University of South Florida St. Petersburg



group of female cheerleaders giving the bulls hand gesture
More than 200 volunteers, spanning across all three USF campuses, took part in this year's Great American Teach-In, spreading across five counties in the Tampa Bay Region.

Bulls In the Burg: December Community Relations Roundup

USF St. Petersburg is an urban university that aims to integrate seamlessly into the fabric of the city and region, enhancing opportunities for students, businesses and the public. This community roundup series highlights the ways that USF faculty, staff, students and administration are active in the community. If you’d like to engage with USF St. Petersburg, or are a campus staff, faculty or student interested in engaging with the community, please contact Caryn Nesmith, Community Relations Director.

Regional Chancellor joins St. Pete leaders on educational trip to Atlanta

Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree joined St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and several members of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership recently on a trip to Atlanta

Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree joined St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and several members of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership recently on a trip to Atlanta to glean ideas and lessons learned that would assist the city in the $6.5 billion redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District. The trip included a tour of Truist Park, home stadium to the Atlanta braves; The Battery, a mixed-use development surrounding the stadium; and The BeltLine, an urban trail system that converted 22 miles of railroad into a network of public parks and trails. The BeltLine's Ponce City Market inspired small business-focused ideas for adaptive reuse along the Pinellas Trail.

Community-engaged dean moves into vice provost role

thomas smith outside along the harbor water

In December, Thomas Smith was named vice provost of Academic Affairs for USF St. Petersburg, the campus’ top academic role.  Smith is a longtime faculty member who has held important leadership positions, including campus dean of both the College of Arts and Sciences and the Judy Genshaft Honors College. He is a human rights expert and has published widely on research interests including international humanitarian law, Turkish politics and foreign policy.
His dedication to international affairs has seen him promote the discipline in the local community. He is a co-founder and board member of the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, now a signature annual event that attracts policy makers and scholars, diplomats and thousands of onlookers to campus each year. Smith also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Holocaust Museum. Smith has received numerous internal and external awards, including the 2019 USF World Global Faculty Award for Outstanding Global Community Engagement.

200 from USF volunteer in Great American Teach-In

teacher and student each holding a fake octopus

More than 200 volunteers, spanning across all three USF campuses, took part in this year's Great American Teach-In, spreading across five counties in the Tampa Bay Region. Their mission: to engage K-12 students in insightful conversations about their careers and share their wealth of expertise. In Pinellas County, the Great American Teach-In occurred on November 15, with USF St. Petersburg employees making a significant impact by visiting 40 schools throughout the county. The volunteers comprised not only staff and faculty but also a few passionate students.

The Great American Teach-In provides USF with a unique platform to forge deeper connections within the community, showcasing the university's commitment to outreach and collaboration. Since assuming her role as USF’s president, Rhea Law has been a driving force behind encouraging maximum participation in the event. Through this engagement, USF aims to raise awareness about the diverse opportunities available at the university, fostering a stronger and more symbiotic relationship with the surrounding community. Coordination of volunteers with the requested schools was led by USF's Office of Youth Experiences, which also coordinates or promotes youth camps across the three USF campuses.

Empowering futures: UMatter Program expands horizons

group of students outside The Hub building in St. Pete

Throughout this semester, students from the Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter program engaged in a series of impactful excursions, immersing themselves in the local community by visiting various businesses and organizations. The culminating experience was a tour of Norwegian Cruise Lines, where they explored performance practice areas, dance studios and cosmetic studios. The behind-the-scenes glimpse into the cruise ship industry left students profoundly impressed. UMatter students also participated in Pinellas County School's Exceptional Student Education College, Career and Life Fair. They shared UMatter information with numerous students and families, making a meaningful impact. Adding to their diverse experiences, the students also delved into job shadowing at the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub, where they gained valuable insights into the research and technology initiatives undertaken by various resident companies. 

The Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter program is an innovative inclusive postsecondary education initiative designed to offer young individuals with intellectual disabilities a taste of higher education and campus life. Supported by UMatter professional staff and mentors, students navigate the transition from high school to college, acquiring socialization skills, independence in living, and professional training through internships. Eligible students can benefit from scholarship funds, providing financial support of up to $15,000 to cover tuition, housing, fees, and other expenses.

