University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Grows Global Engagement Office

Amela Malkic, director of USF Sarasota-Manatee's Global Engagement Office.

Amela Malkic, director of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Global Engagement Office.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 18, 2015) – Since the creation of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Global Engagement Office (GEO) in May 2014, the program has experienced considerable growth. Approximately 50 international students, from 17 foreign countries, are expected to enroll in classes at USFSM this fall. With the development of USFSM’s student body through its Global Engagement Office, this institution is on track to become a local hub for diversity in culture and ideas by bringing more foreign students to the area as well as encouraging faculty and student participation in study-abroad programs.

“Expanding international education is an important component of our new strategic plan as we need to prepare our students to succeed in a global market,” USF Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said.

“Our numbers of enrolled international students and visiting scholars are on the rise as we work closely with all campus colleges in promoting international education at USFSM,” said Amela Malkic, recently appointed director of the GEO. “I believe that USFSM is an affordable and attractive academic choice because we offer outstanding educational programs, a personalized learning community and a warm Florida welcome to international students.”

Thi Viet Thi Kuynh, a junior in biology from Vietnam, originally accepted to the University of Tampa, but soon transferred when she realized USF Sarasota-Manatee best fit her preference of smaller, more personalized classes. “The decision to transfer to USFSM is the wisest decision that I have made for my education,” said Thi Kuynh. “In the classes, I am very comfortable discussing lessons with professors and classmates. Every class has around 30 students, which is the perfect number for me. The Global Engagement Office has supported me so much since the day I was accepted to USFSM.”

In addition to bringing international students to USFSM, the Global Engagement Office works on diverse initiatives aimed at expanding the international reach of USFSM, including global perspectives in the curriculum. “Our institution is committed to graduating competent students,” said Malkic. “Personally, I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to work with Dr. Stone and the entire USFSM community on expanding international education across our institution and the USF System. We intend to collaborate with our colleges, faculty and USF World on a variety of initiatives that will promote international opportunities for faculty and students. It is exciting to be a part of USFSM as we work to meet our strategic goals and advance student achievement through global academic experiences.”

The Global Engagement Office coordinates with USF World and provides support to faculty and students interested in studying abroad. In an effort to promote global culture at USFSM and globalize student success, the GEO coordinates campus-wide programs and info-sessions on study abroad. The GEO also coordinates an international certificate program at USFSM and works with deans and faculty on creating new study abroad initiatives.

For more information, please visit, USFSM Global Engagement Office.

USFSM’s basketball court nearly complete as work resumes this week

Work resumed this week on the basketball court at the campus' north end.

Work resumed this week on the basketball court at the campus’ north end.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 17, 2015) – Depending on weather, USF Sarasota-Manatee’s new basketball court at the campus’ north end could be ready for play next week.

Workers Tuesday leveled uneven surface areas and on Wednesday laid the first of four coatings. Eventually, they’ll apply two Plexipave top coats to create a Bulls-green surface then lay striping and the USF logo in the middle of the court.

“From prep to installation and final striping, it’s a week-long process,” but that can change because of weather, said Kevin Taterus, associate director of facilities planning and management.

The work is part of a larger facilities project that includes the volleyball court at the campus’ west end.

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.

Crews finished the volleyball court in March, but work on the basketball court was delayed until a water line and piping for the campus’ fire-suppression system could be relocated.

With that work finished in April, workers turned to the basketball court, adding lighting, benches, fencing and a water fountain last month. They tackled the surface work, the final step, this week after the asphalt cured.

The work is tricky and can be delayed by rain and hot temperatures. Crews will need to apply the coatings between 7 and 11 a.m.

Poll by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers shows tourism interest in Cuba

A recent survey by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers shows interest in Cuban tourism.

A recent survey by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers shows interest in Cuban tourism.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 15, 2015) – A new poll by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers shows Americans warming to the idea of traveling to Cuba for tourism.

The poll shows 91 percent of respondents support lifting travel restrictions to Cuba and a slightly higher margin say the Cuban embargo should end. Additionally, nearly half indicated they might visit the island as tourists if restrictions are ever removed.

Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership and graduate student Adrianna Ramirez, who collaborated on the poll, released some of the survey’s results Monday. It comes after several polls by news organizations showing most Americans support restoration of trade and diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Conducted nationally, the poll elicited 467 responses and posed 20 questions. Some touched on the trade embargo, travel and whether Cuba should be removed from the government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, however most questions focused on tourism.

In addition to seeking whether respondents were “very likely, likely or somewhat likely” to travel to Cuba pending the restrictions’ removal, the poll inquired about what attracted respondents to Cuba, activities they would likely engage in there, whether they would rent a car and the type of lodging preferred. Unlike most polls, it also asked respondents to provide short narratives expressing their views about Cuba and tourism.

Of those who took the poll, 47 percent said they were very likely, likely or somewhat likely to travel to Cuba if restrictions are eased. Thirty-four percent indicated they would not travel to Cuba and 19 percent were undecided.

Among other findings:

  • Thirty-seven percent would travel to Cuba “as soon as they believed Cuba was ready for Americans. “
  • Twenty-one percent would travel there “when there is an American embassy.”
  • Nineteen percent would plan a trip to Cuba for “next year’s vacation” if the travel ban was removed.
  • Fifteen percent have “no intention to travel” there.
  • Eight percent would travel to Cuba, “within the first year” of restrictions being removed.

Most respondents – 67 percent – said they would stay a week, about three-quarters would travel by plane – only 22 percent by cruise ship or ferry – and almost half would rent a car upon arrival. About 40 percent would hire a local tour operator.

Dr. Cobanoglu, director of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology & Innovation at USF Sarasota-Manatee, said he was surprised at the number of respondents who wanted the travel ban lifted.

“It shows me that Americans are open to the idea of change, and that they would support a change in a policy that has been in place the last 50-plus years,” he said.

Reading the narratives, he added he was struck by how many respondents favored “an authentic” experience rooted in Cuban culture and that many preferred the island’s tourism centers and beaches refrain from becoming “too Americanized.”

“One of the greatest appeals of Cuba to me is it’s one of the few places without fast-food signs and places on every street,” one respondent wrote.

Another said: “Let’s not try to make this just another U.S. destination. This place has unique cultural charm that should not be diluted with U.S. influences.”

Of the 467 respondents surveyed, 92 percent identified as U.S.-born, 44 percent said they were Democrat, 20 percent Republican and 29 percent as no-party affiliation. Most – 69 percent – were between 26 and 54 years old, with 38 percent from 26 to 34 years old and 31 percent from 35 to 54. The respondents were split evenly by gender.

Dr. Cobanoglu said the idea for the poll arose in March after a conversation with Ramirez, a Cuban exile, about President Obama’s decision to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It was conducted throughout May using software to distribute the survey to random email addresses. It was also posted on Facebook. Some results were released this week while Dr. Cobanoglu and Ramirez continue to analyze the data.

Ramirez, who is pursuing an MBA and holds a master’s degree in hospitality management, said she approached the project with mixed feelings, having fled Cuba when she was 8. Ramirez, her mother and younger sister left just after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. Her father came to the U.S. six months later.

“I think in general what caught my eye is the trend or direction the United States is going in with respect to attitudes toward Cuba, by favoring travel to Cuba,” she said.

Also intriguing was that respondents expressed support for the Cuban people while opposing the government, she said. About 75 percent said they wanted tourism to benefit the Cuban population.

“Make sure that tourism is developed in such a way that Cubans are paid a fair wage and are not exploited,” one respondent wrote.

Others expressed a desire to immerse themselves in Cuban culture. “Food, music and people” was cited as the top reason for wanting to visit the island.

In terms of lodging, most – 55 percent of respondents – supported staying at an international hotel, Cuban hotel or local bed & breakfast rather than a U.S.-brand hotel.

“I was really impressed by how many wanted to put their money toward helping the Cuban people, and also by how they really wanted to immerse themselves in the culture,” Ramirez said.

To learn more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, visit usfsm.edu/chtl.

USF Sarasota-Manatee helping to make Sarasota more age-friendly

Dr. Kathy Black is leading the Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative.

Dr. Kathy Black is leading the Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 10, 2015) – Sarasota County residents ages 50 and older can now participate in an online survey offered by “Age-Friendly Sarasota,” the multi-partner initiative aimed at making Sarasota County age-friendlier for people across their lifespan.

