Archive for the ‘Strategic Policy Institute’ Category

Volunteer-seaoatsJoin community members and St. Petersburg College students as they plant sea oats to honor Sen. Dennis L. Jones at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, June 28, at Gulf Front Park, 10400 Gulf Blvd. in Treasure Island.

Jones was the inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Public Service Award last year from the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College. The institute, the City of Treasure Island and the Treasure Island Beach Stewardship Committee are sponsoring the event.

The effort commemorates Jones’ 32 years of public service and his efforts to preserve the shorelines of Pinellas County and Florida. Jones earned the nickname “Sandman” for his work on the Florida Beach and Shore Preservation Act, which was consequently named for him.

In 1998, Jones helped create a fund for beach restoration and maintenance that receives about $20 million a year from state taxes. To date, this fund has contributed $541.6 million to beach restoration projects in cost-sharing efforts with local governments on local and federally authorized projects, resulting in the restoration of more than 226.7 miles, or nearly 57%, of the state’s critically eroded beaches.

To volunteer, register today.

Follow the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions on Twitter at #polisol.

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The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions will host a forum entitled “Our Families’ Four Generations: Ready or Not, Here We Are!” from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at the SPC Seminole Campus Digitorium. The forum is jointly hosted by the 4Generations Institute of Tallahassee and the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC. The Tampa Bay Times is Presenting Sponsor.

4 Gen Flyer Graphic LgThe public is invited and advance registration is required at http://solutions.spcollege.edu.

Advances in medicine, workplace safety, risk management and healthy nutrition practices in the last 50 years have vastly increased life expectancy in the United States. As a result, Americans are experiencing an unprecedented demographic shift: four full generations in relatively good health living side by side.

Florida is a model of the demographic reality the nation will face in 40 years. There are currently 3.3 million Floridians, age 65-plus, living in the Sunshine State – 18 percent of the population. More than 500,000 of them are over 85. Pinellas County’s age demographics are even more tilted toward an older population: 21.5 percent of its population are 65 or older, and 4 percent are 85-plus.

How our four generations – children, parents, grandparents and super-elders – can live in harmony and mutual support is the subject of this community conversation.

A panel of experts representing programs serving each stage of life will explore how, by creative action and effective advocacy, the four generations can leverage the assets of each age group for the betterment of all.

“The needs for health care, education, family services, employment, public safety and environmental protection are best addressed through the lens of our four major age groups,” said Jack Levine, founder of 4Generations Institute. “How we address the needs of the four generations is among the most critical economic and public policy challenges for the next decade.”

The Community Conversation, moderated by Levine, will include six Pinellas County leaders whose organizations serve one or more of the four life stages:

  • Dr. Marcie Biddleman, Executive Director, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County
  • Eileen Boyle, Executive Director, Allegany Franciscan Ministries
  • Hon. Rene Flowers, Member of the Pinellas County School Board
  • Judge Raymond Gross of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Family Court
  • Jeff Johnson, Director, AARP of Florida
  • Shannon Reid, Vice President of Education and Practice Management, Raymond James Financial

The 4Generations Institute is a non-profit organization based in Tallahassee that promotes community volunteerism for the mutual benefit of the four generations: children/youth, parents, grandparents and elders. Its goal is to identify model intergenerational programs and projects, to expand the impact of quality mentoring and volunteer initiatives and to cultivate an environment to nurture communications across the generations.

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College is a resource for academic enrichment, a non-partisan venue for civil, objective debate of topical public issues, a center to promote better government and a resource for sustainable economic development. Its mission is to support a broad array of research, training, educational and policy analysis and support activities at the local, state, regional and national levels.

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Dennis JonesA new tradition was established at St. Petersburg College in February with the inaugural Distinguished Public Service Award Dinner. The Feb. 21 event, staged by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at the Seminole Campus, honored former SPC vice president Dennis L. Jones for his 32 years of public service as a state senator, state representative, civic leader and doctor of chiropractic medicine in St. Petersburg.

