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USF Sarasota-Manatee Launches 40th Anniversary Celebration

40thimageSARASOTA, Fla. (June 26, 2015) – Come help us celebrate!

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee is marking 40 years of service to the community, and to acknowledge the occasion we’re inviting alumni, supporters and the Sarasota and Manatee communities to join us in a series of celebratory events throughout the summer and academic year.

“Our campus has had a busy and successful year, so this anniversary offers us an opportunity to celebrate our past while also acknowledging all of our successes still to come,” Dr. Sandra Stone, USFSM regional chancellor, said.

Starting today, as we look back at four decades of quality education and ahead to an even brighter future, we unveil a 40th Anniversary web page, USFSM.edu/40, packed with historical information, including a timeline, historical photos, an events calendar and a comment section for alumni and supporters to post special remembrances, greetings, pictures and anniversary wishes.

As the celebration moves forward, we’ll also recall those who most influenced, and continue to influence, our cherished institution by posting snapshots and biographies of these movers and shakers. Expect to see a mix of alumni, faculty, staff, administrators, community leaders and USF System dignitaries. All told, we plan to honor 40 such prominent people throughout the year.

Later, the university will let its hair down for two special, signature events: our 40th Anniversary Kickoff celebration (Sept. 15) and a 40th Anniversary Gala celebration (March 4).

The Kickoff will be a relaxed, casual affair featuring food, drinks, music and campus tours. The Gala will be upscale and elegant, designed to thank those who have so generously supported us over the years.

“These events will be a great way for USFSM supporters from four decades to get together to celebrate how far the campus has come over the past 40 years,” Dennis Stover, regional vice chancellor for university advancement, said.

“The celebration will extend through each of our events throughout the year, but the Kickoff and the Gala will be a spectacular way to showcase all of our achievements and to recognize the people that made them happen,” he said.

In addition to the Kickoff and Gala, regularly scheduled events, such as USFSM’s annual Brunch on the Bay, set for Nov. 1, will feature the 40th Anniversary theme. Expect to see many supporters and others who have influenced USFSM over the years.

USF Sarasota-Manatee urges all alumni, faculty, staff, students and supporters to get involved by sharing your stories at our webpage and joining us in our yearlong celebration.

USF Sarasota-Manatee interns find success at Informa Support Services

Director of Career Services Toni Ripo

Director of Career Services Toni Ripo

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) – Internships can often become a pathway to full-time jobs. Just ask USF Sarasota-Manatee business student Mark Oefinger, who’s entering his senior year with two classes remaining.

The accounting major started interning a year ago at Sarasota-based Informa Support Services, a shared services center that provides financial services for Informa business units across the U.S. and Canada.

Oefinger, a 42-year-old Army veteran, said he fit in right away with the company, but more importantly he asked lots of questions to quickly learn and adapt to the new position. Impressed by his work-ethic and determination to grow, the company offered him a full-time job when his classes finish in December.

“It’s an incredible place to be at. I’m extremely excited,” he said.

Informa is among the scores of local employers that last year placed 288 USF Sarasota-Manatee students into internships.

“We’ve had a relationship with Informa for years and they hire at least one or two of our students each semester,” Toni Ripo, director of Career Services at USFSM, said.

She stressed the importance of continually checking USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College Central Network for the latest job and internship postings – from full-time accounting positions to a recently posted internship at the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Go to https://www.collegecentral.com/USF-Sarasota/ to view postings and access announcements, upcoming events and career advice. Users can build a web portfolio at Career Portfolio Central® to support their résumé and showcase their work to employers. The national board includes 500,000 listings, including local positions.

Ripo urged students to use every tool at their disposal when exploring job options: “They have College Central. They have the Career Services office. They can even try networking with other students and alumni.”

Informa started partnering with USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Career Services office five years ago. So far, the relationship is working well for both sides.

“Our intern program is dedicated to providing interns with extensive on-the-job training so that their academic backgrounds can be applied to real-world situations,” Informa Support Services Human Resources Director Gail Glickman said. “We are pleased to report that we currently have five interns who came to us through the USF College Central website.”

Among those to recently start at Informa is accounting major Anthony Dedona, 20, who will begin his junior year in the fall. As in Oefinger’s case, Dedona is hoping to go from intern to full-time employee.

