Innovations Magazine: USF St. Petersburg campus | Volume 4 | 2023

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Rhea Law


Melissa Seixas, USF Trustee and Campus Board Chair

Lisa Brody

Scott Goyer

Reuben Pressman

Isaac McKinney

Debbie Nye Sembler


Christian Hardigree, Regional Chancellor

Theresa Chisolm, Senior Special Assistant to the Regional Chancellor for Academic Consolidation

Patricia Helton, Regional Vice Chancellor of Student Success

Jennifer McAfee, Senior Associate Vice President of Development

David Everingham, Regional Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Financial Services

Lauren Hartmann, Director of Government Relations

Caryn Nesmith, Campus Director of Community Relations

Carrie O’Brion, Campus Director of Communications and Marketing


What a whirlwind of a year it has been!

I can’t believe it’s already been six months since I became regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus. I continue to be overwhelmed by how welcoming everyone has been, and by the amount of love and dedication there is for this campus among the faculty, staff and students as well as members of the community.

We started off the fall by welcoming a large and diverse class of first-year students, including eight National Merit Scholars – the most in our campus’ history. We also have a record-breaking 930 students in our residence halls this year. This strengthens student life and adds to the already rich academic and social experiences.

Our campus continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion. We selected a new class of Racial Justice Student Fellows as part of our partnership with the St. Petersburg/ Pinellas Higher Education for Race Equity (SPHERE) consortium. This forward-thinking program gives students the opportunity to be at the center of efforts to create systemic change.

The knowledgeable and experienced faculty on the USF St. Petersburg campus continued to break new ground within their fields and conduct research that improves our understanding of the world around us. From the Lost Voices project, which allows members of the public to research important moments in early Florida history, to a partnership between the College of Education and the Physics department to use augmented reality to explain complex concepts to students, our faculty continue to use new and inventive methods to advance knowledge.

You’ll read about all of this and more in this edition of Innovations, which highlights the important and beneficial work that occurs on our campus every day. I’m so proud to be part of a place where students, faculty and staff work together in pursuit of discoveries that change lives.

Enjoy the magazine and share it with others. We’re so thankful for the continued support we receive from our community. Your engagement is essential to our success and we value your input. Regards,

Christian E. Hardigree Regional Chancellor

USF St. Petersburg campus



Our work is enhanced by the valuable partnerships in our community and beyond, including:
AGENCIES Our distinguished faculty receive research grants from some of the most prestigious institutions: $4M $5M $6M $7M $5.1M $4.2M $6.2M $3M $2M $1M USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS RESEARCH FUNDING DOLLARS ARE INCREASING Florida Department of Education Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete
Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County National Science Foundation U.S. Department of Health and Human





When the USF St. Petersburg campus broke ground on Osprey Suites in April 2019, university leadership envisioned the newest residence hall as a transformative project that would change the student experience on campus. The 125,000 square foot, 375-bed facility would expand housing by nearly 70 percent, include the campus’ first full-service dining facility and play an integral part in fostering new experiences while contributing to academic success.

“The students who live here will experience community, build relationships with one another and foster memories that will last a lifetime,” said Jacob Diaz, regional assistant vice chancellor of student success and dean of students, during the ceremony in front of 200 students, faculty and community members.

Then came the pandemic. While Osprey Suites was being built, residence halls and classrooms were shuttered. When they did re-open, precautions were put in place to promote the health and well-being of students, limiting the number in on-campus housing.

But after an unprecedented couple of years, the vision outlined during that groundbreaking ceremony was finally and fully realized at the start of the fall 2022 semester. The USF St. Petersburg campus welcomed nearly 930 students into residence halls, a new record that brought a renewed energy to the student experience.

“It’s an exciting time and we were eager to welcome a record number of students who now call this campus home. The diversity of backgrounds they bring strengthen student life and add to the already rich academic and social experiences on campus,” said Christian Hardigree, regional chancellor of the USF St. Petersburg campus.

The previous record for the number of residential students living on the St. Petersburg campus was fewer than 730, which was set in the 2017-2018 academic year. This year represents an increase of more than 25 percent, and includes students from 33 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 17 different countries.

“We saw a lot of students coming out of their pandemic situation and being really excited to come back to an in-person setting to engage in the classroom, engage outside the classroom and be a part of a vibrant community where they will have hundreds of their peers as neighbors,” said Susan Kimbrough, director of housing and residential education on the St. Petersburg campus.

For more than a decade, USF placed a strategic focus on offering a residential campus experience and adding housing capacity as part of an overall commitment to student success. Studies show that a vibrant oncampus environment can have a direct impact on improving the academic performance of students, as well as helping build stronger connections with peers.

That strategic focus paid off on all USF campuses. USF’s Tampa campus had a record-setting number of residential students during the fall 2022 semester as well, with nearly 6,500 living in residence halls. And in September, the Florida Board of Governors

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unanimously approved building a housing and student center complex on the SarasotaManatee campus. The building will be the campus’ first residence hall.


The historic numbers in housing coincides with another record, that of National Merit Scholars.

Last year, USF’s St. Petersburg campus welcomed five National Merit Scholars to its incoming class, the first such scholars in the school’s history. This year, however, the campus exceeded those numbers with eight National Merit Scholars.

“To continue to bring such talented students to this campus is a recognition of the incredible academic reputation, personalized educational setting and vast opportunities for growth, support and engagement that we provide,” Hardigree said.

The scholarship program was created by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in 1955 to honor scholastically talented youth and encourage academic excellence at all levels of education. National Merit Scholar finalists are chosen out of more than 1.5 million students across the country who started by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarships Qualifying Test during their junior year of high school. Out of that original number, just 7,500 students are chosen to receive the national scholarship.

The increased enrollment of such students at USF comes from a concerted effort by the state of Florida and public universities to bring

academic talent to the state. In 2016, the newly created Benacquisto Scholarship Program helped universities recruit students by including merit scholarship benefits for high school graduates who receive recognition as National Merit Scholars.

In addition, it gives USF the ability to recruit both Florida and non-Florida National Merit finalists by offering them full tuition waivers,

on-campus housing, financial support for textbooks, study abroad aid and more.

“The scholarship did play a big part in choosing USF, but I also liked that it was a fairly modern school, that it is constantly trying to improve, evolve and progress, and I like that idea from an academic standpoint,” said Garrett Floerchinger of Rockford, Mich., who is majoring in Environmental Science and Policy because of an appreciation for the outdoors and wanting to sustain natural recourses for future generations. “I also enjoy the proximity to the water and being right next to downtown.”

Along with Michigan, National Merit Scholars in the 2022-2023 incoming class hail from states such as Alabama, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio. Overall, the University of South Florida enrolled 79 National Merit Scholars for the fall 2022 semester, the highest number ever for an incoming class and a more than 25 percent increase from the previous record of 62 last year.

Trends in on-campus population and recruiting academic talent from across the nation reflect the general interest in high school students in the University of South Florida, as witnessed by the largest and strongest academic incoming class of first-year students in the university’s nearly 70-year history. A total of 6,919 students enrolled this academic year, an increase from 6,324 last year. The fall 2022 class is the strongest academically in USF history, with the group carrying an average high school GPA of 4.20, an average SAT score of 1308 and an average ACT score of 29. Overall, more than 65,000 prospective students applied to USF, which is approximately 15,000 more than last year and another school record.

“The size and strength of our incoming class shows that students and their families see the value and significant return on investment that comes with earning a degree from the University of South Florida,” USF President Rhea Law said. “We are excited to welcome this new group of students to our university, and we are committed to maximizing their success and preparing them for careers in highdemand fields.”

The students who live here will experience community, build relationships with one another and foster memories that will last a lifetime.



With more than 34 years of experience anticipating disasters, Guy Van Asten knows that preparing for a hurricane isn’t a seasonal activity.

“I’m a firm believer that if you get people educated early on, they will act early on,” said Van Asten, who serves as the interim emergency management coordinator on USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “We started back in February and March, saying to folks, ‘Hey, here’s our hurricane guide. Make sure you’re looking at this and please ask us any questions.’”

The preparation paid off when Hurricane Ian barreled toward Florida’s west coast in late September. Faced with the prospect of a direct hit from a powerful storm, personnel from throughout the University of South Florida sprang into action, taking steps to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. When the campus was spared any significant damage, many members of the USF St. Petersburg community turned their attention to helping the people of southwest Florida, where Ian made a direct hit.

“I’m really proud of the way everyone came together to look out for one another both during and after the storm,” said Christian Hardigree, regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “A crisis reveals a lot about character, and it’s clear that we are a caring, compassionate and resourceful community.”


The 2022 hurricane season was relatively quiet until September 21, when a tropical wave that originated off the coast of western Africa moved

into the Caribbean Sea, bringing large waves and gusty winds to the small island nations in its path.

We are talking about what the expectations are for the university as a whole, as well as what needs to be done on each campus as we start the five-day countdown to landfall.

Van Asten and other members of the Emergency Management team throughout USF were receiving regular updates from the National Weather Service and keeping a careful eye on the storm. As Ian gathered strength, the cone of uncertainty narrowed and it became increasingly likely that the west coast of Florida was going to suffer a direct hit.

