Dr. Frank Biafora, sociologist, outgoing administrator, and incoming executive director of the Open Partnership Education Network (OPEN) at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (USFSP), has enjoyed a long, successful career in higher education. Biafora has been facilitating partnerships between the University and the business community since he moved to St. Petersburg and took on the role of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007. As Dean, Biafora has had a hand in the creation of numerous innovative programs that connect students to high impact learning opportunities and allow higher education to more nimble in meeting the needs of employers. Paying special homage to St. Pete's growing brewery scene, Biafora was integral in the recent creation of USF's Brewing Arts program. The Catalyst has no doubt that Biafora will take full advantage of the opportunity to further his indelible mark on his university and city as OPEN's new executive director.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
Dean of College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (USFSP). As of July 1, executive director of Open Partnership Education Network at USFSP. Member of Board of Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL). Chair of the Board for the past two years at PCUL. Member of PCUL Board for six years total. New member of Florida Humanities Council, Board of Directors. Before that, was chair of Board of American Stage Theater Company. Was involved in Leadership St. Pete and in Alumni Association of Leadership St. Pete.
What gets you out of bed every day?
I have two children who are 8 years old, and they get me out of bed everyday, so that’s a lot of fun. But what gets me out of bed professionally is the work that I do at the university, and the fact that we are educating the next generation of leaders here in St. Pete and in our community. Many of our students, if not most of them, they come from the local region. And the fact that we can work with these students and share with them some insights on how we can all collaborate together to improve our community, it’s what gets me out of bed every day.
Why St. Pete?
I love St. Petersburg. I think St. Petersburg is a groovy city. I find that the people here – much like I do – we truly love the vibe of what St. Petersburg has to offer: The culture, the people. I just think that it’s one of the finest places I’ve ever lived, and the thought of ever moving out of St. Petersburg is something that pains me more than anything, to tell you the truth.
What is one habit that you keep?
A habit that I keep is typically my morning routine. I’m up early, before the sun, and I’m an every-other-day workout kind of guy, so I’m definitely on the treadmill, and working, walking my dogs in the morning. Just having alone time, me time, is really important. On the off day, on the other day, I spend time meditating and relaxing. Always have to find those moments before the kids and dogs, everybody gets up, before I start my day. So I like to have an hour, hour and a half in the morning of my alone time, so that’s something I look forward to every morning.
who are some people that influence you?
My father was a wonderful role model for me growing up. Giving me the spirit to give back to others. As was my mother, who was a stay-at-home mom. In addition to my mother and father, somebody who recently passed on my birthday, George Warheit, he was a mentor to me. I met him at the University of Florida. He eventually worked with me all the way through and was there with me when I earned my doctoral degree. Became a friend and a mentor. Even beyond that, helping me throughout my career. He was a minister before he became an academic. And when my wife, Leanne, and I got married, he came out of retirement, and he put back on his stole again, and he married the two of us. I would say George Warheit is one of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had. Moving here to St. Petersburg, I’ve had the fortune and opportunity to live next to two former mayors, and they’ve been extraordinary mentors to me too. One is Bob Ulrich, former mayor, and also Rick Baker. They’re neighbors, and it just so happens that the house that we selected when we came down here, driving around, we found this house, and here we have two mayors right next to us. They’ve helped integrate me into the community, and I look to them all the time for mentorship and guidance.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
To me, one insight that’s helped get me through, and helped with my success, is visualizing success. The whole idea of just spinning your wheels and trying to go somewhere without knowing what your goal is is kind of a waste of time. And so you can be a real generalist, or you can be meaningful and specific. I truly believe in the power of visualization, and wrapping my brain around that. I do that in the mornings through my ritual meditation. If I could give any word of advice to individuals, and to people who aspire to accomplish something, I think that you visualize yourself actually succeeding in whatever it is you want to accomplish. And then things will fall into place for you to help you get there. People will come into your place whom you didn’t even recognize, and all the serendipitous moments that happen. I believe that there’s some power out there that we can draw upon, and people recognize that in people, they see the energy, they feel the energy, and they want to help successful people succeed. Visualizing your success is one of those things I would recommend.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I have just been tapped to serve as the executive director of the Open Partnership Education Network at USF St. Petersburg, and I like to refer to that as the front porch of the university. It’s a way that the university and our community partners can connect and collaborate to help collectively improve our city and our community. Something that was a thought, it was on a napkin about two years ago now … had I started that a little bit earlier, we would be much further along. The power of community connections, and drawing closer together – the university and our community – through a center like the Open Partnership Education Network is something that I certainly wish I had thought about three years [ago] or even more.
My last day serving as Dean of Arts and Sciences is actually coming up very fast, it’s July 1st. There’s a new dean coming onboard. I’m going to be splitting my time, I’m going to take half my time on a re-entry sabbatical, because more than anything else I am passionate about getting back into the classroom again and teaching students. So I’m going to spend this fall semester preparing my lectures and my classes, so that I can hit the ground running starting in the springtime. I’m a sociologist (PhD by training), really looking forward to that. The other part of my time will be spent as the executive director of OPEN, and sharing the fantastic opportunities that that affords not only the university, but the community through collaborative partnerships. So that’s what’s going to be keeping me busy over the next couple of years, I think.