University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus



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Advancement Newsletter July 2020

A message from Lee Williams
Regional Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Alumni Relations

Lee Williams

Lee Williams

A few months ago, we distributed our last newsletter; however, it seems like a lifetime has passed. COVID-19 is a now household word, and it has resulted in the need for new operational procedures for life and work. At the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, we have adjusted and continue to do all we can to provide for and protect the wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff. We also wish to remain active — as much as we can — within the community. In this issue, you’ll see how we’ve kept in contact, changed a few things and adjusted to the new way of living.

Respecting the health and wellbeing of our community, we changed a major detail in our annual, signature scholarship fundraiser. Brunch on the Bay has a NEW date; mark your calendars for Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021! In addition to joining us in person, you can attend “virtually.” Stay tuned for more details about participating in the event from the comfort of your home with Brunch Chairperson Elizabeth Moore and Brunch Title Sponsor for 2021, the USF Federal Credit Union. We will, once again, partner with Mary Kenealy Events and Palm Printing to ensure that the event is memorable and meaningful. Early event sponsors include Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Badger Bob’s, Bank of America, Cleanaps, Dealers United, Florida Power & Light, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Gulf Coast Builders Xchange, Phil King, Williamson Dacar Associates, Inc., and Willis Smith Construction.  We’re thrilled to welcome them as repeat supporters, and watch for a special newsletter in the fall dedicated specifically to Brunch on the Bay and 27 years of impact.

We look forward to seeing you again soon, and until then, stay safe!


Have a question or want to learn more about USFSM or get involved? Feel free to email or call me at 941-359-4582, and we can explore how your interest in the university and students can make a difference in our community.

A message from Karen Holbrook, PhD
Regional Chancellor


Karen A. Holbrook, PhD

All three campuses of the University of South Florida have been changed by the coronavirus pandemic – and by consolidation, which became a reality on July 1. Gov. Rick Scott signed the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, requiring the three campuses to consolidate under one accreditation.

Two years later – and a four-foot stack of documents, the formation of at least 50 separate committees composed of trustees, administrators, community leaders, faculty, staff and students that held countless meetings, and literally hundreds of road trips between Sarasota, Manatee and Tampa, plus an abundance of virtual meetings – USF Sarasota Manatee has transitioned from a separately accredited regional campus of the University of South Florida to the USF Sarasota-Manatee branch campus.

Our students will gain great value from this new affiliation. They will graduate with a degree from a preeminent university that is No. 1 in the nation in student success, No. 1 in Florida and No. 6 in the nation for eliminating the completion gap between black and white students, No. 1 veteran-friendly university in the nation and No. 1 in Florida for the percent of students employed one year after graduation and in receipt of bachelors’ and graduate degrees awarded in high-need areas. The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus undergraduate students who currently choose from among 40 majors can now elect to study in any one of 200 majors in 13 colleges, the few master’s degree programs expand to more than 175 graduate programs, and for the first time, PhD programs can be developed here. The opportunities that exist right now are boundless, and plans to bring more collaborative programs to this campus in the future are under way.

While our local students can reap the benefits of additions from the other two campuses, it is equally as important to recognize the benefits the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus brings to the other campuses. No one else can brag about a Risk Management and Insurance program, the David Kotok and Cumberland Advisors Bloomberg Lab with 12 Bloomberg terminals – and where else can students participate in classes with an average number of 15 students and professors who know their names and backgrounds?

We greatly value the benefits of the “whole,” but we also know that there is something very special about this campus, in this community of friends, where faculty and staff devote themselves to the success of our students as future members of a well-prepared workforce for our region and the world. We celebrate consolidation, and we celebrate whom we are and what we will continue to contribute to our region with your support and partnership.

Best regards and warm wishes,


Pat Del Medico: Bullish on the USF Sarasota Manatee campus

Pat Del Medico, chief operating officer and executive partner with Al Purmort Insurance, first became involved with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus as a sponsor for Brunch on the Bay.

“It was my first exposure to the university and it was an awesome experience,” Del Medico said. “I was excited to learn about the vision and academic platform that they intended to implement for the local campus. In addition, I was so impressed by the leadership, the faculty, the students, the alumni and the other people supporting the school that I wanted to become more engaged.”

Over the next several years, Del Medico partnered with the campus’ business school. “I have assisted students with resume development, interviewing skills, and, most importantly, spent time working to connect students with local business owners in an effort to promote what the school has to offer and to keep students from leaving the area after graduation,” Del Medico said. “Through this experience I have continued to be excited and impressed by the diversified curriculum the university is offering as well as the incredible quality of students they are graduating.”

When the university launched a Risk Management & Insurance (RMI) curriculum, Del Medico wanted to participate. The RMI program is one of only two such programs offered by public universities in Florida. “This not only makes it fairly unique, but also extremely desirable, since the risk management and insurance industries continue to be one of the fastest-growing business sectors in the United States,” he said.

Del Medico should know. His 30-year career has included executive roles in sales, marketing, training, product development and performance management in everything from large fortune 500 companies to start-up entities and family-run businesses. For the past 13 years, he has worked for Al Purmort Insurance. During this time, Del Medico became an owner of the agency, which four years ago merged with Shepherd Insurance out of Carmel, Indiana. It is now one of the 50 largest independent agencies in the country.

