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Catalyze 2021: Stephanie Goforth

Jaymi Butler

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Stephanie Goforth

We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2021, and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live in what will surely be a changed – and charged – post-Covid world. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2021.

It’s been a busy year on the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus. Like the rest of the country, the school has been faced with challenges related to the pandemic as well as opportunities to address the issue of systemic racism. And that’s before you throw in July’s consolidation of all three USF campuses, threats of significant budget cuts and a renewed commitment to growing enrollment in 2021.

Going into a new year with so many uncertainties still out there could be considered daunting for many people, but not Stephanie Goforth. The vice chairwoman of USF’s Board of Trustees and chair of the St. Petersburg Campus Advisory Board can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2021. 

“Of course, what we’re all looking forward to most in 2021 is a safe and speedy end to the pandemic,” she said. “I am very proud of the way USF has handled the challenge of providing top-quality education to our students while also keeping them safe.”

Goforth also praised USF’s “excellent faculty” for their contributions to scholarly research related to Covid-19 and how it has impacted society both physically and mentally.

Beyond advancing knowledge and awareness around Covid-19, Goforth said USF plans to strengthen the community through its ongoing commitment to dismantling systemic racism and actively promoting racial equity across all campuses and in the communities they serve. Under the leadership of regional chancellor Martin Tadlock, the university formed a diversity and inclusion task force earlier this year. The task force, which includes university administrators, faculty members, students, city officials, nonprofits and business leaders, is looking at a number of different initiatives and is working to boost the number of students of color on the St. Pete campus. 

That ties into another of the school’s goals, which is to increase overall enrollment after several years of significant dropoff. In October, state representative Chris Sprowls posted on social media that the Board of Trustees and administration at USF has “assured us of their commitment to growing enrollment at USF St. Petersburg with a strong goal of 650 students for next year’s class.” 

Goforth is excited about the prospect of higher enrollment and seeing more students moving into the school’s new residence hall, Osprey Suites, which opened in August and will soon feature a full-service dining facility on its first floor. 

“We’re looking forward to increasing the number of students on the St. Petersburg campus,” she said. “Having more students living and learning in downtown St. Petersburg will add to the vibrancy of the city and contribute to our reputation as a hub for education.”

Finally, “and perhaps most importantly,” Goforth said USF will be looking for opportunities to continue highlighting the distinctive identity of its campus. In November, USF administrators unveiled plans to create five distinctive academic programs across multiple disciplines with the goal of turning the waterfront campus into an international destination for student and faculty talent. 

“We believe these will become destination programs for the best and brightest students while also serving the needs of our community,” she said. 

Overall, Goforth said, it’s a “really exciting time” at USF’s St. Petersburg campus. 

“Consolidation has opened up a wealth of opportunities for the greater Pinellas County community,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a terrific year and the outlook will just continue to get brighter as we move forward.”

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