The survey – for county residents only – is now available at www.agefriendlysarasota.org (click “Join the Community” at the bottom of the page or “Take the Survey” within the sliding images at the top of the page). Paper versions of the survey will be available at libraries and senior centers starting in July.

Organizers posted the survey following last month’s announcement at a Sarasota County Commission meeting that the World Health Organization had designated the county as “age-friendly.” That designation, the first for a Florida community, represents the starting point in the multi-year Age-Friendly Sarasota campaign.

Several partners are collaborating on Age-Friendly Sarasota: The Patterson Foundation, AARP Florida, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Sarasota County Health and Human Services and the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging at USF. The initiative is led by USF Sarasota-Manatee professor Dr. Kathy Black.

Depending on what the surveys reveal – they’re due back in November – and based on additional research and collaboration with the community, the campaign will develop a blueprint, or series of recommendations, for the future. Those recommendations, large and small, will also build on the successful work by existing age-friendly communities.

One such recommendation, for example, might be to develop social activities that engage older and younger residents alike. Other recommendations might touch on public policy, such as requiring sidewalks and parks be designed in a way that’s mindful of people as they age.

The good news is not every change need be costly. Some can be quick and relatively painless such as adding hand rails at public places or using larger fonts on signs, said Dr. Black, who has focused her near 30-year academic career on gerontology, including the past 13 years at USF Sarasota-Manatee. Dr. Black started her career in nursing, which provides her with a unique and comprehensive background to undertake this work.

“We need to respect people of all ages of life and that’s really what this study is all about,” she said.

Age-Friendly Sarasota has its roots in an earlier study co-authored by Dr. Black and funded by The Patterson Foundation, a Sarasota-based philanthropic organization.

Called “Aging with Dignity & Independence” and published in 2011 by the think tank Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence, the study elaborated on six actionable themes. Respondents concluded by offering an array of suggestions, including several specific aims.

Among those, that parks and recreation officials host more age-friendly programs, that Meals on Wheels drivers occasionally provide a book or movie to shut-ins, along with the meals, and that more bus routes and sun shelters be added.

Organizers elicited about 500 survey responses. By comparison, the Age-Friendly initiative hopes to generate a much larger public response and touch on potentially broader areas of change.

“This really takes that work and brings it to the next level,” Dr. Black said.

Dr.Black won’t make assumptions about what Age-Friendly Sarasota might eventually yield: “We’ll have to wait to get the surveys back,” she said.

After the responses are returned, organizers will hold several public meetings to go over them and refine their suggestions. Eventually, those suggestions will be turned over to elected officials and other policy makers.

“This really is going to be a blueprint for moving forward based on a community consensus,” Dr. Black said.

She calls her ongoing work in the age-friendly campaign “the pinnacle” of her career.

It offers potential to broadly impact thousands of county residents, depending on officials’ reactions to the study, and could lay the groundwork to impact other communities worldwide.

“I think it could be the most impactful work, in terms of the community, that I’ve ever done and it’s the most encompassing I’ve ever done,” Dr. Black said.

Dr. Black joined USF Sarasota-Manatee in 2002.

She received a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare from the State University of Albany in New York in 2000. In the late 1980s and early ’90s she earned three master’s degrees, including a Master of Gerontology from the University of Southern California.

Her abiding interest in gerontology goes back further, though.

While living in New York’s Catskills, where she grew up, she started by studying psychiatric nursing. Then one summer she agreed to work at a nursing home and was immediately hooked. Gerontology became her lifelong interest.

“After that I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Dr. Black said.

“I love people and love to hear their stories,” she said. “We as a society tend to minimize older age. Our society is very ageist. It minimizes people, but the reality is there are a lot of positives of aging. We need to start to respect that.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee launches student-alumni tours

Jay Riley, director of alumni affairs.

Jay Riley, director of alumni affairs.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 4, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee College of Business students will get an opportunity to mingle with alumni and learn about government, the broadcasting business and recreation-centered development projects.

A new initiative, the Alumni Summer Tour is set to kick off 8:15 a.m. Friday at USF Sarasota-Manatee, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

Eleven business students will board a van to travel downtown to meet USFSM alum Jeff Maultsby, director of Sarasota County’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Additional stops include WWSB Channel 7 and Suncoast Nature Aquatic Center Associates, operators of Nathan Benderson Park.