Del Medico oversees the Florida operation, which includes 50-plus employees and multiple offices. Overall, the organization now has 400-plus employees located in 24 different locations throughout the United States.

The Risk Management & Insurance program focuses on property and casualty insurance principles as well as health insurance and wealth management. Additionally, it prepares students focused on risk analysis, underwriting and other critical areas within the global financial industry.

Del Medico joined the RMI Advisory Board, a group consisting of insurance professionals and USF faculty whose mission is to create and support the RMI program. Goals of the board, according to Del Medico, include creating a valuable and memorable student experience that will build interest in the program. From an academic perspective, this includes assisting in attracting and retaining high-quality RMI faculty and providing input into the curriculum. From a student perspective, the board wants to give students the tools and resources to become successful, while expanding and enhancing placement opportunities.

Del Medico is thoroughly committed to working with the university and its RMI program. “First and foremost, I want to see the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus grow and flourish. As a business owner, I’d love to avoid the significant costs involved with recruiting great talent and create, instead, a consistent pipeline to tap into for next-gen talent on the local level,” he said.

“I can honestly say that from an industry perspective, I think the USF RMI program is positioned for great things. Most statistics indicate that in the next five years close to 60 percent of the entire risk management/insurance workforce will be retiring. So not only is the industry rapidly growing, there will also be a significant need for new talent to enter the workforce,” Del Medico said.

“The great leadership of Professor Steve Miller, along with the faculty he is developing, will make this one of the most desirable programs of its kind, not only in Florida, but in the United States,” he said.

The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus welcomes Judy Genshaft Honors College

When consolidation became official on July 1, the Judy Genshaft Honors College and its courses became available to students at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, with Cayla Lanier serving as campus director.

The USF Honors College started as a program in the mid-1980s on the USF Tampa campus, and in 2002 it became a college with a dean and dedicated college resources. In 2019, the college was named the Judy Genshaft Honors College in honor of President Emerita and Professor, Judy Genshaft.

“Today, the Judy Genshaft Honors College enrolls students from many majors with the goal of creating a common academic space in which this diverse population can learn from one another,” Honors College Dean Charles Adams said. “In our small discussion classes and in countless other interactions, students exchange ideas, challenge assumptions and work together to address difficult problems.”

The Judy Genshaft Honors College offers its own curriculum and research opportunities. “Our curriculum follows a traditional liberal arts curriculum, so students of all interests can take courses in social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and global perspectives. The college is unique in that we have students — from every major — enrolled in our programs,” Lanier said.

“Honors faculty take an interdisciplinary approach to topics, so students can apply their burgeoning expertise to their specific area of study. Everyone gets a much deeper, richer understanding of what they are studying,” she said.

The courses are all seminar style and are capped at 19 students, which may be par for the course on the Sarasota-Manatee campus but would be considered very small in Tampa. They all include discussion, conversation and debate, so students have the opportunity to work through these topics together. “It is active learning. It allows students to question their own ideas and assumptions, as well as those of their peers,” Lanier said.

The first Judy Genshaft Honors College class at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus will include about 20 students embarking on either a four-year curriculum (if they are coming straight out of high school) or a two-year curriculum (if they are current USF students or transferring to the university). These students will take an honors course in Fall 2020 and begin working towards a research program.

Lanier noted that the college is partnering with the Global Engagement Office to offer a study-abroad initiative as part of its program for summer 2021. “Global experiences are a cornerstone of an honors education. Students learn about global perspectives through a course that they take on campus and through experiential learning such as studying a new language or participating in a globally focused internship, service project or other study abroad program. We have significant donor support for study abroad, so we are able to support students by paying nearly 50 percent of the program’s costs,” Lanier said.

Lanier has been working with the Judy Genshaft Honors College in Tampa for the last 12 years. “I was a student in the college when I was in school and received my degree from USF. After earning my master’s degree, I worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters for a while in Texas, before returning to Florida. There was an academic advising position open, so I first worked as an advisor. Over time, I became the admissions liaison, then I created orientation programming, developed a mentoring program and have been the director of advising for the past several years. When the opportunity arose to expand our programs to Sarasota-Manatee, I let our dean know that I was the right person for the job – and, thankfully, he agreed,” Lanier said.

A new building on the Tampa campus is on the drawing board for the Judy Genshaft Honors College, and the university hopes to break ground in about a year. 

According to Lanier, Judy Genshaft (for whom the new building will be named) and Mr. Steve Greenbaum have been long-time supporters of the college, and already, they have established two study-abroad endowments within the college. “I have heard her say that by supporting the Honors College she gets to support every academic college at the university and is able to give back to the university system as a whole,” Lanier said. “She and Steve are avid travelers. It is one of her true passions, and their endowments ensure that students get that opportunity. One of her funds is dedicated to students who have never traveled out of the country – providing access that may not have been available to these students before,” Lanier said. “It was their engagement with the Honors College and its students that inspired President Genshaft to provide the $20 million in seed money for the new building.”

