Archive for the ‘academics’ Category

Composer Larry Groupe also will lead a free master class for students and the public Thursday, April 24

When St. Petersburg College’s Community Concert Band takes the stage on May 1, its student members will play a composition written especially for them by two-time Emmy-award winning composer Larry Groupe.

The piece, Heat Lightning, is the first commissioned composition to be premiered by one of the college’s concert bands. The St. Petersburg College Community Concert Band will perform the world premiere of Heat Lightning at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 1. The performance will be in the Arts Auditorium at the SPC Clearwater Campus, 2465 Drew St.

“Everyone’s really excited about playing the new piece,” said Nathan Muehl, Director of Band and Orchestra at the SPC St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “It’s a challenging piece but the students have really enjoyed working on it.”

The students also will have a chance to meet and interact with Groupé, whose feature film composition credits include Straw Dogs, Nothing But the Truth, Resurrecting the Champ and The Contender. Some of his other credits include compositions for television series Commander in Chief, Line of Fire and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Groupe will conduct a free Master Class on film scoring from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday in HS 117 on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. The class is open to students and the public. He also will attend the Wind Symphony rehearsal at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus.

The composition was funded by a Faculty Governance Organization Creativity Grant awarded to music professors Jeff Donovick and Nathan Muehl. Throughout the process, Groupe has interacted with students by video conferencing from his Los Angeles office. The goal was for students to learn from Groupe during the beginning, middle and end stages of creating a new composition.

“We were able to pick his brain about what he does when starting a new piece, how he gets direction, and the nitty-gritty of how he works through his type of composing,” Muehl said.

(Watch a clip from one of the interactive internet sessions.)

Groupe has family ties to Pinellas County, where he also attended school as a child. He and Donovick knew one another as youths when their fathers worked for Life Sciences, Inc. a research and development center in St. Petersburg.

Donovick describes Groupe as being a man with a heart for education. Groupe previously has taught several master classes at SPC and has conducted guest lectures at other colleges and universities.

“He is a friend of St. Petersburg College,” Donovick said. “He supports what we are doing here and is very interested in the way we do things.”

“So as a friend of SPC, he was willing to not only write the music for less money than one would normally charge commercially, but he was willing to accept the terms that required an educational component,” he said. 

Read Full Post »

This summer St. Petersburg College is offering a second 8-week summer term, providing more options for students taking courses during the upcoming months.


The extra summer term, which will run from June 2 through July 24, allows those considering summer courses more flexibility with their class schedule. Students now can take two weeks off at either the start or end of the summer and still earn a full term’s credit.

Options for students now include:

  • Study now – play later
    First 8-week term – May 19-July 11
  • Play now – study later
    Second 8-week term – June 2-July 24
  • Spread it out over the summer
    Traditional 10-week term – May 19-July 24

Summer registration for most students starts on March 26.


Read Full Post »

Students fish seining (netting) and going through their catch at Howard Park.

Students fish seining (netting) and going through their catch at Howard Park.

From cave rappelling to fossil gazing, the Science Adventurer’s Club at St. Petersburg College makes experiential learning fun and interactive for all students.

The Science Adventurer’s Club is one of three student science clubs at the Clearwater Campus. In this environment, students who are interested in natural sciences can participate in research projects, field trips, lectures and community service activities. They do not have to be science majors to participate—all that is required is a passion for learning an interest in all things science.

The club got its start about three years ago when students were dissatisfied that there wasn’t an extracurricular opportunity for students to enjoy science together in a social environment.

“On several occasions, students in my science classes made comments about how they wished there was some place they could hang out and speak with other students about science,” said Monica Lara, Instructor of Natural Science at the Clearwater Campus. She is one of the club’s four faculty advisors, along with Clearwater Campus instructors Carl Opper, Erin Goergen and Mike Stumpe.

Science clubs at SPC include:

  • Environmental Consulting Society – SPC Downtown
  • Environmental Science Club – Seminole Campus
  • Sustainability Club – Tarpon Springs Campus
  • Science Adventurer’s Club – Clearwater Campus
  • Undergraduate Science Research Society – Clearwater Campus
  • Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society – Clearwater Campus

Lara’s teaching assistant, Michael Goltz, who often was present when these conversations took place, asked whether she would be willing to serve as a club advisor if students started a new club. Goltz, who ended up serving as the club’s first president, has remained connected to the club even though he is now a student at the University of South Florida.

