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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.

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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
RSVP                                                    

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

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 Army veteran reflects on July 4th meaning

Todd Hughes

Todd Hughes

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 2, 2015) – The Fourth of July means fireworks, barbecuing and family get-togethers to most and then there’s Todd Hughes, veterans services administrator at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Student Services office.

The 32-year-old Army veteran fought in Iraq. His wife, Jessica, is an Army vet. He spends his days counseling student veterans, helping them enroll and access their benefits for tuition. To Hughes, The Fourth should be commemorated virtually year-round.

“I love celebrating the independence of our great nation,” he says.

Recently, Hughes was in Chicago for a three-day cycling trip for wounded veterans – part escape, part therapy. He has even lobbied Senators and members of Congress for changes at Veterans Administration hospitals.

Fellow veterans marvel at Hughes’ dedication to veterans’ causes. His weekends are frequently booked with bowling matches and fishing and hunting trips for wounded vets.

Hughes can’t explain why he’s so involved: “I guess that’s my lot in life, what I’m supposed to do,” he says.

But he can tell you when it all started. February 2005. He was 21, at the head of a convoy driving through Iraq. Members of Hughes’ squad spotted something suspicious on the road. The vehicle stopped and everyone climbed out. Seconds later, an improvised explosive device went off 50 feet away, sending him reeling backward.

Everything was a blur after that. His friends said a firefight ensued after the explosion. He couldn’t remember the trip back to base. Outwardly he looked the same. No bleeding or broken bones, which explains why he shrugged off medical treatment. That, and an unwritten rule that said you fight if you can walk.

But as weeks and months rolled by Hughes learned otherwise. The aches, pains and nightmares he suffered, even after his discharge, traced to traumatic brain injury, soft tissue damage on one side and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Having answers helped, but the problems persisted. It took vets from the Wounded Warrior Project to get him off the couch.

Grateful, Hughes now volunteers with the group, along with other organizations such as the Sarasota County Veterans’ Commission and Manatee County Veterans’ Council.

He regularly joins his fellow vets on trips and serves as a peer mentor to some. A father of two, he also enrolled at USF Sarasota-Manatee, serving a term as Student Government president, earning a history degree and eventually landing a job here.

Working with veterans outside USFSM – he has since attended hundreds of veterans-related events – gives him a sense of purpose, a bigger cause to fight for, he said.

“It’s put me in touch with other guys who had similar stuff going on, even worse stuff,” he said. “It’s like there’s an instant bond between us.”

As for the Fourth itself, Hughes said he plans to keep it low-key: time off with his wife and two children. They might watch fireworks, but haven’t decided. Being patriotic isn’t about barbecues and fireworks, he said.

“We should be patriotic on a daily basis, not just on a few holidays,” Hughes said. “Regardless of what is going on in the government and all the differences we see in the news today, we still need to hold together as one nation and support our servicemen and women who are fighting to keep terrorism as far away from home as possible. And we need to hold onto the freedoms our forefathers gave us.”

To learn more about the Student Services office at USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit usfsm.edu/student-services.

USF Sarasota-Manatee receives Enterprise donation

Andrew Gorman, an area manager at Enterprise Holdings, presents a check to Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone. Also pictured is Career Services Coordinator Toni Ripo.

Andrew Gorman, an area manager at Enterprise Holdings, presents a check to Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone. Also pictured is Career Services Coordinator Toni Ripo.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 1, 2015) – The Enterprise Holdings Foundation continues to support USF Sarasota-Manatee students, donating $5,000 toward professional development programs at the university’s Career Services office.

Andrew Gorman, area rental manager at Enterprise Holdings, made the contribution on Tuesday. The gift boosts the foundation’s giving total to $20,000 since 2007 when it announced support for the programs to sharpen students’ communication and presentation skills.

“These programs help our students understand business etiquette, which helps them be better prepared for employment,” Career Services Coordinator Toni Ripo said. “We strongly appreciate the support of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation.”

Additionally, many USF Sarasota-Manatee students intern at Enterprise. Some go on to find employment in the company’s management-trainee program.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students launch drive to help local homeless

Dewaine Edwards and Geborah Joseph-Smith.

