Vision Team members conduct a mind mapping exercise

Strategic planning at USF St. Petersburg moves forward

The strategic planning process at USF St. Petersburg moved forward in earnest Monday night when a diverse team of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members gathered at the University Student Center.

More than 70 members of the Vision Team spent three stimulating hours discussing critical issues facing USF St. Petersburg and higher education. In addition to students, faculty, staff and alumni, the group includes local business leaders, partners, friends, and representatives from local schools and the USF System.

The team is meeting again today for an all-day session and will meet several more times during the coming months.

In addition, open forums for faculty, students, staff and other groups will take place early in the new year to broaden the discussion. To see a roadmap of upcoming events and learn more about the process, please visit

As Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska told the vision team Monday night, the goal of this process is to lay the groundwork for a vision for USFSP that focuses our resources to have a powerful impact in Pinellas County and beyond.

Dunking station and climbing wall

Homecoming Carnival 2013

Climbing wall, dunking station and other carnival fun — part of an entire week of homecoming events for students and alumni!


Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska, Ph.D.,thanks community members for their warm welcome.

A warm welcome for Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska

More than 200 community members filled the University Student Center Ballroom Thursday night to welcome USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska, Ph.D.


The event was sponsored by the USFSP Campus Board, Duke Energy, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, St. Petersburg College and Bank of Tampa. Additional support was provided by All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, the USF Federal Credit Union and Bill and Ann Edwards.

“While this event marks my formal welcome as Regional Chancellor, more importantly it provides an opportunity to celebrate USF St. Petersburg’s impressive achievements and extraordinarily promising future,” said Wisniewska, who became Regional Chancellor July 1 after many years in key leadership positions in the Penn State System.

She said her first 10 weeks reconfirmed her impression that USFSP is “ a gem that is well positioned to become one of the region’s best educational resources.”

“There are so many reasons to be proud of USF St. Petersburg,” she added.

“We have a treasure trove of talented faculty, involved in projects and cutting edge research that they bring right into the classrooms. They are award winning leaders in their fields. The most recent example is Jay Sokolovsky, who has been honored by the American Anthropological Association for nearly four decades of work, creating an entirely new area of study focused aging.”

She pointed out the work faculty and students are doing to improving the community. Forty percent of students are involved in community service, she said. “I was talking to a student leader on Monday, Lauren Reilly, who transferred here from the University of Colorado Boulder and she said that she didn’t realize her potential until she came to USF St. Petersburg,” Wisniewska said. “What a reaffirming statement that is, that the time spent here truly makes a difference.”

Her top priority, she said, is developing a substantive and collaborative strategic plan. “I am a big believer in strategic planning,” she said. “In previous positions where I have directed strategic plans, every major change we made grew out the plan we created. I will be calling on many of you in this room to participate in this important process. I really want to hear your ideas.”

Wisniewska said she has been struck by the deep well of affection the community has for USFSP. “It’s a love fest, it truly is,’’ she said.

She also expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome she has received. “At the beginning of the summer, I felt like a total newbie, but what a difference a few months can make,” she said. “St. Petersburg is starting to feel like my home now.”

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska (left) and COQEBS President Ricardo Davis.

USF St. Petersburg hosts breakfast for Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students

For the fourth year in a row, USF St. Petersburg hosted a breakfast on Wednesday for leaders of the Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students (COQEBS) to discuss their ongoing collaboration to improve student readiness in Pinellas County schools.

COQEBS is a coalition of community organizations and individuals working to ensure the Pinellas County School District is providing quality education for black students. James McHale, Ph.D., USFSP psychology professor and director of the Family Study Center, is a member of COQEBS and works closely with the group’s School Readiness Committee.

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska welcomed the group to the breakfast and discussed her commitment to student success and the importance of community partners such as COQEBS. “With a sound education, you can accomplish anything,” she said.

COQEBS President Ricardo Davis thanked Dr. Wisniewska and USFSP for its ongoing support of the coalition’s work and Dr. McHale for the work he has done to promote infant child readiness.

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska (left), Psychology Department Chairman James McHale and COQEBS President Ricardo Davis.

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska (left), Psychology Department Chairman James McHale and COQEBS President Ricardo Davis.

Dr. McHale discussed the success of the Baby Talk workshops the Family Study Center has conducted in partnership with the COQEBS School Readiness Committee for the past three years.

Getting children socially and emotionally ready for school starts when the child is an infant, McHale said. He said the aims of the Baby Talk workshops are to help child-care providers make changes in the way they approach and work with infants and toddlers, to help them become “safe, secure and powerful” children ready to learn when they are old enough for school.

He also discussed an innovative prenatal co-parenting program for African-American parents called Figuring It Out for the Child (FIOC), which has to date served two dozen families in south Pinellas County. The program helps moms and dads find ways to work together to raise their child even if they are not married or romantically involved. Every expectant father who has completed the 10-session program so far has remained committed to the baby and mom at post-natal follow-up, he said.

Figuring It Out for the Child is the subject of a new publication by McHale and Vikki Gaskin-Butler, USFSP psychology instructor and Co-Investigator for the FIOC project. The article, in the July issue of the Zero to Three journal, published by the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, details one remarkable family’s successful journey through the FIOC program.

Family Study Center research has been funded since 2003 by a series of grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Development and by the Brady Education Foundation.

Kayla Cinerar '13 (left) completed her work at Suncoast Elementary School and Monica Aguiar '13 did her work at Spring Hill Elementary

College of Education Teaching & Learning Presentations

Seniors in the College of Education demonstrate how they planned and executed a one or two week standards-based instructional unit in local schools this morning in Harbor Hall.

These students will graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Education with certifications in elementary education and exceptional student education and endorsements in reading and ESOL.