“So far I like it and I’m learning a lot,” he said. “A lot of people here are willing to help and they don’t mind if you ask questions. They actually want you to ask questions. They want you to learn and get better at the job.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee interns help at Booker Middle School

Ja'mya Hunter, intern Patricia Casey, Asiyah Hadley and intern Victoria Barnette talk about the Emancipation Proclamation at Booker Middle School.

Ja’mya Hunter, intern Patricia Casey, Asiyah Hadley and intern Victoria Barnette talk about the Emancipation Proclamation at Booker Middle School.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 30, 2015) – Jamaal Belvin didn’t have to think long when asked his favorite part about the Summer Arts-Integrated Literacy (SAIL) program by United Way Suncoast and USF Sarasota-Manatee.

“The portrait reading,” the 11-year-old eagerly replied.

Belvin is one of 70 students enrolled in a summer program at Booker Middle School in Sarasota to help elementary students transition to middle school. Thanks to United Way Suncoast, he is also part of the SAIL program and tutored by one of a half-dozen interns from USF Sarasota-Manatee’s teacher preparation program.

The “portrait reading” that Belvin enjoys is an element of the College of Education’s arts-integrated instruction.

As part of SAIL, interns teach the students to examine portraits of historical figures – from the image’s focal point to the subject’s facial expression and clothing. This helps the students gain insights into the figures and envision life during the eras portrayed.

“I like the portrait reading because it gives me a picture in my head about the person,” Belvin said.

In addition, the interns help the students understand the root elements of words so they better comprehend information-based text.

Booker’s summer program, now in its fourth year (though the first to include the SAIL program), is critical in helping the students adjust to middle school. It also helps them retain knowledge and literacy skills from the previous year so they return to school in the fall better prepared.

Combatting summer learning loss is a significant factor to middle and high school success. U.S. Department of Education studies show that summer learning loss adds up, especially for low-income students. By 8th grade, that lost learning time accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap between low-income children and their affluent peers.

The summer program is invaluable for a school like Booker, a Title I facility that serves predominantly low-income minority children, many of whom at risk of falling behind.

“It’s a big thing to transition to middle school,” said Kay Daniels, coordinator of Booker’s transition program, which also includes math, science and P.E. “The academics become more rigorous and there are many differences, different teachers and more students. It can be scary for them and for their parents.”

The program runs 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and provides a free breakfast and lunch. United Way Suncoast provides the summer learning curriculum for all the students. The 40 enrolled in the SAIL program are tutored twice a week. Today is the program’s last day until next summer.

For the interns, the program offers a real-world teaching experience with students of different cultures and races. Unlike classrooms of old with desks in neat rows, the students sit in groups at tables, allowing for interaction with each other and the interns. This summer, SAIL students are studying the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Many of our teaching students are from middle-class backgrounds and they’re not exposed to teaching children from a high-poverty environment,” said Dr. Marie Byrd, who oversees the SAIL program for USFSM. “This will teach them how to interact with the children and differentiate their needs.”

Dr. G. Pat Wilson, interim dean of USFSM’s College of Education, agreed, adding: “What project SAIL does for our teacher candidates is give them additional experience with diverse children using arts-integrated teaching. Ultimately, our teacher candidates will be stronger educators from this experience.”

Graduate student Kristen Castellini said she jumped at the chance to participate in the internship: “It was an opportunity I just didn’t want to pass up; an experience before going into the classroom full time.”

“That’s what it was for me, too,” said fellow graduate student Victoria Barnette. “It was an opportunity to learn, to assess reading and to manage a classroom.”

Adjusting to the new setting was challenging at first, but they settled in after a couple of days, Barnette said. In addition to their roles as educators – in this case integrating art and reading with social studies – the interns were presented a chance to learn about public speaking, lesson planning and time management.

The most fulfilling part, Castellini said, was “watching the children’s reactions as they became engaged.”

Fellow graduate student Richard Schaefer said he enjoyed “interacting and talking about how what happened in the past is relevant today.”

Meanwhile, for the students, “portrait reading” clearly emerged as the overall top vote-getter.

“For some reason, my favorite part was critiquing the clothes,” Mia Rojas, 11, said with a grin. “They had bad clothes.”

“Reading portraits is my favorite part,” said Ja’mya Hunter, 11. “I also like talking about the book we’re reading about the Civil War and society.”

However, her classmate, Asiyah Hadley, 11, offered a different response. She said she liked portrait reading but also enjoyed learning about the abolitionist movement and how some individuals were spurred to action by the cruelty of slavery.