Dewaine Edwards and Geborah Joseph-Smith.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 1, 2015) – Dewaine Edwards never meant to launch a collection drive for Resurrection House Inc., yet the USF Sarasota-Manatee senior quickly seized on the idea.

Now Edwards, who has been busy prodding fellow students, church members and USFSM officials to publicize the event, finds he’s at the center of the three-month effort that launches today in the campus’ rotunda.

Edwards is aiming to collect clothing, toiletries, glasses, non-perishable food, feminine products, sunscreen, sneakers and even bicycles for the Sarasota nonprofit that helps the homeless. He recently set up a collection box outside Student Services.

“I never did anything like this before, so I’m learning myself,” the 33-year-old leadership practicum student said.

Like other prospective leaders, Edwards is counting on those around him. Student Government Chief of Staff Geborah Joseph-Smith has been especially helpful. The founder of Bulls Who Believe, Joseph-Smith organized a collection drive last year for the Salvation Army.

Now she and other Student Government members are helping Edwards by urging fellow students to join in the collection. Items will be stored at the Student Government offices or student lounge until transportation to Resurrection House in downtown Sarasota can be arranged, she said. Likely, items will be delivered weekly.

Though a considerable effort, Edwards’ drive was almost an afterthought. He had arranged an internship a month ago at Resurrection House through USF Sarasota-Manatee Career Services  Coordinator Toni Ripo.

On hearing Edwards was purchasing and donating items to the day shelter on his own, Ripo suggested he hold a collection drive in the rotunda.

“I was just picking up glasses, readers, and little things I would see at the Dollar Store,” Edwards said.

Ripo then got in touch with Student Government President Alex Benishek, who assigned the task to Joseph-Smith based on her work with the Salvation Army. She said she was happy to pitch in.

Now Joseph-Smith and other Student Government members are working with Kimberly Mones, director of Student Engagement, to secure space for the clothing, sneakers, toiletries and other items. In addition, the students are using social media and OrgSync, an online resource for student organizations, to publicize the drive to family and friends.

“I’ll also be sending out texts to Bulls Who Believe (members) to get them involved,” Joseph-Smith said.

The collection was initially penciled in to run until July 17, but Joseph-Smith said campus officials gave permission to extend the drive through the fall semester.

Edwards, who spends about 10 hours a week helping at the shelter, checking in the visitors, retrieving mail and answering questions, said he was surprised to hear their stories, how they ended up homeless and how they survive on so little.

“Bicycles are really important to them, and good sneakers,” he said. “They like running shoes.”

About 200 homeless come to the shelter daily for showers, clothing, laundry, counseling and non-perishable food, volunteer manager Becky Taylor said. The idea is to help them become self-sufficient. If they land a job, they’re given bicycles to help get to work. The program was started in 1989.

Most interns come from sociology or psychology programs, she said. Edwards was unique in that he originated from the leadership program offered through the College of Arts & Sciences.

“Having the students do the drive is great,” she added. “We usually get a good response when the students are involved.”

Referring to Edwards, she said, “Dewaine is a great student. He’s eager to learn and he cares deeply. And he’s patient. You need someone like that here.”

To learn more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Arts & Sciences, visit USFSM Arts & Sciences.

USFSM, UnidosNow to hold workshop for college-bound students

UnidosNow at USFSM

Students of the UnidosNow “Future Leaders Academy” learn the ins-and-outs of the college application process through hand-on training at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 29, 2015) – Catalina Kaiyoorawongs wants Hispanic high school students to make education the top priority of their young lives.

“I want them to dream big,” said Kaiyoorawongs, associate executive director at UnidosNow, a nonprofit that acts as a link between the Hispanic community in Sarasota and Manatee counties and the resources that serve the community. “I want them to think about attending the top schools in the country, if that is right for them.”

To help make that a reality, UnidosNow is holding a summer workshop next week at USF Sarasota-Manatee to prepare Hispanic students for college, get parents used the idea of having a child away and to help teens and their parents make the right educational choices.

