, her appointment has been delayed until August 2021 due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19. When she does depart, Chenneville will conduct international collaborative research with faculty and graduate students on the ethical, legal and psychosocial issues related to pediatric and adolescent HIV research and treatment.
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Kemesha Gabbidon, a post-doctoral fellow in the psychology department who will become an assistant professor in January, is expanding on the HIV SEERs Project in the Tampa Bay area. Together with Dr. Gabbidon, Chenneville will build upon this work in the local community with a grant awarded as part of a USF initiative to explore a wide range of issues related to systematic racism and attitudes on a local, national and global scale. The project, one of 23 funded by USF as part of the initiative, will assess anti-Black racism and the resulting HIV health disparities among Black adolescents. Chenneville and Gabbidon will conduct focus groups and indepth interviews in an effort to help refine, improve and culturally adapt existing HIV stigma intervention and treatment programs. “We’re going to be looking at Black adolescents who are living with HIV and also parents or caregivers of black adolescents living with HIV,” Chenneville said. Chenneville said she has always felt fortunate to have a career that allows her to pursue her passions but this past year has heightened her appreciation for this work. “The endowed chair position, the anti-racism funding and the Fulbright Award all support my scholarship in various ways,” she said. “What these accomplishments have in common is that they will help me to contribute, or at least try to contribute, to society in meaningful ways. Ultimately, that is what is most important to me.” INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE | 23
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RESPONDING TO THE
PANDEMIC HOW USF’S ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS ADAPTED TO LIFE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19 Carrie O’Brion
In mid-March, USF President Steve Currall sent a message to faculty, staff and students with news that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Board of Governors were directing all state universities to fully transition to remote instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The note marked the beginning of a strange and challenging time at USF, as everyone adhered to new health guidelines and learned to work together while remaining in their homes. It also forced faculty and staff to grapple with new questions related to serving students while protecting their health and safety. On the St. Petersburg campus, the response to COVID-19 was rapid and multi-faceted. Faculty worked with instructional designers from the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library to quickly transition their courses online. Student engagement staff brainstormed ideas to keep students engaged while practicing social distancing. Meanwhile, leaders from throughout the university consulted health and government experts to create the safest environment possible for all. “These have been difficult times and I’m so proud of the way our faculty, staff and students have come together to support one another,” said Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “During times of crisis, you see who you really are and our campus community has proven itself to be creative, compassionate and deeply committed to student success.” While USF continues to prepare for potential challenges ahead related to the coronavirus, here’s a look back at how the response unfolded at USF’s St. Petersburg campus.
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MOVING TO REMOTE LEARNING How do you transition all of your courses onto a virtual platform in the midst of a global pandemic without disrupting students’ progress? Very quickly. Shortly after the announcement from President Currall that USF would transition to remote instruction, the team from Online Learning and Instructional Technology Services (OLITS) helped faculty convert nearly 500 courses online in a matter of days so that learning could continue seamlessly despite the pandemic. Led by Associate Director David Brodosi, the team also established a virtual open lab where faculty can drop in to get help with the online learning platform Canvas, as well as instruction on how to use Microsoft Teams and other virtual meeting software. The entire academic continuity group created a ticket system and phone line support system to provide additional paths for faculty to reach out for guidance. Everything was set up and operational in 48 hours, a process that typically takes weeks.
large gatherings, the Student Life and Engagement staff had to think of new and creative ways to connect students. At the COMPASS student experience office, they turned to a time-honored concept: the pen pal. Students were invited to sign up online and get matched with a likeminded pal. Less than 48 hours after it was announced on Instagram, more than 700 students from universities around the country and all three USF campuses had signed up for the program. The number of participants has since climbed to more than 1,600, reaching as far as South Africa and Germany. It was left up to participants how frequently to correspond. Meredith Mechanik, the COMPASS program coordinator who came up with the idea, said her hope was that students find creative ways to communicate with one another.
Brodosi and his team have now transitioned to join Innovative Education, which is based on USF’s Tampa campus. They continue to work to develop training, create templates and prepare classrooms so that faculty could design their own courses and successfully teach both in-person and online audiences.
“While there is so much uncertainty right now, there has been comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together,” said Mechanik. “Regardless of location, major or university, college students around the world are having the shared experience of social distancing. We are so excited to see what kinds of connections and creative endeavors come out of this project.”
INSPIRING STUDENTS TO CONNECT
HELPING THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
One of the best parts of the college experience is developing new friendships with peers. But with social distance guidelines prohibiting
Coronavirus lockdowns caused economies to slump and businesses to shutter globally. Few industries felt the crunch as dramatically as hospitality, and few states were impacted as significantly as Florida.
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Crisis: Practical Advice for Navigating COVID-19 Disruption to Hospitality, which was organized by David O’Neill, director of the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership. The conversation was framed around two main areas: what leaders should do today and how they should prepare for tomorrow. Leading the call were industry experts, including HLP lead instructor Miguel Miranda, USF communication Professor Ron Spinka and business attorney Andy Gaunce. “When we look back on this crisis years from now, it won’t be so much about what we experienced but what we did,” said Miranda. “Good leadership is needed now more than ever.”
ASSISTING STUDENTS THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES The coronavirus pandemic created challenges for many people, but USF students were especially impacted. Some lost jobs or experienced changed family economic circumstances that threatened to derail their pursuit of a college degree. That’s where generous friends and supporters of USF stepped in. Leaders from USF’s Muma College of Business, including representatives from the USF St. Petersburg campus’ Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, wanted to help owners and general managers overcome the harsh new economic realities by offering initiatives that would help them through the difficult time. They organized a virtual meeting where business deans and faculty from all three USF campuses fielded questions and offered advice for more than 40 participants from companies such as Busch Gardens, Columbia Restaurant Group and Sarasota Westin Hotels. Advice included guidance on loans and future pricing strategies, as well as the importance of offering professional development for employees and rethinking the services companies provide in light of the pandemic. “We wanted to better understand the needs of leaders in the hospitality industry,” said Sri Sundaram, dean of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance. “How can we assist them? What are their needs today and in the future?”
