USF Sarasota-Manatee hosts Taiwanese students at reception

Pei-Hsuan “Gary” Wang and Swat Xiang, both of the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in Taiwan.

Pei-Hsuan “Gary” Wang and Swat Xiang, both of the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in Taiwan.

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 17, 2015) – Nineteen Taiwanese students who arrived last month to attend USF Sarasota-Manatee were officially welcomed by faculty and staff during a reception Thursday.

The students, who come from Shih Chien University and the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, both in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, are pursuing certificates in international hospitality management.

In addition to their classes at USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, the students will participate in five-month internships this spring for hands-on experience in the hospitality industry. After receiving their certificates, they will return to their home institutions to finish their senior year and graduate.

“This certificate program is a great opportunity for students from very different places to learn about life in another part of the world,” said Dr. James Curran, interim dean of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership. “The students from Taiwan will take the same classes as our students and the dynamic in those class meetings is enhanced by having different perspectives.”

USFSM Regional Chancellor Sandra Stone agreed, saying, “It is important that we expand the horizons of our university and its individual programs so that we can prepare our students to compete in the global marketplace. It’s also good for our students to interact with people of different cultures.”

The International Certificate Program began in 2013 as a way to broaden the university’s ties internationally. Since then, 21 Taiwanese students have participated in the program.

In collaboration with the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, the Global Engagement Office coordinates the certificate program and works closely with all university partners to ensure a positive experience for the students.

“The International Certificate Program offers Taiwanese students a truly unique experience in the United States,” said Amela Malkic, director of Global Engagement at USFSM. “Not only do students learn in the classroom, they also have an opportunity to learn outside the classroom and gain valuable work experience. Students participate in a month-long cultural immersion, which gives them a chance to learn about U.S. culture, our university, student life and resources and explore the area. This extended immersion also prepares the students for the academic experience during the fall semester and internship placements during the spring semester.”

For most of the students, this is their first time in United States. In addition to studying hospitality and tourism, the students will have an opportunity delve into U.S. customs and culture.

“It’s a really great experience to study abroad in the United States,” Swat Xiang, of the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, said. “I can’t wait to explore the new environment and culture and make new friends in this amazing land. I believe this will be a fantastic journey for my future career in hospitality. USF Sarasota-Manatee provides us many resources in the hospitality field, and this program will help me prepare for a global career. I believe I can learn more than what I expected, and am very excited to be part of this certificate program.”

Another student said that in addition to learning more about hospitality, he hopes the experience helps to sharpen his language skills. 

“So far, my experience at USF Sarasota-Manatee has been perfect,” said Pei-Hsuan “Gary” Wang, also a student at the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism. “I’m learning a lot and making new friends every day. Everyone at the university has been very welcoming and friendly to us. I am very excited to be here and know that this experience will help me develop new professional skills, improve my English and be successful in my future career and life.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee holds science workshop for teens

Dr. Edie Banner

Dr. Edie Banner

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 13, 2015) – About two dozen teens and adolescents from the Sarasota YMCA Achievers’ program stopped by the USF Sarasota-Manatee Teaching Labs at Mote Marine Thursday morning where they made “elephant toothpaste” and peered through microscopes at marine life.

The three-hour workshop had the group divided between two laboratories where in one they examined sea life – from microscopic worms to jellyfish – and in the other they conducted fun chemistry experiments.

One child’s eyes widened during an exercise in which a concoction of dish soap, hydrogen peroxide, yeast and red food coloring produced a fascinating – and startling – reaction.

After combining the ingredients, a stream of pink foam suddenly emerged like toothpaste, or “elephant toothpaste,” from a plastic bottle, surprising the 11-year-old Rolando and his sister, Kassandra, 13, who quickly stepped back from the table.

The soapy mixture turned out to be harmless, though, and youngsters soon were running their fingers through the foam. In other experiments, the children made “sea snakes,” essentially long jelly-like strands, and “funny putty” from Elmer’s glue, Borax, water and food coloring.

Organic chemistry instructor Dr. Edie Banner, who helped organize the three-hour, age-appropriate workshop, said the chemistry class was intended to get the children thinking about science and “understand the importance of education.”

“We want them to try new things, where they are touching and doing new things, including experiments and field work,” Dr. Banner said.

Earlier, Rolando and Kassandra, along with the other students, scooped up samples of water and sand from Sarasota Bay as well as from a saltwater pond on City Island where Mote is located. They labeled the samples and took them to the lab where, peering through microscopes, they looked for signs of life: tiny marine organisms such as worms, larvae and plankton, among others.

