University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus



Campus Insider: USF Sarasota-Manatee campus professor organizes online World Refugee Day celebration

Jody McBrien in New Zealand
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Imagine leaving all that you know and love – family, friends and home – gathering what you can carry and fleeing to escape oppression and violence.

That desperate scenario represents the unfortunate reality for millions worldwide. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates the number of refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers at approximately 70.8 million.

In recognition of those who have endured as refugees to seek a better life, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus will hold a free online World Refugee Day celebration on Thursday, June 18, from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Among the scheduled guests are:

  • Nirupa Netram, director of foundation and legal operations, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
  • Madison Sindorf, university partnerships officer, NaTakallam
  • Ivis Triana, director of refugee services, Lutheran Services of Florida
  • Jody McBrien, a professor in the USF School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies

Additionally, undergraduate students Andrea Massie and Breianna Wallace will recount their experiences speaking with refugees during a recent online session organized by McBrien and NaTakallam.

The celebration will include talks by two local refugees and conclude with a taped musical performance by locally resettled Cuban refugee Renesito Avich.

Click here to join the celebration at 2 p.m.

The event is organized in partnership with Lutheran Services of Florida, the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Southwest Florida Refugee Task Force and McBrien. It comes ahead of World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly and recognized each year on June 20.

McBrien has focused much of her scholarly research on refugees. She has visited nine countries over the past 18 years to evaluate educational policies for refugees and identify best practices. Last year, she was selected as a Fulbright Specialist to evaluate the newly constructed Mangere Refugee Reception Centre in New Zealand. (Photo above shows McBrien, fifth from left, at the Mangere Refugee Reception Centre.)

Her efforts have resulted in several honors. Among them, she received the Florida Campus Compact Community Engaged Researcher Award, the USF World Global Engagement Award, both a USF Sarasota-Manatee Research Award and a Service Award, and a commendation from the Florida Department of Child and Family Services for coordinating World Refugee Day at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus in 2018. Her latest book is “Educational Policies and Practices of English-Speaking Refugee Resettlement Countries” (Brill/Sense).

She said she hopes the celebration raises awareness about the struggle of refugees and their contributions to their resettled countries.

“This is a great opportunity to learn about refugees and be inspired by their stories,” she said. “Many refugees have endured terrible oppression in their countries of origin and overcome tremendous odds to come to United States. Their stories of perseverance are amazing and uplifting.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee campus introduces wellness, tutoring to help students achieve success

As college students continue to navigate the online learning environment, the University of South Florida has added new services to help them achieve even greater success.

Allison Dinsmore

Allison Dinsmore

“USF continues to provide leadership by focusing on students’ wellbeing and academic success,” said Brett Kemker, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

USF recently introduced a new Success and Wellness Coaching program, providing students with invaluable resources to cope with the pressures they face, such as balancing work and academics or managing relationships.

“Coaching involves a personalized approach to help students achieve success in various aspects of their lives in order to improve their wellbeing holistically,” said Allison Dinsmore, assistant director of student success at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

This exciting short-term, action-oriented initiative complements existing wellness services at Sarasota-Manatee to assist students with any area of improvement: health, wellness, relationships, time management and others.

Visit the Success and Wellness Coaching site to quickly sign up, connect with a life coach and start receiving valuable services. Note, due to COVID-19, all coaching sessions will be conducted by phone or Microsoft Teams. We are here to help you through these times and want to be an ally for your success.

This is not counseling and does not involve a long-term commitment. USF Success and Wellness coaches are equipped with the skills and knowledge to help students explore their strengths, find their motivation and choose the right tools for success.

“Students who have used this service have seen great success in reaching their goals in academics, personal life and their careers,” Dinsmore added.

Brett Kemker

Brett Kemker, PhD

USF Sarasota-Manatee campus students requiring counseling, including clinical and group counseling, can visit to arrange to speak with a counselor.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students also have access to two new tutoring programs offered at no additional charge.

TutorMe, a 24/7 online tutoring service, was launched in mid-May to connect students and tutors virtually. TutorMe users can develop working relationships with tutors, access writing labs and enable such features as virtual whiteboards and document and screen sharing.

In addition, USF has introduced expanded access to online tutoring through Smarthinking. Students at all three USF campuses can use their NetID to sign-on to the Smarthinking tutoring platform, connect with a tutor and quickly tap into a wide range of subject material.

“Our students are here because of their intelligence,” Kemker said. “We are supplying our students with state-of-the-art tools to help them excel in their courses – a powerful, winning combination.”

Hospitality Professor Cihan Cobanoglu contributes chapter to hospitality technology book

Imagine checking into a hotel without ever interacting with the front desk, having a robot deliver room service and even having your room tidied up between visits by machines.

It’s not as far-fetched as it may sound. In fact, hotels in Dubai, Japan, China and elsewhere are already implementing similar services, and likely many U.S. hotels and restaurants will do the same over the next 10 to 20 years.

Cihan Cobanoglu

Cihan Cobanoglu, PhD

“Robotics and service automation will eventually become as mainstream as mobile phones,” says hospitality Professor Cihan Cobanoglu, McKibbon chair and director of the M3 Center for Hospitality, Technology and Innovation at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Cobanoglu recently collaborated with two colleagues – Katarina Berezina, an assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management, and doctoral candidate Olena Ciftci, both of the University of Mississippi and formerly of USF Sarasota-Manatee – to contribute a chapter examining hospitality trends for “Robots, Artificial Intelligence, and Service Automation in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality” (Emerald Publishing Ltd., 2019).

They write in the book, “The International Federation of Robotics (2018) documented the sale of 109,543 service robot units worldwide in 2017, which constituted an 85 percent increase compared to 2016. This growth is forecast to continue, and sales of professional service robots are predicted to reach 736,000 by 2021.”

The hospitality industry has embraced this technology for a variety of reasons, among them that robots are less costly than their human counterparts and that hotel and restaurant patrons are becoming comfortable interacting with automation.

Not all technological changes are readily apparent. Many backroom functions performed by people are shifting to automated solutions out of sight of end users, including burger flipping, mobile-order processing, cleaning, baggage sorting and other rote tasks.

Service automation is still in its infancy, but it's apt to take root where repetitive work occurs. Of course, someone will need to oversee the robots and not every customer will warm to the technological changes. To what extent the industry takes to them will depend on cost, efficiency, reliability and customer response.

“There will always be people involved if that’s what customers want,” Cobanoglu said. “What this is about is providing options. That’s what this technology does. It provides options to customers and to hospitality managers.”

In one example that could upend a popular Friday night ritual, Pizza Hut is exploring automated delivery using self-driving trucks equipped with ovens and pizza-assembling robots.

“You could have pizza delivered to your door right out of the oven, literally,” Cobanoglu said. “That might be something customers embrace.”

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit

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