University of South Florida St. Petersburg



Women in construction panel at tropicana field
(left to right): Dr. Cynthia Johnson, Tarnisha Cliatt, Debbie Rodriguez, Christian Hardigree & Kim McMurphy during a panel discussion on Women in Construction hosted at Tropicana Field.

Bulls In the Burg: May 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 visit us online to learn more.

Downtown Partnership CEO receives USF Distinguished Citizen Award

mathis receiving award at commencement

Each year during commencement, USF bestows some of its highest honors to outstanding individuals who have made essential contributions to USF and the community.  This year, Jason Mathis, CEO of St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, was honored with the Distinguished Citizen Award. During Mathis’ time as leader, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership has contributed nearly $2 million to USF programs centered around USF’s College of Marine Science. The private, nonprofit urban development organization was originally formed to acquire the land that became the USF St. Petersburg campus. In addition to his work with the partnership, Mathis also serves in board leadership positions with the St. Petersburg Innovation District and St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. He was part of the St. Petersburg cohort for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative focused on redevelopment of Tropicana Field, and he currently serves as a member of the Community Benefits Advisory Committee for the city of St. Petersburg.

Seeking mentors for next fall's cohort of Innovation Scholars!

mentor and student in the usc ballroom

Are you passionate about nurturing the next generation of innovators? We're excited to invite you to become a mentor for the Innovation Scholars Career Exploration program at USF St. Petersburg! As a mentor, you'll have the opportunity to guide and inspire students as they embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. Whether you're a seasoned industry professional or a recent graduate eager to give back, your expertise and insights are invaluable. Join us in shaping the future of innovation by visiting our website for more information and to sign up today.

Florida finalist wins national Poetry Out Loud competition

Niveah Glover, a 12th-grade student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, is the 2024 Poetry Out Loud® National Champion. After reciting poems by Patricia Smith, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Ashanti Anderson, Glover was named champion during the national finals on May 2. The finals were hosted by poet, editor and National Council on the Arts member Huascar Medina in Washington, DC. As National Champion, Glover will receive a prize of $20,000.

USF St. Petersburg campus is the proud organizer and host of the Florida statewide Poetry Out Loud Competition. Glover won the state competition on March 1 before going on to the nationals. Since 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have sponsored Poetry Out Loud programming with contests in every state and territory in the nation to help students master public speaking, build self-confidence and learn more about their literary heritage. In Florida, more than 6,000 students from 40 schools participated in Poetry Out Loud in 2024. 

Professor awarded USF's Community Engaged Teaching Award

Dr. Judithanne Scourfiled McLauchlan receiving her award

USF’s Outstanding Community-Engaged Teaching Award was awarded to Dr. Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan at the 2024 Faculty Honors & Awards Reception on April 10th. Mclauchlan is a political science professor on the St. Petersburg campus and director of the Center for Civic engagement. The Outstanding Community-Engaged Teaching Award recognizes excellence, innovation and effectiveness in teaching that demonstrates: community collaboration; deeply engaged, high-quality teaching; and institutional impact: leadership in developing cultures, programs, and/or policies that promote meaningful engagement at our campus, within higher education, and/or in one’s discipline.

First Sokolovsky Award granted to anthropology student

aria garling receiving the sokolovsky award

This year, the Anthropology Department presented the inaugural Sokolovsky Award for Community Research, Engagement, and Dialogues to student Aria Garling. The award is a tribute to Dr. Jay Sokolovsky's pioneering contributions to the anthropology program at the St. Petersburg campus. It honors outstanding anthropology students who demonstrate exceptional commitment, kindness and enthusiasm in their engagement with and support of individuals and communities. Garling, a program coordinator with Seniors in Service, said her anthropology degree has been instrumental in guiding her toward meaningful community involvement. She played a pivotal role in establishing Health Buddies, a program connecting isolated seniors with student volunteers. Her academic journey, which began at USF two decades ago, has seen unexpected twists and turns, but resulted in her graduation in early May. Garling now says her sights are set on pursuing a Master’s in Public Health, driven by her passion for driving positive change within communities.