“Look closely, you can see things moving around,” Dr. Carlos Santamaria, another faculty member, told the group, who also got a close-up peek at two jellyfish, a sea urchin and a thumb-sized, pink sponge – all collected from the shoreline of City Island.

“I find it exciting that these students can learn so much just from looking around. They don’t realize there is so much life around them, even in their own backyards,” said Dr. Christelle Bouchard, who also helped with the event. “Just a few miles away, in the bay, there is another universe to explore.”

The workshop was organized by a half-dozen faculty, staff and students from the USFSM Biology and Chemistry Clubs.

USF Sarasota-Manatee senior Priscilla Sosa, 22, who works with the YMCA, came to Dr. Banner a few weeks ago to suggest the workshop. Dr. Banner seized on the idea and quickly got to work recruiting faculty, staff and students and developing a menu of experiments.

Jaheim, 13, said he most enjoyed collecting the marine samples. Using a plastic cup attached to a long, plastic pole, he dislodged a small sponge from a piling just under the surface of the bay. Later, he examined the anatomy of the multicellular organism.

Considering a career in mechanical engineering prior to the morning session, Jaheim said afterward that he was now leaning toward a biology-related career.

“I might have to think about changing my major,” he said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee to hold ACT prep classes for high school students

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

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

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 12, 2015) – Help is coming for high school juniors and seniors looking for a boost on the ACT college entrance exam.

USF Sarasota-Manatee will hold ACT preparatory classes this fall at the main campus, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and at the North Port Instructional Site, 5920 Pan American Blvd.

The first round of classes, set for Aug. 27-29 from 5 to 8 p.m., will be held at the main campus. Register for the course at: College Test Prep August 2015 Session.

“The course can make a difference on test day as students learn strategies for tackling different types of questions, and through repetition and experience they can improve their level of performance,” Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Andy Telatovich said.

Taught by retired teacher Jo-Ann Hillman of JMH Education Services, the classes offer content and exam-taking strategies not typically found in books and online.

College prep classes, a rarity 20 years ago, are fast becoming common as high schoolers look for extra help getting into the college of their choice.

In addition to this month’s ACT prep classes, another round of classes are set for Oct. 3, 10 and 17 at the North Port Instructional Site. All classes run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Register at: College Test Prep October 2015 Session.

To round out the year, a final session of prep classes is scheduled Dec. 3-5 at the main campus in Sarasota. The Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 classes are set to run from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. while the Dec. 5 class will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Register at: College Test Prep December 2015 Session.

The cost of the course is $55, plus the cost of the book, “ACT for Dummies,” which sells for $20 to $30 online or in book stores. Please bring a copy of the book to class. Class size is limited to 25.

Tuesday Talks: Dr. Jessica Grosholz, 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. Jessica Grosholz.

Dr. Jessica Grosholz is an Assistant Professor of Criminology at USF Sarasota-Manatee, with expertise in prison reentry, recidivism, corrections, and qualitative methodology. She received her M.A. from George Washington University in 2006 and her Ph.D. from Emory University in 2014; both in Sociology with a focus in Criminology. Prior to USFSM, she was an instructor at Emory University, where she taught criminology and community-building courses. She has also been an advocate for formerly incarcerated persons in the Atlanta region.  When Jess is not hanging out with current and former offenders, you can find her cheering on her favorite sports teams – the Miami Dolphins, the Atlanta Braves, the Georgia Bulldogs and now, the USF Bulls.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students, instructors to hold workshop for teens

Priscilla Sosa

Priscilla Sosa

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 11, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee senior Priscilla Sosa is taking community engagement to a new level.

On Thursday morning, the 22-year-old biology student and Sarasota resident will bring a group of teens from the Sarasota YMCA Achievers Program to the USFSM Teaching Labs at Mote Marine for a workshop.

Dr. Edie Banner, who operates the teaching labs, planned the half-day workshop along with biology students Tori Overmyer and Edgar Bischoff, president of the USFSM Chemistry Club.

“The students will start with an activity outside,” Dr. Banner said. “They’ll collect water samples from Sarasota Bay and examine them under a microscope to identify microorganisms that live in our bay. The teens will also explore some chemical reactions that give surprising results.”

Dr. Banner agreed to participate in the workshop as a way to expose area youth to hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) experiences. The teens range from 8th to 12th grade.

Biology faculty Dr. Christelle Bouchard and Dr. Carlos Santamaria will also help facilitate the activities, along with students from the Biology and Chemistry Clubs.

