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Catalyze 2024: Dr. Tiffany Chenneville

David Krakow

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We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about the upcoming new year and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2024.

It’s not exactly Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, but Dr. Tiffany Chenneville is getting her chance to see how well academia and politics match while doing a fellowship in Washington, D.C.

A psychology professor at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Chenneville currently holds the weighty title of American Association for the Advancement of Science Congressional Fellow, which is sponsored by the American Psychological Association/American Psychological Foundation Springfield LGBTQIA+ Congressional Fellowship Program.

The short version? Chenneville is spending a year working in the D.C. office of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), on the Domestic Policy Team.

“What I am learning as a congressional fellow working on Capitol Hill is how important our voices are as citizens,” Chenneville said. “I am also learning how important it is to educate government officials.”

Chenneville left St. Pete in July and is due to return to her home in the Euclid St. Paul’s neighborhood next August. She and her partner Doug live with their cat Rosie, across the street from her brother. 

Chenneville’s research focuses on the psychosocial issues affecting youth living with or affected by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and broader issues of sexual health. “Given the disproportionately high rates of HIV and other STIs in the state of Florida, compared to other states, I hope my research will have a direct impact on our community and state by helping to prevent STIs, which includes making sure that youth who have STIs have access to healthcare,” she explained.

Chenneville added that she also has a small boutique private practice where “I aim to promote the mental health of our community by helping my patients gain the skills or access the resources they need to overcome challenges.”

A St. Pete native, Chenneville was born in Bayfront Hospital, and other than a couple of stops on her academic journey has lived here most of her life. The city and its challenges are clearly engrained.

“I care deeply about this city,” she explained. “It has been with great excitement that I have witnessed this city, particularly downtown, transition into a thriving metropolitan area.” But like many these days, Chenneville added a caveat: “What I want more than anything is for the city to maintain its unique character and inclusive attitude amidst all the growth.”

Chenneville explained that, although much of her work is performed within the walls of the USF St. Pete’s downtown campus, there is broader outreach. “While teaching, I have the good fortune of teaching and working inside and outside the classroom with both undergraduate and graduate students who live and work in our community.” She warned about the detrimental effects of the political climate in Florida, emphasizing that “despite the attacks on higher education, the reality is that college graduates often have access to higher-paying jobs, and a highly educated workforce attracts businesses and industries that require skilled professionals.”

Explaining that she, “like many of my students,” was the first in her family to attend college, Chenneville – who attended USF at what was then called the Bayboro campus – said it was especially rewarding to be teaching where she earned her doctoral degree. 

She cited the work of The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg for helping to channel community resources and promoting race equity to improve community health. “Caring for all our residents, especially those who are marginalized or otherwise vulnerable, will ultimately benefit our entire city,” she explained.

One thing she would like to see is a “truly viable public transportation system,” something she is enjoying in Washington. “I also have a soft spot for old homes and buildings and hope that we do not lose our charm amidst all the new construction.”

She has thoroughly enjoyed the partnership with Sen. Wyden. “He is great to work with,” she said. “He is a progressive policy maker who really cares about bettering society through lawmaking and truly values bipartisanship.” 

Chenneville feels that what she is learning on Capitol Hill will help her “translate my own research into political action for the greater good.”

Chenneville has traveled to, among other places, Kenya, South Africa, India, England and Canada to collaborate with colleagues but is enjoying D.C. because living there – in the Capitol Hill neighborhood – has given her the chance to experience the capitol as a resident.

“Working in Capitol Hill is thrilling,” she shared. “I get to walk to work each day and take great pride in my Senate badge! It has been interesting to sit in on hearings and to be in the same room with so many senators that I have watched on television.”

And, the weather. “I am also enjoying experiencing seasons which, as a native Floridian, I am not used to,” she said. But it’s ultimately all about the work: “I hope to use what I am learning in D.C. to ensure that my academic work has a more direct impact on the community when I return to St. Petersburg.”

 

 

 

 

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    Pamela Trow

    December 20, 2023at5:09 pm

    I lived in Oregon and know first-hand what a great, caring, intelligent senator Ron Wyden is. It says so much about Dr. Chenneville, knowing she’s working with him. Thank you both for your service.

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