“I agreed to it because I thought it would be a lot of fun and that there had been a lot of people hinting that it was something they would be interested in,” Lara said. “It supplements a lot of what we discuss in class and helps it make more sense.”

Lara said the club also fosters a collaborative culture among the students. In this environment, students primarily learn from each other. As they share their experiences, they teach one another best practices on how to go about taking on various tasks and projects.

“We do have some fun, adventurous trips, but the main focus is that students have to do the science,” she said. Through the club’s many field trips, including rappelling into the Dames Caves in Citrus County, students learn about geology, sea level rises and drops, ecology and conservation.

In addition to field trips, students also participate in volunteer projects such as science fairs, beach and reef cleanups, and Marine Science Day at the University of South Florida. These opportunities and experiences allow students to network with professionals in the field and prepare them for the workforce or graduate level work.

Students also benefit from the club’s partnership with Lara’s out-of-class research group and Reef Monitoring, a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization that she helped establish with SPC instructor Heyward Mathews in 2005.

“I enjoy getting that experience as it is helpful in preparing me for a potential career in science,” said Shannon Senokosoff, 29, a biology major and vice president of the Natural Science Adventurer’s Club. Since graduating with a degree in art from the University of South Florida, he was not satisfied working as a motion graphics designer and decided to go back to school and pursue his passion for biology at SPC.

Students in the Science Adventurer’s Club go rappelling during a field trip to the Dames Caves.

Students in the Science Adventurer’s Club go rappelling during a field trip to the Dames Caves.

“Getting out there, getting involved in the community through volunteer work and conservation, it puts you in a position where you’re interacting with people that might have positions in different organizations like the Florida Wildlife Commission,” Senokosoff said. “It helps build those connections.”

Lara said the hands-on experiential learning serves as a way to get students to understand what science is really about by doing it and not just hearing about it in a classroom.

“Getting those kinds of experiences – that experiential learning – really sticks with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.


Want to learn more?

The Science Adventurer’s Club meets every other Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the marine biology lab (NM 161) at the Clearwater Campus.

Read Full Post »

To help St. Petersburg College students finish what they start, SPC has developed a Student Life Plan Retention Policy and revised its Academic Standing Policy. The new policies define expectations for GPA and course progression and are helping students stay on track.

“We used to be about access, and now we are about success,” said Jesse Coraggio, Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, and Grants. “We were primarily worried about making education accessible, and while that is still our goal, we have moved to a model with initial expectations. We want students to be successful and finish what they start.”

To keep students from repeating failing patterns, the college revised its Academic Standing Policy to better align with Financial Aid’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy by adding a course completion component.

Previously, students could be in violation of SAP, lose their ability to receive financial aid and still be in “good standing” academically with the college. Now students must complete 67% of the courses they sign up for and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

For First-Time-in-College students, enrollment eligibility is also affected. For the most severe cases, students cannot sign up for more classes than they successfully complete in the previous term.

“Before, a student could sign up for 12 credits, drop half of them and come back and take 12 again the next semester,” said Matt Bowen, associate provost of the Clearwater Campus. “They’re repeating a pattern that isn’t working for them. So we’re forcing them to find what does.”

Clearly communicating expectations is a big part of that. Students find out in orientation what standards they have to meet.

“We’re asking more of them and setting the bar higher so they will perform at a higher level,” Bowen said. “And they are.”

Through the Student Life Plan, advisors can identify first-time-in-college students who initially struggle academically, as soon as the third week of classes, and direct them to services offered through the College Experience.

“The goal is to identify students who are not succeeding and force them into better habits,” said Nicholas Manias, associate professor of Ethics who helped craft the new policies. “Now they have to pay more attention to their academic path.”

Turns out, many students are stymied by outside obligations and stresses rather than the coursework itself.