Inspired by this initiative, longtime supporters of USF’s St. Petersburg campus Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton donated $50,000 to the Stay AFLOAT fund, which was created by the USF Foundation to help students with a short-term need that may prevent them from continuing their education without assistance.
While there is so much uncertainty right now, there has been comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together.
Building on this momentum, a webinar one week later hosted by the school’s Hospitality Leadership Program (HLP) gave owners and general managers advice on ways to weather the storm and rebound from the current crisis. More than 51 participants attended the Leading Through
USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
The USF United Support Fund was created to provide direct relief to students struggling to pay for food, housing and other basic needs as a result of COVID-19. As of November 1, the fund had raised nearly $390,000 for students in need.
“An education has the power to change a person’s life,” said Tiedemann. “Ellen and I want to do everything we can to help these students remain in school and complete their degrees, despite the challenging and uncertain circumstances they are currently facing.”
Tiedemann, a self-made entrepreneur, is the largest donor in the history of the USF St. Petersburg campus. Her $10 million gift in 2014 gave the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance its name. She and Cotton, her spouse and a former small business owner, donated an additional $3 million to endow the dean’s position within the school in 2019.
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In addition to monetary assistance, food pantries on all three USF campuses stepped up their efforts to help students. On the St. Petersburg campus, the Support-A-Bull market provided more than 2,994 pounds of food and toiletries to students in need since the beginning of March. As demand grew, the pantry saw a tremendous outpouring of donations from the community. More than 2,994 pounds of food items have been donated since the start of the pandemic, said Joseph Contes, the assistant director of student outreach and support who manages the Support-A-Bull Market.
“We are tremendously thankful that when the demand increased for the services we provide here, our donors and their donations increased to match it,” added Contes.
FACULTY RESEARCH HELPS EXPLAIN COVID Professors throughout USF used their skills to understand COVID-19 and its impact on society, helping to advance the body of knowledge about the emerging phenomenon. Lindsey Rodriguez, a psychology professor on the St. Petersburg campus and an expert on social connections and alcohol use, became intrigued after seeing several news segments regarding alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 quarantine. In April, she conducted a weeklong survey of
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754 people across the U.S., asking participants if they either agreed or disagreed to statements related to perceived threats and psychological distress around the coronavirus. Participants then answered questions about their drinking habits over the last 30 days, which largely overlapped with stay-at-home orders across the majority of states. The results suggest psychological distress caused by the pandemic is related to people drinking more. While the survey found that both men and
women increased their drinking frequency – how many times someone consumes alcohol over a period of time – in response to psychological distresses related to the coronavirus, women also consumed more drinks per instance than before. For this reason, Rodriguez suggests that continued monitoring, particularly among women, should be conducted as the pandemic continues to evolve. Rodriguez also found that people who have kids in their house drank more during the lockdown than people who didn’t have kids. “There are all sorts of distraction-related behaviors that people use to focus their attention away from the feelings that result from negative experiences, and COVID-19 has definitely resulted in negative experiences for the United States,” Rodriguez said.
For another study, a team of interdisciplinary researchers from the St. Petersburg campus began investigating the pandemic’s effect on air quality in communities across Florida. Using an assortment of data, the researchers are teaming with Duke Energy and local high schoolers to examine key environmental impacts brought about by the coronavirus lockdown, aiming to better understand the health and socioeconomic consequences of changes in air quality. The research team is led by Yasin Elshorbany, assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate change. Other members include Assistant Professor of anthropology Heather O’Leary, Professor of marine science Steve Murawski and Marwa El-Sayed of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. They received $25,000 from USF Research & Innovation, one of 14 studies supported by nearly $320,000 in seed grants for COVID-19 research partnerships. “As USF researchers have been asked to work on the scientific aspects related to COVID-19, we decided to look at the crisis from an interdisciplinary perspective” said Elshorbany. “How did the pandemic affect air quality? What are the societal and psychological consequences of those environmental changes? And what communities are most vulnerable?”
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The team plans to use its initial research findings to develop a more comprehensive proposal, which they will submit to funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.
These have been difficult times and I’m so proud of the way our faculty, staff and students have come together to support one another... During times of crisis, you see who you really are and our campus community has proven itself to be creative, compassionate and deeply committed to student success.
HELPING THE VULNERABLE Social distancing restrictions increased feelings of loneliness for many during the pandemic, especially the elderly. A new initiative matches USF students with seniors in assisted living facilities at a time when many are craving connections as a result of the pandemic. The program, called St. Pete Friends, offers an opportunity for community members and students to connect via phone, video chat or even traditional letters to talk about their current experiences with social distancing, hear about another person’s life and share a much-needed laugh. Among the participants is sophomore Alexis Naguib. 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. Naguib said she was a little nervous at first but now considers the woman she calls a close friend.
“People of her generation can really give you advice,” she said. “And they help you grow as a person.”
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ALUMNI PROFILES GIVING BACK AND LIFTING UP THE COMMUNITY DURING A CHALLENGING YEAR Matthew Cimitile
MANAGING THE CORONAVIRUS FALLOUT The pandemic altered normal operations for many businesses by making close contact with others risky. For Ashley Lowery, the president and CEO of the Homeless Empowerment Program, this posed quite the logistical challenge. Lowery oversees a team of about 70 who provide food, housing and clothing for just under 400 individuals and families at an eight-acre campus in Clearwater. The Homeless Empowerment Program initially closed the campus to the public and had staff work remotely. When the non-profit slowly brought back employees to the campus, Lowery had to alternate shifts to reduce the amount of people on the campus among those in the shelter and those working. Finances and costs shifted significantly with heightened health concerns and protocols as well. The project serves around 300 meals a day out of its kitchen. Now each meal includes to-go packaging, the kitchen undergoes more indepth cleanings and staff wear masks and other personal protective equipment to reduce risk of exposure and create a healthy environment. “The pandemic has shown that our employees can still work effectively from home and even with the remote nature at times of running this organization, we strengthened our teamwork,” said Lowery. “We will continue to provide the vital services that individuals and families need.”