Since January, Lanier has been busy recruiting the USF Sarasota Manatee campus’s first cohort of students. “It will be a good mix of students from all majors who will take their first Honors course this fall,” Lanier said. “I look forward to hearing from them about how they want to elevate their college experience, and then building the program in Sarasota-Manatee around the feedback. I am also hoping to use the Judy Genshaft Honors College platform to bring attention to some of the amazing faculty research and invite area professionals to teach some of the Honors classes.”

There are different requirements for the Judy Genshaft Honors College from other majors. Students coming into the program in the fall have an average SAT score of over 1350 and a high school GPA of almost 4.5. “We have an automatic admission for students who have a 1400 score (or higher) on their SAT. Any interested student who has standards of excellence other than test scores, can apply,” Lanier said.

“I am very excited in my own career to once again have direct student access and to help students meet their academic goals and needs. I am also looking forward to working with faculty on curriculum development,” she said. “Our Judy Genshaft Honors College faculty is a combination of current Sarasota-Manatee campus faculty members and adjunct faculty hired from the community on a course-by-course basis. Teaching honors courses gives faculty an opportunity to apply their research in the classroom in a way they may not have been able to do before.”

Dean Adams described a USF honors education in this way, “The complex challenges facing our students in the 21st Century will demand complex solutions, and complex solutions will require this generation’s thought leaders to understand how to assemble and work with teams of talented individuals with diverse perspectives and expertise. We like to tell our students that in the Judy Genshaft Honors College, ‘You are more than your major. You are a citizen and a future leader with abilities and responsibilities vital to the success of a global society.’ Ultimately, we want students to turn their learning into meaningful action in order to build a better world.”

Philanthropic Support

While universities rely on philanthropic support from their communities to thrive, a global pandemic takes the importance of such relationships to a whole new level. As the economic impact of the coronavirus hits universities, these generous patrons are key as students strive to achieve their dreams in the midst of a global health crisis.

Flanzer Philanthropic Trust

Louis and Gloria Flanzer, 35-year residents of Longboat Key, were dedicated philanthropists who gave generously to the Sarasota community through their philanthropic trust.

Recently, the Trust made a $150,000 contribution to the USF Foundation to establish The Flanzer Philanthropic Trust First-Generation Scholarship. Students in the local community pursuing careers in nursing, sciences and general health fields will benefit from the gift. Additionally, the USF Foundation will apply for a 2:1 match through Florida’s First-Generation Matching Grant Program, bringing the Trust’s initial investment of $150,000 to $450,000!

A needs-based program, the state’s First-Generation Matching Grant Program supports degree-seeking students that are first-generation students pursuing undergraduate degrees or students whose parents did not earn baccalaureate or higher degrees. It is a tremendous program that maximizes gift impact.

“We’re thrilled to be able to showcase the matching-gift option with donors and to see the benefits of the program first hand,” said Lee Williams, regional vice chancellor of advancement at the USF Sarasota Manatee campus.

According to attorney Eric Kaplan and Dr. Dean Hautamaki, co-trustees of the Flanzer Philanthropic Trust, the Flanzers were committed to providing important support to agencies and organizations across the Suncoast and in assisting others through health care and social services.

Married for 66 years, the Flanzers owned a home in Scarsdale, New York, but post-retirement they spent more time on Longboat Key. Gloria’s family was well known in New York City development circles and played a significant role in the revamping of Times Square, Battery Park and Lower Harlem. Louis passed away in 2013, and Gloria in 2015.

In her obituary, Kaplan wrote, “The philanthropic trust will continue to endow important causes on Longboat, in Sarasota and in the surrounding area for years to come.”

Both Kaplan and Dr. Hautamaki were very close with the Flanzers for many years. Kaplan was their attorney, accountant and advisor for 30 years, while Dr. Hautamaki served as their personal physician for more than 15 years.

Diana Michel: In memory of her father

Graduation day in Spring 1988 was one day Diana Michel will never forget. She worked full time while attending night classes at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, yet before ink was dry on her diploma, she was already volunteering on behalf of USF.

“During the graduation reception, I was asked if I would help revive the campus’ alumni chapter,” said Michel. “We created several fundraising events, including Brunch on the Bay, which today remains the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus’ signature scholarship fundraiser. Soon, the alumni group – in particular, Roger Frazee and Dr. Anila Jain – became like family, and I was hooked!”

“Scholarships were something the three of us strongly endorsed,” said Michel, who would go on to become a top real estate agent in Sarasota. “Roger and I co-chaired Brunch in 2017, and I am proud to have been part of its inception and success for 25 years. GO BULLS!”

Michel’s father, James E. Carla, also believed in lending a hand, especially to veterans who had given so much to our country.

Born in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, Carla served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, working as a machinist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, he worked for many years as a computer engineer for IBM. On Jan. 31 in Sarasota, Carla passed away peacefully at 90 years of age.

Her father always had a smile on his face, Michel recalled. “He taught my siblings and me the value of hard work, perseverance and to live life with an attitude of gratitude. His favorite saying was, ‘God has a purpose for all of us. When I see someone without a smile, I give them one of mine.’ That really describes the essence of my dad – an extremely strong, humble and kind man who always helped others.”

In his honor, Michel recently established a scholarship for veterans to take classes in any discipline at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. Because many veterans juggle work, school and family responsibilities, the scholarship’s GPA minimum is set at only 2.5.

