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Upcoming Master’s Degree Information Sessions

Information Session

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee will hold informational open houses for prospective master’s degree students in January 2014.

Attendees will receive a brief overview of the university, information about specific master’s degree programs, the admissions process, financial aid and other services. There will be complimentary food and beverages in addition to a campus tour. There will also be an opportunity to meet in small groups with the appropriate academic advisors to discuss prerequisites, transcripts and other details pertaining to individual programs of interest, and to meet faculty and graduates.

January 9, 2014                                                         
Master’s in Social Work*                                         
4:00-5:30 p.m.                                                           
Selby Auditorium

January 25, 2014
All Master’s Degrees
9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Selby Auditorium

Master’s degree programs include:

  • Business Administration
  • Criminal Justice Administration
  • Education (Human Resource Education or Online Teaching and Learning)
  • Educational Leadership
  • English Education
  • Exceptional Student Education
  • Hospitality Management
  • Social Work
  • Teaching

Note: The Master of Social Work degree program has a February 15, 2014 application deadline. It is a cohort, taught as a group over eight consecutive semesters and hosted at USF Sarasota-Manatee. A fall 2014 cohort start date is contingent upon a minimum number of qualified acceptances; without the minimum number, the start date would be delayed to January 2015. Website: www.usfsm.edu.

USF Sarasota-Manatee course aims to improve students’ scores on college entrance exam

USF Sarasota-Manatee ACT Prep Class

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 20, 2015) – Help is coming for high school seniors and juniors looking for that extra edge on the ACT college entrance exam.

USF Sarasota-Manatee is planning a three-day preparatory course for high school students next month.

Taught by retired teacher Jo-Ann Hillman of JMH Education Services, the course offers content and exam-taking strategies not found solely in books or on websites.

“It helps students get over their fear of the test,” she said.

Specifically, the course provides “good discernment” skills while going over the types of questions students will likely see on the exam.

A rarity 20 years ago, preparation classes are fast becoming common on campuses today as students look for extra help getting into college and winning academic scholarships.

Some schools, including USFSM, allow students to mix and match scores from both the ACT and SAT entrance exams to achieve higher overall scores, said Andy Telatovich, director of admissions and financial aid at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

“Some students do better on the SAT math portion, so they might want to use that score,” he said.

Next month’s ACT prep course represents the fourth to be held at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

About 25 students, likely a mix of juniors and seniors, are expected to sign up for the course, which would be similar to attendance at past sessions. A handful of sophomores might also attend. Class size is limited to 25.

The course runs from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on June 8, 9 and 10 at USF Sarasota-Manatee, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail.

Registration, not including materials, is $50. Please bring a copy of the book “ACT for Dummies” (to be purchased separately). Included is a 30-minute break.

Dr. Lora Kosten, faculty coordinator at the USF Sarasota-Manatee North Port Instructional Site, said students today want whatever edge they can find to boost their college entrance scores. The three-day ACT prep course provides that help – along with an additional benefit.

“It helps students develop confidence in themselves, and that confidence is carried over into their performance on the test,” Dr. Kosten said.

To register, go to http://usfsm.edu/testprepact/. For questions, contact Dr. Kosten at (941) 426-7783.

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education earns national accreditation

USF Sarasota-Manatee's College of Education has earned the highest national accreditation.

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education has earned the highest national accreditation.

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 20, 2015) – The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education has been awarded accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the nation’s foremost accrediting organization for teacher education.

NCATE’s board of examiners, which conducted the review, found the college met all standards for categories in bachelor’s and post-graduate educator programs. The college now joins USF St. Petersburg and USF Tampa for having attained separate NCATE accreditation within the USF System. Previously, the USFSM College of Education was NCATE accredited through the USF System.

“It means that the College of Education has been scrutinized by peers in the field of education and that our College of Education has essentially been deemed world class,” said Dr. Terry Osborn, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

NCATE merged two years ago with the Teacher Education Accreditation Council to form the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Learn more about the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

However, USFSM’s College of Education was accredited under NCATE standards covering all educator programs for pre-K to 12 settings, whether in public, private or charter schools or in online programs.