COVERING THE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTESTS Sparked by the tragic death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest police violence and racism, demanding accountability and change. As mass protests gripped the Tampa Bay area, Martha Asencio-Rhine strapped on her camera and entered the fray, determined to capture the historic scenes unfolding throughout the region. Ascencio-Rhine graduated from the USF St. Petersburg campus in 2019, where she developed a passion for photojournalism and images “that spark conversations.” Since then, she has covered sporting events, political rallies and music festivals for the Tampa Bay Times, always looking for the scope of emotions and the pictures that make people feel. But she has never seen intensity, sadness and even danger like she experienced at these protests. “With passions running so high, it is hard to keep things under control,” she said. “These protests sort of take on a mind of their own.”
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FULFILLING A PUBLIC HEALTH NEED On St. Patrick’s Day, 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg was advised to close down as the coronavirus pandemic spread across Florida. For Desiree Chubb, who runs the brewery’s quality assurance lab, the closure did not interrupt her work in testing the quality and consistency of the craft beer ingredients. But the skill set she developed first as a biology graduate and then working in the science of beer fermentation – a combination of chemistry, microbiology and cell biology – equipped her to do something else during this health crisis: make hand sanitizer. For the next 40 days, the brewery made hand sanitizer. The first batch filled 450 4-ounce bottles. Then the brewery started receiving requests from local hospitals, first responders and nursing homes. Eventually Chubb and 3 Daughters Brewing produced 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. Beer and hand sanitizer may seem starkly different, but Chubb discovered similarities producing both. “The foundation is the same. You are putting together a recipe, doing production and testing it throughout the process. The only difference is I am providing it to a different population of people for a different reason,” she said.
KEEPING HYPERLOCAL NEWS ALIVE Cathy Salustri has covered a lot of strange stories for Gulfport’s Gabber Newspaper, but maybe the strangest is the one where she ended up the paper’s owner. The Gabber holds a special place in Salustri’s heart. She started writing for the hyperlocal paper in 2003, shortly after she moved to Gulfport. In late March 2020, the Gabber’s former owners announced they would shutter the paper due to the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown. Salustri wrote an opinion piece in the Tampa Bay Times detailing what would be lost when the Gabber was gone. Readers shared in her grief, writing letters to Salustri bemoaning the paper’s demise. Inspired by such encouragement, Salustri began discussing purchasing the Gabber from its former owners. In May, it was announced that Salustri planned to buy the paper with Barry Loper, her business partner and husband. They set up a crowdfunding campaign and sold advertising gift cards for people who wanted to support the paper’s return to print. The deal was confirmed by the end of June, and the Gabber returned to print on July 9. “We’re a microscope of a small community. We’re a voice for the community,” said Salustri. “A hyperlocal paper like ours is the only one that will care as much about the community as the community cares about it.”
OPENING A HOMETOWN BUSINESS Twelve years ago, if you’d told Khris Johnson he’d be a head brewer, he would have probably laughed before hurrying off to study. Back then, Johnson was a freshman on a pre-med track, where he was enrolled in chemistry and microbiology courses while working at Bayfront Hospital. He was entirely committed to a future in the medical field. It wasn’t until a few years later that Johnson’s future career began to take shape. After transferring to USF’s Tampa campus to finish his degree, he had an epiphany that medical school wasn’t for him. Wrestling with uncertainty, he changed his major, took a second job and picked up a new hobby, home brewing. Not long after, he landed his first job in the industry and started winning awards. Today, Johnson is co-founder and head brewer at Green Bench Brewing Company, which has some 30 employees and distributes through 17 wholesalers around Florida. “Opening a business in St. Petersburg has been important to me,” he said. “When I was at USF St. Pete, there were not many businesses around where Green Bench currently is. Being from St. Petersburg, there’s a lot of personal value and pride I put into having helped open a business here.”
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LA FLORIDA GRANT NATIONAL ARCHIVES AWARDS LA FLORIDA $250,000 GRANT TO REVEAL DIVERSITY AND RICHNESS OF EARLY FLORIDA HISTORY Matthew Cimitile
What can deciphering baptism, marriage and burial records written in 17th century Spanish script tell us about the early history of America? Historian and USF Professor J. Michael Francis believes weaving together these threads housed in parish and historical archives from St. Augustine to Seville will open up a world of knowledge about the early inhabitants of Florida. In 2020, the National Archives recognized the importance of this work in “furthering the understanding of democracy, history and culture” by awarding Francis and his team a $250,000 major initiatives grant to build upon his digital history project, La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archives of the Americas. “Receiving this grant from the National Archives reinforces that we have a project here and Florida has a history that speaks to an audience that is much broader than the state, and resonates with a national and a global audience,” said Francis, executive director of La Florida and the Hough Family endowed chair of Florida Studies at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Native Americans, free and enslaved Africans, and settlers from across Europe comprised the diverse, colonial community of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental U.S. La Florida combines short videos, interactive maps and a searchable population database to piece together the lives of these forgotten figures with the major
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events of America’s earliest beginnings to form a compelling historical narrative. The intent is to fundamentally alter the way we look at more than three centuries of Florida’s past, from Juan Ponce de Leon’s 1513 expedition to 1821, when Florida became a U.S. territory, and place the state alongside Massachusetts and Virginia as a foundational piece in the nation’s early colonial period.
La Florida’s primary goal is to combine cutting-edge technology with rigorous historical research to share Florida’s colonial history in compelling ways... Making these records digitally accessible also provides researchers from fields not directly related to Florida’s history vital information when studying subjects such as pandemics or trade through history.