“I thought the Civil War was about some states that wanted slavery and some that didn’t,” she said. “But (really) it was about how slaves were being treated and that some people (abolitionists) didn’t like it. That’s how it started. I didn’t know that before.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee to host expert panel on grade-level reading

Selby Auditorium

Selby Auditorium

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 28, 2015) – Grade-level reading is a hot topic in education circles and this week USF Sarasota-Manatee will play host to a panel discussion about efforts locally and nationally to improve reading levels.

The forum, called “Grade-Level Reading: How to Tackle Our Greatest Challenge,” is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at USFSM’s Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. The event is presented by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune as part of its “Hot Topics” series.

The panel will include Diana Greene, superintendent of Manatee County Schools; Lori White, superintendent of Sarasota County Schools; John Annis, senior vice president of community investment at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; and Ron Fairchild, one of the leading voices behind the national movement for grade-level reading and the CEO of the Smarter Learning Group, a national consulting firm that specializes in helping nonprofit organizations and foundations improve learning opportunities for low-income children.

Fairchild will talk about programs nationally to help children read at grade level. Tom Tryon, opinion editor at the Herald-Tribune, will moderate the discussion.

The forum comes as Manatee and Sarasota counties are combining forces under the banner of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to improve reading levels for children in kindergarten through third grade. Experts say that reading proficiency by the third grade is an indicator of a child’s long-term success in school and beyond, including the workplace.

“The reason this is so important is that up until the third grade, the students are learning how to read. From that point on, they’re expected to know how to read,” said Beth Duda, lead consultant for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

Many who fall behind come from impoverished or distressed neighborhoods that lack resources and the support network to help them keep up. Currently, Sarasota and Manatee counties have 57 percent and 60 percent of students in lower grade levels who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Dr. G. Pat Wilson, interim Dean of the USFSM College of Education, said the campaign stands out for three key reasons:

“First, the community has identified a problem and is working to resolve it. This is grass-roots and comes from the community. Second, it’s being addressed by a coalition of partners – people, agencies, foundations and schools working together, and USFSM is at the center working with these people and agencies – and third that it’s part of a national effort. Other communities nationally are developing their own plans so that we can compare and learn from each other,” Dr. Wilson said. “Working together I think we can make a difference.”

Equipped with action plans, the Sarasota and Manatee school districts, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Manatee Community Foundation, The Patterson Foundation, the United Way, USF Sarasota-Manatee and other groups have begun collaborating to bring more resources to elementary schools in low-income areas.

In April, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was formed to coordinate the two-county effort. The campaign, supported by more than 40 groups, focuses on five key areas: school readiness/early learning, chronic absences, summer learning, healthy readers and parent/family engagement.

To tackle absenteeism, for example, the groups are helping pay for social workers to find out why some children are missing school and how to get them back.

In another example, the groups set up a summer program at an elementary school where parents attend class to earn a nursing certificate while their children participate in a reading program. This combined effort helps both parents and their children, ensuring they keep up with their reading.

To learn more, visit www.gradelevelreadingsuncoast.net.

Tuesday Talks: Dr. Fawn Ngo, Criminology

Each Tuesday, we sit down with members of the faculty to discuss their expertise, recent research and some of their accomplishments. This week, USFSM takes a closer look at Dr. Fawn Ngo.

Fawn T. Ngo is an Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Dr. Ngo received her B.A. in Criminology, Law & Society from the University of California, Irvine, her M.S. in Criminal Justice from the California State University, Long Beach, and her Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland. Prior to her arrival at USFSM, Dr. Ngo was the Associate Academic Director for the Master Criminal Justice Distance Learning Program at the University of Cincinnati and Research Associate at the Westminster Police Department in Orange County, California.

Dr. Ngo’s areas of interest include criminological theory, interpersonal violence, actuarial risk assessment, and evaluative research. Her work has appeared in Justice Quarterly, Crime & Delinquency, Journal of Criminal Justice, Victims & Offenders: The International Journal of Evidence-Based Research, Policy, and Practice, International Journal of Cyber Criminology, American Journal of Criminal Justice, and Journal of Criminology.

Dr. Ngo received the Outstanding Professor Award from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in 2014 and the Excellence in Research Award, also from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, in 2015.

Four USF Sarasota-Manatee professors awarded tenure

Drs. Tricia Hunsader, Valerie Lipscomb, Nicholas Mastracchio, Jr. and Fawn Ngo.

