USF Sarasota-Manatee students give back for Service Saturday

Dr. Sandra Stone surrounded by USFSM student volunteers.

Dr. Sandra Stone surrounded by USFSM student volunteers at Family Promise.

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 23, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee students got a lesson in community service on Saturday, volunteering at a food bank and a shelter.

The group met at the campus, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, about 9 a.m. to catch rides to Family Promise Sarasota and the Sarasota-based All Faiths Food Bank as part of “Service Saturday.”

“This is our chance to give back to the community,” Campus Activities Board President Katerina Pluhacek said of the once-monthly, four-hour volunteer program. “We love our community. It was definitely worth it.”

Students stocked shelves and filled boxes at the food bank while at Family Promise another 10 rolled up their sleeves to dust, sweep and scrub the shelter, which houses up to three families at a time for 90 days each.

“We did a lot of deep cleaning, moving furniture and getting into corners,” Pluhacek said. “We cleaned the whole house.”

The group also made time for a 16-passenger bus used by Family Promise and a storage shed so crammed with donations and other items that at first they weren’t sure how to tackle the job. The students started by removing nearly every item so it could be organized and put onto shelves later. Then they dusted and swept the place.

The group wasn’t alone. The students found help from an unlikely source: USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone stopped by to lend a hand, saying she was only too happy to oblige.

“I was so pleased to be a part of the Service Saturday event this week with our students,” Dr. Stone said. “Part of the mission of USF Sarasota-Manatee is to be community engaged and to have a significant positive impact on our local area. I am proud of the students for organizing this monthly event that shows their commitment to our hometown.”

Service Saturday launched last month with about 20 students but has since risen to 33 students. They volunteer at shelters, food banks and other charitable organizations on the third Saturday of the month.

“Service Saturday is one the first major outreach initiatives that we’ve undertaken this year,” Kati Hinds, coordinator of Student Organizations & Leadership, said. “I think people see that we have the resources to help the community and the students see this as an opportunity to give back. I’m just really proud of our students’ involvement in this.”

Considering grad school? USF Sarasota-Manatee to hold info session

Selby Auditorium

Selby Auditorium

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 21, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee faculty, alumni and admissions officials are teaming up to offer an information session aimed at folks considering graduate school.

Prospective students are invited to ask about requirements for enrollment, programs, costs, even about specific classes in this engaging two-hour “Master’s Degree Information Session” set for Saturday at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. The session starts at 9 a.m. at the Selby Auditorium. Refreshments and campus tours will be offered.

Dr. G. Pat Wilson, interim dean of the College of Education, and Dr. James Curran, interim dean for the College of Business and College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, will available for questions about academic programs and classes.

Additionally, three alumni – Kelly Westover, an environmental manager at Sarasota County; Charlie Thorpe, a captain in the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office; and Joshua Bennett, principal at the William H. Bashaw Elementary School in Manatee County – will host a discussion about their USFSM experiences.

Westover, for example, returned to college in 2008 after earning a bachelor’s degree at USF Tampa. She won acceptance to USF Sarasota-Manatee and earned an MBA in 2 ½ years attending Saturday classes.

USFSM’s College of Business is specially accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. AACSB Accreditation is the hallmark of excellence in business education and has been earned by less than 5 percent of the world’s business programs.

Also, this past year USFSM’s College of Education was awarded a special additional accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the nation’s foremost accrediting organization for teacher instruction.

Staff from Admissions, Academic Advising and Financial Aid will be available to answer questions about tuition, loans and grants. For more information, contact Sean Grosso at (941) 359-4264 or

To attend the two-hour session, please register at

USF Sarasota-Manatee professor to join education forum

Dr. G. Pat Wilson

Dr. G. Pat Wilson

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2015) – Dr. G. Pat Wilson, interim dean of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education, will join a panel of speakers Monday at a gathering of the League of Women Voters’ Manatee County chapter.

Dr. Wilson will join Cynthia Saunders, deputy superintendent for Instructional Services at the Manatee school district, and Manatee Educator Association President Pat Barber for a panel discussion entitled “Schools, Standards and Learning: Educating School Children in Florida.”

The 90-minute forum, which METV will tape, is set to start at 11:30 a.m. and be held at the Bradenton Woman’s Club, 1705 Manatee Ave. W.

Each panelist will make brief opening remarks before a question-and-answer session with audience members. Dr. Wilson said she plans to speak about the role of standards in education – or how educators use standards in planning instruction – as well as literacy development in children and educator preparation.