The funds from the National Archives grant will be dedicated to a new La Florida initiative, titled “Lost Voices from America’s Oldest Parish Archive, 1594-1821,” which is designed to make St. Augustine’s diocesan archives accessible to a global audience. These ecclesiastical records, which number more than 8,000 pages of handwritten documents, provide rare insight into the daily lives and relationships of the multiethnic population of St. Augustine. The two-year initiative builds on the expertise of paleographers, historians and translators who are transcribing, translating and cataloguing the entire collection of ecclesiastical records housed in St. Augustine’s Diocesan Archive. Most of the documents are written in Spanish, but the archive also includes hundreds of Latin documents. To date, the team has transcribed more than 70 percent of the parish records and translated and catalogued more than 45 percent.
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The collection of ecclesiastical records chronicles the sacramental history of St. Augustine’s inhabitants, from birth to burial. Some notable entries in the records include: • A 1598 baptism entry of a German-Native American child named Lucas, the oldest recorded mixed-race baptism in any region of what would become the United States • The appearance of dozens of runaway slaves who risked their lives to escape English plantations in search of freedom in Spanish Florida • A surprisingly high rate of infant mortality, suggesting likely pandemics in the region • The incredible diversity that comprised St. Augustine. Documents chronicle individuals arriving from throughout Europe, Mexico and Central America, as well as evidence of trade with the Caribbean and up through the Eastern U.S., highlighting a global interconnectedness just a century or two after the voyage of Christopher Columbus. “These records give us such richness in terms of biographical sketches and can help us track individuals through time,” explained Francis. “There can also be a lot of frustration that comes with these records in terms of how they were written and details left out and the detective work needed to fill in the missing pieces. But when combined with other records from Florida and Spain, we can flesh out trends and stories of individuals who rarely appear in the historical record, such as women and Native Americans and free and enslaved African Americans.” The work from this collaborative initiative will be featured on the project’s digital platform, laflorida.org, allowing teachers, students, scholars and the general public to view, conduct detailed searches on individuals and demographic changes, and create custom infographics based on data from the entire collection. A revamped platform containing more than 10,000 historical records from this period is planned to launch in February 2022. “History books are never written about common people that were the fabric of a community, but that in a sense is what the La Florida project is doing for St. Augustine,” said Father Tom Willis, the pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, America’s first parish. Some of the individuals recorded in the parish records are buried in St. Augustine’s historic Tolomato Cemetery. “Lost Voices” will enable historians to connect individuals in the cemetery to their actual historical records and start geotagging events in those individuals’ lives. The people documented in these records will also be added to a searchable population database, allowing users to link individuals to the original records in which they appear. 34 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
“La Florida’s primary goal is to combine cutting-edge technology with rigorous historical research to share Florida’s colonial history in compelling ways,” said Rachel Sanderson, associate director of La Florida. “Making these records digitally accessible also provides researchers from fields not directly related to Florida’s history vital information when studying subjects such as pandemics or trade through history.” Out of 20 nationwide proposals, La Florida was one of only four to receive grant funding from the National Archives’ Access to Historical Records: Archival Projects program. The grant program supports projects that promote access to America’s historical records to encourage understanding of democracy, history and culture. “I was born and raised here in St. Augustine, so I have always had a loving connection with St. Augustine history,” said Willis. “And what Michael and La Florida have done is brought it alive in so many wonderful ways.”
These records give us such richness in terms of biographical sketches and can help us track individuals through time.
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NEW LAB COMBATS HUMAN TRAFFICKING THROUGH INCREASED AWARENESS Dyllan Furness
For nearly two decades, criminology Professor Joan Reid has fought to end human trafficking. Now, Reid and three colleagues have received a $92,000 grant to launch the Human Trafficking Risk to Resilience Research Lab, which is devoted to studying commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of human trafficking. “The Tampa Bay area is considered a hotspot for child sex trafficking due to a number of community vulnerabilities, including a high number of vulnerable youth and an influx of buyers,” Reid said. “When you put those two together, you end up with a perfect storm.” Located on USF’s St. Petersburg campus, the Trafficking in Persons Risk to Resilience Research (TIP) Lab was awarded nearly $30,000 for its first research project to analyze data from hundreds of suspected child sex trafficking cases compiled by Child Protective Investigators in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. The data includes
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anonymized information about trafficker behaviors, including how they attempt to identify and entrap vulnerable children. “The purpose of this project is to understand if there are different profiles related to child sex traffickers and if we can determine how they operate,” Reid said. “With a better understanding of their tactics, we can do a better job of helping prevent this from happening in our communities.” The funding allowed for three graduate assistants to participate in the research, offering them the opportunity to engage in critical research with realworld consequences. In addition to providing access to data, the partnership with Pasco County’s Child Protective Investigations Division is intended to promote a more comprehensive local response to child sex trafficking by informing policy decisions, prevention efforts and prosecution strategies.
“We consider USF’s St. Petersburg campus faculty to be leaders in the field of criminal justice,” said Ken Killian, director of Pasco’s Child Protective Investigations. “We value their partnership and unwavering commitment to conducting research that has the real possibility of improving the health and well-being of the people in our communities.” Reid has been working to combat human trafficking since the early 2000s. She has published more than 30 journal articles on the topic and her research was presented before the U.S. Congress in 2008 as part of a national report on domestic minor sex trafficking.
With a better understanding of their tactics, we can do a better job of helping prevent this from happening in our communities.
The TIP Lab was supported by a $92,000 USF Strategic Investment Award. Criminology Professors Shelly Wagers (USF’s St. Petersburg campus), Bryanna Fox (USF’s Tampa campus) and Fawn Ngo (USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus) will serve as co-principal investigators.
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The lab’s custom logo was selected through a design challenge in Professor Jennifer Yucus’s graphic arts course. Winning student designers Abril Mojica Cabrera and Myhanh Le stated, “The design represents the network of resources and support between organizations such as the TIP Lab and the victims they serve.” In future projects, Reid hopes to broaden the lab’s approach to research on all forms of human trafficking and to work with partners in other states and countries to build and share knowledge to stop the spread of human trafficking.