“We’re finding the reasons they struggle are not academic, but life issues getting in their way,” Coraggio said. “If they drop a class, we’re now working with them directly, and we’re going to help them out.”

So far, officials have found that students now have a better understanding of the college’s academic expectations. And students under the new Student Life Plan Retention Policy have been more successful than in previous terms before the new policy was implemented.

Among first-time-in-college students who started Spring 2013

  • 53 percent of FTIC remained on course
  • 26 percent needed some intervention
  • 21 percent needed restricted access to classes to stay on course

Read Full Post »

HonorsThe Honors College of St. Petersburg College is proud to present the 7th annual research conference at the EpiCenter on Wednesday, Jan. 29, beginning at 8 a.m. This year’s theme is “Connection: Bridging the Gap between Disciplines.

During this conference, our students will share their research on a variety of topics including literature, humanities, medicine and social and physical sciences in either oral presentation or poster presentation format.

The afternoon will feature a keynote speech by SPC faculty member Dr. Angie Zombek.

Student posters and art work will be displayed from noon to 1 p.m.

Visit the Honors College website and get more info, plus a complete schedule, of the event.

Read Full Post »

For the third consecutive semester, St. Petersburg College has made significant gains in the success rates of its first-time-in-college students, a positive sign that the intensive efforts to expand student support are paying off.

Overall, first-time-in-college students in Fall 2013 successfully completed 74.1 percent of their courses, compared to 69.4 percent in Fall 2012. Success in a course is defined as a student completing the course with an A, B or C grade.

The increase in success is particularly significant for African-American male students completing their first semesters in college. The African-American male students who began at SPC in August 2013 were successful in 64.8 percent of their classes. By comparison, the success rate for the African-American males who began in August 2012 was 51.2.

Hispanic males also made a significant gain, from a 66.2 percent success rate to 72.6.

“We are intensely focused on student success and, as we begin another new semester, it is gratifying to see hard work beginning to pay off, especially as we work to close the achievement gap for our minority students,” said President Bill Law. “We know degrees and certificates change lives, and we will continue to look for ways to give our students the support and assistance they need to successfully finish what they start.”

While many of the efforts are focused on incoming students, returning students are seeing the benefits of the efforts as well. The course success rate for all students in Fall 2013 was 76.3 and has increased consistently from Fall 2010, when the rate was 74.2.

Classes for the Spring Semester began today (Jan. 13).

Spring 2014 enrollment

The Spring semester opened Monday with 30,755 students enrolled, slightly fewer (less than 1 percent) than the opening day of the Spring semester a year ago.

“Obviously, we like to see our enrollment numbers increase or remain stable,” Law said. “But just adding numbers isn’t our chief goal. Our mission is to help the students who are here be successful, and we believe we are doing that better all the time – without lowering our academic standards.”

The College Experience: Student Success

collegeexperience logoTo help increase student achievement, SPC in Fall 2012 launched an initiative called The College Experience: Student Success with five components:

  • Expanded Out-of-Class Support
  • Integrated Career and Academic Advising
  • Improved New Student Orientation
  • My Learning Plan
  • Early Alert and Student Coaching.

The college this week introduced a new website, CollegeExperience.com, to give students more information about the resources available to them.

Some results of the College Experience initiatives:

Out-of-Class Support:

Learning-Center-1-9Almost 14,000 SPC students visited a Learning Support Center during the Fall 2013, a 63 percent increase over last year, when 8,600 students came to a center. Total visits climbed to nearly 95,000, up from 68,988 during Fall 2012, as students took advantage of individual tutoring, workshops, small-group learning sessions and computer assistance.

“A full 62 percent of students who come to the learning centers do so as a routine part of their learning experience,” said Joe Leopold, Director of Learning Resources. “It’s part of what they do when they come to campus now.”

Leopold credited the increase in visits to SPC’s push from faculty and staff to get students the help they need. While many students came to simply use a computer, 9,609 came for help in one or more subject areas during the fall semester.

“The quality of our free tutoring is excellent,” Leopold said. “We are doing really great work and it shows.”