Dr. Wilson has addressed crowds previously but usually in settings that involved other academics, school boards or parents.

“I think this will be a little different,” she said. “I’m looking forward to this new experience.”

The discussion is part of the League’s “hot topic” series. The event is free and open to the public, however a $5 donation for lunch is requested. For more information, call (941) 729-9248.

For more information about USFSM’s College of Education, please visit

USFSM student project looks at future – and futuristic – hotels

Dr. Katerina Berezina discusses how technology is affecting hotels. Photo by Krista Schrock

Dr. Katerina Berezina discusses how technology is affecting hotels.                                        Photo by Krista Schrock

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2015) – Imagine unlocking a hotel room with a smart phone, having room service delivered by a robot or perhaps checking-in with a “mobile concierge,” bypassing the traditional front desk.

Technology is changing how people interact, work and shop so it’s not a stretch to imagine high-tech trends affecting hotel services. Some innovations are happening now – reservation apps come to mind – but how far will technology go in shaping hotels of the future?

Two dozen students from USF Sarasota-Manatee and 11 more from the prestigious Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, recently tackled that question. Collaborating for two weeks over the summer, they examined how technology now impacts – and might soon impact – four areas of hotel operations: front desk check-in, concierge services, food & beverage and in-room technology.

In some cases, the students found mobile technologies already playing a role. Some establishments, for example, allow guests to unlock their room doors using smart phones, eliminating the need for keycards.

In others, they uncovered technologies on the cusp of making a splash, from voice-activated lighting and temperature controls to beds that adjust automatically to in-room sensors that shut off heating and air conditioning after the room is vacant for more than 20 minutes.

Assistant Professor Dr. Katerina Berezina who helped organize the project said her aim was for the students to “let their imaginations go” as they endeavored to create the “hotel of the future.”

Michael Wynperle, a senior I.T. student, said he appreciated the technical acumen brought to the project by his French counterparts.

“The French have a reputation for their artistry and presentation and they lived up to it,” he said. “They did an exceptional job in formatting and putting it all together to look not like a student project but like a professional one.”

The project ran the gamut touching on both conventional and far-flung technologies, such as a hotel run by robots.

Among some of the more grounded scenarios to emerge was a “mobile concierge” to confirm guests’ reservations on hand-held devices. This is happening in some places now. Another involved an electronic kiosk where guests check-in and pay their bill by swiping a credit card, avoiding human interaction altogether. This might play well with guests arriving late at night.

Dr. Berezina said hoteliers are eyeing several such alternatives, weighing costs and whether they resonate with the public. While some, say business travelers, might value expediency in their stay, others may prize customer service and personalized attention. The trick is finding a balance that fits the hotel’s aims, she said.

One change that might not be far off is equipping more rooms with high-speed internet and docking stations for multiple electronic devices.

“Think about how many devices we carry now,” Dr. Berezina said. “The average traveler might have a phone, a laptop and a tablet. But how many hotel rooms today are prepared to conveniently charge all these devices? You might have to plug in one device in the bedroom and another in the bathroom.”

The students created video presentations to report their findings. They worked in online groups over the course of the project, communicating through email and video conferencing. Each group examined a particular aspect of hotel operations. They had two weeks to research the topic, write a paper and prepare their presentations.

“Partnering with schools from around the world provides the students unique opportunities to consider perspectives to which they might not otherwise be exposed,” Dr. James Curran, interim dean of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, said. “I am sure the students enjoyed speculating what the future might bring to the hotel business, but they also learned that people from other parts of the world might have different ideas of what that future might look like. That is a valuable lesson.”

Dr. Berezina said the idea to team up with Institut Paul Bocuse originated with Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, director of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s M3 Center for Hospitality Technology & Innovation. Dr. Cobanoglu said he teaches a couple of weeks a year at Paul Bocuse, one of Europe’s premier culinary and hospitality management schools.

“Students usually do not like group projects. Everybody has different schedules. But these students loved working with each other,” he said. “I was very satisfied by the process and how they got together, the whole thing.”

The hospitality industry is still evaluating just how much technology to integrate into its operations. Dr. Cobanoglu expects cost-cutting ideas to grab the most support, such as sensors that adjust heating and air conditioning levels after guests leave. Other safe bets include technologies that interface with smart phones because they offer consumers more control over their stay.