Employ-a-bull at SAILebration

students celebrating on sailebration

During this semester’s SAILebration, our traditional sunset cruise party for new graduates, we talked with several students about their great job and internship opportunities they have lined up, as well as advice for new students. Student interviewed for our monthly Employ-a-Bull social media video series include:

  • Lorena Froze, Information Systems and Management
  • Logan Goodyear, Communication
  • Matthew Senechal, Business and Finance
  • Sho Ishizuka, Business and Finance

Anthropology student organizes panel exploring Gas Plant research

katherine kirkeminde anthropology student

On April 18, Community leaders and faculty came together for a discussion on the intersections of academics and activism related to the history and proposed redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg. Anthropology professor and department chair, Dr. Antoinette Jackson, presented her research on historic Black cemeteries, which has led to the creation of the Black Cemetery Network nationally. Other presenters included anthropology faculty Anna Dixon; the City of St. Petersburg’s Chief Equity Officer, Carl Lavender, and community leader and activist, Rev. Corey Givens.  The event was organized by Katherine Kirkeminde, an anthropology student and  one of seven Racial Justice Fellows in Pinellas County with the St. Petersburg Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Center.

Campus, Student Groups sponsor Earth Day at St. Pete Youth Farm

people speaking on stage at st pete youth farm on earth day

On April 20, the St. Pete Youth Farm hosted its Earth Day celebration, drawing in hundreds of participants for a day filled with family-friendly community activities. This annual event boasted a cookout, games, workshops on gardening and vermicomposting, an art-making zone and a session on mindfulness meditation. This year USF St. Petersburg and the campus’ Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF) sponsored the event for the first time. Additionally, the Judy Genshaft Honors College Student Council and the Honors Living Learning Community played instrumental roles in assisting the farm with event preparation, setup and execution, including the preparation of a salad made from fresh produce sourced directly from the farm. SGEF provided transportation for students to and from campus. This collaborative effort not only fostered a sense of community spirit but also underscored a shared commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable living practices. 

Campus hosts the Florida Housing Summit

room of people attending the summit in the USC ballroom

USF St. Petersburg hosted hundreds of industry leaders, policy makers and experts on May 1 for the Florida Policy Project’s (FPP) first Florida Housing Summit. The intent of the summit, according to FPP founder and former state senator Jeff Brandes, was to hold a discussion about the entire state rather than focused only on the region, and to bring in national experts. There were more than a dozen speakers at the day-long event who presented on challenges faced nationwide, but also on solutions involving changes to zoning, incentivizing cities and counties, enabling the building of accessory dwelling units, use of vouchers, upzoning and more.

Local nutritionist teaches UMatter students to cook

students attending workshop learning to cook

Students in our UMatter program —which provides young people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to experience higher education and campus life — recently took a six-week cooking workshop with nutritionist and dietician Wendy Wesley. Students learned to cook simple, weeknight recipes that they can replicate at home. The class also covered topics like menu planning, food safety and label reading. Listen to their takeaways in a fun interview with WUSF Public Media here. The Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter is an innovative inclusive postsecondary education program created to provide young people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to experience higher education and campus life.

Campus leaders participate in “Word with Welch”

people who attended roundtable discussion

Campus Regional Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Mai Jenney and outgoing Campus Student Governor Abdul Khawaja were participants of a "Word with Welch" session in which community members join St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch for a roundtable discussion. In April, the meeting brought together members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) local community, including restaurant owners, local government representatives and City leaders. During the event, Mayor Welch heard numerous concerns and insights from attendees, including the idea of hosting more family-friendly Asian food and vendor community events. Another proposal was to appoint a liaison between the government and the AAPI community, with the creation of an AAPI advisory committee to facilitate ongoing communication and outreach. According to Jenney, the event left attendees feeling deeply appreciated for the local government's proactive approach in embracing and understanding Asian culture, which motivated Jenney and Khawaja to volunteer to be part of the AAPI committee. “We are eager to plan and coordinate one or two events in the coming months," Jenney said.

