USFSM students at the capitol on Wednesday.

Bulls Notebook: USF Sarasota-Manatee students invade capitol

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 10, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 10, 2017) – Tallahassee was awash in green and gold Wednesday as hundreds of University of South Florida students, including a contingent from USF Sarasota-Manatee, arrived for a Day at the Capitol.

The annual effort, which comes as legislators prepare for next month’s legislative session, enables students to meet face-to-face with lawmakers to press issues important to the university.

Student groups plus USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft visited lawmakers at their offices to talk about the importance of such issues as continued funding for the proposed USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa.

“I think they were very supportive of funding higher education,” Andrew Becht, president of the USFSM Student Government, said summing up.

USFSM brought 26 students and two advisors Tuesday afternoon for the all-day Wednesday session, which saw them invoking issues important to the campus here as well.

Uppermost on the minds of USFSM students was the importance of securing recurring funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as a one-time $2.2 million infusion to fund design work related to USFSM’s proposed science and math building, Becht said.

His group, which included students from campuses in Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg, met with Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and senate President Joe Negron, R-Palm City.

Other groups visited other lawmakers. “We’ve been doing this for a while, so at this point it’s a well-oiled machine,” Becht said.

In addition to meeting with legislators, the students met with Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Students explore condo vacation business

USFSM hospitality management students are learning about a lodging trend that could present new career opportunities to them.

Dr. Faizan Ali, assistant professor in the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, two weeks ago accompanied 22 students to the Crescent Siesta Key upscale condominium complex.

Unlike traditional hotels and beach cottage rentals, the Crescent hosts guests considering week-long vacations or stays of a month or two depending on the season.

While not entirely new to Southwest Florida, extended-stay condo vacations were mostly a novelty a generation ago. Thanks to Airbnb.com, Travelocity and other sites, though, the vacation option is quickly gaining momentum.

Dr. Ali says a range of guests – from large families looking to secure several bedrooms to couples eyeing a simple, no-frills getaway – are jumping on the condo-vacation bandwagon.

“With all the changes happening in the lodging industry I thought this was a good avenue for the students to explore,” he said.

Future careers could include property manager or, for the entrepreneurially minded, owner of a vacation management company.

The Crescent Siesta Key contains 26 fully furnished units, two heated pools and a workout area. The complex is gated and fronts Crescent Beach. Such complexes tend to see a cross-section of owners, from permanent and part-time residents to investors trying to capitalize on the vacation rental market.

Dr. Ali said beach house rentals are as old as the beach, but the notion of constructing luxury condo complexes largely for the vacation rental market is relatively new. Airbnb and other sites are only fueling the trend, he says.

“I think this is growing not only from the consumer side but from the investor side as well,” he said.

Like hotels, most management companies take bookings, clean rooms and assure the overall maintenance and safety of the complex. But unlike hotels, they leave the client to purchase groceries, cook meals and tend to their own laundry needs. Some, however, might go the extra step: providing valet, child care and concierge services.

“It depends on the company, how involved they want to get with the client,” he said.

Intrigued by the visit, some students said they could envision operating a management company or even owning one. “This is a growing industry,” Dr. Ali said.

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