Accreditation was determined by assessing six categories of NCATE standards:

  • Candidate knowledge, skills and professional dispositions: Teacher candidates must demonstrate in-depth knowledge of their subject areas and the ability to convey that information to students.
  • Assessment system and unit evaluation: The college must establish a procedure to evaluate the knowledge and skills of its teacher candidates as well as its own teacher programs.
  • Field experiences and clinical practice: The institution must form partnerships with pre-K to 12 schools to enable teacher candidates to develop their skills.
  • Diversity: Candidates must be prepared to understand and work with diverse student populations.
  • Faculty qualifications, performance and development: College faculty are qualified and must demonstrate effective teaching practices. Faculty undergo professional development and performance evaluation.
  • Unit governance and resources: The college must have the resources to effectively prepare teacher candidates to meet professional, state and institutional standards.

In awarding accreditation, CAEP wrote that the College of Education excelled in “high-quality educator preparation.”

“This accreditation decision indicates that the educator preparation provider and its programs meet rigorous standards set forth by the professional education community,” Christopher A. Koch, interim president of CAEP, wrote in a May 15 letter to Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee. “Congratulations again on this accomplishment.”

The accreditation process took six years, starting with interviews with community members, and included the evaluation and documentation of all undergraduate and graduate programs, the formation of new programs, the assessment and reporting of all faculty and educator candidates, a site visit by NCATE’s board of examiners and continual dialogue with the examiners. NCATE’s examiners visited the USF Sarasota-Manatee last fall.

USF Sarasota-Manatee, including all of its colleges, is wholly accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The College of Education’s accreditation through CAEP/NCATE represents an additional and specialized accreditation.

“It is the gold standard of accreditation,” said Dr. Bonnie Jones, assistant vice president for institutional research and effectiveness at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

NCATE, founded by teaching professionals in 1954, was already the largest accrediting organization nationally before it merged with the Teacher Education Accreditation Council in 2013 to form CAEP.

Within the CAEP system, 169 institutions and 224 educational programs are accredited under Teacher Education Accreditation Council standards while 846 institutions are accredited nationally under NCATE standards.

NCATE standards are data-driven to show what teachers know and can do in the classroom. They were subjected to continual revision every five years to ensure they met the latest research and best practices.

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education began seeking NCATE accreditation in 2009. NCATE accredited USF St. Petersburg’s College of Education separately in May 2010 after seven years of effort there.

Dr. G. Pat Wilson, interim dean of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education, said the accreditation strengthens the university’s identity in southwest Florida while confirming the work by faculty and staff to educate prospective teachers and school leaders to the highest level.

“It establishes us as an educator preparation program that has been reviewed rigorously and has met these national standards,” Dr. Wilson said.

Once students graduate from the College of Education, it means “they can compete more readily with students from different universities because there is this level of expectation,” she said.

Added Dr. Jones, “The accreditation, itself, gives the College of Education that stamp of quality. It assures parents and students that they are getting a quality education that will help our graduates get a good job.”

Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee, said of the college’s accreditation: “Earning accreditation through NCATE is so important for our College of Education. It puts us on par with the top educational programs throughout the world and shows the terrific work that is being done by our faculty and students. This recognition also means that USFSM will continue to provide top-notch teachers and educators to our local schools and communities.”

For more information on the USF Sarasota-Manatee College of Education, please visit USFSM.edu/College-of-Education.

Study abroad trip will mark anniversary for USF Sarasota-Manatee pair

Students Moe Maung and Kathy Vu will study in South Korea this summer.

Students Moe Maung and Kathy Vu will study in South Korea this summer.

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 19, 2015) – While most students are enjoying a dip in the pool or simply a break from studies, Moe Maung and Kathy Vu will spend their summer sitting in class in South Korea.

The two, who also happen to be in a relationship, are enrolled at Seoul’s Yonsei University as part of USF’s Summer Study Abroad program.

They’re among four USF Sarasota-Manatee students, along with Emily Herman and Kailey Fischer, who received scholarships to travel overseas, including merit scholarships from USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Global Engagement Office.

The fact that Maung and Vu will travel together makes the trip extra special.