The threat was especially acute on the USF St. Petersburg campus, which is located on the waterfront and is partially within Pinellas County’s Evacuation Zone A, which is most atrisk for flooding during a storm.

“As we’re watching the storm, we are in constant communication with our partners in Tampa and Sarasota-Manatee,” Van Asten said. “We are talking about what the expectations are for the university as a whole, as well as what needs to be done on each campus as we start the five-day countdown to landfall.”

On the Sunday before the storm was expected to strike, USF President Rhea Law and members of her senior leadership team met to discuss what actions to take. That evening, the university community was notified that classes were canceled on Monday, September 26 through Thursday, September 29. In addition, the campuses would be closed starting Tuesday, September 27.

The prompt action gave facilities crews time to prepare buildings and other campus structures in advance of the storm. The advance notification was also helpful for students who elected to be at home or with loved ones during the hurricane and didn’t have to worry about missing class.

While residence halls on the USF Tampa campus remained open, those on the St. Petersburg campus had to be vacated because they are located within a Pinellas County evacuation zone. Even before the evacuation notice was given, the Housing and Residential Education team on the St. Petersburg campus was reaching out to students, encouraging them to plan for the storm and helping to prepare those who didn’t have a safe place to stay.

By Monday afternoon, about 40 residential students didn’t have firm plans for evacuation. At Chancellor Hardigree’s request, members of her leadership team divided up the list of names and served as “hurricane buddies” to those students. The leaders checked in on the

Carrie O’Brion
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students via phone call or text to ensure they had a safe place to stay and to answer any questions they might have.

“The safety of our students is always our top priority, and this was a good way for us to demonstrate it,” Hardigree said. “Several of the students said they appreciated the personal connection, and I think the members of the leadership team enjoyed interacting with the students.”

In the end, only eight residential students needed accommodations during the hurricane. Susan Kimbrough, director of housing and residential education on the St. Petersburg campus, worked with her USF colleagues to arrange for the students to bunk in a residence hall on the Tampa campus.

“Despite the circumstances, I think the students had a good time,” Kimbrough said. “They played games, made new friends and even had the opportunity to meet President Law, who stopped by for a visit. All in all, everything went very smoothly.”


Hurricane Ian made landfall on the barrier island of Caya Costo as a strong Category 4 storm, bringing catastrophic wind and flooding to southwest and central Florida and leading to more than 125 fatalities. The Tampa Bay area was spared the brunt of the hurricane, although strong winds snapped trees and downed power lines throughout the region. Avoiding any significant damage and power outages on the campus, leaders at USF’s St. Petersburg campus sought to assist others who may have been impacted.

With more than 500,000 Tampa Bay residents without power, the campus decided to open its University Student Center (USC) the day after the storm to members of the community who needed a place to charge their electronic devices, grab a snack and cool off. About 50 people, including several families with young children, took advantage of the opportunity.

“We were very fortunate,” said Caryn Nesmith, the director of community relations at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “Our close ties to the community help define us as a campus and this was our way of looking out for our friends and neighbors at a difficult time.”

Nesmith also reached out to the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg to assist with a relief drive to collect needed items for storm victims in southwest Florida. A collection box was placed in the USC and within days it was overflowing

with toiletries, canned goods, paper towels and other essential supplies for those in need.

The university recognized the likelihood that students would experience additional challenges due to the storm. Members of the university community were encouraged to make a gift to the USF United Support Fund, which provides a safety net for students facing unanticipated financial challenges. Counseling services were also made available on all three USF campuses.

While many helped locally in and around campus, other members of the USF community traveled to the storm-torn areas to aid in ongoing relief effort. Rianna McDonald, a journalism student on the USF St. Petersburg campus, is one of many military-connected and veteran students who helped Florida residents get back on their feet after Ian’s devastation.

McDonald, an Army National Guard soldier, was deployed to Sebring, Fla., where she worked at a distribution site handing out water, food and ice to residents.

“The community was just really strong. People were coming together and thankful for the help from us and other first responders,” McDonald said. “To be in a situation like the many people we encountered were in is awful, but their spirits were up.”




College Cash is a fintech startup out of Fort Worth, Texas, that utilizes everyday behaviors, such as posting pictures on Instagram or being tipped as an Uber driver, to reduce student loan debt. The platform helps users track money they earn for helping companies increase user engagement and brand awareness or tips from being part of the gig economy and disburse it towards paying off their loans.

CEO Demetrius Curry presented his innovative startup along with 15 other CEOs from around the country and overseas during the inaugural FinTech|X Accelerator Pitch Night event on the USF St. Petersburg campus back in June. During the event, each company gave a fourminute pitch explaining a particular problem in the world of finance. The pitches included the financial technology solution their company had developed as well as financial projections of where the startups could be in a couple of years based on current growth and investment.

Those in the audience included St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, fellow entrepreneurs and members of the business community, along with potential funders.

The pitch night event, along with the threemonth accelerator program it was a part of, was one of the reasons 2022 became the year fintech took off at the University of South Florida, with the goal of making the university and the region of Tampa Bay a hotspot for this emerging industry.


Fintech, short for “financial technology,” aims to improve traditional methods of delivering financial services to simplify financial

transactions, making them more accessible and, often, more affordable to consumers and businesses. Fintech automation impacts everything from mobile banking and insurance to crowdfunding, blockchain, cryptocurrency and investment apps.

The fintech accelerator will allow our campus to play an active role in the growth of fintech across the Tampa Bay region.

Near the end of 2021, the USF Muma College of Business appointed inaugural director Michael Wiemer to launch a new Fintech Center at USF. One of the first developments was the announcement of a strategic partnership with Tampa Bay Wave, Inc. to create an accelerator program in St. Petersburg. The accelerator, held on the USF St. Petersburg campus, is designed to assist high-potential, high-growth startups in the fintech industry through mentoring, pitch coaching and investment training. The overall goal of the partnership is to transition startups to sustainable, scalable and profitable businesses.

“The fintech accelerator will allow our campus to play an active role in the growth of fintech across the Tampa Bay region,” said Gary Patterson, dean of the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance on the St. Petersburg campus, which is one of six schools within the Muma College of Business. “We are excited to see the new ideas and companies this accelerator generates and what it offers the industry.”

The inaugural accelerator began in April of 2022, with 16 businesses selected from across the United States and abroad, including companies from Israel, England, Saudi Arabia and Germany. Of the 16 startups, three were led by women entrepreneurs, with significant representation also from military veterans, LGBTQ+ and minority founders. While some of the startups were in the early revenue stages, others were generating more than $1 million in annual recurring revenue.

Throughout the three-month program, companies were given access to a dedicated accelerator managing director, mentoring with notable tech founders and fintech industry giants, sales training and pitch and investor coaching. Towards the conclusion of the program, each company participated in the pitch night event as well as a Demo Day, where CEOs pitched their companies to an audience of accredited investors, venture capitalists and other fintech industry leaders.

“The inaugural FinTech|X cohort was a tremendous success,” said Richard Munassi, the accelerator’s managing director with Tampa Bay Wave, a tech startup support organization. “From investor relations and customer engagement to revenue growth, the 16 companies are moving quickly. During this 90day program, their company growth includes six to seven-figure investment commitments and partnerships with major international financial institutions, like VISA, Experian and JP Morgan Chase.”

The second cohort for the FinTech|X Accelerator is planned to return to the USF St. Petersburg campus for the fall of 2023.

Matthew Cimitile

The launch of the FinTech Center and accelerator program showcased USF’s strategic entry into fintech. The Center also seeks to advance the reputation of St. Petersburg as an innovative fintech community, and the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance as a hub of excellence in fintech teaching, research, innovation and workforce development.

“As fintech continues to drive innovation and transformation, it is important for our students – this region’s future workforce – to understand the increasingly strategic and operational role of fintech in the modern business organization,” Wiemer said. “Gaining this knowledge will support our students as future leaders who can effectively lead in complex business environments.”

This initiative received a massive boost in April of 2022 when the University of South Florida announced new gifts totaling $14 million from St. Petersburg philanthropists Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton to support making the university a hub of excellence in fintech.

The gifts go towards the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, which has students and faculty on each of USF’s three campuses. The gift will support a four-pillar vision for fintech, which includes hiring world-class faculty to conduct scholarly inquiries into emerging opportunities, as well as assessing

fintech risks and threats and how to mitigate them. The second pillar of the plan, to embed fintech modules into core curricula, will ensure all USF business students, regardless of major, have meaningful exposure to the topic.

“It brings us great joy to help USF students build their expertise in fintech, so they are ready for the fast-changing business world that awaits them,” Tiedemann and Cotton said in a statement. “The faculty on the USF St. Petersburg campus, on all USF campuses, possess the talent and experience needed to effectively develop the curricula that will make USF a leader in this space. Fintech spans many disciplines, and we couldn’t be happier to play our part in creating new opportunities for students.”

The additional pillars of the vision include broader outreach to share expertise with the community through conferences and workplace certificate programs, and making the school a place where students and fintech entrepreneurs alike come for education and mentoring, where startups come for resources and major firms come for talent.