Drs. Tricia Hunsader, Valerie Lipscomb, Nicholas Mastracchio, Jr. and Fawn Ngo.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 27, 2015) – Four USF Sarasota-Manatee assistant professors are celebrating milestones in their academic careers: attaining tenure.

Drs. Tricia Hunsader, Valerie Lipscomb, Nicholas Mastracchio, Jr. and Fawn Ngo received word of the prestigious honor last month at USF Board of Trustees meeting.

“Given the high regard I have for my peers and USFSM, being awarded tenure is an honor,” Dr. Hunsader, an assistant professor of education, said.

It means “that colleagues here at USFSM as well as those from other universities who reviewed my work are confident that I will continue to contribute throughout my career to scholarship in my field, to developing our university, and to excellence in teaching,” said Dr. Lipscomb, an assistant professor of English in the College of Arts & Sciences.

In the broadest sense, tenure is a sign of trust and academic achievement. It affords professors academic freedom and a right to due process. Tenured faculty are free to challenge the conventional wisdom of any field, including art, science and politics, without fear of losing their jobs, and colleges cannot fire professors without evidence of incompetency or unprofessional behavior.

“Tenure allows freedom of inquiry, the ability to question the status quo, and that inquiry leads to the advancement of knowledge and cultural understanding,” Dr. Lipscomb said. “It’s the foundation of the higher education system.”

Nationally, no more than a third of college associate professors and professors are tenured. About 30 are tenured at USF Sarasota-Manatee, including the four faculty who will receive tenure officially on Aug. 7 at the start of the academic year. Classes are set to start on Aug. 24.

The four come from varying backgrounds. While Drs. Hunsader and Lipscomb teach education and English, respectively, Dr. Ngo is an assistant professor of criminology and Dr. Mastracchio is an assistant professor of accounting.

“It is now my turn to mentor and support junior faculty so that they too will receive tenure one day,” said Dr. Ngo, who joined USF Sarasota-Manatee in 2008. She said she’s planning a book about evidence-based criminal justice.

Dr. Hunsader, who joined the university in 2006, said: “Although I plan to continue to publish, reaching this landmark in my career affords me the freedom to more fully pursue my interests in administration.”

In addition to attaining tenure, the four faculty received promotions to associate professor starting Aug. 7. Dr. Thomas Becker of the College of Business, who is already tenured, was promoted to full professor starting Aug. 7.

For Dr. Mastracchio, this marks the second time he has received tenure. Joining USF Sarasota-Manatee in 2011, Dr. Mastracchio was awarded tenure in 1995 while at USF Tampa.

Experiencing the honor for a second time, he said he doesn’t expect big changes to his everyday life, though his course load will likely grow.

“There is comfort in knowing that my efforts are acceptable to the university,” he added.

USF Sarasota-Manatee student ambassador lands IMG job

Student Ambassadors Coy Carter and Darrell Xayarath at youth football tournament last month in Bradenton.

Student Ambassadors Coy Carter and Darrell Xayarath at youth football tournament last month in Bradenton.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 23, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee senior Darrell Xayarath is crediting a student-ambassador experience with helping him to land a job at IMG Academy, the elite sports training academy in Bradenton.

The College of Arts & Sciences senior and newly named USFSM ambassador said he jumped at the chance to volunteer at the prestigious IMG 7v7 National Championship youth football tournament when contacted last month by Director of Alumni Affairs Jay Riley.

The two-day tournament, played on the campus of IMG Academy, featured 60 teams from 16 states and Canada. The academy worked with Riley to provide volunteers. Riley contacted the Ambassadors, a student organization that regularly helps at community events.

Xayarath, a biology student aiming to become an athletic trainer, readily agreed, saying it dovetailed with his interests. He grew up in Aurora, Ill., just outside Chicago, loving football and rooting for the Bears. Plus he figured the tournament might open doors to a job, and he was right.

After keeping score and helping the referees and event managers, he landed a part-time position this week at IMG Academy.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy.

Xayarath said he worked hard to impress, diligently lending a hand where he could at the event, and he took time to network. He also made sure to follow up with a note thanking IMG Academy staff for the experience.

He got a quick reply and learned a part-time position might open up to assist at tournaments and other youth events. That was fine for Xayarath, who wanted a part-time job in his field that allowed time to continue his studies. After graduation, the 30-year-old Air Force veteran said he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in athletic training.

