USF St. Petersburg campus Points of Pride
Topics on this page:
- World-Class Research
- Hands-On Learning
- Diverse and Inclusive
Our faculty and students work together to conduct ground-breaking, community-engaged research. Their discoveries change lives, from sharing new insight into climate change to uncovering how computer games reduce memory loss.
The Family Study Center, directed by Dr. James McHale, is the home of both basic and applied research studies concerned with understanding, supporting, and advocating for families with young children. Since its inception, the Family Study Center has been a base for innovative new projects and initiatives to support coparenting and children’s development.
This lab is one of the first research centers dedicated to studying the myriad impacts
of sexual exploitation of children in Florida. The research lab helps stakeholders,
including non-profit groups, legislators and law enforcement agencies, by providing
accurate data and resources about victims of human trafficking.
Since 2015, the Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (iCAR) has brought together scientists, policymakers and the local community to focus on preparing and becoming more resilient to present and future climate changes. iCAR aims to leverage the campus’ intellectual capital and resources to build safer, healthier, more aware, prepared and resilient communities in the Tampa Bay region.
Jennifer O’Brien, an associate professor of psychology on our campus, is part of a team that won a $44.4 million National Institutes of Health grant that will study whether computerized brain training exercises can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. This is an expansion of the USF Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training (PACT) study, which Dr. O’Brion has been leading on the St. Petersburg campus.
This innovative project brings early Florida's diverse population to life through short videos, interactive maps and a searchable population database housed at the USF St. Petersburg campus. Led by Professor J. Michael Francis, it weaves together in fascinating detail the lives and critical events of America’s earliest beginnings – such as the founding of the first permanent European settlement in the continental U.S. at St. Augustine in 1565; the original St. Patrick’s day celebration that was discovered through this project to have taken place in Florida in 1601; and the first free black settlement anywhere in the colonies at Fort Mose in 1738.
We believe in the value of experiential learning, which gives students a broader view of the world and a deeper appreciation for their community. We have launched several initiatives aimed at giving students valuable hands-on experience.
In 2018, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation gave a $500,000 grant that established the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Center in the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance. Since then, the venue and its faculty are giving college students the tools and ability to manage stock investments while spearheading initiatives that advance financial literacy in the community.
In 2018, the USF St. Petersburg campus opened the new STEM Inq lab in the College
of Education. The lab allows aspiring educators and current faculty to infuse the
latest in science, technology, education and math (STEM) into their teaching methods.
The lab has a variety of multidisciplinary tools, including a plethora of 3D printers
in addition to a state-of-the-art laser printer, VEX IQ and First Lego Robots, AutoCAD
and virtual and augmented reality. It is designed to encourage experiential and inquiry-based
models of learning, which means more hands-on experimentation and less time reading
The Innovation Scholars Career Exploration Program provides unique job shadowing opportunities for incoming high-achieving first-year students by partnering them with companies and professionals in and around Downtown St. Petersburg and within the St. Petersburg Innovation District. The program provides students with a valuable introduction to industries and job fields as they shadow mentors and test career options to help solidify major choices and academic paths early in their university experience.
For the past five U.S. presidential campaigns, students have had the opportunity to participate in a 10-day internship that offers a hands-on look at how a presidential primary campaign is run. Organized by Political Science Professor Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, students travel to New Hampshire before the state’s primary election, where they perform tasks such as canvassing and phone banking for one of the presidential hopefuls.
Our commitment to serve reaches beyond our campus. Our students, faculty and staff are deeply embedded in our community, committed to working with our partners to tackle complex problems that improves our region.
The UMatter program was created to provide young people with intellectual disabilities
the opportunity to experience higher education and campus life. Established through
a $900,000 grant awarded by the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities,
the UMatter program provides young people with intellectual disabilities the learning,
social skills and career training needed to set them up to be competitively employed
and live independently.
USF Pearls is a program launched on the USF St. Petersburg campus that was designed and created for students emerging from the foster-care system. Nationally, the graduation rate of persons emerging from the foster-care system with a 4-year degree is less than 2%. The USF Pearls program aims to close the degree attainment gap for these motivated and talented students by providing intentional care coordination support.
