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USF St. Pete regional chancellor: Consolidation is not a loss but an opportunity

Margie Manning

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Jason Mathis, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, with Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor, USF St. Pete

The most misunderstood issue around the planned merger of the three campuses of University of South Florida is that St. Petersburg has “lost its university,” says Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor at USF St. Petersburg.

“It’s not actually a loss. I see it as an opportunity to get more resources here, bring more programs here, grow this institution underneath the USF umbrella and still be USF St. Petersburg,” Tadlock said at the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership’s leadership lunch on campus Thursday.

USF St. Pete is in line to get new nursing, math and environmental chemistry programs as it moves forward, and it has asked for other programs, including computer science, insurance and risk management, and hospitality, Tadlock said.

He also wants to start a visual arts program, using part of a gift from the estate of the late Josephine Hall of St. Petersburg.

Legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year calls for USF’s Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses to operate under a single accreditation beginning in July 2020. Proponents say consolidation  will benefit all three campuses, because they will share the prestige and extra funding that’s headed for the Tampa campus after attaining the “preeminance” designation, the highest designation a research university can attain in Florida. Skeptics see the plan as an attempt to consolidate power at the Tampa campus and fear it will cause the other campuses to lose programs — including the Kate Tiedemann College of Business on the St. Pete campus.

Internal work groups have until Feb. 15 to submit recommendations to the USF system board of governors, which in turn has until March 15 to submit its recommendations to the Florida Board of Governors.

“Decisions have not been made in some areas. Decisions have been made in others, but we’re still in the recommendation stage and people are still talking,” Tadlock said.

In a conversation with Jason Mathis, CEO of the Downtown Partnership, Tadlock answered key questions about how consolidation would impact USF St. Pete.

Mathis: What will happen to specific programs that we have here?

Tadlock: Some specific questions haven’t been answered yet about schools and colleges and reporting lines and that makes people nervous.

However, no programs will be eliminated here, if we have the enrollment to justify it. The Board of Governors has benchmarks we have to meet … so we meet all of that and programs aren’t going to go away.

There are new programs we have put forward onto a master academic plan that says over the next five years here is what we want. Nursing is coming already. Sustainability studies, computational and applied mathematics — we never had a mathematics major, believe it or not — and environmental chemistry starts very soon.

We’ve asked for secondary ed STEM, visual arts, a doctorate in elementary education, a doctorate in curriculum instruction, computer science, biomedical science, public health, mechanical and electrical engineering insurance and risk management. It begs the question, where are you going to put them, but we’ll address that as we go.

Mathis: What about student access? What will you do to ensure all students in Pinellas County have access?

Tadlock: Last year our incoming first time in college students who come full-time in the summer or fall — that’s the student population that all the metrics are connected to — last year, our profile was a 3.86 average GPA of those students. We have to be at a 4.0 GPA now because of preeminence … We are working with St. Pete College to provide spring starts, part-time starts, start at St. Pete College and stay for two years and then everything transfers … Plus we’re hiring four educational counselors, two from St. Pete and two from USF SP, working as a team in the public schools helping educate parents and students about everything they need to be ready to go beyond high school.

I anticipate we will have more students from Pinellas County coming here than we have had in the past.

Mathis: What are the most important factors in attracting high quality researchers?

Tadlock: I can give you an example. We hired an environmental chemist but we had no lab, so we went begging for lab space … When researchers come, they are looking to our startup package. If they are bringing grants with them and they have doctoral students in other places, they are looking for the ability to bring that. They are looking for research space and teaching labs. That is something we are limited on. We have to find the resources … We’re working with Alan [DeLisle, city development administrator] to find space to do that nearby…Researchers bring the ability to continue to get grants and outside money that benefits the university. It’s an investment. Research costs money but it’s worth it.

Closer look: The $2 million gift

Josephine Hall, a St. Petersburg woman noted for her love of music and cultural experiences, left the $2 million gift, to be split equally between the USF Nelson Poynter Memorial Library and the St. Pete campus, to be used at the discretion of the regional chancellor. Tadlock wants to use it to start a visual arts program.

A challenge to the community to match the funds is expected to kick off in the spring, Tadlock said.

“We want $2 million to invest in the renovation of the first floor of the library into a 2018 facility that is state of the art. And we want $2 million to invest in the arts to create a world class graphic arts program here like no one else has,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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