“We’re excited about the addition of Darrell to our game-day and part-time events staff,” Titus Queen, IMG Academy director of events, said Thursday. “His strong work ethic and ability to accomplish tasks in a timely manner made him an easy choice and we look forward to building a relationship with USF Sarasota-Manatee.”

For his part, Xayarath said he’s looking forward to joining the academy. He started job orientation this week.

“It’s definitely the type of environment I want to be in,” he said. “It’s very professional. The expectations there are very high.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee student, teacher recount study abroad trip

Michelle Teeter and Joe Askren.

Michelle Teeter and Joe Askren.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 23, 2015) – It’s hard not to get swept away when arriving in Florence, the picturesque Renaissance city and home of the Duomo, scores of museums, piazzas and cobbled streets – except when your luggage hasn’t arrived and the best the airline can offer is forse domani, forse domani (maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow).

That was the experience of USF Sarasota-Manatee accounting student Michelle Teeter upon arriving for a 10-week stay in Italy, including six weeks at Florence University of the Arts as part of the University of South Florida System’s education abroad program.

As Teeter tells it, all wasn’t la dolce vita during those first few days. She was forced shop for soap, a toothbrush, even clothing and couldn’t stray too far from her rented flat in case her luggage arrived. On one occasion, suffering a head cold, she found herself pantomiming her symptoms to a pharmacist who spoke little English.

“It’s not like you can just go into a Walgreens for Claritin,” she said.

These and other frustrating turns could have had the senior hibernating in her apartment, longing for the comforts of home. Instead, she took a breath and resolved to slow down. Gradually, she gained insight into the Florentine culture and warmed to it. By the end, she was feeling “like I was Italian,” she said.

From that point of view, the trip was grande successo. Her suitcases arrived three days later and plenty of “life is sweet” moments took the edges off the less-than-stellar ones.

When not studying Italian family businesses at the university, Teeter ventured into the city, sometimes with fellow students, but often alone, to explore its tiny alleyways, open-air markets and trattorias. Weekends brought trips to museums, including the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, home of the famous Italian shoe brand, as well as excursions outside the city.

She toured a fourth-generation, Parma-based cheese maker on one such trip. For another she rode a bicycle through the Tuscan countryside to explore a cluster of agriturismo businesses, or family farms that double as restaurants and cozy inns.

She also toured Rome, Venice and other hot spots. Her favorite stop? The isle of Capri where for one sunny afternoon she lounged on the beach and swam in the Mediterranean.

“The water was so clear,” she said.

Though traveling alone – of the 105 USF students who went to Italy, she was the only one from the Sarasota-Manatee campus – Teeter did encounter at least one familiar face, USFSM College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership instructor Joe Askren.

Askren, who roomed with other teachers in an apartment provided by the university, taught three afternoons per week, discussing differences and similarities in cuisine globally. The course looked at the connections between food and culture, including religion.

“What better place to teach than the birthplace of the Renaissance?” he said.

As a community-engagement piece, Askren took his students to a community-based vegetable garden called Orti Dipinti, where they learned about agriculture, social responsibility and old-world growing techniques. One example they saw was an form of irrigation where unglazed clay pots are filled with water and buried. Water leaching through the pots feeds nearby root systems.

“This can last for four or five days,” Askren said.

They also heard about a kind of ancient refrigerator: A clay pot is inserted inside a larger pot. Sand and water are placed between the two and as the water evaporates, the temperature inside the smaller pot cools.

“A guy kept his lunch in there and it was about 90 degrees out,” he said.

Askren’s class included a “transformational” aim. He asked his 16 students to keep a journal to reflect on their experiences and the Italian culture. Many students initially focused on their frustration with the language and customs. But as time passed and they grew more comfortable, they turned their attention to the places and people they encountered. Some emboldened students took side trips to Prague and Paris.

“The first week, it was a culture shock, but by the second and third, they were gaining confidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, Askren, a former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz., had goals of his own to attend to once classes ended. At the top of his list: to explore Florence’s food scene, which didn’t disappoint. Each excursion seemed to reveal a new surprise.

In general, he said he appreciated how dishes could be both simple and elegant and how chefs coaxed the most out of their locally sourced ingredients.

“I have more pictures of food on my Facebook page than anything else,” he said, laughing. “My wife kept telling me to take pictures of other stuff.”