“I’m super excited about it. I’ve never done an event like this before,” said Sosa, president of USFSM’s Biology Club. “Hopefully we can do this every year.”

Sosa came up with the idea a few weeks ago as a way to encourage the teens’ education. She then approached Dr. Banner, who readily agreed to help.

Toxic frogs hold fascination, scientific promise for USFSM researcher

One of three black and yellow frogs, Dendrobates leucomelas, at Dr. Edie Banner's teaching lab.

One of three black and yellow frogs, Dendrobates leucomelas, at Dr. Edie Banner’s teaching lab.

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 7, 2015) – When not teaching organic chemistry, biochemistry and medicines of the rainforest, Dr. Edie Banner is “getting back to my biology roots” researching the strange and colorful frogs that range throughout Central and South American rainforests.

The brightly colored creatures are poisonous to varying degrees to dissuade predators. In some cases, their toxic compounds can paralyze birds and monkeys. Even today, the compounds find use in poisoned darts favored by tribal hunters.

Dr. Banner is curious about the biology and chemistry behind the toxins, which she thinks might someday unlock the door to helping people with Parkinson’s or other neuro-muscular diseases “control their tremors.”

Her lab and office, which overlook Sarasota Bay on the second floor of the USFSM Teaching Labs at Mote Marine on City Island, are festooned with reminders of her abiding interest – stuffed toy frogs and frog knickknacks, are easy to spot – but it’s the terrarium with three glistening, black and yellow frogs – Dendrobates leucomelas – that most captures visitors’ attention.

The little animals, which hail from Venezuela, are so shiny and brightly colored that they seem unreal – plastic toys – until one stirs and begins to climb a glass wall. Eight tadpoles and four fertilized eggs live in small plastic boxes under the terrarium.

Dr. Banner says her frogs lack toxicity thanks to a tame diet of fruit flies, moth larvae and springtails (a kind of cricket). They’re part of breeding program for educational exhibits. They also figure into her lectures about the rainforest and diversity of life there.

So impressed is Dr. Banner by the tropical ecosystems – and the scientific mysteries they harbor – that she has begun work on a proposal to bring up to a dozen undergraduate students to Costa Rica next summer for a weeklong “field work” exercise.

The excursion would provide an opportunity for students mulling careers in biology to experience actual field work, she said. Two weeks ago, she returned from a five-day stay to check out the research stations of the Organization for Tropical Studies to host the students. Administered by Duke University, the stations lie nestled in the dense Costa Rican rainforest.

By day, the students would plunge into the thicket – not before a thorough tutorial about snakes and other dangers that lurk – where they would observe, collect samples and ponder how life is interconnected and survives there.

By night, they would live a rustic existence in dorm-like bunkrooms with shared bathrooms. The facility is not without some creature comforts, such as electricity and WIFI reception, but it lacks air conditioning. The students would live mostly a communal life centered around work.

“I want them to experience life as a field biologist, not on Facebook or YouTube, but in the field,” she said. “I want them to be curious and ask questions about what they see and what life is like out there. How does life survive?”

The joint student-instructor excursion would mark the first for Dr. Banner after coming to USF Sarasota-Manatee a year ago.

Before arriving here, she taught a range of chemistry courses for 10 years at the University of Richmond (Va.), Murray State University (Ky.) and Florida Southern College. She earned her doctorate in chemistry at the University of New Orleans.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Dr. Banner developed a fascination for nature early on from her Scoutmaster father, who insisted she hike and go fishing to learn about the outdoors.

“When I joined the Girl Scouts, he made sure I joined a group that did lots of hiking and camping,” she said. “I’ve been like that ever since.”

As for her goals today, she wants to continue teaching and delving into the world of rainforest frogs, specifically how they acquire the toxins that seep through their skin. During her trip next summer, she intends to collect samples of frog “sweat” using specialized pieces of paper.

A kind of “catch-and-release” exercise, the process involves capturing the creatures by hand before they hop away and wiping their skin with the stamp-sized pieces of paper to collect the venom. The frogs only pose a danger if ingested or if their sweat enters the bloodstream through an open wound.

In addition to collecting sweat samples, Dr. Banner said she wants to observe the frogs’ feeding routine. She understands that diet plays a dominant role in providing the toxins, but she is curious about how it contributes.

Are the toxins derived from a single type of insect or several types in combination? Do the frogs’ enzymes, acting with one or several ingested insects, cause the toxins to form? Since insects are at root of the frogs’ toxicity, how is it that they aren’t harmed by eating them?