PlaceMattersSP series engages local district leaders

Leaders from four local business and main streets districts convened for a panel discussion

St. Pete boasts a unique collection of mixed-use districts, each with their own character, challenges and visions for the future. Leaders from four local business and main streets districts convened for a panel discussion on November 15 in the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library on how each is managing growth, maintaining their community identity and planning for what’s next. Titled “Know Your Districts: Navigating Change,” the panel included executive directors Alison Barlow of the Innovation District, Roger Curlin of the Edge District, Chris Arnold of the Grand Central District and Latorra Bowles of the Deuces Live. Moderated by USF Senior Vice President of Community Partnerships Eric Eisenberg, panelists discussed what makes St. Pete special, and the challenges and opportunities facing each particular district through this period of rapid development and commercial growth. PlaceMattersSP is a series of events presented by Preserve the ‘Burg and USF's Nelson Poynter Memorial Library. PlaceMattersSP is supported by AARP.

Business major takes full advantage of USF opportunities

Cherish Alston sitting on the steps outside

Cherish Alston, a sophomore at the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, has strategically navigated her academic journey, securing internships and building connections that have now earned her a significant scholarship. Recognizing the value of internships, Alston became a business analytics intern at ISOCRATES during her freshman year. Her proactive approach extended to active involvement in student organizations, including roles as a student advisory board member and secretary. Last summer, she interned at Connect Secure, gaining valuable experience in cybersecurity. This exposure solidified her career aspirations, focusing on vulnerability management or cyber defense. Through her network and achievements, Alston secured the CREST Scholarship for Service in government, covering the remainder of her education costs at the University of South Florida. The scholarship, awarded in early 2023, supports her through both bachelor's and master's degrees in cybersecurity, illustrating how Alston's internships and community connections have shaped her educational and career trajectory.

Retired faculty member’s art on display in College of Education

Dr. Sonia (Forseth) Helton

The November Retired Faculty and Staff Association meeting featured artwork uncovered by Dr. Sonia (Forseth) Helton. Helton served as a professor and the Director of the College of Education from 1998-2004. Throughout her esteemed career, Helton had a significant role as a creative thinker and foundational organizer of STEM education. Influencing generations of educators, Helton was a founding faculty member whose contributions have received international and national recognition by science and mathematics theorists and educators. 

However, she was less known at USF for her artwork, which aligns with Helton’s scholarship. Recently, a work of art by Helton was uncovered in the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, and hung for viewing in the USF St. Petersburg College of Education’s Dean’s Suite. The work, titled Addition Mod 8 with Translations (1972) was part of a series inspired by mathematics and symmetry theory to represent Abelian groups of order eight. In 1975, the paintings were shown as part of OH-HO: The Symmetry Game, the first art exhibition to be held at The Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia. 

The Retired Faculty and Staff Association (RFSA) was founded in 2004 to maintain an organized association between its members and the University. The RFSA encourages retirees to remain involved with USF St. Petersburg by fostering social connection through events and projects that assist in the institution’s advancement. 

Career Services staff accepted to Leadership St. Pete

Rita Zweifel

Celebrating its 55th year, Leadership St. Pete is welcoming 37 exceptional individuals to its distinguished Class of 2024. Among this year's cohort is Rita Zweifel, coordinator for Internships & Career Experiences in the Career Services Office. A first generation college student, Zweifel is committed to fostering meaningful connections between students and mentors that help students succeed in their professional aspirations. She joined the campus community a year ago, and in her role coordinates mentors for the Innovation Scholars Career Exploration Program. Zweifel is a proud USF alumna, holding an M.Ed. in College Student Affairs, and a bachelor's degree in Spanish & International Relations from Florida International University.

Leadership St. Pete (LSP) is a division of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and its nonprofit foundation. The program offers a dynamic and immersive six-month experience, fostering community stewardship among its members. The program's curriculum challenges participants to perceive local issues as opportunities, promoting creative thinking through interactive class sessions and mentorship from esteemed community leaders.

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