His favorite side trip: Cinque Terre, a string of five picturesque Italian villages nestled on a craggy hillside above the Mediterranean. Accessible by train, the villages banned car travel 10 years ago to preserve their rustic charm. They were named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997.

“Just amazing,” he said.

It wasn’t hard to be swayed by the setting. His students eventually embraced the culture and customs as well, though it took time. Askren said he noticed a shift in attitude when, referring to their apartments in Florence, they started using phrases like “we need to get home.”

Teeter, who took the trip thanks in part to a Clyde G. Nixon International Business Endowment scholarship, wasn’t immune to Italy’s charm, saying she could envision living there, though she has no plans to do so.

“It gave me the confidence to think bigger,” she said. “I learned that I can adapt and exist in a new culture.”

Tuesday Talks: Dr. Colleen Lord, Educational Leadership

Each Tuesday, we sit down with members of the faculty to discuss their expertise, recent research and some of their accomplishments. This week, USFSM takes a closer look at Dr. Colleen Lord.

Colleen H. Lord, Ed.D, is an instructor in the College of Education at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. She has taught graduate students for seven years in educational leadership. Her expertise is in school and district leadership, technology integration, and professional development at all levels. She has served as principal at both the elementary and secondary level in Florida, as well as district leadership in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Lord led a school community through the improvement process culminating in National Blue Ribbon recognition in Washington, D.C.

Her research interests include professional development, mentoring principals and school improvement in all settings, including international education.

USF Sarasota-Manatee professors assist theatrical production

Drs. Kathy Black (left) and Valerie Lipscomb.

Drs. Kathy Black (left) and Valerie Lipscomb.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 17, 2015) – Drs. Kathy Black and Valerie Lipscomb’s interest in age-related issues is well established, but few might know that the two consulted on a theater production connected to aging.

The USF Sarasota-Manatee professors consulted over the past two years on “Old Enough to Know Better” set to run at downtown’s Florida Studio Theatre in two weeks.

“It has a lot of theatrical flair,” Dr. Black, a professor of social work and gerontology, said of the production drawn from close to 100 interviews with Sarasota residents 50 and older. “These are the stories of our lives as told by people reminiscing.”

The two were contacted a couple years ago as the idea to chronicle and dramatize the aging process began to take shape. They gave suggestions and sat in on rehearsals as the work shifted to the stage. Dr. Lipscomb contributed further by script consulting.

“Valerie and Kathy have been two of our most consistent and ardent supporters on this project,” Project Manager and Director Jason Cannon said. “They provided us with research, larger context, expertise, and invaluable contacts.

“Both of them have provided insightful feedback, encouragement, and provocative questions,” he said.

The production is based on interviews with a cross-section of residents of varying races, economic levels and sexual orientation. Composite characters drawn were formed to reminisce on stage about their lives and mull aging’s ups and downs.

What emerges is mostly light-hearted and entertaining, Dr. Black said. “It’s not a comedy but there are many funny moments, but there are also poignant moments dealing with loss and pain. I particularly like the positive aspects that are shared in the vignettes.”

After rehearsals, “talk-back” sessions provided those interviewed an opportunity to voice what they liked and didn’t like, enabling for production tweaks.

The result of the two-year effort is set to debut July 30 and run for two weeks at the Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N Palm Ave. Tickets are $34-$36 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at (941) 366-9000 or at floridastudiotheatre.org.

The show comes as age-related issues are drawing more attention in Sarasota.

In May, Dr. Black and The Patterson Foundation unveiled “Age-Friendly Sarasota,” a multi-partner effort to make the county “age-friendlier” for people across their lifespan. Then last month, Dr. Black announced a countywide survey to develop a blueprint of possible age-friendly changes.

She said she hopes the play spurs more discussion about aging. “We should celebrate life at all ages,” she said.

Age-related issues are similarly important to Lipscomb, an assistant English professor who teaches British and American literature. Her research combines age-related and theater studies. Her current book, Act Your Age, examines the performance of age in modern drama.

As for their combined effort on “Old Enough to Know Better,” the professors said they hope to draw lessons from the experience to go toward an article. Like Dr. Black, Dr. Lipscomb said she enjoyed watching the production go from the interview process to the stage.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to be take the theory of what we are working on at the university and apply it and engage the community in a way that will, I hope, make a difference in the community,” she said. “This is just one example of our engagement in the community.”