Hispanic students often face barriers to secondary education. Economic factors sometimes play a role. Some students struggle with low self-esteem and mistakenly view college as unattainable. Others are hampered by transportation. Rather than participate in extra-curricular activities after school to strengthen their college applications, they’re forced to return home, in some cases to look after younger siblings, Kaiyoorawongs said.

Still others face cultural barriers where it’s more important to find a job close to home than go away to college to pursue a career.

Kaiyoorawongs said UnidosNow is trying to fight those notions. “We want to help parents understand what their children need to do to be successful, to teach them that academic excellence must be a part of their family culture, and to get the kids to dream big,” she said.

The workshop is entitled the Future Leaders Academy (FLA). It’s set to run July 6 to Aug. 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Students will learn about academic and career goal-setting, college selection and interviewing techniques, as well as financial aid programs, resume writing and preparing for the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.

USF Sarasota-Manatee, a UnidosNow partner, is hosting the event for the third consecutive year. Last year’s academy drew 45 students, plus numerous parents and siblings for the family engagement sessions.

Kaiyoorawongs said she wants high schoolers to think about college early by focusing on grades and extra-curricular activities and to consider applying to the nation’s top universities. Most who attend the academy will be sophomores and juniors.

“We prefer to get them as rising juniors rather than rising seniors,” she said. “That way we can have an impact on their chances of getting into college because you have to start applying to colleges earlier, and especially with test prep you have focus on starting early.”

Additionally, students at the workshop will learn about post-college life through sessions such as “resume writing,” “dressing for success” and “job shadowing,” in which students visit local professionals to talk about their careers.

This year’s job-shadowing participants are the Ritz-Carlton, manufacturer Sun Hydraulics, SRQ Media and Kerkering, Barberio & Co., the Sarasota-based accounting firm.

Also helping is Dr. Aparna Telang, a biology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, who will lead a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) segment focused on science-based careers. Students will visit the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota during the four-day workshop to conduct experiments. Lessons will involve biology, chemistry and mathematical analysis.

“What I want them to think about when considering a science field is, what are some of the skills they will need in order to explore that option?” Dr. Telang said.

Not everything at FLA will be student-focused. Kaiyoorawongs said parents can get involved too, and some sessions are geared toward parents in particular. One tackles parents’ fears and anxieties of having a child go away to college.

“We have parents from previous years and they will talk about what it was like and what they went through,” Kaiyoorawongs said. “There’s a little of everything here, and the parents work right alongside the students.”

To learn more about UnidosNow and its programs, visit UnidosNow.org.

For more about educational opportunities at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, visit USFSM.edu.

USF Sarasota-Manatee basketball court is ready for play

Workers finished USFSM's basketball court Thursday afternoon.

Workers finished USFSM’s basketball court Thursday afternoon.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 26, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee students and faculty now have another recreational venue after completion this week of the basketball court at the campus’ north end.

Workers from contractor TCM of Florida this week applied the final two coats of green paint, white striping and the gold Bulls logo at center court. Work was wrapped up by late Thursday.

“I think it’s a big change for the university,” Student Government President Alex Benishek said Friday. “I’m very excited by this.”

Benishek said he envisions pickup games between classes, as well as clubs being formed for students and faculty: “Maybe they (faculty and students) could clash every once in a while.”

The total project involved two parts – the basketball court and a beach volleyball court at the campus’ west end that opened in April.

The basketball court, which was more complex, including fencing, lights, benches and water fountains, was delayed two months to allow workers to relocate a water line for the campus’ fire-suppression system. Crews were forced to wait a few more weeks for the court’s asphalt surface to cure before applying the final coatings, striping and “U”-shaped bull horns logo this week.

Funded by $260,000 in Capital Improvement Trust Fund monies – fees paid by students to support non-academic programs – the project came at the urging of student representatives who met with campus officials last summer. Administrators agreed to back the project.

“I still have to do a final inspection, but so far it looks good,” Kevin Taterus, associate director of facilities planning and management, said Friday.

Still unknown is how the court will be managed. Benishek said he favors an open system to give students easy access to the court. He opposes a signup sheet and says students should play on a first-come, first-served basis to allow for pickup games. Basketballs could be stored in a bin and the court locked nightly at 10 p.m. when the university closes.