“It’s almost like planning an anniversary trip, but we’ll be studying together,” Vu said.

Before earning admission to the six-week Yonsei International Summer School, which attracts hundreds of students globally each year, the two were involved in a near two-year relationship. Their anniversary will coincide with the trip.

Each submitted scholarship applications under requirements of USFSM’s Global Engagement Office, while also applying separately to study abroad at Yonsei – not knowing whether both, one or neither would ultimately be accepted into the program.

They chalked up their mutual success to a happy coincidence – coupled with hard work.

“We were very worried. I was worried she would get accepted over me,” Maung said. “If that happened, I’d still want her to go. I wouldn’t take that away from her.”

Both, meanwhile, are polar opposites academically and will not attend classes together. Maung, 19, is a biology major focused on physics and genetic science. He said he hopes to learn more about genetics and perhaps gain a new perspective on the intricate discipline from Yonsei instructors.

Vu, 20, will study business management and marketing. Aside from her studies, she admits a curiosity about South Korean culture, including its mix of modern and traditional, as well as the near-obsessive drive of South Korean students toward education.

“It’s very competitive over there,” she said. “I take my education seriously and I like to be around people who feel the same.”

The two will stay in separate dorm rooms on campus and expect a full day of classes four days a week. When not studying, they look forward to exploring the city.

Set amidst the bustling capital, Yonsei is easily accessible by train and bus to downtown and nearby cities.

Maung said he’s interested in visiting the region’s ancient temples, but he also wants to soak in downtown’s vibrant hip-hop scene. Vu said she’s excited about the prospect of hopping a train with Maung to take in the sights at nearby cities and villages.

“It’s definitely nice to travel with someone you’re close to,” she said.

Neither of the Sarasota residents is fluent in Korean, and while both have been abroad, it’s been years since either has traveled extensively.

Vu twice visited relatives in Vietnam, the last time 10 years ago. Maung, born in Myanmar, immigrated to California as a boy. At age 5, he and his family settled in Sarasota.

The two met at Sarasota High School and for years cultivated nothing more than a friendship. Maung asked Vu to the senior prom and she accepted, figuring they would attend as friends. A romance developed, however, and that relationship carried over into USF Sarasota-Manatee.

They said they had hoped to visit Yonsei last summer after their freshman year, but Maung was committed to an internship at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, scuttling the plan.

This year, they made Yonsei a priority, although they admitted it was long shot to be accepted together.

After applying, they succumbed to weeks of worry that neither would be accepted or earn the necessary scholarship funds to travel. Vu said she quashed any talk of Yonsei for fear of jinxing the plan.

Then in late February, the two attended an information session for study-abroad applicants when they bumped into Rene Sanchez, assistant director for education abroad at USF in Tampa.

“Congratulations,” he told them. They both had made it.

They later received emails confirming their acceptance as well as their scholarship approvals. Among others, Maung received a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and Vu earned a Clyde G. Nixon International Business Endowment Scholarship.

“We hugged. It was a complete surprise,” Maung said. “I was very relieved. We’re just happy to be going together.”

Also selected to study abroad, Herman will study in Ireland and Fischer in Spain.

The four students are the first to earn merit scholarships from USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Global Engagement Office since its formation last year. The office coordinates a variety of international initiatives, including study-abroad scholarships. Visit http://usfsm.edu/global/ to learn more.

To learn about giving to these or other programs at USF Sarasota-Manatee, contact Dennis Stover at (941) 359-4582.

USF Sarasota-Manatee to host educator leadership summit in North Port

USFSMNP-smSARASOTA, Fla. (May 13, 2015) – Dr. Colleen Lord, chair of the advanced educator program at the USF Sarasota-Manatee North Port Instructional Site, learned a valuable life lesson years ago when she tried to introduce technology to her elementary school.

A new principal, Lord overcame naysayers “by stepping back and working with small groups” and using the technology – in this case, a document projector – during teacher presentations to show its potential. The experience sharpened her leadership skills and taught her how to win over skeptics.

Fast forward 12 years and Lord has teamed with Dr. Lora Kosten, faculty coordinator at the instructional site, to present a two-day leadership summit next month to educators from elementary to high school.

