First student exchange program is a bridge to Belgium

USF St. Petersburg’s first student exchange program began with an unexpected phone call from Belgium three years ago.

Erika Greenberg-Schneider, a visiting instructor at USF St. Petersburg’s Graphic Design Program who is such a renowned printmaker she was honored by France as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, was at her studio in Tampa when the phone rang.

Would she agree to be the keynote speaker at a major art event in Liege, Belgium? The caller was a professor at École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc de Liège, so before she said yes she asked if the acclaimed art school would be interested in a student exchange program with USF St. Petersburg.

And so began a long journey that ended last fall with USFSP graphic design seniors Carmela Zabala and Maria Cuahutle living and studying in Belgium for the semester and continues this spring with Belgium student Laurent Baarslag living and studying here.

“I think the students are gaining an immense amount from this,” said Greenberg-Schneider. “This is a real occasion for them to go out and explore. It’s really good for them to experience other countries and cultures.”

Zabala said the semester in Liege had a profound impact. “I learned a lot,” she said. “I became a better designer through it. I’ve seen my work mature. Looking at my work now and looking at it before, it’s just very different.’’ She wrote about her experiences in ‘burg Blogs.

Cuahutle agrees. “It was a growing experience personally,’’ she said. “It made me question what I wanted to do. It was eye opening.” It also gave her a new appreciation for the USFSP Graphic Design Program “The program is really good here,” she said. “It’s top notch.” And it bolstered her confidence and independence.

For Baarslag, the decision to spend this semester at USF St. Petersburg has been one of the best he has made. “It’s a big opportunity to be here,” he said. There is a spirit of teamwork in the program, he says, a lot of energy and focus. “Here it is more intense,” he said. “We work a lot more here.”

Zabala and Cuahutle stayed in private homes and Baarslag is staying with a couple of fellow USFSP graphic design students. The living arrangements are one of the best parts of the exchange program, the students say, because it immerses them in the culture and helps them learn the language and local customs.

While this is the first USFSP’s first student exchange program but likely not the last.

“This inaugural exchange program shows the extraordinary efforts the university is taking to prepare global citizens for the 21st century,’’ said Frank Biafora, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a model for other programs that could develop out of this.”

Nabil Matar (left) and Dennis Thompson.

Honors Program presents lecture series to ‘Celebrate the Liberal Arts’

The USF St. Petersburg Honors Program is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special lecture series that reflects the theme of the anniversary, “Celebrate the Liberal Arts.”

Dennis Thompson, Ph.D., the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy Emeritus at Harvard University, will discuss “Science, Ethics and Democracy” on Thursday, Jan. 23, at 4 p.m. at the University Student Center Ballroom. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Nabil Matar, Ph.D., the Presidential Professor of Arts & Humanities at the University of Minnesota, will discuss “The Arabic Legacy in Western Thought” on Monday, March 3 at 3:30 p.m. at the University Student Center Ballroom. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“The liberal arts are at the core of the Honors Program but there is a lot of confusion about what that means,’’ said Thomas Smith, Ph.D., Honors Program director and associate professor of government and international affairs. “The liberal arts are about developing critical thinking and fostering our capacities for reason, judgment and scientific inquiry. They provide the intellectual tools to be engaged citizens.’’

Both speakers will discuss issues that go to the heart of what the liberal arts are all about, Smith said.

Thompson, the author of eight books and founding director of the Harvard University Center for Ethics, will underscore the importance for scientists to understand the ethical implications of their work. Matar will explore the transmission of ideas from the Arab world into western thought.

“This spring lecture series underscores an important part of the mission of the Honors Program at USF St. Petersburg,’’ said Frank Biafora, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It brings together nationally recognized thought leaders discussing provocative topics that will both challenge and enlighten our students and the public.”

The Honors Program will also present the Second Annual St. Petersburg Conference on International Affairs Feb. 13-15 at the University Student Center Ballroom. The conference, featuring 15 panels of distinguished experts from across the country discussing the critical international issues of the day, is free and open to the public.

Complimentary parking for the Honors Program events will be available at the USFSP parking garage, 260 5th Ave S, St Petersburg. For more information about these events please call (727) 873-4872.

The Honors Program offers academically gifted, highly motivated students an exciting and diverse college experience that enhances their undergraduate education. This year, about 100 students comprise a thriving, close-knit, diverse academic community. Students receive individual attention from a distinguished faculty in small, seminar-style classes. Read more about the Honors Program.