“Hopefully, security will put a lock on the gate and make it part of their rounds when the university shuts down,” he said.

Taterus said no decision has been made about the lock. The court’s lights shut off automatically at 10 p.m., so there’s no incentive to lock and unlock the court each morning and night. He said he’s leaning toward keeping the court unlocked, “unless something happens and we need to lock it up at night.”

However, the ball storage bin could be equipped with a lock, he said. That would require students to be responsible for the key and keeping the bin filled. Public access to the court is not permitted due to insurance and other issues.

Brazilian researchers visit USF Sarasota-Manatee

L to R: Dr. Jenni Menon Mariano, Bonnie Silvestri, Prof. Ulisses Araujo and Prof. Valeria Arantes.

L to R: Dr. Jenni Menon Mariano, Bonnie Silvestri, Prof. Ulisses Araujo and Prof. Valeria Arantes.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 24, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee faculty on Tuesday heard from two Brazilian scholars about how freshmen at the University of Sao Paulo are learning problem-solving skills to benefit them – and the surrounding community – throughout their education.

Drs. Ulisses Araujo and Valeria Arantes met with faculty and staff for an hour to discuss “purpose-based learning,” an instructional form that has freshmen working in groups to identify real-world problems and solutions in neighborhoods outside the campus.

The groups venture into communities to collect data and interview residents. Working with professors, they delve into neighborhood problems then recommend possible solutions, even to the point of developing working prototype models.

Last year, for example, one group created a low-cost water filter to attach to a kitchen faucet. Water problems are endemic to Sao Paulo and the filter was devised to hold several gallons of water for cooking instead of having to rely on costlier bottled water.

In other cases, students have made a composting system for six Sao Paulo households as well as a prototype cistern and rain-collection system.

More than acquiring technical knowledge, the students learn group-solving skills to help them throughout their education and beyond into the workplace.

“The idea is to get people to work together,” Dr. Araujo told the group. “And they don’t get to choose who they work with, because that’s how life is sometimes. Let’s face it. You don’t get to choose who you work with.”

He spoke for about an hour. Afterward, faculty and staff members posed questions and made comments.

“The practical building of the prototype seems pretty amazing,” Dr. Jane Rose, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said.

Dr. Araujo said that if students lack technical know-how to develop a prototype themselves, they must devise solutions in other ways, whether turning to professors outside their work group, other students or experts outside the school. The intention, he said, is for students to work together to identify and solve a problem.

Not every faculty member was on board 10 years ago when the program was unveiled, Dr. Araujo said. However, most have come around after witnessing the benefits to students and the community.

The researchers are in Florida for a conference in Orlando this week. They stopped by USF Sarasota-Manatee on Tuesday at the request of Dr. Jenni Menon Mariano, associate professor in the College of Education.

Dr. Mariano is involved in a study funded by the John Templeton Foundation through a grant to Clark University (Worcester, Mass.) that examines the benefits of purpose-based education. The multi-year study involves researchers from six countries, including, in addition to the United States and Brazil, China, South Korea, Spain and Finland.

“Universities are not separated from the communities they are located in,” Dr. Mariano said. “Education is about serving the economy, about serving local needs. That can be expanded by having commitments that go beyond the self, so that students learn how to use their talents and education to work in service.”

This benefits students by sharpening their problem-solving skills through real-world experiences outside academia, she said.

“You’re not just coming to college to learn something to benefit yourself but to learn how to solve and address community problems and needs,” she said. “What we learn needs to be useful to a community as well as meaningful to students. That’s why this study is all about using field experiences, like service learning, in university course work.”

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee College of Education, please visit, College of Education.

USFSM open house set Thursday, prospective students’ interest grows

 

Andrew Telatovich, director of admissions at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Andrew Telatovich, director of admissions at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 22, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is seeing larger crowds at its open house events since first admitting freshmen two years ago.

Last June’s open house drew 78 prospective students, a 105-percent boost from the June 2013 event.

“Our open house coming up Thursday will probably be one of our largest events in recent years,” Director of Admissions Andrew Telatovich said, adding that students seeking admission for the fall 2015 semester can still make reservations to attend.