“Right now, there’s a vacuum of information about the crimes and perpetrator tactics,” Reid said. “There’s not much known about how sex traffickers operate. Because of that, it’s hard to determine best practices for protection and prevention. This knowledge can be used in our own community, nation-wide and even globally to better understand how traffickers work.”
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NEW ENDOWED PROFESSORSHIP HONORS FACULTY DEDICATED TO FINANCE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH Dyllan Furness
As other kids were searching under cushions for coins to buy candy, 12-year-old Gary Patterson was making his first stock purchase. Even at that young age, Patterson was fascinated by financial markets. Pursuing an MBA years later, Patterson realized he wanted to pass on his interest and promote financial literacy in future generations. He spent some time in industry before earning a PhD so he could be equipped to study and teach his discipline more effectively. This summer, community benefactors and retired businesswomen Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton donated $1 million to the USF Foundation to create the Tiedemann-Cotton Endowed Professorship in Finance at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Patterson was selected as the inaugural holder of the position, which honors a distinguished faculty member dedicated to finance education and research. “Kate and Ellen recognize that it is people that make the difference,” said Sridhar Sundaram, dean of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance in the Muma College of Business. “I am so pleased to appoint Gary Patterson as the first holder of this prestigious position. Gary is a long-time faculty member, his contributions are many and this honor is well deserved.” Recipients of the Tiedemann-Cotton Endowed Professorship of Finance are appointed to three-year renewable terms by the dean of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance in consultation with the dean of USF’s Muma College of Business. The position provides funding for
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salary, research, equipment, travel and other miscellaneous expenses. “Ellen and I are honored to make this gift and very pleased that Dr. Gary Patterson has been appointed to be the first Tiedemann-Cotton Endowed Professor of Finance,” Tiedemann said. “He is an exemplary scholar who is dedicated to helping students make a difference in the world. His impact will continue to be reflected in his students and their contributions in the field of finance throughout their lifetimes.” With more than $15 million in charitable donations, Tiedemann and Cotton are the largest donors to USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Tiedemann’s gift of $10 million in 2014 gave the school its name. She and Cotton, her spouse and a former small business owner, donated an additional $3 million to endow the dean’s position within the college in 2019. In his new position, Patterson plans to work with his students to further develop their knowledge of finance. And although his fascination is with finance, Patterson encourages students to seek a well-founded education that integrates components from across disciplines. “Students should obtain a broad knowledge base through life,” he said. “My discipline offers one small sliver of what we should all learn. Financial education and literacy become important because we all must face budgetary constraints throughout life, which will be full of challenges for everyone, so those who master these concepts may avoid many financial stresses that ensnare others.”
COLLEGE OF EDUCATION BUILDING A STATEWIDE SAFETY NET FOR TEEN MENTAL HEALTH Carrie O’Brion
Mental health problems among teenagers have been worsening for years, a trend that is expected to continue.
Training (YMHAT) Administration Project, part of a larger legislative initiative developed from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
Whether it’s stress caused by peer pressure, social isolation, social media, bullying or academic issues, a 2019 analysis found that 13 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds (or 3.2 million) said they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8 percent (or 2 million) in 2007.
The training, funded initially in 2018 with a $2.2 million grant and then supplemented with a $5.5 million grant in 2019, helps all school employees – from counselors to custodians – identify and understand the signs of emotional distress, mental health difficulties and substance abuse disorders.
Unfortunately, many of these teens don’t know where to turn for help. But several initiatives coordinated by the College of Education at USF’s St. Petersburg campus are building a broader, stronger safety net for youth struggling with mental health difficulties throughout the state of Florida.
Both initiatives are part of a growing awareness by Florida policymakers and others of the prevalence of mental illness in our society. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 17 percent of youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder. One in five U.S. adults will also experience mental illness.
In 2020, the College was awarded a $10 million grant from the Florida Department of Education to help school districts address a variety of mental health related issues. The funding is developing trainings around key issues such as sex trafficking, substance use and abuse, suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Some school districts are also creating mental health awareness campaigns to remove the stigma associated with the subject, including peer-to-peer mental health support clubs. The Division of K-16 Educational Initiatives, which is based at USF’s St. Petersburg campus, steps in to help identify research and evidencebased practices, coordinate the funding, facilitate reporting and arrange training. “The goal really is to recognize mental health and any associated behavioral issues early on and to provide intervention and supports to prevent them from becoming more significant,” said Jordan Knab, principal investigator for the grant. “What we’re trying to do is raise awareness at all levels, remove the stigma of mental health issues and ensure appropriate interventions and supports are secured as needed.” The division is also the coordinator for the Youth Mental Health Awareness USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
The training helps all school employees – from principals to custodians – identify and understand the signs of emotional distress, mental health difficulties and substance abuse disorders. It is administered in several different ways. First, there is a “train the trainer” component that prepares 16 people at a time to serve as trainers within their own school district. There is also supplemental training through an online module. Knab likened the training to “mental health first aid,” giving school personnel the information necessary to take immediate action to assist students or refer a student so they can be connected with a trained professional and receive necessary care. “We want to prevent students or anyone else from getting to that point where their mental health issues escalate,” he said. Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock said he was proud to see the campus play a leading role in promoting mental health awareness training. “Supporting the evolving needs of students is integral to our mission and to higher education as a whole,” said Tadlock. “We’re pleased to continue raising awareness and understanding about this important issue.” INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE | 39