Left to right: Premed students Everett Rogers, Keun Young Jo, Jordan McBride and Erik Richardson talk to a patient. Photo courtesy All Children's Hospital.

Premed Club program at All Children’s Hospital provides comfort to cystic fibrosis patients

Erik Richardson had thought about a career in medicine but wasn’t sure until he went on a mission trip to a health clinic in Guatemala three years ago.

“Being able to help a child one on one is really what made me want to be a doctor,’’ said Richardson, a USF St. Petersburg senior majoring in biology who hopes to attend the USF Morsani College of Medicine next year. “Up until then I never had interacted with a patient. I discovered how rewarding it was.”

The experience inspired him to start Premed Pals, a volunteer program of the student Premed Club that sends USFSP students to All Children’s Hospital to work with young cystic fibrosis patients. He had worked as a volunteer in the hospital’s outpatient pharmacy and wanted to create volunteer opportunities for Premed Club members to give them experiences similar to what he had in Guatemala.

The student volunteers, most of whom hope to become doctors, learn how to interact with real patients in a real hospital setting. And the patients, who range in age from infants to teenagers, look forward to the visits. The patients’ families also appreciate getting a break.

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system. About 30,000 children and adults in the United States are affected by the inherited disease, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The disease clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening infections.

The patients at All Children’s stay in isolation for up to two weeks at a time for treatment a couple of times a year to clear their lungs. “They call it ‘tune-ups,’’ said Richardson, president of the Premed Club. “They get bored sitting in their room.”

The student volunteers will do whatever they can to take a patient’s mind off things, said Everett Rogers, the volunteer coordinator for the Premed club. They play Legos, board games, video games or just watch TV — whatever the patients want to do. “I’ve sat there for an hour watching Dragon Ball Z just to be with them,’’ said Rogers. “We’ll get on the floor and play dolls with them. It’s been pretty incredible for me.’’

Richardson agrees. “To get them up and out of bed and participating in these activities is so rewarding,’’ he said.

Frank Biafora, dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences, praised the volunteer efforts. “These students are great examples of community leadership at its best,’’ he said. “They are not only helping these vulnerable children, they are learning invaluable lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Hospital officials say the students have been a great asset for the cystic fibrosis program. “Erik is a person with a lot of passion and compassion, and his dedication in putting this program together with all the demands on his time is very impressive,’’ said Brittany Nelms, All Children’s Hospital Volunteer Services Coordinator. “He started as a volunteer and now he’s coordinating the whole program, so that other USFSP premed students can participate and help give a lift to our CF patients. We really appreciate everything he’s done.”

The program started in June with 16 volunteers working twice a week. It has been so successful Richardson hopes to grow it with more volunteers covering more days of the week.

Because of the risk of infection, each volunteer must be specially trained in sterile techniques before they can begin working with patients. They learn when and where to use surgical masks and what patients can and cannot touch. They must wear sterile gowns when they are with patients. And the patients cannot hang out with each other.

“They’re kids and they don’t like being in a room for two weeks at a time,’’ said Rogers, a junior who started at USF St. Petersburg but transferred to USF Tampa this year to pursue a chemical engineering degree. “It’s kind of rough. They get bored sitting in the room.’’ The patients are always happy to see the USFSP student volunteers.

“They love it and you can see it in their faces,’’ Richardson said. But the premed students also learn a sobering reality: They are not miracle workers. “Some days you feel bad for the kids,’’ he said. “Other times you feel so rewarded.”

“You have to accept that you can’t always do something for somebody,’’ Rogers added. But that’s just part of the learning process, he said. In the end, everyone wins.

“It helps the hospital, it helps us, it helps the kids,’’ Rogers said.

The aftermath of racial violence in Rosewood, January 1923.

Lecture to probe complexities of Rosewood Massacre

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant was a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the University of Florida in 2008 when he began studying the history of Rosewood, a tiny, mostly black community near Cedar Key that was destroyed by racial violence in 1923.

“I realized there had not been an academic study of Rosewood in years,” he said. “I was shocked.” He would spend the next three years immersed in research that eventually led to a half-dozen studies published in scholarly journals and an interactive website called the Rosewood Heritage Project. The site includes a virtual reality reconstruction of the community as it was the year before it was destroyed.

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, Ph.D.

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, Ph.D.

Gonzalez-Tennant, now an anthropology professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey and director of its Geographic Information System (GIS) Program, will discuss his findings during a special presentation at USF St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7 in the University Student Center Ballroom, 200 6th Ave. S. See campus map and directions.

