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Archive for January, 2011

Tarpon Springs’ Leepa-Rattner Museum has a new director

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           Victoria Cooke has been named director of St. Petersburg College’s Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, effective Feb. 9.  She will replace Founding Director Lynn Whitelaw, who has been named the museum’s first full-time curator.

Victoria Cooke

Cooke will lead a self-study of the museum’s operations and stewardship policies as part of the American Association of Museums’ accreditation process. She also will lead the implementation of the museum’s five-year strategic plan, which includes goals for increasing student engagement in art education experiences, and increasing the museum’s endowment and memberships while elevating the museum’s presence locally and nationally.

            Whitelaw, who joined the college in 1998, planned the construction and operations of the museum and led it from its opening in 2001.

            “I’m 62, and I really want to focus my energies on the curatorial side of the museum,” Whitelaw said.     

            Cooke has broad experiences in museum management, accreditation and fundraising. She served as Assistant Director at the Louisiana State University Museum of Art, and was Curator of Paintings at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

            She holds a master’s degree in art history from Tulane University, a bachelor’s degree in interior design, and bachelor’s degrees in French literature and psychology from the University of Mississippi. She is a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Delaware.

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  The number of minority students enrolled at St. Petersburg College has grown significantly in the past year — at rates much greater than those of white students.

The number of African-American students enrolled at the college in the spring term that began Jan. 10 increased by almost 27 percent from the spring 2010 term.

 The number of Hispanic students grew by 20.5 percent over the same period.

 This compares to a growth of 3.4 percent among white students. Overall enrollment for the same period increased 8.6 percent.

Minority students now represent about a quarter of all St. Petersburg College students.

About 85 percent of all students who were enrolled in the fall term returned for the spring. Minority students returned at or above that rate.

 “The college has worked hard to attract and keep minority students, and to encourage their academic success,” President Bill Law said. “This is an indication that those efforts are paying dividends.”

 Tonjua Williams, Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, said the focus is on the student experience and the feeling that students do better when they feel connected to the college and its support services.

“If the student experience is positive and they are actively engaged in their learning, they are more likely to achieve their goals,” she said.

Patrick Rinard, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, said the college has instituted a number of programs over the years that have been designed to encourage students to enroll and then finish the academic programs they have started. The new numbers, he said, indicate that those programs have been working.

“We are communicating with students throughout the term, encouraging them to finish,” Rinard said. “We offer a variety of services — tutoring and support services, for example — and we encourage the students to take advantage of them. It is a collective effort from everyone at the college to help students finish what they start.”

 SPC and other schools have worked for years to attract higher numbers of non-white students. Colleges throughout the country face the same challenge of keeping students enrolled through graduation.

SPC has a long record of special efforts to keep students in school through graduation.  It founded Women on the Way many years ago as a way of encouraging women to seek and complete college degrees. That effort has been so successful that the college recently founded Men Achieving Excellence (MAX), an effort aimed at boosting male enrollment.

A predecessor to MAX was Brother to Brother, an organization designed for black male students. Dedrick Woodard, who works for the college in the computer lab at the Midtown Center, belonged to Brother to Brother when he was working on his associate degree several years ago. He found it helpful to his academic success.

 “One thing I noticed was when students became aware of the resources and they felt comfortable about going there, they did better,” Woodard said. “They had an awareness that the program was for them. I know I realized that. Brother to Brother let me know that for sure. There was a room set aside for me – it was my special place to come and study or print things out. It altered my reality of the college experience.”

Student retention through graduation is a problem that has gained attention at the highest levels. Last year, President Obama set an ambitious goal for the country: to have the highest college graduate rates in the world by 2020. Currently, the U.S. is ranked seventh among adults 18 to 34 who are enrolled in college. Improving those numbers is difficult if significant segments have retention rates that lag behind the average.

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The Tampa Tribune covers the state’s new placement test for college.

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         St. Petersburg College’s Office for Sustainability today announced a partnership with the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority/Bay Area Commuter Services (TBARTA/BACS) to allow students, faculty and staff to conserve and cut commuting costs.

       TBARTA/BACS provides regional commuter assistance programs and services, and promotes commuter options.

            “This partnership offers countless benefits to participants, community, and environment,” said Jason Green, SPC’s Sustainability Coordinator. “The participants benefit through fuel cost and maintenance savings, a potentially less stressful commute, and the opportunity to meet new people.  The community benefits since each carpool removes at least one car from the road, resulting in less strain on our roadways. The environment benefits through decreased greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air.”