The gifts further solidify the Tampa Bay region’s footprint in fintech, including a strong presence in St. Petersburg that has come as an outgrowth of the city’s strong roots in the financial services sector. The area is home

to Raymond James, now the largest financial service provider outside of Wall Street. According to the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp., financial services is St. Pete’s largest employment sector, and the thriving tech community has drawn companies such as ARK Invest and Dynasty Financial Partners to relocate to the area.

“Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton have made an indelible impact on the University of South Florida, and their generous new gifts continue their legacy of preparing our business students for a bright future,” said USF President Rhea Law. “Fintech is a rapidly emerging field, and Kate and Ellen have paved the way for a cutting-edge program at USF that will help fill the talent pipeline to serve the Tampa Bay region’s thriving tech community.”

The support for fintech is the latest example of Tiedemann and Cotton’s investment in USF. The $10 million gift announced in April of 2022 is in addition to $4 million that was given during the COVID-19 pandemic to endow two professorships. Additional prior contributions from these philanthropists have transformed the St. Petersburg campus’ school of business and finance.

“Kate and Ellen have a deep passion for the university, its students and its faculty. Their longstanding support of the USF St. Petersburg campus has been transformative. These gifts will help generations of students prepare for the workplace,” said USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman. “Their support also signals to other philanthropists that giving to USF is a smart investment that impacts lives and the larger community.”

Gaining this knowledge will support our students as future leaders who can effectively lead in complex business environments.



The Florida Studies program at USF’s College of Arts and Sciences is celebrating 20 years on the St. Petersburg campus, and it’s bringing pieces of the state’s history to the public for the first time by translating documents and uncovering fascinating information from our past.

The unique graduate program includes faculty from History, Geography, Political Science, English and Anthropology to explore the state’s history and culture.

The program’s co-founders, local historians Gary Mormino and Ray Arsenault, and USF alumni gathered in October 2022 to reaffirm


their commitment to the program and celebrate the milestone. Over the past two decades, the program has enabled students to travel the world and be part of groundbreaking research.

In June 2022, one of the program’s most noteworthy projects, USF’s La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archives of the Americas, launched an online exhibit that translates and digitizes America’s oldest parish archive, making it available to a global audience for the first time.

The archive provides the public with unprecedented insight into the daily lives and relationships of the multi-ethnic population that comprised St. Augustine, Fla., from the 16th-19th centuries. The Florida city is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental U.S.

Titled “Lost Voices from America’s Oldest Parish Archive, 1594-1821,” the initiative is making St. Augustine’s diocesan archives digitally accessible for the first time to a global audience. The project is being launched in two phases. Phase I, published on June 6th, includes more than 4,000 pages of ecclesiastical records from America’s first parish. Phase II was published on October 28th and now features 8,000 pages of original documents and their accompanying transcriptions and translations.

“These records give us biographical sketches and can help us track individuals through time,” said J. Michael Francis, the Hough Family Endowed Chair of Florida Studies at USF’s St. Petersburg campus and the executive director of the La Florida project. “When combined with other records from Florida and Spain, we can flesh out stories of individuals that hardly ever appear in historical records, such as women and Native Americans and free and enslaved African Americans.”

The “Lost Voices” initiative is featured on the newly-revamped La Florida digital platform. The platform allows teachers, students, scholars and the general public to research pivotal moments in early Florida history, “Lost Voices” is translating and digitizing thousands of handwritten documents from America’s first parish, providing rare insight into early Florida history.

Sarah Sell

conduct detailed searches on individuals and demographic changes and create custom infographics from the entire collection.

The collection presently includes baptism, marriage, death and burial records, including the 1801 burial record of Georges Biassou, an early leader of the Haitian Revolution who moved with his family to St. Augustine. Other documents identify the names of dozens of runaway slaves who risked their lives to escape English plantations in search of freedom in Spanish Florida.

Some of the individuals recorded in the parish records were 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.

Piecing together clues about the little-known lives of Native Americans, free and enslaved Africans, and conquistadors from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Ireland and elsewhere, La Florida brings early Florida’s diverse population to life through short videos, interactive maps and a searchable population database. It weaves together the lives and events of more than three centuries of Florida’s colonial past, from Juan Ponce de León’s 1513 expedition to 1821, when Florida became a U.S. territory. “La Florida’s fundamental goal is to combine cutting-edge technology with rigorous historical research in order to share Florida’s colonial history in compelling and innovative ways,” said Rachel Sanderson, associate director of La Florida.

Francis and his team work with academic and cultural institutions to comb through thousands of pages of original documents in archives in Spain, Italy, England, Mexico and the United States. The three-year “Lost Voices” initiative

When combined with other records from Florida and Spain, we can flesh out stories of individuals that hardly ever appear in historical records, such as women and Native Americans and free and enslaved African Americans.

built on the expertise of paleographers, historians and translators to transcribe and translate the entire collection of St. Augustine’s colonial ecclesiastical documents, which are largely written in Spanish, along with hundreds of Latin documents.

“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. “I was born and raised here in St. Augustine, so I have always had a loving connection with St. Augustine history. And what Michael and this project have done is brought it alive in so many wonderful ways.”

The “Lost Voices” project was supported by a $250,000 major initiatives grant from the National Archives and the generous support of the Hough Family Foundation, the Lastinger Family Foundation and the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation.


For some, sustainability means creating a healthier environment through practices and choices that result in greater resiliency and cleaner air and water. For others, sustainability is tied closely to social equity, finding ways to better distribute resources and policy outcomes that create equal access to opportunities. And for others, it has a largely economic component of developing new ways of doing business that result in sustainable operations and long-term savings.

Over the past year, the USF St. Petersburg campus has made advancements on all these fronts of sustainability, doing its part to address climate change, enhance access to resources, reduce waste, improve the bottom line and more.


The USF St. Petersburg campus and the St. Pete Youth Farm unveiled the Fresh & Local Greenhouse, which provides fresh vegetables and fish to the community while giving students the opportunity to learn about sustainable farming methods. The new greenhouse enhances urban agriculture and helps address food inequality in south St. Petersburg, where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. The structure allows for both hydroponics and aquaponics farming and helps college and high school students grow their knowledge of food production while building business skills.

“Through this greenhouse project, I am hopeful we will be able to advance the practical learning of sustainable food production, especially in urban settings. It will also provide easy access to affordable fresh and local vegetables to our community, promote creativity among our youth and attract supportive partnerships from various organizations and businesses within the county and beyond,” said Winnie Mulamba, who served as sustainability planner at USF’s St. Petersburg campus.

Located in the most densely populated county in the state, St. Petersburg has a limited amount of land available for food production and a higher percentage of people who identify as food insecure than the national average. More than 190,000 people in Pinellas County are food insecure, according to the nonprofit organization Feeding Tampa Bay.

The greenhouse is growing a variety of lettuces and peppers. Tomatoes and herbs will be added. All will complement the many fruits and vegetables that are grown outside at the youth farm. Blue and red tilapia are also being farm raised within the greenhouse, with their waste being used as fertilizer to grow some of the vegetables within.

Besides providing food, this urban agriculture initiative will teach students about various farming techniques and entrepreneurship. A majority of the produce will be sold through a youth-driven social enterprise led by the St. Pete Youth Farm and USF’s St. Petersburg campus, with proceeds going back to support the greenhouse and farm. The remaining produce will be given to local charity centers.

“We thought we were setup to just provide food but it is way more than that. We are cultivating young people and cultivating food at the same time,” said Carla Bristol, collaboration manager at the St. Pete Youth Farm. “And this greenhouse will allow us to grow year-round, grow in a pestfree environment and teach young people about the variety of ways, and technology used, to grow for greater breadth of knowledge and opportunity.”

The Fresh & Local Greenhouse was made possible by a $25,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund in 2020. USF’s St. Petersburg campus was one of only seven higher education institutions across the nation to receive a grant through the Ford College Community Challenge that year. Additional funding from USF St. Petersburg campus alumni and internal grants supported the greenhouse and the hydroponics and aquaponics system within.

“The Ford Fund is very proud to have been able to support the Fresh & Local Greenhouse project through the Ford College Community Challenge grant. The opening of the greenhouse is a true testament to the hard work of the students and the local community,” said Mike Schmidt, director of economic mobility and global community development at the Ford Motor Company Fund.


A new community solar program from Duke Energy is allowing the campus to expand its investment in renewable energy while saving money and enhancing environmental sustainability.

Clean Energy Connection allows Florida businesses and residents to receive the environmental and long-term cost benefits of solar energy without having to install and maintain costly equipment. By becoming a subscriber in the

Matthew Cimitile

program, the campus will expand its renewable energy portfolio – by up to 6,753 kilowatts - and support Duke Energy’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at a fraction of the cost of adding more solar panels and arrays.

“It is an appealing program because our campus is in a location where land is very expensive and we don’t have much space to expand and offset a significant amount of our energy demand with onsite renewable energy infrastructure,” Mulamba said, who served as sustainability planner at the USF St. Petersburg campus. “These limitations make the Clean Energy Connection program a great solution for those barriers.”

The program works by allowing businesses and residents to subscribe by paying a monthly subscription rate. The subscription is used to support solar energy generation by developing and maintaining Duke Energy’s solar portfolio, including ten 74.9-megawatt solar plants across Florida. The solar plants produce clean, renewable energy that will be added to the electric grid. While supporting clean energy, those enrolled will earn renewable energy and bill credits based on subscription size, which reduce cost over time and act as a renewable energy credit to offset electric needs.