BIOLOGISTS BUILD “GENE BANK” TO SAVE SPECIES DEVASTATED BY TOXIC TOADS Dyllan Furness
In August 1935, scientists released more than 100 nonnative cane toads in northeastern Australia, hoping the voracious critters would help control an onslaught of native beetles ravaging Queensland’s sugarcane plantations. It didn’t take long for the scientists to realize their effort was in vain. Crouched down in the dirt, the cane toads barely made a dent in the number of pests munching on the roots and shoots of the valuable field crops. Worse yet, Australia’s native predatory snakes, lizards and crocodiles began to die in droves after attempting to ingest the toxic toads. The invasive amphibians have since become an ecological nightmare for the island nation. Populations of native reptilian predators have declined by more than 90 percent in some regions as the toads expand their territory west across the continent. Conservation biologist Sean Doody is leading a research project to save one of Australia’s unique predators – a species of king-sized monitor lizards called goannas, which have seen a massive population crash due 40 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
to the cane toad invasion. Doody and Macquarie University biologist Simon Clulow are working with colleagues to collect goanna sperm and create a gene bank that could save the species from extinction. Their work is part of the Kimberley Ark, a broader project that aims to preserve the genetics of species under threat in northwestern Australia’s Kimberley region. “Australia is the only continent other than Antarctica that doesn’t have native toxic toads,” said Doody, an assistant professor at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “As a result, Australian predators have lost their ability to resist toad toxins.” After their initial introduction in the 1930s, Australia’s cane toad population remained relatively low and dormant. Then suddenly their numbers ballooned. Recent estimates suggest tens to hundreds of millions of cane toads are currently spread across the northern part of the continent, according to Doody. Not just a problem down under, the species has invaded Florida, where it
Present Distribution of Cane Toads (2008) Potential Habitat
poses a risk to overzealous pets and native animals that try to snack on the toads. When threatened, cane toads expel a milky-white substance known as bufotoxin from a pair of distinctive triangular glands on each shoulder. A dose of the toxin can sicken and even kill animals in as little as 15 minutes. Domestic animals that succumb to bufotoxin sometimes make headlines in Florida. In Australia, cane toads are wrecking havoc on wildlife as well. Predators such as goannas help keep ecosystems in balance by removing vulnerable prey from the environment, ensuring more resources for healthy individuals. Plummeting populations of native predators can create a cascading effect on the food chain. The result is a dramatic loss of genetic diversity that could spell extinction for some species. “Cane toads can cause regional extinctions, including of top predators, which can cause the whole ecological community to get out of whack,” Doody said. “At the same time, we can’t seem to control them. The scale of the problem is unbelievable and the remoteness of northern Australia makes it impossible to stop their spread or reduce their populations to any reasonable amount.”
Australia is the only continent other than Antarctica that doesn’t have native toxic toads... as a result, Australian predators have lost their ability to resist toad toxins.
Through the Kimberley Ark, Doody and Clulow aim to preserve genetic diversity by collecting and storing sperm in a gene bank that can later be used to reestablish struggling populations. It’s taken years of trial and error for the biologists to identify a reliable process to accomplish this biblical feat. USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
One of their major challenges has been figuring out the best way to collect and preserve goanna sperm. In 2014, the researchers achieved an Australian first when they obtained sperm samples from lizards using a technique called electro ejaculation, which had only been successfully performed on reptiles in the United States. More invasive collection techniques, such as gathering sperm from goannas caught for food by aboriginal people in Australia, have since proved more efficient. University of Newcastle PhD candidate Lachlan Campbell recently worked out protocols to successfully treat, freeze, and thaw sperm from field-caught animals – a major breakthrough in ensuring the gene-banked sperm remains viable and able to move properly through the female reproductive tract. The next steps involve captive rearing the goannas and conducting artificial insemination, for which Doody said additional funding is needed. Financial support can’t come soon enough. Cane toad territory is currently expanding westward at about 18-30 miles per year, according to Doody, which means they’ll reach the northwest coast of Australia in five to ten years.
“The toads haven’t quite taken the north,” Doody said, referring to the Australian continent. “There are still 300-400 miles left. If we can get ahead of the toads and capture that genetic diversity before the toads invade those regions, we can perhaps reintroduce that diversity later.”
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STUDENTS GAIN REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE MANAGING INVESTMENT FUND DURING TUMULTUOUS YEAR Matthew Cimitile
For students managing the investment fund at the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, 2020 showcased both the substantial risks and high rewards of financial markets. In late February, the global spread of the coronavirus shut down businesses, schools and travel across the country, initiating a massive sell off on Wall Street. Over 33 days, the S&P 500, which tracks the performance of 500 of the largest companies in the U.S., dropped by 34 percent. It was the steepest bear market decline ever, according to Nasdaq. Then by summer, just several months after the crash, the stock market experienced the fastest recovery in its history, reaching new highs with cities opening back up and news of the development of a vaccine. Throughout the volatility of the market, finance students were analyzing a diverse array of companies and experiencing the full range of research, 42 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
strategies and emotions that go into investing in the stock market. “I learned how powerful monetary and fiscal policy really is,” said Andrew Murphy, a senior majoring in finance. “If it weren’t for the efforts of our government and central bank to extend stimulus and credit to the most affected individuals, businesses and government entities, we would be facing an economic crisis of the same magnitude of the Great Depression.” “The fluctuations of the financial markets in the past few months reflect the efficiency and sensitivity of the market in response to all kinds of unpredictable risks, from geopolitics to public health aspects,” explained Yankang Sukramani, a third-year MBA student. “There were definitely good investment opportunities that appeared when the market was down, but we needed to keep a clear mind and do more research before making investment decisions, especially in such a fast-changing environment.”