Nearly 200 people, including 18 current or former public officials and a large number of SPC administrators and staff, filled the Conference Center at Seminole to honor the work of Sen. Jones and to recognize exemplary public service in general. As Dean Susan Demers of SPC’s College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies put it in her role as master of ceremonies, the ancient Greeks considered public service to be the highest calling of mankind, and Sen. Jones epitomized that quality in his career and life.

SPC President Bill Law opened the program by recognizing Sen. Jones for his role in funding and creating the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, which serves as a conduit for civic engagement and academic enrichment within SPC and the community, and also represents all 28 members of the Florida College System in the public policy arena.

In summing up Sen. Jones’ career, speakers focused on the important legislation that he had a major role in passing as well as on his skill at building consensus by working across party lines. A humorous note was provided in a video message by former House Speaker Fred Lippman, who served with Sen. Jones in the Florida House for 20 years. Dr. Lippman, now chancellor at Nova Southeastern University, said that the two of them were responsible for passage of more legislation in that period than any other legislators.

Seminole Provost Jim Olliver enumerated highlights of those legislative successes: mandatory child safety seats and driver/passenger seat belts, organ donor designation on driver licenses, Bright Futures Scholarships, “Rails to Trails” using old railroad corridors, Seminole Indian casino tax compact, state poison control registry and judicial reforms to aid small business. Among major projects affecting SPC, Dr. Olliver credited Sen. Jones for helping to secure funding for the Health Education campus, the Seminole Library and the Bay Pines STEM learning center.

Dr. James Winterstein, President Emeritus of National University of Health Sciences, spoke of Sen. Jones’ role in establishing the University Partnership Center, which includes NUHS’ doctor of chiropractic medicine program. And Kim Black, President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, offered detailed evidence of his commitment to public education.

Perhaps the most significant legislation credited to Sen. Jones is the Florida Beach and Shore Preservation Act, which created a continuing fund to finance repair of Florida beaches after storm-caused erosion. As Dr. Olliver noted, “Pinellas County especially, but every county in Florida that depends on sandy beaches to nurture its tourism industry, is indebted to him for ensuring that there will be continuing funding to keep those beaches healthy.”

To memorialize that accomplishment, the Institute arranged for a section of public beach in Treasure Island to be planted with sea oats after a June renourishment project is completed. The sea oats plants, which also served as table centerpieces and stage decor, were donated by a sponsor of the dinner, Green Seasons Nursery of Parrish. Students from the SPC chapter of the International City Managers Association have volunteered to help with the planting. Other sponsors were the Tampa Bay Times and National University Health Sciences.

Dr. Law concluded the program by unveiling the Distinguished Public Service Plaque, with Sen. Jones’ name as its first entry. It will be hung in the Conference Center foyer.

The Institute initiated the Distinguished Public Service Award to honor exemplars of the true meaning and purpose of public service — individuals who recognize that public service is a special calling and enter into it for the moral and humanitarian benefits derived from serving their country, state and community. The criteria for nomination are:

  • A distinguished career of public service in elective or appointive office — local, state or national OR a distinguished career serving the public interest in the private sector, either in the nominee’s profession or in a volunteer capacity.
  • An unblemished record of integrity and selflessness in public service.
  • A demonstrated spirit of bipartisanship in seeking solutions to public policy challenges
  • Overall, a career that best exemplifies public service and dedicated effort in keeping with the greatness of the United States of America.

With Dennis L. Jones as the first recipient, the bar is set high for future nominees. Hopefully, his example will inspire younger public servants to strive for his high standards.

For more photos from the event, please visit the Institute’s Facebook page.

Watch the event on the college’s YouTube channel.

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CB at Seminole

Clyde Butcher spoke to a full house at the Seminole Campus on Jan. 29.

By David Klement

Executive Director
Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

Clyde Butcher is an original — a genuine Florida character who defies alligators and mosquitoes in the muck of swamps to capture his priceless images of pristine nature and who minces no words in telling anyone who listens how poorly the state has managed its natural resources.