“This program is a great opportunity as it supports both environmental and financial sustainability for the university. By participating with other members of the community, we can make an impact on our environment that also delivers significant net cost savings as a financial return on investment,” said David Everingham, regional vice chancellor for administration & finance at the USF St. Petersburg campus.


Six new machines on USF’s campuses resemble vending machines, but instead of money, they accept plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

The reverse vending machines (RVM) are funded by Coca-Cola as part of its “World Without Waste” environmental program, which includes an ambitious goal of collecting and recycling every bottle or can it sells by 2030. To assist in these efforts, Coca-Cola has agreed to donate five cents per aluminum can or plastic bottle collected at USF to the Feed-A-Bull Food Pantry up to $5,000 per year. Through a survey created by Student Government, students selected Feed-A-Bull Food Pantry as their philanthropy of choice as it provides emergency food assistance and resources to students in need.

“I think this will provide a positive impact to combat food insecurity for our USF community,” Student Body Vice President Jillian Wilson said.

“Supporting clean, renewable energy is important to our customers and communities, however, we recognize not everyone has the space or funds to add solar panels to their home or business,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president, who also serves as chair of the USF St. Petersburg Campus Advisory Board and a member of the USF Board of Trustees. “The Clean Energy Connection program helps customers and businesses like USF achieve their sustainability goals, earn savings on utility costs and be a part of a community that supports the transition to a cleaner energy future.”

The campus will receive credit for more than 6,750 kilowatts of renewable power through the community solar program, which amounts to nearly 70 percent of total energy demand, based on 2019 data. The campus will achieve this figure by 2024, when all ten megawatt solar plants come online. Though there is a subscription cost for this large quantity of renewable energy, the bill credits will start to accumulate quickly and reduce overall cost. By year six, the credits will be larger than the subscription cost each month, creating savings for the campus. By year seven, the campus will reach its payback period, meaning total bill credits earned will equal the total cost of investment.

Even though the machines are managed by Coca-Cola, they will accept empty aluminum cans and plastic bottles from any brand. They’re not required to be cleaned, but the RVM will spit out anything that doesn’t meet recycling criteria, such as a glass bottle. The materials are crushed and sorted by type, collected by Coca-Cola’s subcontractor, Atlas, then treated and prepared for reuse.

The maximum capacity for each machine is approximately 900 crushed containers. The performance of each RVM will be monitored monthly to make sure that collectively, they’re on track to reach the maximum donation amount for the pantry.

“We are very excited with the launch of the RVM project and hope students embrace this program and help support this great cause,” USF Auxiliary Services Director Nancy Santiago said.

For future semesters, the addition of card readers is being considered to run student competitions and further incentivize recycling on campus. Strategically placed in high-demand or high-traffic areas, two machines were installed on the St. Petersburg campus and four on the Tampa campus.

Supporting clean, renewable energy is important to our customers and communities, however, we recognize not everyone has the space or funds to add solar panels to their home or business.



The vital importance of STEM education is widely accepted as the demand for skilled workers in these areas continues to grow. But despite this recognition, the U.S. continues to lag significantly behind other countries in the field.

A 2018 White House study showed that only 20 percent of U.S. high school grads were ready for the rigors of academic majors in STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. In addition, over the previous 15 years, the U.S. has produced only 10 percent of the world’s science and engineering graduates.

The gap is even more pronounced among people of color. From 2017 to 2019, Black professionals made up only nine percent of STEM workers, which is less than their 11 percent share of the overall U.S. workforce. The representation is even lower among Hispanic professionals, who comprise only eight percent of STEM workers.

The University of South Florida’s College of Education is stepping in to help close those gaps by continuing an emphasis on STEM education and helping to make these subjects more accessible to all.

“The current STEM workforce doesn’t really reflect the population it is serving,” said David Rosengrant, campus dean of the College of Education on the USF St. Petersburg campus. “Our goal is to make STEM accessible for all and to ensure we are creating opportunities for everyone to succeed.”

Earlier this year, the College of Education received a $75,000 grant from Duke Energy to establish a local chapter of a national program that creates academic opportunities and career pathways in STEM for students from minority and low-income populations. Called the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievements (MESA) Schools Program, it is based on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

The program is especially meaningful to College of Education Dean Anthony Rolle, who participated in the program as a high school student. Rolle largely credits it with providing a pipeline to enter a lucrative career and being able to see himself in that field.

“The MESA program was – and is – quite visionary… gave me opportunities that I would not have experienced otherwise,” Rolle said. “A major aspect of the program provided quarterly field trips to specific industries that paired visiting students with employees from the same high school, so students could see themselves in that industry.

As students matured to high school juniors and seniors, these same corporations provided paid summer internships. In fact, my first full-time summer job was at an IBM Lab working as a novice computer program intern. Not bad for a kid with a hard-working single mom.”

The grant will be used to launch partnerships with schools, develop curriculum, establish STEM-focused clubs and recruit female and minority students in Pinellas County.

“Many students may be fascinated with STEM, but don’t feel that STEM is a career for them. But we need individuals from every walk of life to participate in these careers,” Rosengrant said. “We hope this program will make kids more knowledgeable and excited for these fields, so they feel that they belong in this realm and will develop abilities to become successful in college and beyond.”

MESA began in 1969 as a pre-college intervention and solutions program in California and has served more than 49,000 students from over 350 school districts across the country. USF is the first institution to host a chapter of the program in Florida and only the third in the eastern U.S. Programming will initially be directed at middle schools in Pinellas County, with plans to expand to grades K-12 in the six counties surrounding Tampa Bay in the future.


The USF team, led by Rolle and Rosengrant, is working with local schools to attract underrepresented populations to career opportunities in STEM fields. Students in the program will have access to STEM enrichment activities, mentorship programs and career shadowing opportunities with technologybased businesses from software development to cybersecurity.

While currently housed at the St. Petersburg campus, the chapter is expected to grow to include the Tampa and Sarasota-Manatee campuses.

“As a young person, I said if I ever had the chance to create such a program like MESA, that I would,” Rolle said. “The academic and economic opportunities the USF MESA chapter will create as the program matures will be instrumental in supporting future STEM students and educators of STEM subjects as well as allow local corporations and organizations the opportunity to invest in their community and the development of potential future employees, managers and CEOs at their companies.”

In addition to creating new pathways for young people to excel in STEM, the College of Education is also working on innovative new solutions to help teachers illustrate some of the most challenging and complex concepts within STEM fields.

Faculty from the USF College of Education and the Physics department won a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop augmented reality simulations to improve students’ understanding and education outcomes in general physics courses.

A total of six augmented reality simulations –combining real world experiences with highly visual and interactive computer-generated

content - will be produced and cover some of the core concepts of the subject: magnetic fields, rotational motion, thermodynamics, optics, forces and circuits.

Once completed, these simulations will be housed on a platform for other educators to use in a classroom, a museum or other learning environments for free.

“When teaching in large lecture halls, you really can lose the hands-on component of education, especially for a subject like physics,” Rosengrant said. “Technology such as augmented reality is a tool that we should use more as it will allow us to reach into the world where a lot of students today consume information: their phones and other devices.”

Over the course of the next year, Education and Physics faculty working with USF’s Advanced Visualization Center will develop a variety of simulations that are beneficial to educators and useful in a classroom setting. For some simulations, students will hold and manipulate a cube that is mapped to a digital screen. For others, students can change certain parameters of a simulation, altering how it runs. Each will

allow students to better explore subjects and enhance the learning experience.

“During the pandemic, we saw how everyone had to change how they teach, and it has created an expectation from students that more material should be accessed online. Augmented reality technology can facilitate that access and provide more exciting and deeper opportunities for learning,” said Karina Hensberry, associate professor of Mathematics Education on the St. Petersburg campus, who was part of the team awarded the grant.

Once developed, each simulation will undergo refinements during the trial stages. Focus groups of educators will also provide user feedback for fine tuning, ensuring the simulation achieves the desired learning outcomes.

The augmented reality simulations are expected to be introduced to students taking the Physics 1 general course during the 2024 calendar year. While using this interactive technology to teach students, researchers will measure how effective it is. They plan to conduct student interviews between those who have used augmented reality and those who have not, track gains and analyze other relevant data.

The research team is also planning to develop a curriculum around the use of augmented reality technology for physics education that teachers can – like the simulations themselves - use for free. The curriculum will align with the Next Generation Science Standards, making the simulations and curriculum available for any educator in the United States and abroad to have access to and use for grades 6-12.

Based on experiences and successes with the technology in the college classroom, the researchers hope to expand the use of augmented reality for teaching concepts in physics into other settings and groups.

“Learning doesn’t just happen within four walls of a classroom, so we are looking at venues like museums, festivals and other opportunities beyond traditional schools,” Rosengrant said. “Situations where the public can learn about these concepts on their own and see how physics plays a part in their everyday life.”

When teaching in large lecture halls, you really can lose the hands-on component of education, especially for a subject like physics.




