Joy Andrea, with her students, from left, Adrienn Ujvari, Rachael Padula, Katie McClure and Alex McClure, at Saint Leo University.

Bulls Notebook: USFSM students, instructor attend math conference

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: March 11, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (March 11, 2016) – Two weeks after presenting a lecture at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, USF Sarasota-Manatee math instructor Joy D’Andrea was on the road again, this time at Saint Leo University in northeastern Pasco County.

The occasion was the Feb. 26-27 joint conference of the Mathematical Association of America, Florida Section, and the Florida Two-Year College Mathematics Association.

D’Andrea didn’t travel alone to the event, which offered a menu of workshops, lectures and puzzle competitions to demonstrate how math applies to everyday life. She brought four students – Rachael Padula, Adrienn Ujvari and brother and sister Alex and Katie McClure.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t been there before, but it was really fun,” said Katie McClure, who, along with the other students, attended the conference’s first day before returning to Sarasota. “It was everyone from students to professors. It was interesting to meet the math professors and learn about their work.”

Her brother agreed.

“Overall, the topics were interesting and it was kind of cool to hear from the different professors,” he said. “I’ve always tried to apply what I’ve learn to real life. A lot of those examples I hadn’t thought of before. It definitely gave me some different viewpoints.”

D’Andrea is set to receive a Ph.D in pure mathematics with a concentration in applied statistics at the end of the month. At Saint Leo, she gave a 45-minute lecture about how math, specifically statistical analysis, in combination with other data, can be used to calculate the probability of sinkholes.

The lecture took on particular relevancy as Pasco County, like much of Tampa Bay, is plagued by sinkholes that range in size, depth and frequency. D’Andrea says this is the time of year known as “sinkhole season,” when farmers pump groundwater to irrigate strawberries, tomatoes and other crops ahead of summer rains. That pumping can create chasms underground that trigger sinkholes.

By testing the soil and hydrology and examining local sinkhole activity historically, along with other factors, D’Andrea can predict the likelihood that a sinkhole will occur. To develop her research, she examined data between 1970 and 2008 from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the USGS Water Science School.

Timing, it turns out, seems to play a big role.

“The shorter the time between the first two events, the higher the likelihood of a third event,” said D’Andrea, who has used similar methods to predict hurricane paths.

About 500 people attended the conference. A full-time math instructor, D’Andrea has taught at USFSM since 2013.

History professor’s book is awarded at statewide competition

Dr. June Melby Benowitz’s new book “Challenge and Change: Right-Wing Women, Grassroots Activism, and the Baby Boom Generation” (University Press of Florida) is garnering statewide accolades.

The 368-page book, out last fall, won the bronze medal at the 2015 Florida Book Awards General Nonfiction Category, according to an email sent to Dr. Benowitz late last month.

“I hadn’t even known my book had been nominated for an award,” she said. “The award means a lot to me as it shows that leading individuals and organizations in the humanities recognize the effort that I put into researching and writing the book. I am also pleased that it will help bring attention to the fact that faculty at USF Sarasota-Manatee are engaged in quality research.

More than 200 books were submitted in nine categories. An awards banquet will be held April 7 in Tallahassee to recognize the winners. The following day, they will be treated to lunch at the governor’s mansion hosted by First Lady Ann Scott.

Dr. Benowitz’s book examines the rise of right-wing women’s groups from the 1940s onward and their connection to today’s far right.

Fayard wins Outstanding Staff Award

Kudos to Sarah Fayard of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Office of Academic and Student Affairs for garnering this year’s Outstanding Staff Award.

In awarding Fayard, judges noted her positive attitude, job knowledge and tireless effort.

“Her care and concern for students’ academic experience has guided her work and resulted in improvements to academic programs across the university,” said her nomination form. “She is one of the brightest, productive, efficient and effective employees I have worked with at USFSM.”

Fayard, M.Ed., is associate director of Community Engagement & Faculty Affairs.

Dr. Stone joins United Way board

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone has been named to the board of directors for the United Way of Manatee County.

The announcement this week comes amid several retirements and other changes on the board.

Joining Dr. Stone is Manatee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Diana Greene. Anne Lee, regional president at Sunshine Bank, was named the board’s chairperson.

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