At each location, the students will meet with alumni and learn about operations at their respective facilities. Between stops, USFSM’s alumni association will pay for lunch at the Tandoor Indian restaurant, co-owned by USFSM alum Sheena Maini.

Jay Riley, director of alumni affairs, said the tour’s intent is to offer students a behind-the-scenes glimpse of various career options.

“This not only gives them a chance to learn and explore possible career choices, but it also gives them an opportunity to network,” Riley said. “They’ll get a chance to network and get to know these alums.”

The summer tour is the first of two.

Next Friday, writing and English students from the College of Arts & Sciences will make stops at the Manatee Education Foundation, the Bradenton Herald and Sarasota Magazine. Riley said the groups were kept small – no more than a dozen each – so the students and alumni could more comfortably talk and exchange questions and answers.

Jim Curran, dean of the College of Business, embraced the tour idea when brought to him by Riley.

“It shows the students what some alumni are doing and exposes them to possible careers they might not otherwise ever learn about,” he said. “It also involves the alumni with current students and most alumni enjoy sharing their expertise because they fully understand where these students are now.

“I think this is a great idea,” he said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s long-range plan wins board approval

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

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

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 4, 2015) – Increased faculty research. Additional laboratory space. Expanded community engagement. Establishment of an NCAA women’s rowing team.

These are among the dozens of long-term goals for USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM) that the University of South Florida’s Board of Trustees approved on Thursday.

Called “Focus on Quality 2020,” this newly adopted long-term plan lays out a series of guiding principals and strategies to “set the course of USF Sarasota-Manatee over the next five years and to measure its progress in serving students and the community,” said Dr. Bonnie Jones, assistant vice president for Institutional Research & Effectiveness. “This is huge for this community and our students.”

The plan’s overall aim is to enrich the university’s academic programs and student life, to expand faculty research and resources, and to more fully engage nearby communities. It is the product of four months of analysis, meetings and debate by USFSM’s senior leadership team with input from an advisory council of 32 faculty, staff, students and community members.

“I believe we have captured the best of what we have to offer as well as the vision for how much more we can become as a valued member of the USF System,” Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor of USF Sarasota-Manatee, said.

“We tried to make the process inclusive and transparent, and I was extremely pleased with the positive response,” she said. “Faculty, staff, students, administrators, system colleagues and community members were highly engaged and all pulled together to meet our deadlines with a quality product.”

As the previous strategic plan was set to expire, Dr. Stone said she made Focus on Quality 2020 her top priority upon arriving at USF Sarasota-Manatee in November, 2014.

The result is a wide-ranging, long-term agenda that touches numerous areas. Among them, academics, student life, athletics, workplace issues, diversity, technology, community engagement and the university’s fundraising and expansion programs.

Among the plan’s many aims are its “top 10 transformational goals” for the campus. They are:

  • Recognition of USFSM as a “community engaged campus” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
  • Achievement and maintenance of national accreditation for applicable specialized programs
  • Recognition by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a “Great College to Work For”
  • Receipt of at least one major gift
  • Establishment as the home of the USF NCAA Women’s Rowing Team
  • Establishment of a space for a student union
  • Establishment of housing options for students
  • Establishment of appropriate space to support specialized, high-demand programs
  • Significant increase in faculty research productivity
  • Significant increase in experiential learning opportunities for students, including internships and study abroad opportunities

The advisory council, chaired by Dr. Jones and formally known as the Strategic Plan Advisory Council, began work in late January.

Prior to that, USFSM’s senior leadership team – a committee of administrators – collaborated with retired business executive Graham Strange of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to set the plan’s priorities and begin forming the council.

With input from that council, the leadership team approved the final plan on March 27.

Some objectives laid out in Focus on Quality 2020 are still being defined and will be developed more fully as funding becomes available, such as the student-housing option, rowing team and increased faculty and staff.

Other objectives have seen progress already, including the plan’s aim to achieve national accreditation for academic programs.

Just last month USFSM’s College of Education was awarded specialized accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the nation’s foremost accrediting organization for teacher instruction.

This occurred a year after USFSM’s College of Business earned specialized accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) to secure its position among the nation’s top business schools.

USFSM is pushing ahead in other areas, as well.

This past spring, a modular biological lab was added to the campus’ north side and a second lab is set to open by the start of the fall semester.