In one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of the stock market, the student managed investment fund avoided significant losses and returned a profit for the year. Overall, the investment fund has grown by 8.7 percent since its inception in 2018. “The real-life experience of managing a fund through the ups and downs of financial markets this year has taught students about risk management and about patience. We stress before investing, ‘What is your goal and how will you achieve that goal’ and the importance of sticking with that philosophy,” said Huijian Dong, academic coordinator of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance and director of the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Center. Seeded by an initial gift of $250,000 from donors Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton and matched by a $250,000 investment by Lynn Pippenger, the Kate Tiedemann Student Managed Investment Fund, which is very similar to a mutual fund, provides real-world experience to aspiring bankers and financial analysts. Students use knowledge acquired in class to make compelling stock valuations and presentations, earning the right to have their suggested stocks purchased. Each year, teams of students identify and employ strategies to achieve a goal for the fund. They then analyze thousands of stocks from sectors such as technology and health care, narrowing their scope of recommendations to a list of 10. From that list, students write briefs on why they are recommending these stocks for investing. Dong reviews each brief and provides comments on why it is a good or bad recommendation, or a good company but not good timing to invest. One stock is then selected from each team’s list for a pitch competition. Last academic year, there were eight teams that pitched their stock to a panel of experts, with four chosen to be part of the student managed fund.
representing Tampa Bay at the 2021 Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge. Universities across the globe pitch stocks and recommend assets to a panel of experts for the challenge, who judge which recommendations and analysis of companies is most accurate, convincing and complete. The team will analyze and pitch the online pet food and pet product company Chewy and compete against 14 colleges in the state of Florida, with the winner advancing to the regional competition. “Helping to manage an investment fund and participating in the CFA Research challenge not only provides me with a great resource of knowledge, but also the opportunity to meet professionals in the industry and the ability to collaborate among peers. I believe these experiences will help me develop the necessary skills to succeed in the future,” said Jeremy Liwag, a senior on the Tampa campus majoring in finance.
Helping to manage an investment fund and participating in the CFA Research challenge not only provides me with a great resource of knowledge, but also the opportunity to meet professionals in the industry and the ability to collaborate among peers. I believe these experiences will help me develop the necessary skills to succeed in the future.
“Faculty and students work together to pick the stocks we think have qualities that stand out. We then help students polish their thoughts when they pitch their recommendations to a panel of business leaders in the community,” said Dong.
The fund is one aspect of the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Center, which provides students the tools to manage stock investments while also spearheading initiatives that advance financial literacy in the community. Created through a $500,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation in 2018, the center is equipped with the resources and technology utilized by financial experts around the world. It supports financial literacy initiatives modeled after Bank of America’s Better Money Habits® curriculum. To date, the center has built out a financial literacy series, geared towards the community at large and focused on issues such as trust planning, tax filing, risk management and rewards of different investments. For Sri Sundaram, the campus dean of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, having such a center and studentmanaged fund at USF is vital, as they have become signature elements of many topflight business schools around the country and provide invaluable training.
“There is a great need in our community for investment management and financial planning,” said Sundaram. “The hands-on knowledge you attain from managing a real portfolio is an extremely valuable tool when pursuing careers in finance.”
Due to this experience, finance students from USF will be the only team USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
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COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE WELCOMES NEW DEAN THOMAS FRAZER BRINGS REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE AND WORLD-CLASS CREDENTIALS Carrie O’Brion
After a global search, the University of South Florida announced in June the appointment of Thomas Frazer, PhD, as the new dean of its internationally recognized College of Marine Science. Frazer brings a wealth of experience to the position and most recently served as the State of Florida’s first Chief Science Officer in the Department of Environmental Protection. Frazer spent more than 20 years at the University of Florida (UF) and held leadership positions in the university’s Water Institute, the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. He was also the director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment. He arrives at the College of Marine Science at an important moment and has been tasked with strengthening the college’s national and global profile. The College has been the focus of increased attention after USF President Steven Currall and Provost Ralph Wilcox announced the creation of several academic clusters on the St. Petersburg campus, which includes a proposed Interdisciplinary Center of Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences. Frazer earned his bachelor’s degree in marine fisheries from Humboldt State University, his master’s in fisheries and aquatic sciences at UF and his doctorate in biological sciences from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Throughout his career, he has produced nearly 200 publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, reports and technical papers, and has garnered extensive federal and state grant funding to support his research, which includes work on the ecology of coral reefs, water quality and restoration of degraded 44 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
ecosystems. He replaces Jackie Dixon, PhD, who served as College of Marine Science dean since 2011 and has returned to the faculty. We caught up with Frazer to discuss his first few months at USF, his plans for the future and his vision for the College of Marine Science. Answers have been edited for length.
WHAT DREW YOU TO USF’S COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE? In short, the caliber of the program. The College of Marine Science has excellent faculty, students and staff and its trajectory is just up, up, up. Plus, it has some other qualities that make a marine science program really special. It helps that it’s right here on the water. From a research perspective it also helps that it’s so close to other similar entities, such as the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Together we form the largest hub of marine science expertise in this part of the country, and not enough people know that. And what I’m also really excited about is that we have such a supportive city and business community. The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership has been awesome. And so has the City of St. Petersburg, who just contributed $125,000 to our Bridge to the Doctorate fellowship endowment, which supports underrepresented students of color. We also have the St. Petersburg Innovation District, a vibrant arts community, and St. Pete is a fun place to be on top of all of that. There aren’t many places in the world where you have that all of those ingredients coming together.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE COLLEGE’S MAIN STRENGTHS? We sit at the epicenter of a marine science mecca. The global research portfolio spearheaded by our faculty is remarkably interdisciplinary, and what’s cool is that it has relevance to the real world and our own community, whether we’re working in Tampa Bay or the Amundsen Sea in Antarctica. What happens with those glaciers will actually impact our coastline here in Tampa Bay. That is really appealing because it allows for the College to actively engage with the community; to establish relevance. Another strength of the College is the willingness of our faculty and administration to entertain the idea of partnerships. That doesn’t happen everywhere, to be honest. And we’ve got tremendous talent in education and outreach. Adding all of those pieces up, our core pillar of strength is our diverse and relevant research expertise combined with our willingness to engage with communities near and far about what we find and what it means in our day to day lives.