For nearly a year, USF Political Science Professor Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan worked with international colleagues to plan a unique global classroom experience. Students in her constitutional law class would collaborate with law students in Moldova on research that compared and contrasted civil liberty decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

The first joint meeting with students from the Universitatea Libera Internationala din Moldova (ULIM), or the Free International University of Moldova, was to take place in late February. On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, which borders Moldova.

The international conflict completely altered the context of the collaboration and put in doubt whether it would continue. But McLauchlan, who was a Fulbright Scholar in Moldova in 2010 and 2012, and her colleagues more than

5,700 miles away, believed that by continuing, it would provide invaluable educational opportunities and benefits for everyone involved. So even with war and a looming international humanitarian crisis, law students from Moldova continued their work with USF St. Petersburg campus students in an effort to learn while forming cultural bonds during a time of chaos.

“I believe this project gave students at ULIM some sense of normalcy and that we were a source of support and solidarity during these tremendously challenging times,” McLauchlan said. “Despite having a war at your doorstep and massive amounts of refugees coming into the country, it was heartwarming to see the Moldovan students’ response and how our USF students connected with them.”

Students in the two countries met regularly for virtual discussions on the similarities and differences of constitutional law in the

United States and Europe. They also worked together in smaller research groups using Facebook Messenger, Whats App and Google Docs to develop research papers and posters on specific issues, from the right to a fair trial to the freedom of assembly and speech. All the while, the backdrop of war posed significant challenges for the global classroom.

Despite having a war at your doorstep and massive amounts of refugees coming into the country, it was heartwarming to see the Moldovan students’ response and how our USF students connected with them.

“For our research partners in Moldova, missile strikes are heard in the distance. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing the war in Ukraine and crossing Moldova’s borders. Russian strikes against nuclear plants instill fear of nuclear contamination that will spread to Moldova (and throughout Europe),” McLauchlan wrote on a blog post for the class back in March.

Despite these challenges, the global research partnership sustained throughout the spring semester because of the perseverance of the students and faculty in Moldova.

“This was a valuable opportunity for me because I had the chance and possibility to see and hear from other points of view, forming relationships and keeping in touch with others in a different country,” said Natalia Bodiul, a third-year law student in Moldova, who hosted several refugees from Ukraine in her home. “We have different experiences and sources of information, but we can share and through that improve ourselves.”

Out of this collaboration, students and professors from Moldova and USF presented their research on human rights as well as how to develop global classrooms at the Florida Political Science Association Meeting, virtual symposiums hosted by ULIM and the U.S. Embassy America House in Moldova, and during the USF St. Petersburg campus Undergraduate Research Conference. McLauchlan, who was recognized by USF World with a Global Excellence Award for being an early adopter of virtual global exchange, is currently working on a journal article with Larisa Patlis, senior lecturer in international relations at ULIM, about the impact of global classroom projects on the development of students’ understanding of global issues.

Beyond the classroom discussions and research, students said the most valuable lesson learned from this experience was forming bonds with others from a different culture at a historic time.

“This experience has been valuable to work with others our own age and who have similar interests on the other side of the globe,” said Taylor Herman, a political science major at USF. “It has also been inspiring to work with and see how they have dealt with the conflict happening so geographically close to them, getting to know these students and forming connections even with the differences in culture and circumstances.”

The experience has also confirmed that even in the darkest of times, especially during those times, the value of education.

“For me, it’s so important to get an education,” Bodiul said. “Because we can change the situation when we change our type of thinking.”

USF St. Petersburg and Universitatea Libera Internationala din Moldova spring 2022 research collaboration logo.



With her background in hospitality management, Christian Hardigree relishes experiences that make a person feel welcome. But she was unprepared for just how warm the community response would be after being named regional chancellor of USF’s St. Petersburg campus in May of 2022.

“People have just been so unbelievably generous and kind,” Hardigree said. “Not only members of the local community but also our wonderful faculty, staff and students. This is truly a very special place.”


Hardigree, who began her new role July 1, has done quite a lot in her short time here. She has met with civic and political leaders, interacted extensively with faculty, staff and students, captained a vessel in the annual Cardboard Boat Race and led the campus through Tropical Storm Nicole and Hurricane Ian – even spending several nights in a residence hall while Ian was approaching.

Now, after about six months on the job, Hardigree continues to work with USF President Rhea Law and other members of the leadership team to build a vision for the future of USF’s St. Petersburg campus that will capitalize on the campus’ unique character, remarkable growth and upward trajectory.

As the former dean of the School of Hospitality Management at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Hardigree brings an eye for detail and an emphasis on improving the student experience to the position of regional chancellor. A trial lawyer by training, she is also detail oriented and meticulously prepared.

We sat down with the regional chancellor to learn a little more about her experiences at USF so far and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead. The conversation has been edited for length.



I’m just so energized by the opportunities and possibilities on the horizon. I’m already looking forward to the St. Pete Grand Prix in February and the Tall Ships Festival at the end of March, both of which will be right next to our campus. There are just so many ways for us to interact with our community and to get them more involved in our campus.


Of course, I knew how beautiful the campus is. But I’m surprised by just how much natural beauty there is here. Just yesterday I looked out my window and saw a dolphin playing out in the bay. I mean, what a great experience for our students, where they can check out kayaks and paddleboards and enjoy being on the water.

It’s also been a new experience for me to be at a campus that is largely residential. We have nearly 930 students living on campus now. The University of Nevada Las Vegas [where Hardigree began her career in academia] was just stepping into dorms when I was there. MSU Denver didn’t have dorms at all, so this is new to me.

Having had the opportunity now to visit more of our classrooms and labs and talk to faculty, the quality of not only our faculty research but also our undergraduate research is just impressive. I’ve enjoyed viewing the galleries and seeing the work of the faculty and students in our Graphic Arts program too. It’s all very exciting.


I think that’s critical. It’s a defining characteristic of this campus. It’s also how higher ed differentiates itself moving forward.

You know, the ‘sage from the stage’ days are over, where a professor just lectures from a book. Today, that has less relevancy for our students because they want to know how to take what they’re learning in a classroom and translate that into what they want to do next, whether that’s graduate programs, a career pathway or just for knowledge enhancement. That means you’ve got to be able to get out and apply that knowledge. Maybe that’s through entrepreneurship, or internships or apprenticeships, or job shadowing or mentorship. I mean, this community is clamoring to be engaged with our students. So, I think it’s essential to understand how we truly integrate with our community for the benefit of the students.

People have just been so unbelievably generous and kind. Not only members of the local community but also our wonderful faculty, staff and students. This is truly a very special place.







There are about 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States. They have fantastic faculty and offer very similar programs. So, I think about our students and how do we provide the value-added proposition? What is the value of coming to USF St. Petersburg? People may forget what you told them, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

In college, it’s almost like you’re at an enhanced sensory level. You’re outside your comfort zone because you’re doing a lot of new things. All your senses are heightened and that includes the element of how people make you feel. I can be lost in a sea of confusion and despair. But if you make me feel safe, I can navigate through that with success. If I feel unsafe, if I feel like there’s not a safety net, somebody to catch me or prop me up or help me, then I’ll quit. I’ll go away, I’ll find something else. The hospitality approach really is about making sure that everybody knows there’s a net and they’re valued and seen and heard.


We need to go through a comprehensive academic planning process. That will include a discussion about the Environmental and Oceanographic Center of Excellence that is planned for this campus and how we will integrate the expansion of teaching and laboratory spaces, as well as the funding that goes with that.

I think the continued changes in leadership create some challenges. This is an organization that’s had a lot of change in a pretty short period of time, and I think some stabilization is necessary.

I also think we need some celebration. There’s almost a crying out to have a big soiree of fun and games that acknowledges that we’ve come through this pandemic and are reemerging to support our students. We rarely encourage people to celebrate in higher education, but we should.


I don’t know how far it is down the road, but I’d like to have 100 percent placement of students with careers upon graduation. At least for every student who wants one. We should be able to pick up a phone and get them a position, just like we should with internships.

I also want to encourage more community engagement, particularly opportunities to bring middle school and high school students to our campus. We want to be a space where our neighbors are eager to visit and get engaged.

I think about deferred maintenance projects, getting our campus facilities up to date and making sure they are spaces that make us proud. I’d also like to build another residence hall and explore creative ways to use that space. Maybe it’s providing housing for veterans. Maybe it’s short-term housing for our recent graduates, giving them a landing place while they are getting established in their careers. There are a lot of opportunities to consider.

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We’re settling in really well. The boys are on the Clearwater Chargers, which is a travel soccer team. They’re also on the St. Petersburg High School soccer team. My daughter played volleyball at the YMCA, but that just wrapped up and I think she wants to play soccer next season. So, we haven’t had a chance to do a lot of sightseeing. But everybody loves the area. We went to the beach, and we’ve started to get around to some restaurants. They love the downtown area and how walkable it is. We haven’t delved into watersports yet, but for my 15-year-old’s birthday, we did promise him some jet-skiing opportunities. We just haven’t had a free weekend yet.


I’m just so immensely proud of everybody’s hard work. People take a lot of pride and they’re so genuine about their enthusiasm and their love for this institution.

It’s humbling to work with our Tampa and Sarasota Manatee campus friends as well. USF President Rhea Law is an amazing leader who has built a phenomenal team. (USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor)

Karen Holbrook has so much experience and insight, and she’s also just a delightful and lovely person. They’ve really been so supportive.