To boost research productivity, the university last month named Dr. Richard Reich, associate professor of psychology at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Arts & Sciences, to the newly created position of Faculty Coordinator of Research. Among his new duties: to boost research output and attract more grants.

The 2020 plan comes as USF Sarasota-Manatee is growing faster than expected.

When the university began accepting sophomores in 2012 and welcomed its first freshman class in 2013, 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 hit that target in the coming year.

The next step following the plan’s approval is to ensure the university’s deans and program directors begin aligning their assessment plans for fiscal year 2015-16 with the strategic plan’s goals and outcomes.

Following that, the advisory council will hold a retreat, set for Jan. 26, 2016, to examine how well the university is progressing in implementing the plan and whether adjustments are needed.

Summing up the plan’s aims, Dr. Stone said: “We will be widely known for our exceptional academic programs and we will be considered a vital asset to the economic development and overall quality of life of the communities we serve.”

To learn more about Focus on Quality 2020 and the planning process, visit 2020 plan. For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee and its programs, visit www.usfsm.edu.

USF Bulls on Parade comes to Sarasota

Back L to R: Orlando Antigua, head coach of the USF men’s basketball team, and alumnus Bill Mariotti; Front L to R: Alumna Dr. Anila Jain and USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone.

Back L to R: Orlando Antigua, head coach of the USF men’s basketball team, and alumnus Bill Mariotti; Front L to R: Alumna Dr. Anila Jain and USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 2, 2015) – USF head football coach Willie Taggart was among the athletic department officials fielding questions Monday as about 100 alumni, supporters and students packed Lee Roy Selmon’s for the Bulls on Parade tour.

Taggart – along with men’s basketball coach Orlando Antigua, women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez, women’s soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown, men’s tennis coach Matt Hill and others – visited Sarasota as part of the annual four-stop tour that also includes visits to Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale.

The NCAA golf championship, featuring the USF men’s team, played on TV monitors as plates of nachos, shrimp and pork sliders were passed around. Fans marveled at the American Athletic Conference trophies on display, combed through USF jerseys and T-shirts and chatted with one another.

“USF is really one big family and that’s why I like to go these events,” said Angie Brewer, USF Sarasota-Manatee Class of 1982.

She and husband, Jim Brewer, a retired Marine, have season tickets to most USF sporting events. The Bulls on Parade visit was an opportunity to catch up with friends, he said.

USF Trustee Byron Shinn, USF Class of 1979, agreed.

“There is a real sense of camaraderie here,” Shinn said. “The people here genuinely care about the university and want to help students, which is why so many have been supportive of our athletics and scholarship programs. It’s important to support our students.”

Alumni and coaches entering the restaurant north of University Parkway were greeted by a half-dozen USF cheerleaders. After mingling for an hour, the coaches passed around a microphone to address fans’ questions.

Among those, Taggart, who’s in his third year as head football coach, told fans he expects a strong year for the team based on the team’s progress. Antigua echoed that, saying he’s seen “phenomenal growth” in his players. Other coaches said they expected strong seasons as well.

The tour, which included door prizes for team gear, was formerly known as the “Around the Horns” tour. Last year’s stop included a Kiwanis Club luncheon and dinner cruise. The year before saw a breakfast with business leaders. Past tours featured golf tournaments.

This year, USF officials sought to create a more upbeat, casual event to broaden its appeal.

“We decided to shake things up a bit,” Marcy Lanoue, USF director of development, said.

The event coincided with a shining moment for USF Athletics: Just as the two-hour meet-and-greet was occurring, the USF men’s team officially qualified for the NCAA golf championship quarterfinals at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton.

USF is hosting the championship for the first time, and this year’s quarterfinals appearance by the men’s golf team also represented a first.

Visit our photo gallery on Facebook for more pictures: Bulls on Parade Gallery.

USF Sarasota-Manatee professor to make Cambodia trip

 Dr. Tricia Hunsader, an assistant professor at USF Sarasota-Manatee's College of Education, is seeking donated eyeglasses for a Cambodian village.

Dr. Tricia Hunsader, an assistant professor at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education, is seeking donated eyeglasses for a Cambodian village.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 2, 2015) – Dr. Tricia Hunsader, a USF Sarasota-Manatee assistant professor, could be forgiven for taking a break between semesters, but instead she’s busy planning a trip to Cambodia and she’s seeking help from fellow faculty and staff.