The workshop, entitled the Summer Teacher Leadership Institute, is for department heads, peer leaders and anyone in a school leadership position.

“We want participants to walk away with some personal and professional goals in mind and with a different perspective on leadership,” Kosten said. “And we would like them to … learn about their own leadership style and different leadership styles.”

Participants will be assessed on their leadership abilities. The workshop will focus on four key areas:

  • Leadership Style: Explore the traits and skills needed for effective leadership.
  • Team Building: Create a learning culture based on collaborative relationships.
  • Transformational Change: Develop the skills necessary to become a catalyst for change within a school environment.
  • Life Balance: Cultivate strategies to focus on what’s really important; “work smarter.”

About 25 educators are expected to sign up for the seminar, which is co-sponsored by USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching (PAInT).

In addition, look for a special appearance by Brandon Johnson, principal at LaMarque Elementary School in North Port.

The summit will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 11 and 12, at the USF Sarasota-Manatee North Port Instructional Site, 5920 Pan American Blvd. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

The cost of registration and materials is $50. For more information, call Dr. Kosten at 941-426-7783.

USF Sarasota-Manatee lab looks to control mosquito population

Interns Zach Nemitz and Ruby Ramos take turns looking at bacteria through a microscope.

Interns Zach Nemitz and Ruby Ramos take turns looking at bacteria through a microscope.

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 12, 2015) – Dr. Aparna Telang’s research lab is taking shape after the modular building arrived in late January at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s north parking lot.

Two incubators, a chemical hood, a centrifuge and other equipment is already in place and operational, and on Monday two of Dr. Telang’s four student-interns began their training.

More help, in the form of 100 mosquitos and 200 mosquito eggs – or test subjects – is due to arrive Wednesday.

The Biology Research Laboratory where Dr. Telang will conduct her studies packs a lot of punch in its 600 square feet.

It will need to as the focus shifts to the all-important work that lies ahead over the next two years: Dr. Telang and her interns will study how parasites live inside mosquitos and why these hosts remain immune to the deadly diseases they transmit to humans.

With the arrival in Florida of dengue fever in 2009 and West Nile virus in 2001, researchers statewide are intent to discover new ways to eradicate, or at least control, these and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Four interns – sophomore Ruby Ramos, junior Robert “Zach” Nemitz and seniors Nicole Carswell and Carissa Santiago – will assist in running tests, dissecting mosquitos and examining their miniscule anatomies for signs of bacteria, both benign and harmful.

First up is safety training and instruction on the lab’s delicate scientific equipment, including the incubator, or growth chamber as it’s called, where the students will cultivate mosquito colonies in a temperature- and light-controlled environment.

Getting the interns up to speed will take weeks, Dr. Telang said. However, she takes it all in stride, saying the effort is part of the responsibility scientists must show to their successors.

“None of the students will have all the necessary skills when they come into my lab. I will have to train them on many techniques,” she said. “Initially, it’s a kind of investment, my time and expertise to train them in the hope that they become independent with their research.

“In the sciences, it is considered a part of our responsibility to raise the next generation of scientists. It’s part of our culture,” she said.

That next generation is apt to spend several months, and possibly much of the upcoming school year, ensconced inside Dr. Telang’s lab peering through microscopes and working with delicate dissecting instruments. Dr. Telang said she hopes the younger students, Ramos and Nemitz, remain even longer.

The students consider themselves fortunate to be assisting her.

“I want to stick with Dr. Telang as many summers as she needs me,” said Ramos, who aims to become a medical doctor specializing in infectious diseases. “This is very valuable experience. It can really help on my CV (curriculum vitae),” or resume.

Santiago, also hoping to become a doctor, said it’s important to show prospective medical schools that, “you have research experience and know what you’re doing in a lab and have group-think skills to be a part of a project from start to finish.”

Santiago said part of her job will involve dissecting mosquitos to examine benign microbes and their function within their hosts. Her work will have her collaborating with Nemitz, Dr. Telang and with Dr. Kim Ritchie, a microbiologist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

Ramos will examine mosquito immune responses to parasitic worms.