“I know establishing this scholarship is exactly what dad would have wanted me to do,” she said.

Memorializing her father through an endowed scholarship was important for another reason as well: “I worked full time to put myself through school at night and know how challenging it can be,” said Michel, who would serve as president of the Alumni Board’s local chapter and several terms on the National Alumni Board. “The Kiwanis Club awarded me a $500 scholarship to begin my college journey. I promised that I would someday pay it forward.

“Helping veterans in honor of my dad, brother, and nephew, all of whom served our country, is important to me,” she added. “I believe that an education is the greatest gift anyone can give.”

Roger Frazee Memorial Gift

Roger Frazee knew first-hand what it was like to struggle financially. His family did not have a lot of money, and his father died when Frazee was only 11 years old. Nevertheless, Frazee received his degree from the University of South Florida in 1971, and he often told friends that he graduated with only $85 to his name.

A dual finance and accounting major who took great pride in USF, the Palmetto High School graduate became a successful financial planner – never forgetting the university that helped make it all possible.

Sadly, Frazee passed away on Jan. 23.

According to Dr. Anila Jain, a fellow USF alum and dear friend of his, Frazee had held several leadership positions within the USF Alumni Association since 1989, first as an officer and board member for the Sarasota-Manatee Alumni Chapter, and later as president, serving from 1999 to 2003.

Under his stewardship, the chapter received the Outstanding Chapter Award three times. Frazee also served as national president of the USF Alumni Association, overseeing the 226,000-member association that helped raise millions of dollars for the university.

Jain said she met Frazee in 1989 when the Sarasota-Manatee Alumni Chapter was reactivated. Diana Michel, Frazee and Jain quickly became close friends.

“All three of us were charter committee members of the Brunch on the Bay fundraiser for scholarships,” Jain said. “We chaired, co-chaired and served as committee members for numerous fundraising initiatives to benefit the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.”

“Roger spoke often with friends and colleagues about his vision to give back to his alma mater,” Jain said. “So many USF students are older and have jobs to support their families, and he wanted to endow scholarships and provide other assistance to help them. Roger also wanted to support the proposed STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) building on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, and he had expressed interest in assisting with other future fundraising endeavors.”

“Roger’s passion for the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus and USF during the past 30 years was evident in the countless hours he spent working on behalf of the university. He was a well-respected leader in the community and on the local campus he loved so much,” Jain said.

Frazee joined the Army when he was 17, serving in both Vietnam and Germany before returning home. He created the Roger T. Frazee Endowed Scholarship for Veterans as his way of impacting students’ lives after his passing.

John and Amanda Horne: Hospit-a-Bulls

John and Amanda Horne know hospitality. As co-owners of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar (AMOB), they live it every day. They are passing along their passion for hospitality to the next generation through their work on behalf of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Amanda, originally from Zimbabwe and a resident of Bradenton for 23 years, oversees marketing and community relations for the popular seafood restaurant. She also co-founded Dive into Reading, an award-winning national summer reading program, and for years she worked as communications coordinator at The Women’s Resource Center.

Through a unique fundraising event called the Horne & Moon Scholarship Social, Amanda and John, along with friends Stuart and Trudi Moon, have pioneered a scholarship fund for adults returning to finish their degrees at local institutions, including the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Clad in his trademark Bermuda shorts, John can usually be found at the helm of AMOB at any of its four Bradenton-area locations: Cortez, Ellenton, Bridge Street Pier or at its flagship Landside location in South Manatee County.

John first became involved with the Sarasota-Manatee campus several years ago when he joined the School of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership Advisory Board. He has since served as a guest lecturer/panelist for many hospitality management classes over the years.

“Being on the advisory board has been a two-way street that is really a six-lane expressway,” said John. “I have helped with curriculum choices for the college, focusing on what students should understand when they graduate and enter the hospitality workforce. I also helped secure accreditation for the school, helped solicit funding from our state legislature, lobbied with Tampa on the importance of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership to the Sarasota-Manatee campus, and I worked with other board members on fundraising and the importance of having on-campus housing,” he said. “I also sat on the search committee for the dean of school in 2015 and was proud of our choice of Dean Pat Moreo.”

Amanda has co-chaired the university’s Brunch on the Bay event, and the couple has participated in the school’s annual Hospit-A-Bull dining event, at which John has served as auctioneer. In addition, Amanda has been a member of the Community Leadership Council for the past three years.

Both John and Amanda call their work with the USF Sarasota Manatee campus “self-serving.”

“If we produce great grads from a great program in our community – with ties to the community – we won’t see the brain drain that is all too common,” John said. “These awesome graduates will stay here, work here and make Sarasota-Manatee better than it already is.”

Said Amanda, “Education is so important to us, from our grade-level reading program for first-, second- and third-graders on up to university students re-entering school or changing their careers. We all need to keep learning every day.”

Asked what advice he would give hospitality students in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, John said, “It is the same advice I would have given before COVID-19: Make sure the hospitality industry is something you love to do. If not, look for another industry. Hospitality is just that, making people happy. There is instant gratification in doing that. No one ever walks into a resort, hotel or restaurant with the intent of having a bad time. It’s our job as hospitality professionals to make sure they don’t. Let them have fun and enjoy!”