I’m also looking forward to working more closely with our alumni and donors. We have amazing donors that allow us to elevate our ‘A game’ and do the things that we couldn’t otherwise do.





When USF student Aaron Rose joined a group of his peers on the St. Petersburg campus for a panel on race, policing and trust in April 2022, he had no idea how impactful his words would be. He was asked to describe his physical and emotional response to seeing a police officer.

“It’s a sad reality; I feel as though I have to act a certain way and come off as less threatening because I know as a Black man, I can be viewed as a little more threatening than others,” Rose said.

Similar stories followed, with local law enforcement officers expressing their own fears and frustrations about how they want to be perceived and trusted in the community.

“In high school, I met our school resource officer, and he did a lot for the kids in school. He was the person who looked out for us, took care of us, and we had an officer who worked in the community who did the same thing,” said St. Petersburg Chief of Police Anthony Holloway. “So, when you had a

problem, you went to those officers. They weren’t there to arrest you but to help you grow and mentor you.”

The panel included Holloway, USF St. Petersburg campus Chief of Police David Hendry and Captain Paul Andrews, as well as students and staff from the St. Petersburg campus.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) organized the forum, which was led by Destiny Gomez, a USF student who is part of a racial justice program with fellow panel member Aaron Rose.

“I was super excited and passionate about this topic,” Gomez said. “Right now, there is a lot of mistrust on both sides. My goal was to start bridging the gap between students and university police, especially regarding students of color.”

The Racial Justice Fellows program puts college students in Pinellas County at the center of creating systemic racial change. The program is


a joint initiative among the USF St. Petersburg campus, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College, Stetson University College of Law and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

In September, that consortium called the St. Petersburg/Pinellas Higher Educations for Racial Equity (SPHERE) chose its second cohort of racial justice fellows. It included eight students, two each from four Pinellas County universities and colleges, for the year-long fellowship.

“Working with leaders in the community and the SPHERE consortium, this class of Racial Justice Fellows will build on the work of the first cohort and help to establish real change through projects focused on shaping policy and transforming systems to create more equitable outcomes for all,” said Michelle Madden, campus diversity officer at USF’s St. Petersburg campus.

The fellowship provides college students with opportunities to inform policy and address barriers through a racial justice lens. Students learn about mechanisms that enable racial healing and serve in summer internships to work on projects that support racial healing and transformation in the local community. Each student will receive up to $2,000 during the 2022-2023 academic year.

“We hope that SPHERE’s one-year fellowship and summer community internships will introduce our students to a lifetime commitment of addressing racial injustices,” said Judith Scully, a professor of law and director of the Social

Justice Advocacy program at Stetson College of Law. “Our curriculum is merely a foundation for our students to stand upon as they begin to see themselves as courageous leaders with a focus on racial equity.”

The eight fellows selected this year are: Marizzol Medina and Jordan Nielubowski from Eckerd College; Katherine Mack and Dean Mucaj from St. Petersburg College; Zenea Johnson and Jessica King from Stetson University’s College of Law; and Dala Daniels and Kima Sibayan from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus.

“I’m so proud to see our second cohort of SPHERE Racial Justice Fellows stepping up to this challenging and rewarding program,” said Amanda Hagood, an Eckerd College Animal Studies instructor and SPHERE curriculum committee member. “It helps our students engage deeply and courageously with the problems of systemic racism at both campus and community levels, and builds the leadership skills needed to take all of that heart-work and headwork forward. We, as the faculty and staff supporting this process, can learn so much from our student fellows.”

Fellows follow a curriculum that covers issues on racial history, diversity, equity and more, have regular meetings with mentors and will complete a six-week internship in the summer of 2023 that focuses on deepening their understanding of systemic racism and developing opportunities to drive healing and transformation. Last year, Racial Justice Student Fellows completed internships with organizations such as the

NAACP, the city of St. Petersburg, the St. Pete Youth Farm and Community Tampa Bay.

Over the course of the academic year, students will also be involved in several approved activities, events or discussions related to race equity and racial justice and are able to participate in biweekly planning meetings with consortium institution representatives to help shape the vision, goals and activities of a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center for Pinellas County. This can include participating in other meetings at their home institutions as well as engaging with community members.

“It is important to create translational opportunities between what students are learning in the classroom and activating their interests and passions to have an impact in the community,” said Julie Rocco, director of strategic investments with the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

“Race equity work is hard, but it is uplifting when you believe there are others who are eager in joining this effort and aspire to what many in our community and the foundation strive to achieve.”

SPHERE emerged out of a community task force that was convened to connect efforts in addressing inequalities that exist in the region. These institutions, which collectively serve more than 40,000 students, have been collaborating since the fall of 2020 to create a consortium working to dismantle racial hierarchies in the region.

Right now, there is a lot of mistrust on both sides. My goal was to start bridging the gap between students and university police, especially regarding students of color.


The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library (NPML) went through several significant changes in 2022, including major renovations and the selection of a new dean.

“During my career, I have focused on the library being a part of the educational process in furthering student success,” said Kristina Keogh, who was named library dean in July. “Often times, it is the library where students go to find answers. By providing a customerservice oriented experience, we can help connect students to the tools and information needed to support their academic journey.”

The 30-year-old building now has a modern look with more study space for students. The upgrades include twelve new study rooms and state-ofthe-art technology to enhance opportunities for collaboration and learning.

The library is a popular spot for students and the surrounding community, but was in need of a modern redesign that utilized space differently to better meet the growing population on the St. Petersburg campus.

“It’s blessed with natural light and beautiful design,” said Kaya Van Beynen, associate dean of the NPML who has been involved with the project since planning began in 2018. “But the way students use the information and our staff work has changed. So, it was time to rethink the

first floor to adapt to students’ needs now and into the future.”

The Student Technology Center, located on the first floor of the library, has been expanded and enhanced to support more computer activity while the digital makerspace where students gather to work on projects, has been updated for students who want to use the virtual reality studio, the 3D printer or participate in robotics training.

“I can’t wait to see the creativity that will happen through the Student Technology Center’s makerspace and workshop offerings,” Keogh said. “Opportunities for play and experimentation within these settings can foster innovation and problem-solving skills that will help students in their coursework and careers.”

A new gallery on the first floor will feature rotating art exhibitions from campus and community partners as well as highlights from the NPML Special Collections and University Archives.

“I am excited to ramp up programming and collaboration within the library gallery,” Keogh added. “This will be an opportunity to expand partnerships with community arts and culture organizations within the city of St. Petersburg. It will also be a place to feature students’ work among our rotating exhibitions.”

The designers of the project also kept sustainability in mind. The green construction plan included materials with a high recycled content, a pre-fabricated system for individual study rooms to reduce waste, new lights with high-efficiency LED fixtures and paints and other materials that minimize the use of cleaning products and harsh chemicals that pollute indoor air quality. The library will also be part of a pilot project by Duke Energy that will install a submeter to monitor and collect real-time energy use data.

The $1.25 million renovation project was funded by a $1 million legacy gift from Josephine Hall, a regular attendee of campus events, and a $250,000 gift from alumna and longtime supporter Lynn Pippenger.

The redesign of NPML has been in the works for four years, but the project faced several delays due to the pandemic, supply chain issues and rising construction costs. Phase one finally got underway and was completed in 2022 with first-floor renovations. Phase two, slated to be complete in 2023, will include new furniture, a redesigned front entrance and a plant wall to reduce noise, create a peaceful environment and purify the air.

Sarah Sell
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Kristina Keogh comes to USF after being the director of library services for six years at the Alfred R. Goldstein Library at Ringling College of Art and Design.

Keogh has more than 15 years of experience in librarianship, including more than seven years in management. She also has an extensive record of public service, outreach, programming, scholarship and planning in academic libraries at both research and teaching institutions in both the public and private spheres.

Keogh earned a bachelor of science in Art History from the University of Central Florida and a masters in Art History from the University of Florida. She went on to receive a master’s of science in Library and Information Studies at Florida State University and a doctorate in Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University.

‘60s & ‘70s A NEW WAVE IN the ‘80s PROGRESS through the ‘00s ON TREND in the 21st century OUR NEXT CHAPTER coming soon!



In February of 2013, USF’s Family Study Center (FSC), in collaboration with community partners from the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students (COQEBS) School Readiness Committee, debuted “Listening to Babies,” a unique training series designed for professionals who work in healthcare, early education, child welfare and many other organizations that serve young children and their families.

The series initially showcased the remarkable scientific evidence that babies - even newborn infants – communicate meaningfully with their caregivers from the earliest moments of their life. The event would evolve into one of the most popular annual professional training series of the past decade for early childhoodserving agencies in Pinellas County, attracting thousands of professionals, providers and caregivers through the years.

In February 2022, Listening to Babies celebrated its 10th anniversary and the final session in the series. Featuring special contributions from St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and former COQEBS president and founder of the Baby Talk initiative, the late Rev. Watson Haynes, the gathering was a time to reflect back on the meaningful community progress that had been made, and an opportunity to look ahead to where future gains must continue to be made to fulfill unmet goals.