And students are responding, particularly to peer tutoring. According to recent survey results from Leopold’s office:

  • 99 percent said they would return to a Learning Center
  • 97 percent said they would recommend the Learning Center to other SPC students
  • 94 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that tutors and other staff gave them enough help to be successful in their courses

According to one: “The tutors are absolutely amazing! I do not know how I would be managing my first semester of college without these guys!”

Math is, by far, the most common subject requested for tutoring, followed by writing and science. In all, more than 150 tutors offer instruction at 11 locations in nearly every subject at SPC.

Faculty members also spent more of their office hours in the Learning Centers this year. During Fall 2013, more than 130 full-time faculty spent 2,402 office hours in a Learning Center, up from 2,132 hours during Fall 2012.

Integrated Career and Academic Advising:


Research shows that students are more likely to be persistent and successful in their education if they have a clear career goal in mind. That’s why SPC intensified its integrated career and academic advising with students as they enter college for the first time.

About a third of the 3,468 first-time-in-college students at SPC in the Fall 2013 term indicated that they did not have a clear career goal. Advisors and career staff worked doggedly with those undecided students throughout the fall, and by the end of the semester, 84 percent of first-time-in-college students had identified a career path.

Most important, more than 80 percent of those with an identified career returned for the spring semester, compared to 69 percent of the undecided.

New Student Orientation:

In Fall 2012, the college moved from an online orientation to a mandatory face-to-face orientation for students considered most at risk.

NSO-300x175In addition to covering all aspects of the College Experience, the hands-on activities in the new presentation were strategically designed to give students on all campuses a consistent experience navigating SPC’s web systems, including finding and reviewing tools available for out-of-class support and exploring academic programs and degree options.

First-time-in-college students who tested into one or more developmental classes for Fall 2013 were required to participate in the four-hour orientation.

The success rates for first-time-in-college students in Fall 2013:

  • Developmental students who completed face-to-face orientation (considered more at risk for success) – 71.2 percent
  • Students who did not test into developmental courses  – 76.3 percent
  • Overall success rate – 74.4 percent

“We feel confident our newly designed face-to-face Student Orientation is a positive step in preparing our new students for the rigors attending college brings,” said Lynda Womer, Seminole Associate Provost. “We throw a lot of information at them in a short period of time. We realize they may not retain all of it, but hopefully the next time they need to register or use the tutoring center or see a career counselor, they will have at least heard about the services SPC provides for students.”

In addition, 89.5 percent of students surveyed said the face-to-face Student Orientation prepared them for their first semester in college.

Early Alert/Student Coaching:

The SPC Early Alert system, which launched Fall 2012, identifies any student who is experiencing difficulty in class early in the term.

An instructor alerts an advisor, who contacts the student to identify any personal or academic problems and get necessary resources to the student. The student retains the same advisor throughout his or her time at the college.

The goal is to get students the support they need early in the term to keep them from withdrawing from the course. In Fall 2013, almost 90 percent of students remained enrolled after receiving an Early Alert. More than 1,998 early alerts were issued to 1,497 individual students that term.

Phil Nicotera, Provost at the Health Education Center, attributes the increased student retention to a combination of several College Experience initiatives.

The Early Alerts now are primarily used in developmental courses and in the “gateway” classes, the first most students take as they begin their studies. The goal is to eventually have Early Alerts in every class at SPC, Nicotera said. He identified several findings from the fall term that will help improve the system:

  • The highest recipient group for early alerts are students ages 19-21.
  • Two-thirds of all students who have received alerts have since used out of class support.

My Learning Plan:

MLP-successMy Learning Plan is an online tool that allows students to map out the order in which they will take courses several terms in advance.

In the Fall 2013 term, nearly 11,650 students became users of the My Learning Plan tool by entering at least one term into their learning plans. By comparison, 11,660 students competed at least one term in the entire 2012-13 academic year.

The bottom line is that students with a plan are more successful. For Fall 2013, the first-time-in-college students who used My Learning Plan to outline their courses for at least one term in advance had a 78 percent success rate. Those who did not had a success rate of 69 percent.

Read Full Post »

St. Petersburg College President Bill Law was notified this week by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ regional Vice President that the college has successfully completed the Fifth Year Interim Report.