Clyde shared some of those images — and insights about how he shoots and processes them — along with choice words about the pollution of the Everglades, the state’s natural springs and its rivers, in two presentations sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College on Jan. 29. The eccentric photographic artist, in full Florida cracker regalia of flowered shirt, straw hat, baggy pants, croc shoes and chest-length white beard, commanded the room as he highlighted his life and his art in separate presentations to a student forum in the afternoon and a Village Square dinner program in the evening.

Butcher, often referred to as “the Ansel Adams of Florida,” is a gentle giant of a man who morphs into a mystic when you get him talking about the connection between the human spirit and nature. In his Village Square talk, he spoke of a communication bond between trees and plants and a chemical reaction in humans when exposed to a forest — a positive reaction.

He speaks of wilderness as being “a sacred necessity,” and recounts how, after the tragic death of his son at the hands of a drunk driver in 1986, he went into the deep woods of the Big Cypress National Preserve where “the mysterious spiritual experience of being close to nature helped to restore my soul.”

There is similar tone of mysticism when he speaks about his art. “I make pictures large enough so that you can see them,” he says in reference to his large-scale — as big as 4-by-5-feet– black-and-white photos of nature. “You have to scan, and the mind puts together what you see. I want you to see the sky, and veins in the leaves.”

The unique perspective of his pictures, along with the scale, “make people feel like they want to walk into them. I want people to be drawn in and feel their way through the environment.”

Yet in his public talks he is plain-spoken, talking nonchalantly about wading in chest-high waters teeming with gators and water moccasins to set up his tripod for the perfect shot, and in giving a humorous account of helping President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter briefly elude the Secret Service on one of his frequent “swamp walks.”

DK and ClydeAnd he is blunt when talking about the greatest threat to the Everglades: “In plain English, its s—,” he says, using the four-letter word for human waste. The incursion of development to the very edge of the Glades — in some cases beyond the edge — and destructive forms of agriculture such as sugar cane fields to the immediate north have done immense damage to the quality and quantity of the watery expanse named the “River of Grass” by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in her landmark book about the Everglades.

Clyde bemoans that careless regard for pristine wilderness as he disdains the politicians who pay lip service to environmental protection even as they strip funding from restoration programs.

But he worries more about an even greater threat to the Everglades: sea level rise brought about by climate change. By 2025, the Glades will be under water, he told me after the evening lecture. Extraordinary tides are already inundating parts of the preserve, and they will only get worse in the next few years.

The only solace to be found in that gloomy prediction is his promise to continue photographing those doomed patches of Eden even into his eighth decade. At least we will have his pictures to remind us of what once was. And those lucky enough to have attended his lectures will have the memories of having rubbed elbows with a living legend.

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The Tampa Bay Times is partnering with Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College to broadcast a live debate in the general election race to succeed the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

In a special edition of the show Political Connections, the Feb. 3 debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates will be hosted on the SPC Seminole Campus by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. It is sponsored by AARP.

“We believe this debate will not only inform the voters of District 13 but will air issues of great importance to the people of the entire Tampa Bay region,” said Times Editor Neil Brown. “A congressional seat has high stakes for all of us.”

The special election is March 11.

The debate, called a “Conversation with the Candidates,” will feature the winner of the Republican primary in January and Democrat Alex Sink. Republican candidates are Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters.

About 37 percent of the more than 455,000 voters in the district covering much of Pinellas County are Republican, 35 percent Democrat and about 28 percent independent or other party.

The event will be moderated by Political Editor Adam C. Smith and Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel.

“AARP has been equipping voters with information straight from the candidates on issues that matter for decades,” said Jeff Johnson, state director of AARP Florida. “We are excited to partner with the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 on this debate to help our community find out where the candidates stand on issues like the economy, financial security, and the future of retirement security programs such as Social Security and Medicare.”