Board Leadership: Byron Shinn, USF Trustee

Spend a few minutes with USF Trustee and alumnus Byron Shinn, and you’ll quickly discover that he has a passion for his home state of Florida, water sports and giving back to his alma mater for helping him to discover his life’s vocation.

“As a native Floridian, I am an avid boater,” said Shinn.  “I love to fish and I used to water ski a lot, but I am most passionate about the University of South Florida.”

“My time at USF was a real game-changer for me,” the Class of ’79 graduate recalled. “I met several key faculty members who were really inspirational and changed the course of my life.”

Originally, Shinn majored in chemistry and planned to attend medical school. “Then, one day, I scrubbed and stood between the anesthesiologist and the neurosurgeon for a 3½-hour operation, in which I saw a spinal tumor turn a patient into a quadriplegic. It was at that moment, I knew I wasn’t going to become a med student,” he said.

Shinn went to the placement office and, after a battery of tests, was told to try accounting. “I was good in math; I was very linear in my thinking. I always had a plan – a business plan, a personal plan and a life plan. In short, I didn’t want to be in a sailboat getting blown around in the middle of the Gulf,” he said.

After graduating, Shinn and his wife, Jody (also a USF graduate), moved to Houston, where Shinn worked for Arthur Anderson and Jody worked for IBM. Ultimately, they transferred to Orlando, returning “home” to Florida in 1983. In 1993, Shinn opened his own firm, Shinn & Company LLC, certified public accountants and consultants. The company merged with Carr, Riggs & Ingram in February 2018.

Shinn’s decision 10 years ago to become a Trustee on the university’s Board of Trustees, goes back to those faculty members who had so impacted his life. “Being a Trustee has been very rewarding, though it takes a lot of effort and energy to do the job right,” he said.

He has served as chair of the USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board, is a past board member of the USF Sarasota-Manatee Community Leadership Council, served on the campus’ Accountancy Advisory Board and is a recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Alumni.

With the consolidation of the three USF campuses taking effect July 1, the USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board will be replaced with a Regional Board comprised of seven members, four from Manatee County and three from Sarasota, one of whom must be a trustee. “That will be me for now,” Shinn said. “I will be chair of the Regional Board until I am replaced by the Governor.” Though his term officially expired in January, Shinn serves at the Governor’s discretion.

The role of the Regional Board, like the Campus Board before it, is to keep in touch with the needs and wants of our regional campuses, Shinn explained. “We stay connected with our communities, and serve as a liaison to USF President Steve Currall and the Board of Trustees. We are the local voice within the university system,” he said.

Shinn added that he is very excited about consolidation and the impact it will have on the regional campuses and the university system as a whole. “It will give the Sarasota-Manatee community access to engineering, nursing, cyber-security and many other programs,” Shinn said. “It provides a platform and infrastructure that we never would have had with separate accreditation. Now, all of those programs, and more, are within our grasp.”

He said he’s looking forward to bringing housing to the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “It will change our student demographics, so that we have traditional students as well as commuter students. They will be able to have the full university experience, if they choose,” he said.

“There is an enormous amount of change going on in Sarasota and Manatee counties and on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus,” he said. “The question is, are we going to be ready for it, and how are we going to handle it?”

He adds that with Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook at the helm, the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus is ready for that change. “We have had some really good regional chancellors, but never anyone like Karen Holbrook. She attracts dynamic people like nobody else. She knows how to get things done.”

Shinn says he plans to stay involved with the local campus even after his 10 years as a Trustee come to an end. “I have invested too much sweat equity to walk away now,” he said.

“I’m proud of the fact that we have so many Pell Grant, first-time college students at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus,” he said, “But I believe we can do better. I hope to help improve the engagement between the campus and the greater Sarasota-Manatee community. That is really important.

“Ultimately, it is education that is so important. It’s the path to a better life,” Shinn said. “The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus has a very important role as a state institution. We’ve done a really good job getting to this point, and it is all about to get much better.”

Scarleth Andino generates enthusiasm for the Giving Challenge

As this year’s Giving Challenge event, sponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Patterson Foundation, approached, junior Scarleth Andino was inspired to share her story in a widely distributed video.

In the promotional video, Andino spoke about the importance of the “Support-A-Bull” Pantry, a newly established food pantry on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. Andino was speaking from personal experience, as her father was laid off during the pandemic and her family experienced food insecurity.

“This year’s Giving Challenge was important to me as I understand the needs students have, especially as we are going through a pandemic,” Andino said.  “I know that having this resource makes it possible for students to continue with their education and not worry if there will be food on the table tomorrow, because we have a university that cares for its students.

The two-day event raised a record-setting $18.4 million from 59,000 donors for 686 nonprofit organizations, including nearly $14,000 for the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Andino transferred to the Sarasota-Manatee campus from the State College of Florida. “I am happy to have joined our campus, as it has become a small community that I call home,” she said.

When Andino is not on campus, she works 16-hour shifts at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in the oncology/medical surgery unit as a multi-skilled technician (MST). “I enjoy working for the hospital as it is so rewarding to be there for the patients and to see them getting better,” she said. “My dream is to pursue a path in medicine and become a pediatrician.”