The college’s accreditation is in effect through 2018. However, SACS-COC now requires an extensive review at the midpoint to ensure that colleges remain committed to their standards of excellence throughout the 10-year accreditation cycle.

SPC successfully fulfilled all the accrediting organization’s expectations in the report. No further action is required.

“The decision from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges was not a surprise, but it was definitely well-received,” Dr. Law said. “Everyone at St. Petersburg College knows how important the focus on quality in instruction and in services is to the success of our students.”

Dr. Cynthia Grey, Veterinary Technology faculty member and faculty chair for the Fifth Year Interim Report, and six others from the college got the good news at the SACS-COC annual meeting in Atlanta this week.

“We received the words we were waiting to hear . . . No further action required,” Grey said. “Those words – No further action required – are, in essence, the seal of approval. I am certainly pleased with SACS’ response to our report. I’m also excited about the changes that have come about as a result of SPC’s continual commitment to improvement and the accreditation process.

“This commitment from leadership, faculty, and administration was evident throughout SPC,” she said.

The report, submitted in September, consisted of five parts, including an abridged compliance certification of 17 standards.

sacs team

Members of the SACS-COC Working Group

The SACS-COC Working Group and Core Writing Team, led by QEP Director/SACS-COC Accreditation Liaison, Dr. Janice Thiel, and Dr. Grey have worked together over the past several years to study the standards, document compliance, and advocate for improved college-wide practices that foster success for SPC students.

“The accreditation process is rigorous, and the team that pulled together the extensive accreditation self-study deserves our special thanks,” Dr. Law said. “We are proud that our students and community can continue to feel secure that the educational experience at the college has been judged to be first-rate. When excellence such as ours is recognized, we all feel good.”

The Impact Report of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) on critical thinking was Part V of the Fifth-Year Interim Report.

Dr. Thiel, who headed the QEP initiative, commented on SPC’s project. “Faculty were key to our successful QEP Impact Report. The report showed that our QEP wasn’t just a five-year project. We were able to demonstrate sustained support for the critical thinking initiative through events like Saturday’s ‘Making Thinking Visible’, hosted by the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus and our Center of Excellence for Teaching and Learning (CETL).”

Dr. Tom Furlong, Policy Consultant for SPC, congratulated the SACS-COC Working Group for its great work and acknowledged the positive result.

“Reviewing and responding to accreditation standards is a long and difficult process,” he said. “This is a well-deserved outcome earned by the entire college. The leadership and support of the president was a must to achieve these results. His encouragement was critical to the process.”

Look for more activity of the SACS-COC Working Group in the coming year. Though we are celebrating the success of the Fifth-Year Interim Report, as part of our continuous improvement cycle, we will be transitioning our momentum toward completion of SPC’s full accreditation compliance document due in 2018.

The narratives and associated artifacts that were prepared for submission to SACS-COC can be viewed at www.spcollege.edu/sacs_coc.

Read Full Post »

St. Petersburg College students are hearing the college’s message about the importance of out-of-class support. While students come to the Campus Learning Centers for a variety of reasons, the number who come for free tutoring continues to grow.

Student use of tutoring services in the Campus Learning Centers so far this fall is up 89 percent compared to last fall.

The graphic below shows the breakdown by campus and by discipline of those visits last week for math and statistics, science and reading/writing/speech. Those three areas draw the largest number of students seeking help.

The graphic represents only the visits for Week 9. Total visits in these areas for the semester so far number almost 13,000.


Read Full Post »

SPC College of Education alumna Katelyn Pilsbury

Katelyn Pilsbury

SPC College of Education grad Katelyn Pilsbury has been named Florida’s Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Rookie Teacher of the Year. The award, given annually by the Florida Council for Exceptional Children, honors the state’s best new ESE teacher during their first three years of work.

Pilsbury, 25, is a full-time Autistic Spectrum Disorder kindergarten teacher at Plumb Elementary School in Clearwater. She emotionally recounted how her principal last year, Seymour Brown III, told her that she was the first teacher he had nominated for this award in 30 years.