The 10th anniversary event was one major highlight for the FSC, which received Board of Governers acknowledgement as an approved

USF Center during a productive and eventful year in 2022. Among the FSC’s notable accomplishments:

Wrapping up its landmark seven-year “Figuring It Out for the Child” study on the transition to new parenthood for African American coparents

Readying a soon-to-be-released major feature article on the groundbreaking findings from that study, to appear in the international Infant Mental Health Journal

Welcoming Dr. Selin Salman-Engin from Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey) to take the helm of an international coparenting collaborative led by the FSC, partnering with sister North American Centers in Washington, DC and Toronto, Canada, and involving major family-serving Centers in Italy, Israel, Switzerland and Sweden

Providing services to 87 Pinellas County children birth-to-age 5 and their families who had experienced trauma and early adversity, through its direct services clinic, the Infant-Family Center

Serving more than 50 child welfare-involved families through “Within My Reach” healthy relationship and Child Parent Psychotherapy interventions

Providing nearly 700 hours of reflective supervision to 74 early learning professionals in 14 counties throughout the state of Florida as part of the FSC’s Reflective Supervision Project

Receiving more than $2 million in continuation support from the Administration for Children and Families, Florida Department of Early Learning, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, Pinellas County Department of Human Services and Foundation for Healthy St. Petersburg

Welcoming a new three-year $193,000 grant from United Way Suncoast to support an innovative community-based initiative to serve families with infants and young children, “Cafes, Coparenting and Community.”

The United Way initiative allows the FSC to meaningfully respond to input it has received over the years from families in the community.


“Parents in our community have told us that supports and services are most beneficial to them if they’re offered when and where they need them, in the ways they need them,” explained James McHale, the FSC’s director. “This new project allows trusted members of the community to deliver useful supports in accessible family-friendly settings, so parents can connect in the ways they find most helpful.”


As the Listening to Babies series evolved through the years, it sharpened its focus on the early experiences of African American children and their parents. Spotlighted were not just influences within households, but within childcare settings and in the broader community encircling the efforts of African American families – in particular, the experiences parents had with family-serving agencies.

The February 25-26 event, held at Pinellas Technical College, was themed around the concept of “Sankofa,” an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana, meaning “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” Event organizers staged the gathering both to include a recounting of knowledge gained through critical examination of past efforts, and collaborative conversations to guide planning that might ensure a better future.

Among the event’s highlights was a conversation led by two of the School Readiness Committee’s most active leaders, each directors of high-quality learning centers in south St. Petersburg. Twanna Monroe, owner and director of Infinite Potential Learning Center, and Jackie Lang, owner and director of Imagination Station, explained what parents seek from centerbased care for their children and addressed the most important elements in delivering high quality care to even the youngest of children - respect, relationship-based caregiving and authentic connection with parents and caregivers.

Monroe explained that the information they shared “reflects what Listening to Babies looks like to me and how we implement respecting young children at our school - not speaking at or towards them but taking the time to stop and listen and pay attention to their cues.”

Lang, who like Monroe has participated in Baby Talk events since 2012, said “it has been encouraging to witness the participation and expectations that parents have for their children...investing in our learners of today gives hope for our leaders of tomorrow.”

Event highlights also featured:

• A retrospective look at the aims, ambitions and accomplishments of the 10-year Listening to Babies run by McHale;

• A parent panel conversation, led by Russia Collins, Clinical and Training Director for the Family Study Center’s Infant-Family Center, on the experiences of young Black children as they transition from preschool environments to take on the challenges of the formal school system;

• A featured presentation by longtime Family Study Center collaborator Maureen Joseph kicking off breakout groups where attendees contributed to discussions centered around major themes that have emerged over the past decade; and

• How lessons learned from the past decade could inform intentional next steps for the decade to come.

COQEBS leaders emphasized that now more than ever, candid conversations about the experiences of Black and Brown children are vitally important for communities to engage in.

“There are nuances between cultures that pre-K providers, public school teachers and administrators need to understand to have a better relationship with their students, regardless of what background they are coming from,” said Ricardo (Ric) Davis, president of COQEBS. “We want to work with them while also providing the latest information to parents and caregivers so we can work as a community to eliminate the disparities in educational outcomes.”

We want to work with them while also providing the latest information to parents and caregivers so we can work as a community to eliminate the disparities in educational outcomes.


Over the years, the FSC has grown its efforts to offer the supports families most desire in the ways they wish to receive them. During the height of the COVID outbreak, this involved bringing resources to families with infants and toddlers at home virtually through the Pinellas Community Foundation-sponsored initiative, “Attending to Infant-Family Mental Health in Pinellas County during COVID-19.”

With Floridians resuming fully their pre-COVID routines, community-based initiatives are important once again, and on July 1, United Way Suncoast announced a new phase in its long relationship with the FSC through sponsorship of the multi-year “Cafes, Coparenting and Community” initiative. The project is being led by FSC Assistant Program Director LaDonna Butler, who has extensive prior experience delivering “Parent Cafes” to community members in St. Petersburg.

In the recurring community cafes, or other program services funded by the award, parents

can access support through one-time or multitouch contacts, virtually or in-person. Cafes and community events understand the ongoing stressors impacting families’ lives, help kindle parental attentiveness to infant mental health at home, validate and support parents’ engagement in children’s development and highlight the important social and emotional skills toddlers and preschool children will need to call upon to thrive in daycare and school settings.

United Way Suncoast’s community investment in 2022 represented a first in its 98-year history — committing nearly $18 million in a threeyear commitment to 88 nonprofits. Their new approach enables the FSC to build momentum as the program blossoms, advance the strategic planning behind the initiative and grow together with United Way Suncoast.

“Our strategic community partners requested a change to multi-year funding and the reasons are clear,” United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff said. “It will create trends and allow us

to measure true impact; it’ll reduce the strain of the application process for the partners and UWS, and it’ll strengthen our ability to tell stories and fundraise.”

As the Family Study Center now looks to 2023, several new and impactful initiatives are already planned, each promising to assist coparents and the families they lead in strengthening the social and emotional thriving of Pinellas County’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers.



After teaching biology for nearly three decades, Heather Judkins still gets excited about conducting field research. An associate professor of Integrative Biology, Judkins is part of a team of scientists who participate in research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.

The five-year research initiative is conducted by the Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics (DEEPEND) Consortium, which consists of 47 scientists from 11 universities and research organizations across the country. The goal is to identify and

quantify long-term trends in fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods, such as squid, in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010.

“For me to be able to bring in deepsea specimens, stories and data that we have collected and then use them for my undergraduate and graduate students is amazing. I feel fortunate that I can share the experiences with them because

I am still naturally excited about it,” Judkins said.

The team has discovered three new species of squid, and a fourth is currently in review at the Bulletin of Marine Science.

In addition to discovering new species, the DEEPEND team continues to gather important data on marine life in the Gulf that they hope to publish shortly.

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For the first time in its 25-year history at the St. Petersburg campus, a political science professor has been named the Duckwall Professor of Florida Studies. The newest recipient for the 2022-2024 academic years is Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, an associate

professor in political science, a Fulbright Scholar and founding director of the Center for Civic Engagement.

“This provides our Florida Studies students with the opportunity not just to follow Florida politics and campaigns

in the media but to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the scholarly literature, to conduct research related to Florida politics, to travel to Tallahassee and other field trips, to interact with Florida legislators and policymakers, and to intern on Florida campaigns and government offices,” Scourfield McLauchlan said.


Erin Stewart Mauldin, an associate history professor who uses the lens of the environmental sciences to examine the major issues of the 19th century in the American South, has been named the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History.

“It is an honor, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to hold this position,” said Mauldin, who has been teaching at USF’s St. Petersburg campus since 2018. “The professorship will allow me to further conduct research, especially archival research, into this vital period of history where race, equality and the environment

intersect. It will also provide the resources to bring speakers to campus, host events and hopefully bring together history students from across all of USF.”

The professorship will aid Mauldin’s research into her next book project, which chronicles the rise of extractive industries in southern cities after the Civil War. The book will investigate how industrial pollution, from waste to air quality, drove residential segregation, forcing many minority and working-class populations to disproportionately bare the environmental and health risks of industrialization.

A new book written by USF anthropology professor John Arthur traces the deep history of beer and its start in ancient civilizations.

In his book, “Beer: A Global Journey through the Past and Present,” Arthur sheds light on the drinks’ historical impact while showing readers how the innovation of ancient brewers inspires today’s booming craft beer industry. The book, which is published by Oxford University Press, presents beer through archaeological and historical contexts, documenting how beer factors into societies’ health, economy, religion and technological development.

Arthur’s inspiration came from his own travels around the world, where he saw evidence of beer production during a research trip to Southern Ethiopia to study the relationship between pottery and food.

“I asked them what was going on; why was the pot completely eroded on the inside? They would always say that the beer was eating the pot,” Arthur said. “The lactic acid in the beer eroded the ceramic material, which became a tell-tale sign of beer production in the archaeological record. We can go to archaeological sites and see the same use-wear and erosion on these ancient pots.”




Multiple studies have shown that mental health issues are on the rise for college students across the country. The Wellness Center on the USF St. Petersburg campus is responding to this growing problem by finding new and innovative ways to help students with both their mental and physical wellbeing.

