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Summer break? Not at USF St. Petersburg

Christian Hardigree



Summer orientation at USFSP. Photo provided.

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One of the misconceptions that many people have about higher education is that we take the summers off. Heck, my own mother has a limited understanding of what I do, which is why I take selfies when I speak at events. She thinks I spend my summers with my feet up on my desk, eating bon bons.

While that might sound delightful (I do love chocolate), nothing could be further from the truth. The temperatures might be hot, but we’re still going full steam ahead at USF St. Petersburg.  Not only do we offer classes in the summer, but we also host orientation sessions where we prepare the incoming first-year students to hit the ground running. Plus, there are campus tours, summer camps and we start the rigorous work of planning for the year ahead. So, I thought I might give you a brief update on everything happening on campus during the summer months.

First, I hope you saw the news about the new vessel on our campus. Called the Research Vessel Western Flyer, the ship was granted to the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.  FIO is hosted at USF on the St. Pete campus and serves all the institutions in the State University System.  The Western Flyer is the largest and most technologically advanced ship in FIO’s fleet, and it will serve as a sailing classroom, providing exciting new opportunities for students who dream of a career in ocean science.

We hosted a celebration on July 12 to welcome the Western Flyer to her new home port. It was a fantastic event – dare I say, “fa-BULL-ous” – and we even got to hear from one of the students who is conducting research on the ship this summer. Plus, we had so many of our community supporters present, including St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and a host of other officials (I am terrified I will miss someone if I try to name them all – but you would have been proud of the turnout from our elected representatives). You can see a video from the event here.

Summer is also the time that many of our faculty members lead study abroad trips. In June, our Campus Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Thomas Smith, led a group of 18 students from the Judy Genshaft Honors College on a trip to eastern Europe to develop a deeper understanding of the Holocaust. The students viewed concentration and extermination camps in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany, and described it as one of the most moving and impactful experiences of their lives.

Giving our students the opportunity to travel internationally and exposing them to different ideas and cultures is so important. Not only does it enhance their understanding of the world around them, but they also learn to be more empathetic and adaptable. That ultimately prepares them for a global and diverse workplace.

I had the opportunity to do some traveling of my own this summer. I was part of a delegation from USF who participated in the annual U.S. Marine Corps Educators Workshop in Quantico, Virginia.  It was a hands-on opportunity to see Marine Corps training practices and service opportunities. We learned a lot about recruiting and officer candidate training and came away with a better understanding of how the Marine Corps operates.

We also visited the Officer Candidates School and The Basic School, where all newly commissioned and appointed officers are taught the basics of becoming an “Officer of Marines.” It was incredibly inspiring to hear from the men and women who chose the Marine Corps as part of their journey. And as a bonus – my cousin is one of the curators at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the USF team got an advance tour of an upcoming exhibit that will be opened as part of the 250th anniversary celebrations in November of 2025. It’s an incredible museum and you should visit it if you find yourself in Virginia.

We also got a chance to attempt the obstacle course. Friends, I’m not going to lie – I’m still recuperating! Suffice it to say that my ego isn’t the only thing bruised.

All in all, it was a terrific experience that really got me thinking about different ways we can help students who are interested in joining the military after college as well as those who have already served and are looking to transition into their next phase of life.

I also had the opportunity to take a personal trip with my middle kiddo, my 15-year-old son, while he still tolerates my company. We went to Italy – his first trip abroad and one of his dream locations. And like any good ambassador for USF, we brought our Rocky plushie along for the journey. You can see a short video of Rocky’s travels here.

Now that the first day of the fall semester is right around the corner, the USF St. Petersburg team is hard at work preparing for the year ahead. That means everything from crunching budget numbers to reviewing the campus master plan to maintaining our grounds and buildings so they continue to look their best (a special shout-out to all the members of our amazing facilities team, who have been enduring this summer’s epic heat. I fear they’re getting sick of me yelling, “Hydrate!” every time I see them on campus). Our faculty are preparing for their classes, conducting innovative research and trying to find time for their own family travels over the dwindling summer days.

So, summer break? Not so much. As Mark Twain once said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, maybe that’s a smidge over simplified. He also said, “All generalizations are false, including this one,” which makes me smile. In these final weeks heading into the fall semester, I will be breaking out some bon bons, popping my feet on the desk and looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for USF!

Christian Hardigree is Regional Chancellor of USF St. Petersburg.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Mia K. Sadler

    July 25, 2023at7:54 pm


    Loved your “Summer summary” of all your adventures! Have a good semester.

    Go Bulls!!

    Mia K. Sadler
    Mkt ’75
    M.Ed ’91

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