Photo:Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska
USF St. Petersburg: Realizing a Vision
Four years ago this summer Sophia Wisniewska, Ph.D., became Regional Chancellor at USF St. Petersburg. Soon after accepting the position, she embarked on a strategic planning process that has guided the university in its decision-making since. The result? A series of positive outcomes around the plan’s primary goals, to include creating a distinctive identity for the university as a separately accredited institution within the USF System, ensuring student success, and promoting faculty excellence, strategic partnerships and thoughtful campus growth.
Earlier this year, Wisniewska was named President of the city’s new Innovation District, leading the way for the university to collaborate closely with neighboring research partners, including Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the St. Petersburg Ocean Team – a premier consortium of marine science, oceanographic and environmental agencies.
Research is an important part of an education at USFSP for both faculty and students. Faculty are working with major granting agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture. Over the last two years, faculty research proposals have doubled. Students often are invited to contribute to a project, an opportunity that has led some to become published journal authors before they graduate.
In 2015, USFSP anthropologists Kathryn and John Arthur made international headlines when geneticists at Cambridge University confirmed that a skeleton they had discovered in Ethiopia contained the world’s first complete ancient African genome. Students were among the research team members.
Hundreds of faculty, students, legislators and community leaders gathered on campus in January to mark the official opening of Lynn Pippenger Hall, the new home for the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. The 68,000 square-foot building supports award-winning programs by extending traditional classroom spaces into diverse learning environments. State-of-the-art facilities prepare students for jobs that are in high demand in Florida—including Accounting and Finance. The College of Business is accredited by AACSB in both Business and Accounting, a distinction held by only one percent of the 16,000 business colleges in the world.
Adjacent to the College of Business, cutting-edge, sustainable labs for Chemistry and Biology students replace what was a Greyhound Bus warehouse. And, plans are underway for a new 550-bed residence hall and conference center. The proposed building will feature single- and double-occupancy units, a dining facility and a 25,000 square-foot conference center for campus and community events.
In September 2014, USFSP announced that its College of Business would be named for entrepreneur Kate Tiedemann in recognition of a $10 million gift – its largest ever. A year and a half later, that gift was followed by two more, a $1 million gift from businesswoman Ellen Cotton and a $5 million gift from former Raymond James executive Lynn Pippenger.
“So many students will benefit by this stunning, state-of-the-art building, along with the programs and scholarships made possible by three very successful and generous women,” Wisniewska said at the formal opening of Lynn Pippenger Hall.
USF St. Petersburg offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs in three colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business and Education. Biology is among its most popular programs with more than 800 students having enrolled since 2012. In the fall, USFSP welcomed new members of the Class of 2020 – one of its most academically talented yet. These students have an average GPA of 3.86, an average SAT of 1142 and an average ACT of 26.
Student success initiatives include Compass, a dedicated program for first-year students. Hallmarks of the program are faculty-led Learning Journeys, peer mentoring, study strategy workshops and social activities. Experiential learning is key to an education at USFSP, and students benefit from a wide range of research and internship opportunities. In 2011, USFSP earned the university-wide classification for Community Engagement by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.