This focus was rewarded this year when the center won a national award for providing quality healthcare. It also launched a new mental health initiative called I Asked 4 Help, which focuses on students who don’t know how to find the right resources or when to reach out for help.

The project is one of many innovative health initiatives created by the Wellness Center over the past year as it dealt with COVID-19 and its effects on students’ health and well-being.

In March, the USF St. Petersburg campus received the 2022 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award, which celebrates U.S. colleges and universities that provide access to quality healthcare, serving students’ physical health while giving equal priority and investment to mental health.

The recipients represent a range of campuses that operate within different contexts and challenges. Together, they demonstrate how institutions of all sizes and types can create healthy communities that allow every student the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

The USF St. Petersburg campus joins four other colleges and universities in receiving the national award: Auburn University, Barstow Community College, Stevens Institute of Technology and Virginia Tech.

Colleges and universities are crucial in improving the wellbeing of young adults. USF St. Petersburg campus and the other winning schools found ways to pivot to address student needs during the pandemic, proactively addressing

systems of oppression, integrating health and wellbeing in strategic planning and using data to ensure that students are getting the care they need.

“The health and safety of our students - both physical and mental - is our top priority,” said Patricia Helton, regional vice chancellor of student success at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “Our team is truly passionate about their work, and I’m delighted to see their efforts recognized with this meaningful award.”

Students enrolled at colleges and universities that prioritize wellbeing often find that the programs and services provided to them are part of the fabric of the campus community.

The review panel for the Healthy Campus Award cited the following innovative practices at USF St. Petersburg campus:

• Championing student voices: USF St. Petersburg campus listens, elevates and prioritizes the student voice. University leadership regularly holds seats for students on planning committees and students are invited to participate in climate and programming surveys, while faculty engage students in real-world academic activities that often include focus groups and research to fully understand the needs of the student body.

• Proactively addressing systemic injustices: Pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion and dismantling systems of oppression are institutional imperatives at the USF St. Petersburg campus. The campus has worked to update policies, procedures and plans that work towards high levels of inclusivity and


There was no talk about how to increase these help-seeking behaviors. That is an important adult skill. You have to learn how to reach out for help; you have to develop a sense of humility and learn to say, ‘I don’t know everything, I can’t figure this out on my own.’

opportunity by supporting recruitment and retention of diverse staff, enhancing the accessibility of physical space and creating new working relationships among offices with shared interests in the area of inclusivity.

• Providing quality, responsive, accessible clinical services: When students present with a need – whether physical, psychological, or social – the USF St. Petersburg campus’ Wellness Center offers “wrap-around” care that also empowers them to take charge of their health. This care includes both in-person and telehealth services that work closely with specialty services (including behavioral health consultation, nutrition, and psychiatry providers) to ensure communication and work happen swiftly and with clarity.

“USF’s St. Petersburg campus stands out for its passion about elevating student voices and contributing to a diverse and inclusive campus culture,” said Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds. “USF St. Petersburg is a model for prioritizing mental health for its students and in facilitating proactive resources on campus.”


In September, the Wellness Center launched the I Asked 4 Help initiative which provides a unique approach to mental health services.

The potentially life-saving project includes an I Asked 4 Help website dedicated to university students of all ages dealing with life stressors on and off campus. The website includes information like how to find crisis and emergency services, a section to submit referrals, testimonials from students who sought help and provides comprehensive resources that will help someone become the person they want to be at USF and beyond.

According to a survey report by the National Alliance on Mental Health, nearly 65 percent of students who experienced mental health issues in college stopped attending. On the USF St. Petersburg campus, an assessment conducted by the Wellness Center in February 2022 showed

students being highly stressed, with 84 percent saying they would consider mental health services.

The I Asked 4 Help initiative seeks to assist such students in need and launched in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

The idea for the initiative came from Victoria Beltran, assistant director of prevention services at the Wellness Center on the St. Petersburg campus. Beltran, also a doctoral candidate in public health at USF, noticed a need for students to learn help-seeking behaviors.

“We see those warning signs, and we have staff reaching out and making sure they don’t leave. But I noticed that there is no other emphasis beyond what we were offering as university staff and faculty to help these students,” Beltran said. “There was no talk about how to increase these help-seeking behaviors. That is an important adult skill. You have to learn how to reach out for help; you have to develop a sense of humility and learn to say, ‘I don’t know everything, I can’t figure this out on my own,’” she explained.

The initiative will address stressors such as challenging classes, lack of motivation or financial burdens for single and married students. The website includes sections on how to develop those help-seeking skills and testimonials from students who have recognized the need for help and why they reached out to someone. Students are already sharing their mental health stories on the website, hoping others will be inspired to pursue their journey.

“I was having a lot of struggles surrounding my mother getting cancer, living with an ex-boyfriend and dealing with assault trauma all at once,” one student wrote. “I felt very alone and lost, at rock bottom. USF’s Center for Victim Advocacy, my counselor and Student Outreach helped me get my life back on track.”

Another student wrote about the campus staff that helped her; “I failed one of my first classes due to past, deep-rooted bad habits and coping mechanisms which were amplified during COVID. After being referred to the Wellness Center, I was able to make steps toward the person I wanted to be. Though I’m still on that journey, I would not be where I am without them.”

The I Asked 4 Help initiative is funded through USF’s Office of Student Outreach & Support (SOS) for health and suicide prevention. The SOS received a $10,000 grant from the Love IV Lawrence foundation, founded after the unexpected death of Lawrence Hundley Dimmitt IV. The Love IV Lawrence organization is working to change the conversation around mental health and suicide.



She’s known as the “ant lady” at USF’s St. Petersburg campus.

When people think of Biology professor Deby Cassill, it’s almost impossible not to think of her lab, which is filled with ants, spiders and other creepycrawly creatures. But what most people don’t know about Cassill is that she’s not a lifelong biologist. In fact, she spent the first 20 years of her career in healthcare administration. Then one day, a David Attenborough nature documentary changed her life.

“I realized sitting there that I didn’t want to watch science, I wanted to do science,” Cassill said.

Shortly thereafter, she went back to college to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology. By the time she was 50, she had earned a doctorate in the field and in 2001, Cassill was hired on as the first full-time biology professor on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Cassill said the university has provided her with a wonderful opportunity to explore her passion. In October 2022, she provided the institution with a $1 million estate gift to create the Cassill Endowed Scholarship in Biology to aid the next generation of aspiring biologists.

“I thought this would be a great way to give back to this institution by providing scholarships for students, including older students who are returning after a career change like me, to find their passion in biology.”

The generous gift is just one of many ways that Cassill has made the most of her midlife career change. In the interview below, Cassill describes how her fascination for science led her to chart a different path and details both her passion for research and teaching students the wonders of biology by providing them real-world research experiences.


My first degree was in psychology and I worked in that field for about 10 years. Then I went on to get a master’s in public administration and worked up in Tallahassee for another 10 years. I’m in my 40s, still somewhat enjoying my work, and one day I’m watching a nature documentary, a David Attenborough documentary on African wildlife, and it just hit me. I realized sitting there that I didn’t want to watch science, I wanted to do science. So, I reimagined the type of career I wanted and just started a new beginning, earning three biology degrees in 10 years. What really drove me to switch was an intense curiosity about life that psychology and being a bureaucrat in healthcare didn’t answer for me. It’s been a love affair ever since.

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Matthew Cimitile


My initial research was taking psychology and figuring out what is it that makes one group of animals social and another solitary. For example, humans have no claws and no sharp teeth, we are basically food on two legs. So how did we survive in nature?

Strength in numbers. Ants do the same thing. By looking at and documenting ants over a 20-year period, I have discovered things in ants that are so common to humans. Examining social behaviors among ants, humans and other social animals, we find a lot of the same mechanisms that trigger social behaviors, which include competition, cooperation, altruism, sharing, stealing, murder and predation. While we are very different anatomically, we are so similar in why we cooperate and socialize.


Ants became a springboard to try and better understand the evolution of cooperative societies in all kinds of animals and among individuals within a species. One aspect of this that I have become extremely fascinated with is the diverse rearing practices of animals and why certain species spend decades caring for their young, such as elephants, while others abandon their offspring at birth, like fish. I developed a model named ‘maternal risk management,’ which looks at the wide diversity of maternal investment strategies and allows me to conduct research on pretty much any species that I or students in the lab are curious to learn more about.

I am currently working on projects with students on black widow spiders, crabs and whales.


The importance of teaching for me is that students help me learn. You cannot teach something you don’t know well, and you figure that out quickly in a classroom because students ask questions and you need to know those answers. The other benefit of teaching is I get to tell stories I love about my research, which hopefully engages minds and encourages students to come into the lab and work on projects. They are so hungry for a real experience, not just learning by lecture but learning by doing.


What makes this job so much fun and such a privilege is the freedom we have to address research questions that are meaningful, finding new and unique ways to educate students and storytelling. We as humans are the storytellers of the world. By finding out an answer to a question, you are really trying to discover or tell a story. And for a student to find out such an answer, it just generates so much excitement. Working at this university, working with and learning from students and working on these research projects has been such a privilege to satisfy my sense of curiosity.

I realized sitting there that I didn’t want to watch science, I wanted to do science. 140 7th Avenue S | St. Petersburg, FL 33701