Andino said she was once the type of student who went to classes and then went straight home. But that changed when she began attending the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. “I was able to take part in many events the campus has to offer, including the 2019 Alternative Spring Break trip to New Mexico, led by Kati Hinds and Christine Uphoff.”

“This trip allowed me to grow personally and opened doors to other opportunities,” she said.

Andino was elected as a student government senator for the 2019-2020 school year, a role that enabled her to “listen to the students and give them a voice on issues that mattered most to them.”

She also serves a community leader coordinator, working closely with Bart Stucker to plan orientations for incoming USF Sarasota-Manatee campus students. So when asked to tell her story for the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus Giving Challenge video, Andino happily obliged.

“Besides speaking for the food pantry, it allowed me to speak for the students who will need help financially to continue pursuing their dreams,” she said.

As a student who pays mostly out of pocket, Andino can attest to the difficulty that can arise when work hours are cut and jobs are lost due to the pandemic: “Dreams seem to move further away,” she said.

“I remember the first time I was told our university would be providing me with a scholarship (this past spring). It had such a tremendous impact on my life. I will be forever thankful to those who helped me and wanted me to fulfill my dreams.”

While Andino understands that she and her fellow students face a long and difficult journey, she says that, “Every step we take, we know that USFSM will be there to help us achieve our goals.”

Tervis Tumbler continues collaboration with the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus often collaborates with businesses on internships, training programs and employee-certification classes, but one unique partnership has students playing a new role, as product evaluators.

Tervis Tumbler, the Sarasota-based manufacturer of popular insulated drink containers, recently partnered with students from the Sarasota-Manatee campus to seek feedback on several products it was launching.

The initiative spanned two semesters and was deemed a success, both for the company and the students. Based on student feedback, Tervis’ designers made a small but significant change. They added a soft silicone base to a stainless-steel water bottle to help mute the sound the bottle makes when placed on a hard surface, such as a desk.

Company President and 2018 USF MBA graduate Rogan Donelly said it was a tremendous experience working with the students. “Anytime you have a resource like USF in your backyard, it’s important to take advantage of it,” he said.

Donelly hopes to expand opportunities for collaboration through additional focus groups and possibly a new internship program.

A third-generation, family-owned-and-operated business, Tervis Tumbler was established 74 years ago and since has become an iconic Florida brand, known for tumblers, water bottles, sippy cups and wine glasses that can be outfitted with custom and licensed designs.

Rogan Donelly grew up in the business, working in every department, from the production line to sales and marketing. He joined the Board of Directors in 2008, and in 2009, after working at Bank of America in Boston, he returned to Sarasota to become a principal partner. He was named president in 2016. His father, Norbert Donelly, serves as chairman of the board.

The company’s relationship with the local campus began several years ago when Tervis approached USF about creating student focus groups. Two groups were formed, one a marketing class led by professor James Curran and the other a general studies class.

“Tervis has given our students an opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to a real-world scenario with a national leader in the drink-ware industry,” said Director of Business Outreach and Engagement Jay Riley, who worked with both groups.

The groups consisted of college-age millennials – one of Tervis’ target markets – and their aim was to provide feedback about overall design, styling and color choices. Tervis frequently promotes its products to millennials as an environmentally responsible alternative to disposable, single-use bottles and cups.

“Working with the students at the USF Sarasota Manatee campus gave us insights into this important consumer market,” Donelly said, adding, “We like working with USF students. The caliber and quality of these students is impressive, both from a focus-group perspective and from an employee perspective. They come to us well-informed and motivated.”

Student consulting course provides real-world experience

Greg Smogard, assistant vice president for innovation and business development at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, knows first-hand about the importance of student consulting.

While earning his doctorate at the University of Miami, Smogard collaborated with business professors on consulting engagements in the financial services sector. Such experiences led to his first job out of college with the Latin American division of American Express.

“That’s how I first saw the impact of student consulting,” Smogard said. “I am a living testament to the impact that these programs can have.”

Fast forward to 2018, Smogard returned to the Gulf Coast and came to work at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus where Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook tasked him with finding innovative ways to partner with Gulf Coast businesses.

“I started looking at ways we could do that and thought it would be interesting to develop a prototype student-consulting course,” he said. “I became immersed in creating a course that would provide students with high-impact, real-world experiential opportunities. I presented the idea to Dr. Holbrook, Dr. Brett Kemker (regional vice chancellor of academic and student affairs) and a few others. We jump-started the idea and held our first classes in January. That’s how it got started.”

Smogard’s first task was to find businesses that would participate. After a few meetings, four organizations stepped up: Bank of America, Omeza (which produces wound-care products), Dealers United (which provides support and assistance to car dealers nationally), and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County.

Seven students registered for the course, which gave Smogard three teams of two. “That left one individual with whom I partnered,” Smogard explained, adding that his goal was to match students with diverse skill sets, and then match those teams with the right companies.

The program kicked off in January with morning workshops. In the afternoon, CEOs and advisors from the participating companies engaged with the teams on the details of their projects.