However, he’s not so sure about some newer trends pushing the technology envelope, namely robotic butlers, concierges and desk clerks. This is showing up in a sprinkling of places. Among them, Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif., last year introduced a wheeled robotic butler that whisks food and beverages to guests’ rooms. It interfaces with elevator controls and can trigger a phone call to guests upon its arrival.

Additionally, a robot-themed lodging dubbed the Henn-na Hotel opened a couple of months ago in Japan’s southern Nagasaki Prefecture. All of the check-in staff, porters, cloakroom personnel and concierges have been replaced by robots. A team of staff hovers in the background to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Dr. Cobanoglu remains doubtful the idea will generate wide support across the industry. Ultimately, “People still prefer quality customer service” from a person, he said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee holds anniversary “kickoff” event

Faculty, students, alumni and supporters mingle at the 40th Anniversary Kickoff party. Photo by Krista Schrock

USFSM Faculty, students, alumni and supporters mingle at the 40th Anniversary Kickoff party. Photo by Krista Schrock

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee’s history and future came together on Tuesday.

For two hours, USFSM donors, supporters, students and alumni gathered at the Selby Auditorium to recall past highlights of the campus’ 40-year history while anticipating potential new milestones.

“We know that 40 years of existence creates a rich history and traditions that have defined this institution and give it a great foundation for all the achievements to come,” USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft told the 150 or so who assembled in the auditorium.

The occasion, dubbed a “Kickoff” celebration, was the first of several anniversary-themed parties scheduled for this academic year. For two hours, guests chatted, noshed on appetizers, took pictures with the Rocky mascot and heard from campus dignitaries, including a couple of recent arrivals.

“Although I have been at USF Sarasota-Manatee for less than a year, it is easy to see why this is such a special place,” Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone told the crowd, which included past campus leaders Drs. Bob Barylski, Laurey Stryker and Arthur Guilford. “It is because of the primary support from our Manatee and Sarasota communities, as well as the dedication and enthusiastic engagement of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“On this very date in 1975, USF started offering courses in this community in hopes of expanding access to quality higher education to Sarasota and Manatee counties,” she added. “Forty years later our mission remains essentially the same — to provide high-quality bachelor and graduate‐level education that prepares successful leaders and responsible citizens.”

Some milestones since that time include the founding of a new campus in 2006, the campus’ separate accreditation in 2011, establishment of a freshman class in 2013 and the approvals this past summer of the campus’ five-year strategic plan and the removal of enrollment caps on freshmen and sophomores.

Among those in the crowd, John Clarke, an early organizer of the Brunch on the Bay fundraising event, said it was important to support the university because of its mission to bring the resources of a major university, including a business college, to the Sarasota-Manatee community.

“Too many of our young people are heading out of state, and when they go to that university in Georgia or another state they end up getting married and getting a job up there when they need to be back here in our community,” he said. “USF Sarasota-Manatee can offer the same resources but closer to home. That’s why it’s important to support the university.”

Also in attendance, USF trustee and USFSM Campus Board member Byron Shinn said he supported the campus because of what it has meant, and still means, to Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“What I like about this campus is its strength of leadership and the fact that it remains focused on contributing to this community,” he said. “It remains a part of the USF System, but it continues to play a part in the future of this community, producing lifelong learners. This is an exciting time.”

Student Government President Alex Benishek perhaps best captured the sentiment of the evening, tying past achievements with future potential.

“This campus has a very diverse student population, which ranges from young 18 year olds who are fresh out of high school, to non-traditional students who have families and full time jobs. But I’d like to remind everyone it wasn’t always like that,” he said.

“As most of you know, in 2013 USFSM opened its doors to its first freshman class, and since then this campus has been changed forever. Our new student population is exciting, loud, and most importantly engaged,” he said.

In addition to the Kickoff celebration, an alumni gathering for all USFSM graduates is set for Feb. 20 and an anniversary gala celebration will be held March 4.

For a full list of anniversary events, visit

USF Sarasota-Manatee fall enrollment hits 7-year high

USFSM Open House

USFSM Open House

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee student enrollment has surpassed the 2,000 mark for the first time in seven years.

Admissions officials say total enrollment for the fall semester has risen by 135 students (7.1 percent) compared with the same period a year ago for a total 2,038 students. Undergraduate enrollment rose by 79 students to 1,773 (4.5 percent) while graduate registrations increased by 56 students to 175 (47.1 percent). Another 90 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in non-degree programs or coursework.