It might turn out that a certain insect is responsible for giving rise to the poisonous compounds and that the frogs simply capitalize on the bugs to create defense mechanisms. If that’s the case, a whole new avenue of exploration could open up for Dr. Banner and other scientists.

Her trip to Costa Rica would depart next summer and last about a week.

“The experiences I’ve had and shared with my students have made a difference in my teaching,” she said. “I love seeing my students make connections that just cannot happen in the classroom alone.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee speeds up admissions process for freshmen

CLC Meeting

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 5, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee next week will host “Instant Decision Days” for prospective freshmen for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Instead of waiting up to two weeks to find out whether admission to the university has been granted, students can obtain instant decisions from admissions counselors.

For three days next week, Aug. 10-12, university admissions’ staff will be on hand to meet prospective freshmen to determine eligibility for “on-the-spot” admission decisions.

To participate, students must visit to apply for admission then contact the Admissions office to set up an appointment. To make an appointment, email or call (941) 359-4330 and ask to speak with a counselor.

Prospective students must to apply for admission at least one day prior to their appointments. Appointment times for each Instant Decision Day are between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

On the day of their appointments, students must bring copies of their high school transcripts plus copies of their ACT and/or SAT scores, or already have them submitted to Admissions beforehand. Instant acceptance isn’t binding on students.

A few freshmen slots for the upcoming fall semester remain open, but prospective students must act quickly to be considered for admission. Classes begin Aug. 24.

Have questions? Call (941) 359-4330 to speak with a counselor.

Tuesday Talks: Dr. Patricia Hunsader, Elementary Education

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. Patricia Hunsader.

Dr. Tricia Hunsader is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and teaches courses in graduate and undergraduate mathematics education. She serves as the Coordinator of Assessment for the College of Education, and as Vice President of the USF System Faculty Council. Dr. Hunsader earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Elementary Education and a cognate in Mathematics Education from the University of South Florida, Tampa in 2005. In 2011, she was named a STaR Fellow (Service, Teaching, and Research), a distinction among mathematics educators. Her research interests focus on the mathematical processes embedded in mathematical tasks, as well as the influence of mathematics curriculum on student achievement. She is co-author of Mathematics: A Good Beginning, 7th ed. (2013), and Mathematical Literacy: Helping Students Make Meaning in the Middle Grades (2008), has published articles in journals including Reading Teacher, International Journal of Mathematics Teaching and Learning, ZDM: The International Journal on Mathematics Education, and Annual Perspectives in Mathematics Education, and has presented her research nationally and internationally. She has conducted professional development workshops for teachers in the United States, Cambodia, and Guatemala, and has taught both elementary school and high school mathematics.

USF Sarasota-Manatee summer graduation set for Saturday

Local High School Guidance Counselor Workshop

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2015) – The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee will participate in USF Tampa’s summer 2015 commencement exercise set for Saturday.

The USF System Commencement Ceremony hosts graduates from all three USF campuses: USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee. The first commencement event will kick off at 9 a.m. at the Sun Dome in Tampa.  However, USF Sarasota-Manatee graduates will participate in the 1:30 p.m. commencement service for its four colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business, Education and Hospitality & Tourism Leadership. Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone will represent USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Also at that ceremony, USF Tampa will hold graduation exercises for the following colleges: Behavioral & Community Sciences, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Global Sustainability, Marine Science, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health.

Of approximately 2,806 degrees to be conferred, 2,494 are from USF Tampa, 219 from USF St. Petersburg and 93 from USF Sarasota-Manatee.

All of the commencements will take place at the USF Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. No tickets are required and parking is free. The commencements are expected to run two hours each.

Unlike USF Sarasota-Manatee’s fall and spring commencement exercises, which are held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, USFSM summer graduations usually occur in Tampa as part of the USF Tampa commencement.

Of those set to graduate Saturday, 20 undergraduates and 1 graduate student from USF Sarasota-Manatee are expected to participate in the commencement. One of those is graduate student Rita Kunz, a candidate for a master’s degree in education.

“It’s a huge accomplishment. I’m very excited,” Kunz, 28, said of the ceremony, which will be attended by her parents and brothers.

Kunz said her studies, which focused on online teaching and learning, will help her to teach classes from a remote location.

“Education is becoming much more computer-oriented, even in the classroom,” said Kunz, adding, “I still want to become a classroom teacher, but this opens the door to more opportunities.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee interns find success at Informa Support Services


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 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.”