“Each week, students would do white-boarding with me (while there were still face-to-face classes), working on the architecture of the consulting engagement. Students also had to read a book about consulting – so there was academic work, as well,” he said. “The first part of the course was mostly data gathering, working with both me and their clients. There were some on-site visits, until the COVID-19 pandemic set in, after which students relied on virtual meetings.

“I told them that I was going to take them out of their comfort zones, and that they would be doing things they had never done before,” Smogard said. “I kept my word on that.”

He added that the course did not have the structure most students are used to. “My role as professor and faculty advisor was to guide them and to bring them back if they got off the rails. But the consulting was entirely theirs to do.”

At the end of the semester, the students set up formal presentations to present their findings. The students did a “dry-run,” or a dress rehearsal, of their final presentations with their company liaison, the person who had served as their contact during the process. Then they made their final presentations to corporate leadership. Two of the companies had their entire executive team attend the presentation.            

Smogard called it a win-win for everybody: “The students’ response was very positive. And, all four companies that participated said they would do so again. Companies have incorporated many of the students’ ideas, and several job offers have been extended to participating students. I’d say it was a very successful first year.”

Pete Petersen, CEO of Dealers United, one of the participating businesses, noted that he was “very impressed” with both the students and the program. Petersen, who was co-chair of last year’s Brunch on the Bay, is a long-time donor, and he helped create a digital marketing class at the USF Sarasota Manatee campus.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to have a university spend time on your business, especially with students and faculty directly involved, and it doesn’t cost you anything and you have a chance to assess top talent, for me it’s a no-brainer,” Petersen said. “You’re getting a fresh, unfiltered perspective. I would recommend any business participate if they have the opportunity.

"USF is a hidden gem of talent,” he added. “Overall, this program far exceeded what I was expecting. Everything was done very well.”

“Our students are the future of this community, and educators are vital to helping them reach their full potential,” said Mike McCoy, Sarasota-Manatee Market President for Bank of America. “Our partnership with the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus to support its Student Consulting course is equipping the next generation with the workplace and leadership experiences they need to make their dreams a reality.”

Sarah Kitlowski, President and CEO of Omeza agreed. “Dr. Smogard did a fantastic job of setting up both our company, and the students, for success; it showed in the caliber of the final product,” Kitlowski said. “While we are happy to give USF students an opportunity to work on a project of value, we were pleasantly surprised by just how useful their research and final presentation was for us. We have worked with both undergraduate and graduate students from across the country on previous projects, and this was by far, the most professional and well-researched project we have ever received.”

Asked what he would do differently, Smogard said he hopes to promote the program more so there will be bigger teams. “We had four teams of two. Ideally, I would like to have teams of three or four people. I also think the course (which was open to all students in its first year) should be limited to juniors and seniors who have a bit more experience under their belts,” he said. Smogard said that moving forward, he would teach the course again in the fall but eventually hand it off to other professors.

“I was so impressed with how our students, with their new perspectives, could help these companies move projects forward. Also, when the pandemic hit, we used that as an opportunity to teach students that consultants have to be good at pivoting,” Smogard said. “We focused on thinking outside of the box and found new opportunities for companies in the midst of the pandemic. It was a great demonstration on how students and corporate partners working together can produce amazing things.”

If your business would be interested in participating in the fall semester’s student consulting course, please contact Greg Smogard at 214-507-5524.

Easter Seals Southwest Florida: A mission of caring

For nearly 75 years, Easter Seals of Southwest Florida has provided services to people with disabilities and their families, empowering them to live their lives to the fullest.

Its programs include a range of high-quality therapeutic, educational and support services. This includes various therapies – occupational, physical, speech and behavioral – as well as an equine-assisted therapy provided in conjunction with InStride Therapy.

In addition, the agency offers educational programs for children ages six weeks through high school. Easter Seals also provides vital enrichment programs that include its Art Initiative, which allows adult clients to generate income through the sale of artwork, as well as music and dance initiatives.

Its Employment Services helps clients find meaningful jobs through career exploration, job coaching and other support services. But perhaps, Easter Seals of Southwest Florida is best known for its Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) programming. ASD services include a wide range of interventions that serve pre-school students, school-age children and adults over 21.

According to CEO Tom Waters, when school closures were mandated in mid-March, Easter Seals closed all of its direct person-to-person services. “Our director of therapies and school principal set a quick course to pivot our traditional face-to-face applications to online platforms. Within two weeks, our first tele-therapy sessions began using video-conferencing, and our virtual schools went into session,” he said.

“In quarantine, we focused on providing additional support to our clients, like STARS (Successful Talented Adults Reaching Skyward), a peer-to-peer video-conferencing program for young adults,” Waters said.

STARS helps people deal with the isolation that comes from home-stay orders. In addition, Lily School (preschool) leaders started a private Facebook group, supporting caregivers with their home-schooling efforts, and a “Cope with Hope” Facebook group was launched, proving equally popular.

“Our clients were so happy to engage in activities that felt normal. Video-conferencing sessions enabled interaction between therapists and teachers,” Waters said. “Seeing their faces made the entire experience a joy-filled engagement and something to look forward to with each recurring session. The virtual platforms exceeded expectations, so much so, that this will become part of our regular services.”

Karen Holbrook, the USF Sarasota Manatee campus’ Regional Chancellor, currently serves on the board of Easter Seals.