This marks the first time since 2008 that USFSM’s total full-time “home” enrollment has eclipsed 2,000 students. Enrollment hit 2,009 students in fall 2008.

“We are very excited about reaching this milestone in our projected enrollment growth,” USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said Tuesday. “Clearly we are meeting a need for higher education in our service area.”

Admissions officials say enrollment levels have escalated for years, but the pace has recently picked up.

“The continued ability to recruit and admit freshmen as well as lower-level transfer students for the past three years has helped tremendously,” Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Andrew Telatovich said. “Our new biology program has also been a factor in the university’s growth, along with the interest generated by our Culinary Innovation Lab for our hospitality management program.”

While records show freshman enrollment at roughly the same level as last fall, campus leadership expects higher freshmen numbers for fall 2016 after the state University System’s board of governors voted in June to remove enrollment caps for incoming freshmen and sophomores.

Removing the caps will enable admissions representatives to increase freshmen recruitment efforts, which in turn will aid overall enrollment growth.

USFSM psychology degree rates well on affordability index

_DSC_0649#172ASARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 14, 2015) – An online college guide is giving USF Sarasota-Manatee’s psychology program high marks for value.

The site,, ranks USFSM’s psychology program as fifth best nationwide for tuition and other costs in a ranking of undergraduate psychology degree programs at 50 small colleges, those with fewer than 3,000 students.

“The USF Sarasota-Manatee psychology degree offers high-quality, well-rounded training for students to pursue careers and advanced studies in behavioral and social science fields,” the site said.

Dr. Jane Rose, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said of the program, “Because our program provides the opportunity for faculty to mentor undergraduate students in their labs as well as their classes, our students can develop intellectual competencies more common to graduate education — competencies specific to psychological research, but also more general competencies as creative problem-solvers, critical thinkers and effective communicators.”

The index, released in July and called the “50 Most Affordable Selective Small Colleges for a Psychology Degree 2015,” is based on overall enrollment, tuition and related costs like books and housing. The rankings are drawn from the College Navigator website, part of the National Center for Education Statistics. From an initial pool of 71 schools with fewer than 3,000 students and an acceptance rate of 40 percent or lower, “the top 50 were ranked from high to low according to their average net price.”

No. 50 on the list, Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pa.), came in at $22,974 in yearly net costs. No. 1 Berea College (Berea, Ky.) was reported at $1,990 annually. USF Sarasota-Manatee’s tuition was listed on the site as $7,911 per year.

The site reports elsewhere that, “The benefits of small colleges are numerous and should not be overlooked. For example, smaller class sizes lead to more opportunities to collaborate one-on-one with professors, and the small community aspect may lend itself to more learning opportunities outside of the classroom.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee to kickoff 40th Anniversary celebration

40thimageSARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is throwing a birthday party!

USFSM is marking 40 years of serving the community this academic year and to celebrate it’s inviting alumni, students, faculty, staff and its many friends and supporters over the years to a 40th Anniversary Kickoff party Tuesday, Sept. 15, at the campus’ Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

The relaxed, casual affair will run from 5 to 7 p.m. and include food, drinks, music and campus tours. Attire is business-casual.

Please RSVP by Monday, Sept. 14, by calling University Advancement, (941) 359-4603, or by visiting Admission is free.

The Kickoff is just one of several ways USFSM is marking 40 years of serving Manatee and Sarasota counties. Also look for an elegant 40th Anniversary Gala to occur March 4 next year. And don’t forget a very special Brunch on the Bay coming up this November.

“An anniversary is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with people who have made an impact on USFSM, and for alumni to learn about what is new at their alma mater,” said Dennis Stover, vice regional chancellor for University Advancement. “We hope that throughout the yearlong celebration everyone will take an opportunity to visit one of our events and learn what USF Sarasota-Manatee is all about.”

Fulbright student arrives to attend USF Sarasota-Manatee

Fulbright student Nefike Günden. Photo by Krista Schrock

Fulbright student Nefike Günden.                                                                                                  Photo by Krista Schrock

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is welcoming its first Fulbright student, Turkish-born Nefike Günden.

The 22-year-old scholarship recipient arrived a few weeks ago to pursue a master’s degree at USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.

Günden said she knew of the international scholarship program but never considered applying until a teacher at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, suggested it last year. She ended up beating out hundreds of other students to win the prestigious grant, which in her case runs two years.

“A lot of students applied. I didn’t think I would get it,” said Günden, who already holds a degree in recreation management. “It’s very exciting to be here to try to pursue my dream.”