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC also has experience in staging candidate debates, said Dr. James Olliver, campus provost, adding “our facility is second to none in the area.”

“Holding this event on campus gives us the benefit of providing our students, especially those studying public policy, with a front seat for a discussion of the major issues facing our nation today.”

The Times has produced debates for local, state and national offices for two decades, including races for Florida governor, Tampa and St. Petersburg mayors, the U.S. Senate and the 1996 national Vice Presidential Debate.

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International student from Mali

Sane Haidara, an international student from Mali, was one of the panelists at the forum World Peace: Let It Begin With Me, sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions on Thursday.

In a world filled with war and violence, St. Petersburg College student Sane Haidara believes peace can only be achieved through education.

Sane, 23, an international student from Timbuktu, Mali, came to SPC in December 2012 to get a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration. He wants to take what he learns to help implement change in his homeland.

“With education, I can help people by working with different organizations and officials on making things better,” said Sane, who wants to serve as a human rights activist and help educate his fellow Malians about their rights. He hopes to one day work with the United Nations to help make a difference.

He said that ignorance of laws and human rights is one of the biggest issues Malians face.

“Even though we have democracy in Mali, people still don’t know what democracy really means,” he said. “My goal upon completing my education is to go back to Timbuktu and help improve educational opportunities and human rights—especially women’s rights—health, sanitation and malnutrition.”

In spring 2013, he began prerequisite courses at the Clearwater Campus. While he finds the classes exciting, they also are challenging. In Mali, education is very different; math is not required for all majors and students often are taught strictly to memorize rather than develop critical thinking skills.

In Timbuktu, poor families often do not send their children to school. Girls in particular are largely uneducated. His father graduated from middle school and completed a two-year training school to become a teacher. His mother was illiterate.

Despite the community sentiment, his father believed education was paramount and sent all of his seven children to school, including his daughters.

“He tried to speak up in the community, saying that everybody should send their girls to school,” Sane said. “Others responded that he was a poor man and asked why he would send all his children to school when they could work in the field and help earn money.

“My father said that he has lived in the darkness because he did not have much education. He was determined for his children to not know that darkness,” Sane said. This ideology is a driving force behind his desire to learn.

At age 9, he began delivering bread to the U.S. military before school to earn some money to help support his family and pay school supplies. After school, he often would help Mali tourists around the city because his home was located between two hotels.

“I would help the tourists around the city so I could practice more of my languages,” said Sane, whose native language is Songhai but also fluently speaks Tamasheq, Bambara, English and French, as well as limited Italian and German.

Helping the tourists also had another unexpected outcome. During their visit to Timbuktu, he met tourists Tony and Patti Leisner from Tarpon Springs. They corresponded with him throughout the years, sending him books and encouraging his education.

After high school, he studied literature for two years at the University of Bamako before putting his linguistic skills to use as an interpreter for the U.S. military.

“I realized this is a good way to start a business because there are not a lot of interpreter businesses in Mali,” said Sane. A few months later, he ended up with contracts with the U.S. and Canadian governments to provide interpreters for trainings.

While he was living and working in Bamako in early 2012, Islamic extremists and insurgents invaded northern Mali. They imposed their version of Sharia Law by first burning churches and attacking Christians and tourists. Women no longer were allowed to speak to men and were forced to wear burkas to cover their bodies.

“The people who resisted, who were activists and marched to protest it, got publicly beaten,” Sane said. “Some got their hands chopped off; some got stoned to death.”

He worried about the safety of his family and neighbors in Timbuktu, particularly due to his business affiliation with western military forces. He decided the only way to ensure their safety was to help facilitate their escape to Bamako, where they stayed for nine months before returning to Timbuktu.

When the U.S. forces began suspending aid in Mali, he lost his business contract and was uncertain what to do. That’s when the Leisners helped him to get a U.S. student visa so he could study Public Policy and Administration at St. Petersburg College. They invited him to stay at their Tarpon Springs home until he could get situated.