Professor headlines first Innovation District “Morning Spark”

one of the speakers at the event standing at the podium

On April 24, the St. Petersburg Innovation District launched a new breakfast series called Morning Sparks: Innovation X-change as an opportunity to explore emerging technologies and concepts, learn about District partners' related efforts and engage in thoughtful discussions about the future. USF Assistant Professor John Licato was the first speaker in the series, setting the stage with a thought-provoking discussion about artificial intelligence and its implications. Licato is an assistant professor at USF's Computer Science and Engineering Department in Tampa and also the founding director of the department’s Advancing Machine and Human Reasoning Lab, a cross-disciplinary lab studying ways to improve the human reasoning of AI.  Attendees – various members of the Innovation District Council who use AI in different fields - medical, art, insurance – participated in table top discussions about how they are using AI now and what might come in the future.  USF St. Petersburg is a founding member of the Innovation District, and the campus sits at the district’s geographic heart. To learn more, join the Innovation District for its upcoming Trolley Tour of the District on May 17, which will include a stop at the College of Education STEM lab on campus.

Students find solutions to community challenges through Design Thinking Bootcamp

In Steve Diasio’s Management Design Thinking MBA Course, students leverage the Management Design Thinking (MDT) Methodology to research, identify a problem and innovate to solve challenges. This is known as citizen or user innovation. This spring, students identified gaps in the education curriculum for non-traditional students, ideated innovative solutions, built a prototype for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and developed a business plan for a scalable educational service. “Improv is how we activate the first phase of the management design thinking process which is team building, sense making and cohesion,” says Diaisio.  In the accompanying video, MBA student John Miller describes the transformative nature of the class and how it applies to all of life’s challenges. The class will also be offered this summer, and each semester students tackle different community challenges.

Town and Gown awards $6,000 to campus programs

group of people attending the luncheon

The St. Petersburg Town and Gown organization announced the recipients of their annual award at a luncheon held on April 26, 2024 in Lynn Pippenger Hall. The Town and Gown Award is made possible through annual membership dues and recognizes the efforts of a person or program on the USF St. Petersburg campus that enhances the quality of life within the University and the city of St. Petersburg. Members of Town and Gown and campus departments are invited to submit nominations for the award each year. This year Town & Gown provided a total of $6,000 in support to the Office of Veterans Success, the Family Study Center and the St. Pete Feed-A-Bull food pantry. The organization has given over $149,000 to programs and scholarships across USF St. Petersburg campus since 2001.

Town and Gown is a non-profit organization designed to promote understanding and friendship between the USF St. Petersburg campus and the community. Find more information about Town and Gown and become a member here

Chancellor talks women in construction, leadership

panel discussion at tropicana field

Orlando Health Bayfront Hospital and Turner Construction hosted a panel discussion on Women in Construction, in which Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree participated along with Kim McMurphy, VP of Orlando Health Construction, Tarnisha Cliatt, CEO and founder of the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce, Debbie Rodriguez, SBE/WBE Business Owner, and moderator, Dr. Cynthia Johnson from Pinellas County Economic Development. Around 100 participants from small and minority owned businesses learned from leaders in the construction industry, with the field at Tropicana Stadium as the backdrop. 

Professor hosts Albanian judges

judithanne and colleagues

Political Science Professor Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan hosted a delegation of Albanian judges on April 22-23. Since 2016, Albania has undergone extensive judicial reform and the visit to the United States was an opportunity to meet with American colleagues and interact with students. The visit included meetings at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater, and the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Tampa, as well as a lecture on the Rule of Law and Civil Society in Albania on campus. The group included Director of Open Gov Hub Albania, Edison Frangu, who also visited earlier in April with the Rector of the University for Business and Techology of Kosovo, Dr. Edmond Hagrizi. 

CCE, Keep Pinellas Beautiful partner on campus cleanup

student picking up trash along the water on st pete campus

The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), in collaboration with Keep Pinellas Beautiful, held a campus clean-up on April 26 in honor of Global Volunteer Month & Earth Day. During a one-hour study/lunch break, ten students picked up nearly 30 pounds of trash! 

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At the USF St. Petersburg campus newsroom, we highlight the people, events and initiatives that make us distinct. From groundbreaking research to inspiring student profiles, we are dedicated to telling our campus' story and promoting its value to the greater Tampa Bay community and beyond.


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