Originally called St. Pete Friends, this program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide outreach between students and seniors in the surrounding St. Petersburg community who were experiencing heightened isolation due to social distancing measures. The program has been expanded to make it more accessible for students throughout USF’s three campus and has been renamed USF Health Buddies.
The St. Petersburg campus was selected for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a prestigious designation that recognizes institutional commitment to community and civic engagement. The campus was one of 118 other U.S. colleges and universities, including USF in Tampa, to earn the classification during the 2020 cycle.
The USF St. Petersburg campus and the Florida YMCA work together to offer the Civics Fellows Program, an initiative designed to enhance civic education in the state by giving high school students hands-on experiences in government and public service. The program culminates with a week-long institute hosted on the USF St. Petersburg campus, which gives students the opportunity to directly engage with elected officials, emergency responders and many others who help run government in the state of Florida.
At USF’s St. Petersburg campus, we believe in being good stewards of the earth’s precious resources. Care for our natural environment and sustainability is a large part of the campus culture and identity.
To address the environmental issue of food waste, students led the drive to install an innovative system that naturally breaks down non-edible food on campus – the first of its kind at a Florida university. Called the ORCA system, the biodigester uses oxygen, water and microorganisms that flourish in cold water to decompose foods, from fruits and breads to eggs and chicken bones. The system, funded by the university’s student green energy fund (SGEF), can break down as much as 15 pounds of food an hour and divert more than 2,000 pounds of the university’s food waste per year from landfills.
The Warehouse Laboratory, which houses biology, chemistry and physics labs, received LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Platinum is the highest and hardest certification to earn from the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Only about 10 to 15 percent of buildings worldwide have earned this pinnacle of distinctions in sustainable design and construction. The Warehouse Laboratory is the first USF building to receive this recognition.
Funded by a $25,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund, the campus is working with community partners to establish a greenhouse that could help address food inequality in South St. Pete, where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. The greenhouse is estimated to produce up to 150 pounds of fresh vegetables for the community each month, and this initiative will engage around 30 college and high school students in agriculture and business development skills each semester.
A 100 kW solar array and a 200kW Tesla battery storage system was installed in partnership with Duke Energy on top of the campus’ 5th Avenue Parking Facility. Solar energy that is not used by the garage for lights, elevators and electric-vehicle charging stations is stored in battery systems or put onto the electric grid for immediate use.
At the USF St. Petersburg campus, we respect differences. We honor diversity and the richness it brings to the campus and to our community. We are committed to creating physical and psychologically safe places for all people and doing our part to dismantle systemic racism in our society.
This innovative program is a joint initiative among Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College (SPC), Stetson University College of Law, University of South Florida (USF) St. Petersburg campus, and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP), who have been collaborating since Fall 2020 to create a consortium of higher education institutions in Pinellas County, Florida focused on racial justice. It places students at the center of efforts to create systemic change, creating a pipeline for students to become involved in work related to antiracist policy and movements, and racial healing and transformation.
In July 2020, USF’s St. Petersburg campus and community leaders in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County convened a task force to explore how we can bridge our efforts to address inequalities that exist in our city and county. The task force is now focused on creating a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center. TRHT Campus Centers implement visionary action plans with the aim of moving the needle on the transformative goal of erasing structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity on campuses, in our communities, and for our nation around the pillars of the TRHT Framework: narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, separation, law and economy.
After several years of work, the USF St. Petersburg campus formally acknowledged the Indigenous communities who originally inhabited the land where the campus now sits. By creating a Native American land acknowledgment, the campus is honoring both the prosperous life and the painful history of the people of Florida’s largest open-water estuary.
Call Me MiSTER is a partnership with Pinellas County Public Schools to recruit men of color to get their undergraduate degree and teacher certification or a Master’s of Arts degree in Teaching. The mission is to increase the pool of available licensed teachers from a broader, more diverse background. Participants receive tuition assistance and academic support in exchange for agreeing to teach in an urban or low-income elementary school classroom after graduation.