Carswell will have her own unique role: She’ll work with mosquito control officers from Sarasota and Manatee counties to examine mosquito and bird transmissions of West Nile Virus and its equally virulent cousin, St. Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLEV), which is more common in Florida.

Specifically, she’ll collect “sentinel” chickens’ feces samples to determine whether the birds carry the viruses.

Nemitz said he’s looking forward to the research process, in his case growing and “staining” bacteria with fluorescent markers so they can be observed later within a mosquito’s organs.

“I’ve always liked science in general,” he said. “Here, I’ll get to see things I normally wouldn’t see in a classroom.”

Dr. Telang said she hopes to publish her findings in about two years.

The best outcome: to identify a strain of symbiotic bacteria on which mosquitos depend and can be exploited to control their population levels.

“A lot of the time, the research is about how to knock their numbers down,” Dr. Telang said. “The reason mosquitos are so prevalent is they are good at surviving. They are extremely good at what they do, which is to survive and reproduce. The best we can hope for is how to figure out newer, lasting ways to reduce their numbers.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee scholarship benefits from generous donor


SARASOTA, Fla. (May 8, 2015) – For students like Jennifer Caba, Alex Benishek and scores of others at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Clyde G. Nixon International Business Endowment Scholarship is a treasure that has opened their eyes to the world around them.

Now, that scholarship fund is reaching new heights.

Thanks to an anonymous $40,000 donation that was matched and surpassed by $52,000 in contributions by community members, this year’s combined gift level has reached $92,000. Total endowed funds to date have hit $370,000.

The anonymous donor provided the gift in honor of the scholarship’s namesake, Clyde G. Nixon, who would have turned 80 on Sunday.

“What a joy to continue to celebrate Clyde as a former USF Sarasota-Manatee leader and community leader with this ongoing scholarship for international study for our College of Business students,” Dennis Stover, regional vice chancellor for university advancement, said of the anonymous contribution.

Altogether, the university manages more than $4 million in scholarship endowments with projected annual earnings of $157,000 and receives more than $200,000 annually in direct scholarship gifts.

Nixon’s wife, Joan Nixon, said the international business endowment scholarship was established by friends and family after her husband’s death in 2007. Nixon was the former chairman of Sarasota-based Sun Hydraulics.

Combining Nixon’s love of travel and education, the scholarship provides students the opportunity to study abroad each summer while exploring new cultures.

Caba, for example, studied in Poland, visited the Auschwitz concentration camp and along the way helped build a clinic in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

Benishek traveled throughout Japan, including its industrial areas to learn how factories operate there.

Including those two students, the fund has helped a dozen young people travel to countries that otherwise they might never have visited.

Two more students are expected to take trips this summer thanks to the Nixon scholarship.

To learn more about giving to this or other programs at USF Sarasota-Manatee, please contact Dennis Stover at (941) 359-4582.

USF Sarasota-Manatee researcher: Band class more than just music


SARASOTA, Fla. (May 7, 2015) – Dr. Susan Fulton and her husband, John, were talking about budget cuts to school band programs a couple years ago when Fulton was struck by an idea that offered potential as a research topic.

She wondered whether basic musical training – learning to recognize changes in pitch, rhythm and tempo – could help children and young adults distinguish sounds more clearly.

Researchers have long acknowledged a connection between mathematical skill and musicality. Similarly, Fulton wondered if musical ability might actually produce a positive impact on auditory processing and provide the skills to understand speech in noisy environments. Put another way, can the brain’s capacity to distinguish sounds be improved through musical training?

Fulton, a researcher and assistant professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, is about to find out.

Three weeks ago, she received word she had been awarded an $8,490 New Researcher Grant from the University of South Florida to put her theories to the test.

Starting this summer, she’ll begin recruiting 40 USF students to serve as research subjects. To be eligible they must be between the ages of 19 and 40, have no more than two years of musical training, have no speech or neurological disorders and hear within normal ranges.

Students chosen for the study will receive extra credit.

The subjects will be expected to participate in hearing and brain wave measurements to establish a baseline.

