Employees at the North Port Library had something to celebrate last week with the opening of the new USF Sarasota-Manatee location in North Port.
Nine employees all wore their green and gold USF Sarasota-Manatee shirts to commemorate the first day of Fall semester classes. They also celebrated with a USF Sarasota-Manatee welcome table and a potluck “Dorm Room” themed lunch, for which they brought in meals that college students might eat, such as ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, toaster pastries and “beer chili.”
The North Port Library is less than half a mile from the new USF Sarasota-Manatee location, which is located at the corner of South Tamiami Trail and Pan American Boulevard. Library Manager Carolann Palm-Abramoff expects to see many USF Sarasota-Manatee students at the library.
“We want to show our support of our new neighbors,” said library manager Carolann Palm-Abramoff. “We work so closely in learning and education, it just makes sense for us to have some sort of partnership. This new campus is so convenient to the young people of North Port, it’s a great thing for our city.”
The new USF Sarasota-Manatee location includes four classrooms, one videoconferencing room, six offices and a conference room with room to expand in the future.
“We’ve hit a record of 633 student enrollments this semester,” said Dr. Lora Kosten, faculty coordinator for the campus. “We expect to continue our growth pattern, especially once we become a four-year institution in a couple of years.”
Growth has been a theme for the south Sarasota County location for the past several years. Since its beginning in 2004, the university’s South County program, serving residents of Englewood, North Port, Venice and surrounding areas, has grown more than ten-fold. Today, the branch campus offers undergraduate degrees in business, social science, elementary education, psychology and criminology as well as a master’s degree in educational leadership.
One of the location’s most attractive features to south Sarasota County residents is its location, and “hometown university, global impact” is not just a tagline for the local university. Students in south Sarasota County no longer have to travel to Tampa in order to take classes, and instead can take all of their coursework at the North Port and Sarasota-Manatee locations. The North Port location offers about 35 in-person classes and a variety of online and web-blended classes. This is important to many students who call south Sarasota County home.
“It’s a 20 minute drive for me as opposed to two and a half hours to Tampa,” said Port Charlotte resident Samantha Corwin of the new location. “I was accepted to all of the major universities in Florida but I picked USF Sarasota-Manatee because I could have the benefit of a big university and stay close to home.”
As a junior in the Business Management program at USF Sarasota-Manatee, Corwin had been driving an hour and a half to the Sarasota-Manatee location, and is excited about the shorter drive and new building.
“It has all the newest technology, we can even check out laptops to use in class, and I like the smaller class size,” she said. “I really like that it has the recognition of USF, there are a lot of opportunities provided by the university and I hope to get an internship next year that will lead to a job.”
The new campus is not just good news for the students. As a major institution, USF brings a significant investment to the City of North Port, not to mention the promise of university-educated students who will call North Port home upon graduation. Corwin plans to remain in the community after graduation and hopes to find a job in the south Sarasota County area.
“While nearly all industry sectors are hurting in this economy, we know that the future of the education sector is promising since it is the foundation for all economic growth and expansion because it involves training, research, scholarship and innovation,” says Allan Lane, economic development manager for the City of North Port. “We see USF Sarasota-Manatee’s commitment to North Port and southern Sarasota County as a catalyst for attracting other educational resources to the community.”
Other local partners have made a significant investment in the campus as well. According to Kosten, Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice awarded USF Sarasota-Manatee a $170,000 two-year grant which will enable the university to hire two additional business faculty, one full-time and one part-time. In addition, the City of North Port contributed more than $125,000 toward the project.
“We’re grateful that so many local partners see the value in higher education,” Kosten said. “We’re looking forward to providing the community with a much needed service.”