Of the 1,000 or so Turkish students who applied for the Fulbright scholarship, only 85 were selected. Günden graduated with a 3.72 Grade Point Average. In addition to speaking English and some French, she’s fluent in Japanese.

Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor for USFSM, said she was delighted that Günden chose to attend USF Sarasota-Manatee.

“We are very excited and honored to have Ms. Günden at USFSM,” Dr. Stone said. “The Fulbright program offers students a wonderful opportunity to live and study in a different country, and we are delighted that she has chosen to live in Sarasota and pursue her graduate studies in our hospitality program.”

Günden said she’s just now getting used to her new teachers and classmates and has recently joined several student clubs, including the SCUBA Club, Rowing Club and the university chapter of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals.

“Everybody has been so welcoming, showing their hospitality: ‘How are you? Where are you from? Can I show you around?’” she said.

Günden is not entirely unfamiliar with the United States. She’s visited twice before, both times as part of a work-study program that saw her at Disney World in Orlando. She worked one summer as a cashier and another as a hostess. She said she cherished the experiences and hoped someday to return to Florida.

When the Fulbright opportunity emerged last year she quickly began looking online at college hospitality programs.

“The program at USF Sarasota-Manatee had everything I wanted,” she said, referring to the classes she wanted to take in hospitality-technology, finance and marketing.

However, she said she’s already missing her family and home cooking. When not studying, she enjoys baking Turkish favorites with her roommates who also attend USF Sarasota-Manatee. She also enjoys the local beaches and traveling and hopes to visit Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

Amela Malkic, director of the USFSM’s Global Engagement Office, said the importance of the Fulbright Program cannot be underestimated.

“USF Sarasota-Manatee is proud to support visiting Fulbright scholars and students and to facilitate this educational and cultural exchange in our community,” she said. “Likewise, we are proud of our academic programs that attract both domestic and international students from all over the world. Ms. Günden’s active participation in our university’s academic and social life will promote mutual understanding of different cultures and support the vision of the Fulbright exchange program.”

The Fulbright Program provides 8,000 grants yearly to allow U.S. students and scholars to study and conduct research abroad and for people of other countries to do the same here. It’s named for U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who founded the program to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students to volunteer at food bank

USF's Board of Trustees has approved USF Sarasota-Manatee's long-range strategic plan.

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2015) – It didn’t take long for the wave of responses to pour in once the request for volunteers was made.

Within three hours of posting the online call to support the All Faiths Food Bank, 20 USF Sarasota-Manatee students had signed up, offering to volunteer for four hours on Saturday.

“That’s just the kind of students we have,” Kati Hinds, coordinator of Student Organizations & Leadership, explained. “They’re eager to give back.”

So went the first day of a new USFSM program intended to unite students’ desires to engage their community with service organizations that can use and welcome volunteer help.

In this case, All Faiths Food Bank distributes packaged and canned goods along with other necessary items to more than 50,000 people annually through local food pantries and direct contributions.

“The people who volunteer for us are at the very core of what we do here,” All Faiths Marketing Director Laura Coyle said. “Without them, we couldn’t feed our neighbors in need. Students are especially welcome. They are such an inspiration to others.”

Hinds said the 20 students are set to kick off their volunteer duties around 10 a.m. Saturday at All Faiths’ 20,000 square-foot warehouse east of Interstate 75 in Sarasota County.

The group will meet at USF Sarasota-Manatee, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, to ride a van to the warehouse to spend four hours stocking shelves and packing boxes with items destined for the food pantries.

Hinds said the USFSM volunteer program, called “Service Saturday,” will run every third Saturday over the remainder of the semester. This semester, with the program aiming to help the homeless, the students could find themselves engaging with several organizations across Tampa Bay, from food banks to shelters, Hinds said.

“Volunteerism and service learning are great ways for students to put into practice the knowledge and skills they gain in the classroom and through their co-curricular involvement,” said Kimberly Mones, director of Student Engagement. “We are excited to match our students with community partners to provide service to our local community.”

Barry Callahan, a 20-year-old business major, was among those who answered the call to volunteer. Seeing homeless men and women daily along U.S. 41 and in downtown Sarasota, the North Port native said he felt compelled to help in some way.

“I think many of us here feel socially conscious and feel the need to help,” said Callahan, who also serves as Student Senate president. “We look around and see what we have, that we’re able to go to college, and feel fortunate to have what we have. It’s almost like it is our duty to help.”