Afterward, they’ll undergo two months of daily musical training through the online site, quavermusic.com. At the end, they’ll return for another round of hearing and brainwave tests to determine whether any changes occurred in the brain’s ability to distinguish sounds.

“Few studies have examined the benefits of musical training in non-musicians and no studies have examined the effects of online music training using common auditory processing tests,” she said.

Fulton already has access to a sound-attenuating booth at USF St. Petersburg, as well as a Compumedics Neuroscan device to analyze electrical brain activity thanks to a researcher friend at USF’s Tampa campus.

The bulk of the grant, she said, will go toward purchasing an audiometer, a machine that tests hearing. Commonly used by audiologists, audiometers emit tones of varying frequency and loudness, as well as words. The device can send sounds to one or both ears and control the volume of those sounds. The model Fulton has her eye on runs about $7,890.

If she can prove her theory – that online musical training improves auditory processing – then the door could open to a range of therapies for children who suffer auditory processing disorders, which afflict about 5 percent of school-aged children nationwide as well as 43 percent of children with learning difficulties, she said.

On a broader level, the findings might also demonstrate to boards of education and policy makers that school music programs make good academic sense.

Beyond their cultural contribution, the programs can have direct bearing on core academic performance and play a critical role in overall learning.

However, months of rigorous testing and data crunching lie ahead before Fulton can make that claim.

She figures the entire project – recruiting and testing the subjects, subjecting them to online musical training, then running more tests and analyzing the data – will take a minimum of six months.

The grant’s funding will likely come this summer.

“Changes in the brain often manifest electro-physiologically before they show up in behavioral measures,” she said. “This study will allow me to examine both at the same time in young listeners.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee grads look to Career Services office for next step

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SARASOTA, Fla. (May 4, 2015) – Michael Aemisegger Jr. is set to start an accounting job next week. Jessica Mahon has already lined up an insurance sales position. And Will Riforgiat is eyeing two possible jobs at Publix Super Markets Inc., in associate relations or employee assistance.

The three, who were among the 286 who graduated Sunday from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, credited the university for opening doors to their new careers.

“It definitely helped on the communications side,” Mahon, 30, said as she waited to receive a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary social sciences at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, the site of the university’s 63rd commencement ceremony.

“The Career Services Center … helped me build a better resume and that definitely helped me find a new job,” said Mahon, who landed a position at State Farm in Lakewood Ranch.

For many approaching graduation, the center’s help is indispensable.

Aemisegger, 29, parlayed an internship this past spring into an accounting job at Kerkering, Barberio & Co. in Sarasota.

Like Mahon, he turned to the USF Sarasota-Manatee Career Services office for help taking the next step. The office helped polish his resume while also producing business cards and a personal website to highlight several class projects.

“They also ran through an interview with me, going over different kinds of questions they might ask, body language, stuff you wouldn’t think of,” said Aemisegger, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. “You have to do everything you can to differentiate yourself from the other job candidates.”

Since moving to the first-floor student services wing in August 2013, Career Services has boosted job and internship placements, while increasing its employer list. Students can sit with a counselor or scan online resources, including OptimalResume, a program that helps users build resumes, web portfolios and business cards. The program can also run through mock interviews, as in Aemisegger’s case.

From May 2014 to this past April, the center’s student registrations doubled while the number of employers posting openings for jobs and internships rose 44 percent. The Sarasota-Manatee campus

Left to right: Regional Chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee Dr. Sandra Stone, Outstanding Graduate Award Winner Colleen Bankuty and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft at Sunday's commencement.

Left to right: Regional Chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee Dr. Sandra Stone, Outstanding Graduate Award Winner Colleen Bankuty and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft at Sunday’s commencement.

placed more than 150 students during that time.

Higher visibility – moving out of the student government wing to a newly renovated space – accounted for part of that increase. Also helping, the center added a career coach and an internship coordinator for hospitality and technology jobs to further boost placements.

“Our main goal is career readiness to make sure that students have all the tools and resources that they need … to find a job,” said Toni Ripo, Coordinator of Career Services. “Several times in their lifetime they might change not just jobs but careers, and they will need to know how to retool and rebrand and get back into the job market quickly.”

