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Acronym soup: It’s an amazing time at USF St. Petersburg

Christian Hardigree



USF St. Pete received a $24 million state appropriation to launch the first phase of construction on the Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences (EOS) Research and Teaching Facility. Artist rendering.

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I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I packed up my family and moved halfway across the country to become the regional chancellor of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. So much has happened in such a short time!

One of the main things that drew me to USF was the incredible momentum I felt here. There was palpable energy and excitement – from the campus, the community, and beyond – with the potential for even more on the horizon.

But holy moly, nothing could have prepared me for the summer we’re having. It’s always great to be a USF St. Petersburg bull, but these last few weeks have been downright amazing. Pour yourself a big bowl of acronym soup and let’s dive into the details.

First, I am sure you saw the news about USF being invited to the Association of American Universities or AAU. If you’re like me (not so great with acronyms), you might not have thought much about it. I’m here to tell you that this is a huge deal for USF and for our entire region – including St. Petersburg.

The AAU is a prestigious organization comprised of 71 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada. Other members include Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Yale, the University of Florida and the University of Michigan. That’s some pretty remarkable company! To have accomplished the achievements to warrant this invitation is a testament to the phenomenal faculty, staff and students who have called USF home.

Our university is already an economic driver in our region, but this gives civic leaders a powerful new tool to attract and retain businesses. The opportunity to harness the research capabilities of an AAU institution and to tap into the workforce pipeline is a significant benefit to the business community.

Being affiliated with AAU identifies our existing faculty as experts within their fields and enhances our ability to recruit top-rated new faculty. Our faculty members will also have a competitive advantage when applying for research dollars. In fact, in 2020 (the most recent year for which data is available), nearly $29 billion in federally funded basic research, or 63 percent of the total amount funded, was performed by faculty at AAU universities.

Fantastic news, right? But wait – as they say in the commercials – there’s more!  We also received a $24 million state appropriation to launch the first phase of construction on the Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences (EOS) Research and Teaching Facility on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Friends, this is a game changer. This state-of-the-art facility will be the hub for a center of excellence that will address the need to prepare for, and respond to, natural hazards including hurricanes, storm surge, sea level rise, high-tide flooding and extreme rainfall events. Building on the world-class reputation of USF’s College of Marine Science, it will continue to establish us as a national destination for researchers and students focused on blue/green issues and the economy.

And of course, this center is ideally situated within St. Petersburg’s Innovation District, where neighbors include the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s regional office, the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Science Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. That’s a pretty special neighborhood.

None of this would have been possible without the incredible support we received from members of the St. Petersburg community. I appreciate everyone who advocated on our behalf. I’d also like to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their support. A special shout-out goes to Sen. Nick DiCeglie, who sponsored the project. Innovation and discovery occur daily at USF St. Pete, and now we will build world-class facilities that continue to propel meaningful research to support our state, our country, and our world. Epic!

So much good news in such a short amount of time! And we’re just getting started. There’s even more exciting stuff coming up. I’ll be sure to keep you updated. In the meantime, stay connected to us via our website,

Say it with me, folks: GO BULLS!




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