“Having Dr. Holbrook’s commitment to our board is a gift we could never be able to afford to pay back,” Waters said. “Her leadership helps to better the lives of individuals and families that live every day with disabilities and is then extended through the time and talents of her faculty, staff, and students who continuously volunteer their expertise on projects at our agency.

“With dedication to its own mission, the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus creates opportunities for partnerships that few communities have,” Waters said. “Ours is a stronger, more innovative region because of their continued contributions. We’re incredibly lucky to have such an established institution here and, frankly, I’m always excited to see what they'll do next.”

TutorMe a ‘game changer,’ offering students 24/7 tutoring services

TutorMe is a new online tutoring platform that helps USF Sarasota-Manatee campus students connect with a live tutor 24/7. Within moments, students can access tutors — without appointments. If students find a tutor they prefer, they can schedule regular times to chat with that person.

According to Timi Hager, associate director of E-Learning Services/Academic Affairs at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, the idea of providing tutoring support for both online students and on-campus students came out of the campus’ Persistence Committee. From there, a proposal was generated for funding and taken to the Student Tech Fee Committee. The proposal then went through a vetting process and was approved in late 2019.

Although TutorMe had been approved prior to the global pandemic, COVID-19 pushed the project forward, and services were offered sooner than originally planned. This semester marks the first time TutorMe has been available for student use.

TutorMe has tutors available for more than 300 subjects, “so that at the USF Sarasota Manatee campus, we are able to provide this service for all courses,” said Hager.

TutorMe hires students, instructors, professional tutors and subject-matter experts from around the world after a thorough vetting and training process. The university pays for the service using funds from the Student Technology Fee.

Although Hager’s role with TutorMe is mainly “behind the scenes,” she has remained instrumental throughout the program’s implementation as a member of both the Persistence Committee and Student Tech Fee committee.

“I have a long history of working in higher education,” she said. “As an undergrad in an IT program, I was a student worker in a computer lab, which is where I found my passion for helping people with technology. I came to USF seven years ago, when the university was migrating from Blackboard LMS to Canvas LMS, and I have been on the Sarasota-Manatee campus since 2015.”

Hager describes the TutorMe program as different from other tutoring or mentoring programs in terms of its accessibility.

“TutorMe is available anytime day or night and connects to a live tutor in seconds,” she said. “For online students, this can be a game changer, since we know online students have different study patterns, and they may not be able to make it to campus when traditional tutoring services would be available.”

Jean Kabongo Appointed Campus Dean at Sarasota-Manatee Campus for the USF Muma College of Business

Jean D. Kabongo, Ph.D. has been selected to serve as the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus dean for the USF Muma College of Business. Kabongo, professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship, joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 2010.

“I have developed tremendous respect for Dr. Kabongo’s leadership abilities, scholarly work, innovation and commitment to serving the needs of our community, as well as his passion for teaching and mentoring students,” said Karen A. Holbrook, USF Sarasota-Manatee campus regional chancellor. “He will do an outstanding job in this new role.”

Campus deans, established as part of the consolidation of USF’s three campuses this year, are responsible for the delivery of academic programs on their respective campuses. Kabongo replaces Professor Tom Becker, who served as interim dean during the consolidation process.

“We are very excited that Dr. Jean Kabongo will be the new campus dean for the Muma College of Business on the Sarasota-Manatee campus,” said Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem. “Dr. Kabongo has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities during his time at USF. He understands the needs of our students as well as the business community in the Sarasota-Manatee region and beyond.”

Kabongo has become a popular professor on campus. Students have selected him to receive the Outstanding Professor Award four times since Fall 2015, and he received an Excellence in Teaching Award from his Sarasota-Manatee colleagues during the 2014-15 academic year.

Kabongo has achieved success off campus as well. During the past five years, he has partnered with Associate Professor of Criminology Jessica Grosholz to deliver an innovative program that teaches entrepreneurship skills to inmates at the Hardee Correctional Institution. The program not only assists inmates upon their release, but also provides opportunities to USF student researchers.

“I am honored and humbled by this appointment to serve as campus dean,” Kabongo said. “I look forward to working with all of my colleagues, our devoted staff and our students to continue supporting and promoting the highest-quality educational programs, research, public service and economic development activities for the Muma College of Business in the Sarasota-Manatee area.”

“I am confident in what we will accomplish together for the benefit of our students and community,” he added.  “As the campus dean, I cannot accomplish anything of great significance on my own. To quote the Tanzanian proverb, ‘many hands make light work.’”

Kabongo’s research focuses on the promotion of sustainable practices in organizations, sustainable entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education in developing economies. In recent years, he oversaw a World Bank program assisting farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he was born.

Kabongo was an assistant professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship at Millersville University of Pennsylvania (2006-10), assistant professor of management at Virginia State University (2004-06), and an instructor of Management at Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City, Mexico (1999-2001)

Kabongo earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Institut Saint Augustin, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, an MBA at Universidad Iberoamericana, in Mexico City, Mexico, and a PhD in management from Université Laval, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.  He also has earned certificates from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in social entrepreneurship, Harvard Business School in the art and craft of discussion leadership, and Syracuse University in the teaching of entrepreneurship.

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