Aemisegger won’t be alone when he strides into Kerkering Barberio May 11 to start his new job.

He’ll have company in the form of fellow alum Colleen Bankuty, this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award.

Like Aemisegger, Bankuty worked first as an intern at Kerkering Barberio.

She landed the position after a meet-and-greet with about a dozen accounting firms at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Selby Auditorium. By September 2013, the 28-year-old mother of two had a job offer in hand.

“They asked me to come back after the 2013 tax season,” she said.

As she spoke, dozens of degree candidates clad in USF-green commencement robes waited outside the convention hall to march inside. Although 175 candidates attended the ceremony, the 2015 spring class included many more: 286 in all (253 bachelor’s degree and 33 master’s degree candidates).

As the group strode inside, hundreds of well-wishers – friends and family – applauded loudly and snapped photos from folding chairs and the bleachers.

Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee, also received a loud cheer.

Addressing the graduates, she spoke of partnerships between the university and surrounding community, in particular with organizations where faculty and students played a role this past academic year, such as the Resort at Longboat Key Club, the Mote Marine Laboratory and the Manatee County School District.

“Impactful programs and projects like these are built because of students like you and because of the dedication and foresight of our local leaders, business owners, alumni and friends,” Dr. Stone said.

She was followed by USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft, who presided over the ceremony. She told the graduates:

“For the third year in a row, USF ranked among the top of the State University System of Florida’s performance funding measures based on important criteria such as graduation rate, degrees produced in areas of critical need and average starting salaries.

“That means our students have been the ones to work hard to graduate in the tough fields of today’s global job market and are the ones now in demand as new employees,” she said. “This is your achievement.”

Musician relishes journey, finds new calling at USF Sarasota-Manatee

Left to right, Vince Buckwalter, Mark Miller, Mark Marshall and Mike Townsend of Stryker.

Left to right, Vince Buckwalter, Mark Miller, Mark Marshall and Mike Townsend of Stryker.

SARASOTA, Fla. (April 29, 2015)  – Anyone kicking around Sarasota’s club scene 20 years ago might remember the band Stryker.

Scratch your memory a little harder and you might recall Vince Buckwalter, the vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player who eventually left the group to record on his own in Nashville.

Buckwalter, who also goes by Vin Lamar, charted a few songs and saw some radio play, but lasting musical fame outside Sarasota eluded him. Lately, his life has taken a different path.

Now, he’s a student at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and on Sunday he’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Already, he’s been accepted into a master’s program at USF St. Petersburg, where he’ll start classes in the fall.

Buckwalter, 56, takes it all in stride, reflecting on the twists and turns his life has taken. Along the way, he married, had three children, got divorced and married again. Two of his kids, his daughters, attend college with him as students themselves.

Gone are the late-night parties. He’s replaced them with books and online course work. He’s more interested in pursuing research and helping disadvantaged children than jamming on stage, he says.

Playing in a local band had its moments, though.

“We were weekend warriors,” said Buckwalter, who worked construction at the time. “We all had jobs during the week. One was a bank administrator. In a way, it was therapeutic for us.”

Back in the 1990s, the band amassed a local following and frequently popped up at the 5 O’Clock Club on Hillview Street in Sarasota, at Cha Cha Coconuts on St. Armand’s Circle and the Beach Club on Siesta Key.

The group recorded a CD in the mid-1990s, during its height, but mostly remained a local act playing cover songs. Buckwalter has no regrets, though. He cherishes the memories.

“Stop Making Sense,” Jonathan Demme’s concert movie featuring the Talking Heads, hit theaters in the mid-1980s and Buckwalter seized on the film, in particular lead singer David Byrne’s “big suit” persona.

Buckwalter found a suit like Byrne’s and emulated the singer during performances of “Psycho Killer” and “Life During Wartime,” running across the stage.

He smiles at the memory: “It was magic when we got up on stage on the weekends.”

Buckwalter grew up in Lancaster, Penn., and attended Michigan State University and Hesston College in Kansas, studying a range of subjects, including psychology. But as the semesters rolled by, Buckwalter’s interest in education waned. It was replaced by a love of music fueled by jam sessions in his dorm room.