       The intent of the partnership is to provide TBARTA/BACS’ computerized rideshare matching services to SPC’s population. TBARTA/BACS uses it’s rideshare database to develop matches for each registered SPC student and faculty/staff member. The rideshare website allows students to be matched with other students, providing segregation from faculty/staff participants.

       Additionally, registered participants who use a commute option other than driving alone at least two days per week get up to eight free annual taxi rides home from campus.

       The free program took effect on Jan. 1; participants can register at here and click “Online Ridesharing” or call 1-800-998-RIDE (7433).

            Learn more about SPC’s Office for Sustainability here; Learn more about TBARTA here.

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At a time when many people traditionally would have been considering retirement options, Carolyn Ring turned to SPC for a career-enhancing bachelor’s degree.

Carolyn Ring

Ring, then in her late 50s, already had a demanding full-time job that she loved and didn’t want to give up. But a downsizing by her employer started her thinking about a new possibility: more education.

She earned her associate degree in nursing in 1973 and enjoyed a successful nursing career for more than 30 years.

“I thought my experience would carry me through (to retirement),” Ring said. “But two years ago my employer went through a downsizing; I wasn’t affected, but I realized that if I needed to apply for a nursing job in my community, I would need at least a bachelor’s degree.

“I needed to prepare for my future.”

Ring’s daughter found the RN to BSN program at SPC, about 100 miles from Ring’s home in Mount Dora.

“SPC was relatively close, it wasn’t expensive, and it appeared to have excellent professors,” Ring said. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Ring set a goal of graduating before her 60th birthday. She found that SPC’s online program would allow her to fit her class work around her busy at-home career as a high-risk pregnancy nurse specialist for a major health insurance company.

“The program was awesome,” she said. “I had some doubts about the online part of it, but the quality was superb and the professors were very responsive. I learned a great deal that I could take forward in my career.”

The road wasn’t always smooth, especially in the beginning. Ring wasn’t sure she could keep up with younger classmates, and the pressure of full-time work plus full-time school was sometimes trying. Still, she managed to get excellent grades and graduated on time.

“Working full-time and going to school full-time was a challenge, and I wanted to get out of it everything I possibly could,” she said. “It took a lot of commitment – if you leave work tired, you’ve got to be committed and passionate about it to move successfully from one computer to another.

“There was some crying and feelings of being overwhelmed at times, but you get through that,” she said.

Ring’s accomplishments were not lost on those who manage SPC’s nursing program.

“We are very proud of Carolyn, and the changes to her practice, which resulted from her completing her bachelor’s degree at St. Petersburg College,” said Jean Wortock, Dean of SPC’s College of Nursing.

Ring graduated in December – without ever setting foot on an SPC campus. At graduation, Ring wore the honor cords for the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

Though her 60th birthday is nearing, Ring isn’t thinking about retiring. She’s thinking of pursuing a certificate in Health Care Informatics at SPC, and then perhaps a master’s degree in that field. Earning her bachelor’s degree not only gave her valuable training, she believes it also helped to sharpen a number of valuable skills.

“Besides the career options it has given me, I think it also is a stepping stone to get into Health Care Informatics,” she said. “It definitely sharpened my mental and communications skills. Many people say this is too old an age to go back to school; if you say that, maybe you are. But maybe you need to do some things that will help you remain young.”

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Enrollment at the college continued its pattern of brisk growth in the spring 2011 term, increasing to almost 32,000 students, an increase of more than 8 percent over the same period a year ago.

Clearwater students head to class on Monday morning

Spring term classes started Monday with 31,759 students, an increase of 8.6 percent over last year. Of particular note in the enrollment report is the growth of the college’s four-year degree programs, which grew 17 percent.

“I’m very pleased to see that once again this year, St. Petersburg College continues to be responsive to the needs of our citizens,” President Bill Law said.

“The academic and instructional excellence of the college remains a strong draw for those who seek postsecondary education.  In tough economic times like the present, we’re also the beacon for those who have lost their jobs and who feel the need to get additional education to face the challenges of the global economy.”

Although Monday marked the start of the traditional Spring term, the college offers additional opportunities to begin classes in the coming weeks. Weekend classes begin Friday, Express Classes start Feb. 7 and the second session of Modmester classes (eight weeks) begins March 14.

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