Now at SPC, Sane is using every available opportunity to learn and work toward his goal of future activism. He is gaining leadership experience as vice president of the International Club, a member of the Clearwater Campus Student Government Association and is part of the Model United Nations team.

He often thinks about when he said goodbye to his family and friends in Timbuktu before coming to the U.S. The people there said their hope was in him, that they know he will come back to help them.

With every class he takes, Sane is determined to not let them down.

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PEACE group image

St. Petersburg College students have a choice of in-person or virtual attendance at the Nov. 14 forum on world peace sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions.

The program will be from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Digitorium on the Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N. Students unable to attend in person may view live streaming of the event at mms://media.spcollege.edu/worldpeace and participate in the question-and-answer segment by email.

Titled World Peace: Let It Begin with Me, the forum is co-sponsored by Rotary International, Seeds of Peace and Tri-Sense Medical, LLC. A panel moderated by SPC Associate Professor Roy Slater will offer insights on war and peace and suggest ways that young people can become involved in advocating for peace and against war.

On the panel:

  • Earl Fratus, SPC Associate Professor of Political Science and History.
  • Sane Haidara, an SPC student who fled war in his homeland of Mali in 2012, who will provide a student’s perspective on war and peace
  • Dustin Lemke, a professor at Hillsborough Community College who is active in the Quakers’ Peace and Social Concerns Committee.

Faculty on SPC campuses with technology-enabled classrooms are encouraged to participate in the forum virtually with their students. They may submit questions for the panel by emailing policysolutionsinstitute@spcollege.edu.

Admission is free, but advance registration is requested at http://www.spcollege.edu/survey/14399.

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The Florida College System made a major commitment to expanding Civics Literacy in its curriculum at a workshop Oct. 9-10 at the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus. The college’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions was designated as the lead resource to implement the project.

At the close of the two-day workshop — attended by about 90 people representing 24 of the 28 colleges in the state college system — Florida College System Chancellor Randy Hanna pledged the full support of his office to the project, which is known as the FCS Civics Literacy Initiative.

The workshop attracted key state leaders, educators and administrators. Among keynote speakers were former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, and Florida Bar President Eugene K. Pettis.

Introduced by SPC President Bill Law, Graham called the workshop “one of the most important gatherings on this topic that will be held in Florida and indeed in the United States in 2013.”

Recounting the decline of civics knowledge in this country since the 1970s, Graham cited the classroom as one of the first places to go to regenerate interest in this issue, which is vital to the health of our democracy. He singled out the community college system as one of the best resources for the effort because of its “nimble nature” and ability to respond quickly to changing educational needs and demands.

SPC’s faculty was well represented on the program. They included Dr. Joseph Smiley, dean of Social and Behavioral Science, and Dr. Susan Demers, dean of the College of Policy, Ethics & Legal Studies, both panel members.

Dr. Tara Newsom, associate professor of Social & Behavioral Science, was a panel facilitator.

Other SPC faculty serving on panels included Dr. Suzanne Preston, professor of Social Science; Prof. Jeffery Kronschnabl, instructor in charge, Public Policy & Administration Baccalaureate Programs; and Prof. Earl Fratus, associate professor of Social Science.

Jared Ferreira, an SPC student and former president of the FCS Student Government Association, represented the student perspective on a panel. At least 12 SPC students attended part of the workshop.

David Klement, executive director of the institute, joined Chancellor Hanna and Assistant Chancellor Kasongo Butler at the close of the workshop to accept responsibility for maintaining the project website, and collaborating with the Florida College System office to share best practices and devise measurement tools.

The initiative is viewed as a long-term project, one that will impact both students throughout the state and communities served by the participating colleges.

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This month St. Petersburg College hosted a statewide forum, “Closing the Gap: The Florida College System Civics Literacy Initiative,” which aimed to come up with ways to enhance civic learning and democratic engagement for students in the Florida College System.