“I always knew I’d be a good teacher and love my students,” said Pilsbury. “But I never thought I’d be a teacher that would win an award for what I did.”

This year’s winner will be announced at an awards dinner on Friday, Oct. 18.

Preparing for success

Pilsbury completed a bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Student Education (K-12) with a certification in Elementary Education with ESOL and Reading Endorsements at SPC. This summer, she also completed her Autism endorsement at SPC.

“I had personal relationships with my SPC teachers,” said Pilsbury. “They cared about me. If I didn’t get something they took the time to really explain it.”

In the classroom

Currently in her second year of teaching at Plumb Elementary, Pinellas County’s largest elementary school, Pilsbury leads a team of two ESE associates to provide the individual attention the six children, all boys, in their class require. Today’s lesson was focused on the difference between day and night.

Click to enlarge
In the classroom Learning about Whole Body Language Spelling my name

“What do you see in the day?” she said slowly. “Yes, the sun. What color is the sun? Yes, the sun is yellow.”

The cadence in her voice and simple repetitive phrasing have a calming effect on the children. Her classroom is cheerful, orderly and filled with bulletin boards and learning resources specifically designed to help autistic students learn. They each have their own color chair.

“Caden, sit in the green chair,” she says.

He comes back, sits down and the lesson continues. In this class, the lesson is as much about staying focused, following directions and listening as it is about the sun, the moon and the stars.

SPC Education Internships

All College of Education students at SPC are given extensive experience in public schools including diverse placements in elementary, middle and high schools. The role veteran educators’ play in coming alongside new teachers like Pilsbury is priceless.

“I learned so much in my final internships,” Pilsbury said. “That was when I really knew I was ready to be a teacher and have my own class.”

Her final internship was at Blanton Elementary School, where she was mentored by veteran teacher Kathleen Hehn in a K-2 classroom for Independent Varying Exceptionalities (IVE). The Kindergarten-Grade 2 children in her class had a variety of special needs stemming from Traumatic Brain Injuries, Seizure Disorders and Downs Syndrome.

Hands on learning

In her first year of teaching, Pilsbury worked with funding from USF’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) to plant a garden on campus that the kids worked in. The produce stand they created brought a new level of excitement and learning to her class.

Click to enlarge
Hands on learning project pelican Hands on learning project

“They were exchanging money and communicating with others,” she said. “They said things like ‘What would you like?’ It was so exciting.”

She is applying for grants for the same project again this year in partnership with CARD, the Partnership for Effective Programs for Students with Autism (PEPSA) and The Florida Farm Bureau.

Local CEC chapter hosts state conference

Pilsbury was the winner of the local version of the same award in April. Since that time, she also was named Vice President of the Suncoast 176 Chapter of the CEC.

She and a team of other members of the local chapter are busy finalizing plans to host this year’s Florida CEC Annual Conference, Going to Bat for Kids, Oct. 17-19 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront.

Read Full Post »

The Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Florida College System have entered into an agreement that will help bachelor’s degree students at St. Petersburg College and other state colleges transition smoothly into FSU’s online Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice Studies.

Any student who is enrolled in a Florida College System bachelor’s program in criminal justice or public safety administration and meets FSU’s admissions requirements, will be guaranteed admission into FSU’s online Master in Criminal Justice Studies program.

“The signing of this articulation agreement is groundbreaking,” said Chancellor Randy Hanna. “This agreement demonstrates our commitment to collaboration with our partners in the State University System and provides an excellent opportunity for our students to continue their higher education at a top university.”

Of the 24 state colleges approved to offer bachelor’s degrees, two have programs in criminal justice and five, including SPC, have programs in public safety administration/management.

The agreement also allows interested students to take two courses from FSU while still enrolled in their bachelor’s degree programs. These courses will count toward their master’s degree upon formal admission into the program.

Thomas G. Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at FSU, notes, “This is a life-changing opportunity for undergraduate students. This partnership not only allows students to fast-track their graduate coursework, but also gives them access to one of the top-ranked criminology programs in the nation, analytical and critical thinking skills, and an entire toolbox of resources they can use to find employment at top criminal justice agencies.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 147 other followers