ANYTHING WHERE YOU SEE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE OR GROWTH NOW THAT YOU ARE DEAN? I see a tremendous opportunity for growth in the innovation space. There are ample opportunities for our folks in the College of Marine Science to collaborate with talented faculty from other colleges across the University of South Florida to pursue novel research ideas and apply the findings of their research to the real-world. I am excited about the interest in creating a center of excellence here, and have spent much of my time with members of the USF leadership team trying to create an environment for our faculty that will allow them to do what they do best – discover, innovate and apply. Because the College is already an identifiable centerpiece of excellence, we can leverage that visibility and talent to contribute to the success of other programs across the USF landscape. The synergies created will increase not only our visibility nationwide, but enhance our credibility. One example that seems particularly ripe for growth and innovation is in the ocean technology and engineering arena. We have a fleet of gliders, for instance, out there as our eyes and ears in the ocean to help us generate the information needed to address problems related to water quality degradation, red tide prediction, hurricane forecasting and more – there is unlimited growth potential there. We’re also really psyched about a new Center for Mapping and Innovative Technologies whose mission is to test all sorts of technologies including autonomous vehicles and sensors so we can get to the next stratosphere of ocean exploration. St. Petersburg is a hub of ocean science expertise, education and community engagement – and with the College at the center of that hub, we have the potential to give back tremendously to our own local community, to the University more broadly and, importantly, to put our stamp on the world.
HAVE YOU OUTLINED ANY TOP PRIORITIES? STILL GETTING TO KNOW PEOPLE? I KNOW IT’S BEEN COMPLICATED BY COVID.
they lay the foundation for all that is possible. Relationships are going to be key moving forward. It’s knowing who the players are and stepping back and knowing what the landscape looks like and how you can contribute to successes. This is not all about the College. It’s about how the College fits in with everything else that’s going on at the University, in St. Petersburg and Tampa. And I know it’s a priority for our college administrators, folks here in St. Petersburg and our legislative delegation to do something really special here. In order to do that, you have to build trust. You have to contribute to and promote an open and transparent dialogue. I’m happy to do that, and it’s pretty much how I roll. It’s one of the parts I love most about my job. And YES, COVID has made all of this a lot more challenging. I’m a bit lonely in my office these days! But we move forward, we do our best and take it day by day. I want everyone to feel safe, and realize that brighter days are ahead. We’ll get there.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU FEEL YOU BRING TO YOUR POSITION AS DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE? So many things about marine science excite me. I’ve been fortunate to work in a lot of places around the world. I’ve worked in polar, temperate and tropical systems and nearshore and offshore systems. I’ve worked on small-scale problems and large-scale problems, from elements to ecosystems. I think what really helps me and what will be a benefit to the folks in the College is the breadth of exposure and understanding that I bring to the table. I like living vicariously now through the people in the College, knowing what they do and being able to share their stories with an extended audience.
WE ALL LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH ALL OF YOU AT THE COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE! YOU DO SOME REALLY AMAZING THINGS THERE. I get to do that every day, which is really awesome. But what I realized a while back in my career is that yes, you can contribute through your science and you can do it really well. But the other way you can make a difference is to create an environment that allows a lot of people to do their jobs well. My hope is bringing that philosophy to the College will allow people to flourish. Let them do what they do best. I think we have a great group of folks here, and if you provide them that opportunity, we will in fact be one of the best places to be in the United States and by extension, the world.
WHERE DO YOU SEE USF’S COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE IN FIVE YEARS? I think we will be recognized as a world leader in marine science. I think we will be a shining star – not just in a narrow academic sense, but one that draws attention to what an academic program in an urbanized setting can look like. One that doesn’t keep its research a secret confined within the walls of academia but one that is actively engaged with its community and communities worldwide. We stand to become a model for other programs that have similarly high aspirations, and I’m pretty pumped to be a part of all.
You want to take the time to get to know the people, internally as well as externally. I think you have to build relationships, first and foremost because USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
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ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE 2020 gives students an insider’s view of historic election Carrie O’Brion
After months of speeches, debates and seemingly endless political commercials, the nation drew its collective breath, cast a ballot and waited anxiously to see who would prevail in the U.S. presidential election. But only a tiny fraction of the electorate got to see the presidential campaign up close and actually interact with a candidate. That small group included students from USF’s St. Petersburg campus, who traveled to New Hampshire for The Road to the White House 2020, a 10-day internship that offered them the opportunity to participate in presidential primary campaigns. The 29 students participated in eight campaigns leading up to the nation’s first primary on Feb. 11. Led by Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, a professor of political science who first launched the program in 2004, the students performed a variety of tasks, from canvassing to phone banking. The New Hampshire internship is paired with a course about presidential campaigns and elections. During the course, students are each assigned an essay looking at a particular candidate’s campaign. However, they were allowed to choose which campaign they contribute to in New Hampshire. “If you’re going door-to-door in the snow for hours or standing on a corner holding a sign in freezing temperatures, I want you to believe in the candidate and their message,” Scourfield McLauchlan said. Noah Miller, a senior psychology major, opted to work with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign and said the experience was unforgettable. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to learn the history and politics of presidential elections while also being in the field canvassing for the candidate I believe in,” Miller said. Peyton Johnson, a senior political science major campaigning for Bernie Sanders, said, “Grassroots organizing is the future of politics. I hope to gain not only a clearer understanding of the dedication it takes to run for president, but an experience that sets me apart from my peers.” This is the fifth Road to the White House program Scourfield McLauchlan has organized since 2004, and her largest class to date. In 2016, the class had the opportunity to meet with candidates such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at campaign events. It’s this dynamism and sense of urgency that makes The Road to the White House such a thrilling experience, said Scourfield McLauchlan. “It’s just electrifying,” she said. “If you’re interested in politics and campaigns, there’s just no substitute. Students come away with a real appreciation for New Hampshire and its role as the first primary. It’s a high intensity environment and the stakes are extraordinarily high. There’s a lot of pressure but at the same time it’s an exciting pressure.” 46 | INNOVATIONS MAGAZINE
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