Leaving college, he moved to Tampa to live with his father, Nevin Buckwalter, then relocated to Sarasota to room with college friends from Hesston, figuring he might make music his life’s work.

Seizing on the popularity of John Travolta’s “Urban Cowboy” flick, he joined the three-piece Riding High Band, playing country and country-rock. He jumped to mainstream rockers Stryker in 1984.

The group produced a CD, “Go Like Mad,” but never saw much attention outside Sarasota. Weary of the routine, Buckwalter quit the band and set out on his own in 2000.

“I was getting tired of doing the same thing, playing the same clubs,” he said. “We released the CD five years earlier, but no one wanted to do anything with it. I just felt I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

He flew back and forth to Nashville to record his own material and saw some radio play, but ran out of cash to continue recording and promoting his songs. Plus, the trips were taking a personal toll, prompting Buckwalter to consider a change.

“It wasn’t making any sense,” he said. “I needed my life to focus on something positive, instead of just waiting for something to happen. I chose psychology because … I thought maybe, through my life’s experiences, I may be able to help others in some way or have something to add to the field.”

This time around, Buckwalter’s interest in education hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s intensified.

He’s set to graduate magna cum laude on Sunday and has been accepted into the master’s program at USF St. Pete.

He also has found time to urge daughters, Brynne, 26, and Jana, 24, to focus on their education as well. His oldest child, Kyle, 29, lives and works in New York City. Brynne and Jana attend USF Sarasota-Manatee.

While Buckwalter doesn’t attend classes with his daughters, he often runs into them on campus.

“It’s always nice to see him,” said Jana, a freshman education student. “We see each other in the hallways or in the common areas. We chat about what we’re working on and what test we’re about to take.”

“He’s helped me every step of the way and I really appreciate it,” she said. “This has opened my eyes to a whole new future for myself.”

As for Buckwalter, he says, he’s no longer hurrying to see what lies ahead. He enjoys what he’s doing and looks forward to the fall semester in St. Petersburg. In August, he married again, to Christy Hanstad. The two live in Bradenton.

“I’m kind of going with the flow. I don’t have any specifics in mind,” he said. “For now, I’m enjoying the ride and success I’m having at school.”

Ajax Building Corp. establishes scholarship for USF Sarasota-Manatee


SARASOTA, Fla. (April 28, 2015)  – Ajax Building Corporation, which for years contributed to projects across the USF System, has donated an initial $5,000 to establish a scholarship fund at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

The builder finalized its gift agreement in early April.

Officials from both USF Sarasota-Manatee and the company said it’s hoped the agreement is the first of several in coming years that will involve the Oldsmar-based builder.

“This agreement shows the commitment that Ajax Building Corporation has to this community and how important education is to building the future locally,” Dennis Stover, regional vice chancellor for university advancement, said. “I would like to thank Bill Byrne and his company for their continued support of the USF System. We look forward to a long partnership.”

Said Bill Byrne, president of Ajax: “We are looking to continue our involvement with the university, whether next year or beyond that.”

Dubbed the “Ajax Building Corporation Scholarship,” the fund will benefit students attending any of the campus’ four colleges.

Ajax has supported USF Sarasota-Manatee previously, in particular at Brunch on the Bay, the campus’ main annual fundraising event, but this new gift agreement represents Ajax’s largest commitment yet to USF Sarasota-Manatee.

“Typically, we work with our clients to basically give back to the community, and we had the opportunity recently to work with USF Sarasota-Manatee and wanted to give back to help that university location fulfill its mission to educate students,” Byrne said.

In addition to the scholarship gift, Ajax has collaborated with the USF System on several building projects. In Tampa, the company recently oversaw construction of the Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare, the Children’s Medical Services Building and the College of Nursing Building, among others.

At USF Sarasota-Manatee, Ajax coordinated work on the Arthur M. Guilford Nature Trail as well as the pedestrian walkway along Seagate Drive. The project included replica historical lighting, banners, benches and landscaping.

The scholarship will become available to students in the next academic year.