As in years past, the College of Education professor is preparing for a twice-yearly visit to an orphanage and school in Prek Eng, outside the capital city, Phnom Penh.

Hunsader, her husband, Michael, and other team members work regularly with two aid organizations – Asia’s Hope and the AGO Student Dorms – to bring school supplies and other items to the children, which number about 110.

They’ll take the children to an open-air market, where they learn to haggle for clothes and shoes, and provide counseling and some leadership training. But the highlight of their stay – both for the children and team members – is a three-day vacation on the South China Sea.

“The children love it,” said Hunsader. “Fortunately, we found a hotel that allows six children per room.”

Conditions in Prek Eng are rustic for Hunsader and the nine team members. However, she said it’s worth it to see the children, who regard them as aunts and uncles. “We’ve been able to watch them grow up,” she said.

Seeing them mature draws Hunsader back to the orphanage year after year.

Her husband started visiting eight years ago and was quickly hooked. Hunsader followed two years later, along with four of their five children.

“Asia’s Hope provides high quality education through grade 7, but then the children transition to a public school. They’re basically concrete rooms with no windows or doors,” Hunsader said. “The teachers do the best they can with what they have, but they barely make enough themselves. Most teachers have to work two jobs.”

During the team’s stay, the members, among them a nurse and a physician’s assistant, hold a clinic with local medical professionals for families near the orphanage.

This is where Hunsader is seeking faculty and staff help. She’s requesting donations of prescription eyeglasses be dropped off at her mailbox at the College of Education by Friday. The glasses will be matched with those in need.

USF Sarasota-Manatee assists anti-bullying workshop

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 1, 2015) – The Sarasota County school district, Embracing Our Differences and other groups are teaming up for a three-day workshop this week at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee to help educators recognize and stop bullying.

The workshop, Wednesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., comes as more public school students nationally report incidents of bullying through social media, including vicious taunts that continue long after classes have ended, said Michael Shelton, Embracing Our Differences executive director.

“There are certainly a whole lot more ways to go about it (bullying) now because of the Internet and social media,” said Shelton, whose group stages an annual diversity-oriented art exhibit at Island Park in Sarasota and Riverwalk in Bradenton. “It can go from creating an unpleasant situation to kids actually killing themselves over it.”

A survey a year ago showed fear of bullying caused 13 percent of Sarasota County middle school students to skip school at least once and 10 percent of high school students to stay home. Meanwhile, 20 percent Sarasota middle schoolers and 15 percent of high schoolers reported being subjected to verbal bullying, Shelton said.

The three-day workshop, which arose out of past collaborations between the district and Embracing Our Differences, aims to help teachers recognize bullying and offer practical tips to stop it.

This year, USF Sarasota-Manatee offered space for the workshop and additional partners were recruited, including the Anti-Defamation League and a Brookline, Mass.,-based educational non-profit, Facing History and Ourselves. The Kates Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation provided funding.

“We’ve been focusing on bullying for the last several years. This just evolved out of that,” said Bernadette Bennett, program specialist for social studies for K-12 schools in Sarasota County.  “We may not be able to end bullying overnight, but we can look at what we can do stop it and provide resources for teachers.”

So far, 43 teaching professionals have confirmed their attendance, Shelton said. For more information, call (941) 404-5710 or visit embracingourdifferences.org.

Rusch wins Quiet Quality Award

Lana Rusch, right, won the Quiet Quality Award on Friday, pictured here with Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Lana Rusch, right, won the Quiet Quality Award on Friday, pictured here with Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 1, 2015) – Lana Rusch, an administrative specialist at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, has received a Quiet Quality Award.

The Staff Senate presented Rusch the award “in recognition of her dedication to co-workers and students to make the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee a university of first choice.”

“I was just shocked,” said Rusch, who was surprised Friday with an award certificate and flowers. “I didn’t know what to say.”

Amanda Kulaw, academic services administrator at the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, nominated Rusch for the award.

“She juggles multiple projects at the same time with a smile on her face and positive attitude,” Kulaw said.” She is proactive, organized and goes above and beyond to get the job done. She is a hard worker and works well under pressure.”