Open Houses are the premier ways universities showcase programs, faculty and campuses to attract prospective freshmen and graduate and transfer students.

Telatovich said the continued uptick of event attendees is partly due to the university’s decision to admit freshmen and lower-division transfer students. Prior to that, in-coming students completed required general education courses elsewhere before attending USF Sarasota-Manatee.

“Becoming a four-year comprehensive university has been a big factor,” he said. “We are seeing higher attendance at our events because of the increase in the number of prospective students we now have.”

Many of those attending Thursday’s 5-7 p.m. event likely will be freshmen hopefuls eyeing admission for the fall 2016 semester, but the school has traditionally attracted transfer and graduate students at open houses as well.

The groups, including the students’ parents and siblings, will be greeted at the campus’ rotunda by an information fair of faculty, staff, current students and admissions officials. Students will be able to gather information, ask questions of faculty and staff, attend presentations and take guided tours.

Also, as at past open houses, prospective freshmen for the fall 2015 semester will be eligible for “on-the-spot decisions” by admissions officials.

To participate, prospective freshmen will need to apply for admission before the event and bring copies of their high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Instant acceptance is not binding, and students who do not receive instant admission will receive guidance on how to strengthen their applications or apply as transfer students.

To find out more or to register for the open house, please visit USFSM Info Sessions or call (941) 359-4330.

Board of Governors removes enrollment cap for USF Sarasota-Manatee

USFSM

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 19, 2015) – Student enrollment at USF Sarasota-Manatee is no longer limited after a decision Thursday by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors to allow the university to exceed 25 percent of its full-time equivalent credit hours at the lower level.

“This is an exciting step forward for USF Sarasota-Manatee. By allowing our campus to increase the number of freshman and sophomore students, we are now able to serve a higher percentage of local, traditional college students,” Dr. Sandra Stone, USF Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor, said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s current enrollment – student head count – stands at 1,917. That is the number of students who on admissions records claim USF Sarasota-Manatee to be their “Home Campus,” even though they might take courses throughout the USF System.

Practically speaking, the ability to offer more than 25 percent of FTE (full-time equivalent) hours to freshman and sophomore students means USFSM will be able to expand its course offerings – thereby enabling greater numbers of student registrations.

Those enrollment increases could take hold immediately. Fall registration is occurring now through the end of June.

However, they are likely to occur more prominently in the spring 2016 term and next fall as graduating high school seniors firm up their college plans.

“We could see an impact this fall, but more likely we will see a change as students make their college choices for spring 2016 and fall 2016,” Dr. Stone said.

The board of governor’s approval comes as USF Sarasota-Manatee is achieving greater milestones and growing faster than expected.

For decades, since the campus was founded in 1975, USF Sarasota-Manatee derived accreditation through its affiliation with the USF campus in Tampa.

That changed, however, in 2011 when, like USF St. Petersburg before it, USF Sarasota-Manatee earned separate accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Then in 2013, with approval of the USF Board of Trustees, the campus hit an additional milestone when it began to admit its first freshman class. The changes sparked much wider interest by prospective students than expected.

“We are so grateful to the Board of Governors for their approval of USFSM’s proposal to expand lower-level enrollment,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft. “This expansion reflects the USF System’s continued commitment to providing access to high-quality education to the region we serve.”

When the university began accepting sophomores and welcomed its first freshman class, it was anticipated that freshmen and sophomores would not make up more than 25 percent of the full-time student population until the 2017-18 academic year.

Now the university expects to exceed the 25 percent target in the coming year based on an expressed community demand from prospective students. Although USFSM is now free to grow its lower-level undergraduate numbers, the campus continues to remain focused on quality growth to keep the small, personal learning environment that the campus has become known for.

USF Sarasota-Manatee received full support for this proposal from State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota as well as New College of Florida, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota Economic Development Council, the North Port Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Council and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.

“USF Sarasota-Manatee has had a monumental five years, and this is the next major milestone in our 40-year history in this community,” Dr. Stone said. “Now, we will look ahead as we begin to follow our new strategic plan which will guide us on a path to an even brighter future.”

