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Community Voices: An update on USF St. Petersburg campus’ distinctive programming

Caryn Nesmith



The University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus. Photo: USFSP.

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

The University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus has over 200 faculty and staff that serve over 4,000 students per year, offering undergraduate degrees in more than 30 fields and graduate degrees in 15. The waterfront campus is integrated into the downtown City of St. Petersburg and embedded in Innovation District that is the professional home to hundreds of scientists, technologists and doctors who work to solve childhood illnesses, map the oceans, address climate change and develop new technologies. There is incredible research and expertise on the campus that is recognized nationally and internationally.

While consolidation of USF’s three campuses into one accredited body in 2020 promised to bring more programs, greater student success and more distribution of USF resources to the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses, many in our community remained skeptical. To allay concerns, the university revealed a vision to promote the St. Petersburg campus’ distinctive identity through five “academic clusters,” interdisciplinary areas dedicated to the following priorities: environmental and oceanographic sciences; business; STEM education; health sciences; and visual and performing arts. 

In my last column, I described USF’s exciting convergence of efforts towards the first priority of Environmental or Oceanographic Sciences, or EOS. Now I’d like to give some updates about the other areas, many of which synergize with environmental and oceanographic sciences.


FinTech Accelerator. A new partnership between USF and Tampa Bay Wave aims to highlight promising startups in financial technology – or fintech – with a new St. Petersburg-based accelerator. This effort will assist high-potential, high-growth startups in the fintech industry through mentoring, pitch coaching and investment training. Accoording to Moez Limayem, the Lynn Pippenger Dean of the Muma College of Business, this is a “step toward establishing the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance and this region as a hub of excellence in this exciting field.”

Hospitality Management. To meet the needs of the hospitality sector, the Muma College of Business is planning to offer its undergraduate degree in hospitality management on the St. Petersburg campus in the fall of 2021. The school is the first in the nation to partner with a national firm such as McKibbon Hospitality to better prepare its students for leadership positions in the top hotels, resorts, airlines, cruise companies, theme parks, restaurants, private clubs and tourist attractions in the world.

Risk Management and Insurance. The Muma College of Business plans to bring the risk management and insurance program to the St. Petersburg campus and is in discussions to consider a research center focused on risk management and assessment on the St. Petersburg campus. This program should offer synergies with the newly created Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation within the College of Marine Science.


STEM education

Certificate and Online programs. The main goal for the College of Education (COE) is to convert our graduate degree programs from an in-person modality to a synchronous instruction format. What this means is that we will be opening the program to teachers across the country to attend class during specific times. Once that task is complete, we will finalize the development of our 15 credit STEM Education Teacher Leadership Certificate.  

Community partnerships. COE is having multiple talks with community partners about expanding opportunities. In addition to successful programs like UMatter  and Call Me MISTER, we will be working with area school districts to bring the first Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) chapter to the Southeast. MESA is a college and career prep engine that propels student diversity and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math.  

Virtual Reality Lab. COE is expanding beyond its state-of-the art STEM teaching lab with an additional Emerging Technology lab on campus to enhance educational experiences for all students. It will highlight technology such as augmented reality, virtual reality, as well as an Oculus 2. This lab will provide new ways of learning and teaching for all students.


Health Sciences

The nursing program, which started in the fall of 2019 year as an accelerated second-degree pathway program, remains at 50 students. There is ongoing discussion to find ways to grow the program, and to offer specialized nursing programs, as well as to collaborate with area hospitals to expand clinical training opportunities.


Visual and performance arts

New Harbor Hall Renovation and Gallery. Last year, a generous gift by Josephine Hall of $1 million gift enabled major renovations to Harbor Hall at the USF St. Petersburg campus, which houses the Graphic Arts program, a central focus of USF arts programming in St. Petersburg. Construction was completed this fall with the installation of a 17-station computer lab and a new gallery space at to showcase students and visiting exhibits, which will officially open in January 2022.

New Digital Art Gallery in the Warehouse Arts District. In partnership with the City of St. Petersburg USF’s Contemporary Art Museum, part of the USF College of The Arts (COTA), is placing a new art space at The Factory in St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District. The new gallery will extend the innovative and distinguished programs of USF’s Contemporary Art Museum, which has a long history of bringing emerging and acclaimed artists and cultural leaders to the Tampa Bay region to participate in temporary curated exhibitions, educational programs, socially engaged public art projects, and to work in residence to create print and sculpture editions. This partnership will bring a new dimension to the city’s prominence as an arts destination by offering free public access to an inclusive space for the exploration, research and experimentation of creative visualization technologies.

Community Partnerships. COTA is also expanding programming on the St. Pete campus and throughout the city, exploring partnerships to offer theater performances in collaboration with local theaters. The USF School of Theatre and Dance is partnering with freeFall Theatre, one of the most respected and honored theater companies in the Tampa Bay region to direct a company of six actor/singers from USF School of Theatre and Dance in a musical theatre cabaret on Jan. 14 and 15.

Expanded arts courses. In the fall, COTA offered new courses in St. Petersburg in arts industry and administration and architecture. Next year, the college is planning to offer classes in theater, dance, acting and animation. The college is seeking approval for a degree in animation to be offered on the St. Petersburg campus next year.


As I said in my last column, this legislative season will be the first time that USF has prioritized its St. Petersburg campus as the location of its top facilities projects new building that houses the College of Marine Science, expanded to house the Interdisciplinary Center of Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences. With so much happening across the campus, this list is not comprehensive, but it does show the campus’ forward march toward continued growth and expansion of key priorities and programs. Next year, we hope to invite the community for to see for yourself. Stay Tuned!

Caryn Nesmith is director of community relations at USF, a position jointly funded by the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, the St. Petersburg Innovation District, the City of St. Petersburg and USF. This is a series focused on USF and its role in our community, serving to strengthen the prosperity of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. You can contact Caryn at  carynn@usf.edu



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