The initiative is inspired and supported by former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, who has made the revival of civics education a passion since retiring in 2005. Graham, pictured below upper left, was the keynote speaker Oct. 9.

The project, in partnership with the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida, the Education Commission of the States and the FCS Council of Presidents, seeks to close the civics education gap that many American leaders regard as a national crisis and to regenerate citizen engagement.

The ultimate goal is to teach the basics of democracy to the current and succeeding generations in the state college system and to provide tools and resources for the K-12 school system. The purpose of the workshop was to design the tools and methods to put into action five initiatives identified by key stakeholders at a strategy session at the Collaborative Labs in April:

• Develop models to integrate civic literacy into cross-curriculum coursework
• Survey the Florida College System for best practices and establish an on-going clearing house to measure progress and share successes
• Embed civic literacy in the mission statements of the colleges in the FCS
• Develop a FCS Model Legislature
• Develop strategies to promote civic engagement among domestic and international immigrants and other special populations

Participants included Florida College System Chancellor Randy Hanna, center below; Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, President Bill Law, below right; Eugene Pettis, president of the Florida Bar; and a number of state education officials.




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Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham was the inaugural speaker for SPC's Village Square in 2012. His topic: Restoring Civics Education and Renewing Our Democracy.

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham was the inaugural speaker for SPC’s Village Square in 2012. His topic: Restoring Civics Education and Renewing Our Democracy.

Former Florida Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham will be the keynote speaker to kick off a two-day workshop on expanding civics education in the Florida College System next week. The workshop will be on Oct. 9-10 at the Seminole Campus.

Also scheduled to speak at the workshop are Florida College System Chancellor Randy Hanna, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, and Florida Bar President Eugene K. Pettis.

About 75 academic and administrative officers from across the Florida College System are registered for the workshop, which will be held in the conference center of the Library at SPC Seminole. The attendees, who represent 25 of the 28 colleges in the Florida College System, include chief academic officers, student affairs officers, deans of social science, several college presidents, faculty and students.

SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions is hosting the workshop in partnership with the Florida College System. Co-sponsors are the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida, the Education Commission of the States and the FCS Council of Presidents.

The Civics education initiative is inspired and supported by Gov. Graham, who has made the revival of civics education a passion since retiring from active public service in 2005. His book, America, The Owner’s Manual: Making Government Work for You, is a virtual textbook for teaching citizens how they can participate in their democracy in effective ways.

The workshop, titled Closing the Gap: The Florida College System Civics Literacy Initiative, seeks to close the civics education gap that many American leaders regard as a national crisis and regenerate citizen engagement. The ultimate goal of the project is to teach the basics of democracy to this and succeeding generations in the Florida College System, and provide tools and resources for the K-12 School System.

Key stakeholders developed for following goals for this workshop at a strategy session at SPC’s Collaborative Labs in April:

  • Develop modules to integrate civics literacy into cross-curriculum coursework
  • Develop strategies to promote civics engagement among domestic and international immigrants and other special populations
  • Develop a Florida College System Model Legislature
  • Embed civics literacy in the mission statements of the Florida College System
  • Survey the Florida College System for best practices and establish an on-going clearinghouse to measure progress and share successes

SPC President Bill Law will introduce Gov. Graham and participate in a panel for one of the workshop’s five sessions. Other SPC faculty and administrators on panels:

  • Dr. Susan Demers, Dean of the College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies
  • Dr. Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Jeff Kronschnabl, Instructor in Charge, College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies
  • Earl Fratus, Associate Professor, Political Science and History
  • Dr. Tara Newsom, Associate Professor, Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Dr. Suzanne Preston, Professor of Social Science
  • Jared Ferreira, SPC student and former president, FCS Student Government Association.

Dr. Tom Furlong, former SPC interim president who has been instrumental in organizing the workshop, also will participate in the program.

As a state-approved statewide policy center, the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College serves as the vehicle for the project and the clearing house for its on-going operation.

Follow the institute on Twitter at #polisol or on Facebook.

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