The presentation, “Violence, Memory and New Heritage: Social Justice in Rosewood, Florida,” is free and open to the public and presented by the USFSP Anthropology Club, the Honors Program and the Florida Studies Program.

“We are proud that Dr. Gonzalez-Tenant is returning to Florida for this important and thought-provoking presentation,” said Frank Biafora, Ph.D., Dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences. “His background in Anthropology and GIS is a perfect example of the tremendous power of interdisciplinary training and research that we seek to cultivate here at USF St. Petersburg.”

Eight people died in what has come to be known as the Rosewood Massacre. While Rosewood has been the subject of a popular book and Hollywood movie, little is known of its early development and racial landscape, Gonzalez-Tennant says.

Gonzalez-Tennant combines documentary evidence, archaeology, GIS mapping and oral history, along with new media, to better understand the evolution of Rosewood and the roots of the violence that destroyed it.

Rosewood turns out to be a much more complex place than first assumed, Gonzalez-Tennant says. It had a core of white-owned property owners surrounded by black-owned property owners and ranged over a wide area, he says.

“This was a community where African-Americans had full access to every economic aspect, every type of job, where African-Americans owned homes and businesses,’’ Gonzalez-Tennant says. “That racial landscape is at the heart of my scholarship.”

On New Year’s Day 1923, a white woman in nearby Sumner claimed a black man from Rosewood attacked her, prompting a white mob to lynch an innocent man and then days later to burn down all the homes of black residents.

Reconstructing Rosewood in a virtual environment helps create a better understanding of the violence, Gonzalez-Tennant says. “The historical Rosewood would have stretched over two miles, making the violence more frightening when you realize how deliberate it had to be,’’ he says.

Students (left to right) Rob Cuba, Laura Wiggins and Krista Austin with Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Heather Judkins, Ph.D., with the rare Asperoteuthis squid.

Biology professor and students examine and document rare squid

Christmas came early for Heather Judkins, Ph.D.

Two large species of squid, so rare they are destined for the Florida Museum of Natural History, made their way by cruise ship from the Caribbean Sea off Grand Cayman to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg last week to be examined by Judkins, assistant professor of biological sciences at USFSP.

The squid were not only rare but huge, measuring more than six feet in length each. The squid – an Asperoteuthis and a Megalocranchia – dwell thousands of feet below the surface. Adult specimens are so rare only a few have been examined by scientists. The specimens scientists usually examine are under a foot long.

“We don’t get them as big as this or in as good a condition,’’ Judkins said as one of the squid lay on a lab table at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “It’s like Christmas!”

Both were found floating on the surface by fishermen. The Megalocranchia was found in July and the Asperoteuthis four years ago.They were frozen by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and shipped to Judkins in a chest freezer aboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas cruise ship to Port Canaveral. Judkins then drove them in the freezer to USFSP.

Little is known about the biology of these deep-sea species of squid, including how they reproduce and their role in deep-sea food webs Judkins said. “This adds pieces to the puzzle,’’ she said of the specimens.

Judkins specializes in cephalopod research. She has published five articles in scientific journals, presented at scientific conferences and teaches a course in marine invertebrates, including squid. She was drawn to squid partly because of the mystery that surrounds them, she said.

“We don’t know much about the deep-sea squid,” she said. “I think it’s important to know the diversity differences for ecosystem and fisheries management.We need to know what we are looking at.”

The Asperoteuthis was so rare that the specimen Judkins examined was the first found in the Caribbean. The Megalocranchia is so gelatinous, and had gotten twisted in transit, that she could not determine if it was male or female.

Frank Biafora, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the fact that these rare specimens were entrusted in Dr. Judkins’ care underscores her standing in the scientific community. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Judkins at USF St. Petersburg,’’ Biafora said. “As our newest full time biology member, Dr. Judkins’ exciting and recognized research enhances our emerging reputation as an important resource for applied marine research and marine biology training.’’

Measuring the Megalocranchia.

Measuring the Megalocranchia.

Judkins weighed, dissected, measured and documented the squid in minute detail with the help of three students in her marine invertebrate class — Krista Austin, Rob Cuba and Laura Wiggins.

Now that the squid have been examined, both specimens will be added to the squid collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

The examinations took nearly four hours. Water dripped off the examination table and the room filled with the pungent odor of dead squid. None of that dampened Judkins’ excitement. “I really was like a kid in a candy store,’’ she said.