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About USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM)

USF Sarasota-Manatee is a regional campus of the University of South Florida system, offering the prestige of a nationally ranked research university with the convenience of a hometown location, including classes in Manatee County, North Port and online. Separately accredited, USFSM is ideal for those interested in pursuing a baccalaureate or master’s degree, professional certification, or continuing education credit in a small, personal setting with distinguished faculty and a dynamic curriculum of over 40 academic programs. Website: www.usfsm.edu

USFSM’s Dr. McBrien to visit Uganda to promote book

Dr. Jody McBrien, left, and Ashley Metelus will return to Uganda this summer.

Dr. Jody McBrien, left, and Ashley Metelus will return to Uganda this summer.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 18, 2015) – She had heard the stories of brutality over and over, but also tales of hope, such as how a group of women survivors were helping to rebuild their community in war-torn Lira, Uganda.

Now Dr. Jody McBrien, an associate professor of education at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, is poised to make a return trip to Lira, 220 miles north of capital city Kampala, to reconnect with those women and unveil a book she co-edited with Dr. Julia Byers of Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Entitled Cold Water: Women and Girls of Lira, Uganda, the 197-page publication is a first-person telling of the women’s struggles during and after the war in which tens of thousands of children, including girls, were kidnapped to fight in Joseph Kony’s guerilla group, The Lord’s Resistance Army, which opposed the government.

Eight of those mothers and daughters recount their stories, recalling the abductions and fighting, but mostly describing their post-war lives, hopes and efforts to rebuild.

Instead of reporting and then retelling the women’s stories, Dr. McBrien asked the eight to write about their lives or provide tape recordings for transcription later. What emerges from the more than 100 hours of conversations is a collection of poignant first-person accounts of the women’s struggles and triumphs.

Among the storytellers is Emma Okite, founder of the PsychoAid counseling center in Lira.

Okite, a teacher at St. Katherine’s High School for Girls, decided to bolster her educational career after glimpsing harsh conditions at the Internally Displaced Persons camps – sickness, terrible depression, domestic violence and rape – where many who lost their homes were forced to live.

Inspired by her father, who supported her education, Okite returned to college to earn a master’s degree. Now, in addition to teaching, she operates Lira’s only counseling center where she helps many women and children left homeless and emotionally devastated by the war. Some of those displaced have also found shelter in Okite’s home.

Another chapter describes Betty Okwir’s painstaking effort to build an elementary school where none had existed in a rural, remote stretch of northern Uganda. She collected donated materials and then physically “worked alongside the men” to erect the modest three-room King Solomon School, Dr. McBrien said.

“Literally, it was brick by brick,” she said, noting that many such instances have gone unreported amid the stories of atrocities.

“There have been a bunch of books about the war years, but we thought it was important for people to understand the post-war years and how these women have become leaders in the rebuilding,” Dr. McBrien said.

Drs. McBrien and Byers, an arts therapist, are set to reconnect with the women and promote their book in Uganda for 10 days this summer.

Dr. McBrien received funding for her trips from USFSM local donors, the Women in Leadership & Philanthropy program at USF and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She first visited Uganda in 2010 to take an inventory of educational needs after the war’s end a couple of years earlier. Dr. Byers followed in 2012.

The two came to know the Lira women during many long talks with them. Struck by their resilience and determination, Dr. McBrien gradually seized on the idea for the book. The title, “Cold Water,” suggested by Dr. Byers during a plane ride from Uganda, is meant to convey the women’s rejuvenating spirit woven throughout the narratives.

“They suffered so much but became leaders in the rebuilding,” Dr. McBrien said.

In addition to her and Dr. Byers, USF Sarasota-Manatee undergrad Ashley Metelus will make the trip back. Metelus traveled to Uganda with Dr. McBrien in 2013 to conduct research into the war’s effects on children. Going there again will allow her to catch up with several students who survived the war.

For now, she’s interning on a summer research project at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, studying the role of mentors in students’ aspirations.

“Of all the places I have been to, Uganda was my favorite,” Metelus said. “The people there are so very welcoming. I really felt like I belonged in that country. The positive conversations and interactions with everybody there, I never felt uncomfortable or scared. It felt like home.”

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