Posts Tagged ‘St. Petersburg College’

Student success rates continue to climb at St. Petersburg College, particularly among First-Time-in-College minority students.

Since 2012, SPC has focused on improving student success rates, defined as earning a grade of A, B or C in a course. Rates for FTIC students taking summer classes have jumped 7.6 percent since 2012, a positive sign since, traditionally, these students have struggled academically and dropped their classes more often than other students.

Gains among FTIC African-American males were particularly strong, rising 23.3 percent since Summer 2012. FTIC Hispanic males saw gains of 17.5 percent.

“These results are a testament to all the hard work that has been put into improving ‘The College Experience’ for our students,” said Jesse Coraggio, Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Grants. “The term-to-term comparisons continue to show impressive course success gains for all students while at the same time narrowing the ‘achievement gap’.”

SPC launched The College Experience in Fall 2012 to keep the college focused on giving students the support they need to earn the degree or certificate that will change their lives. The College Experience includes five tools: out-of-class support, integrated career and academic advising, an online learning plan that specifies courses, new student orientation and early alerts, which identify struggling students early on so they stay enrolled in the courses.

Overall success rates among all students also improved, climbing 2.3 percent to 80.8 percent.

Registration at SPC continues for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 18.


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From left: Melissa Joy Petrescue, Melissa Dabydeen, Madeline Stubbs and Sydney Mundorff speak as part of a panel during a session that was added to the schedule by NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt.

From left: Melissa Joy Petrescue, Melissa Dabydeen, Madeline Stubbs and Sydney Mundorff became the experts on a panel during a recent conference on peer advising.

Four St. Petersburg College students became the experts on a panel at the National Academic Advising Association Summer Institute in St. Petersburg on July 29.

The students, who serve as peer advisors at SPC’s Seminole Campus, attended the conference to learn how to bolster the college’s Peer Advising Program, which launched in October 2013.

Initially attending the conference to learn about different advising methods, the students soon found the tables turned when they were suddenly asked to answer questions regarding their experiences as peer advisors.

“All eyes were on our students,” said Malena Buck, Student Life and Leadership Coordinator who started the SPC Peer Advising Program at the Seminole Campus. “The students were constantly challenged with questions regarding their own student experiences and with their experiences as peer advisors.”

The students were asked to explain SPC’s program in detail and answer questions specific to their roles as students and peer advisors.

“This was a great opportunity to hear these experiences directly from students,” said Charlie Nutt, Executive Director of NACADA. He said participants raved about the quality of SPC’s peer advisors.

For the students, the experience of not only attending but actively participating in the summer institute was exciting and enlightening.

“This conference boosted my confidence as a peer advisor,” said Melissa Dabydeen, an Associate in Arts student at the Seminole Campus. “The detailed information that I learned in the sessions was extremely helpful and the opportunity to sit on a panel was a wonderful experience.”

Madeline Stubbs, newest peer to the Seminole team, said she was excited for the privilege to share the college’s Peer Advising Program with other colleges across the nation.

“This conference has provided me with a much better understanding of the purpose behind the peer advising program,” said Melissa Joy Petrescue. “I have a greater sense of purpose as I see how my role fits in with the big picture.”

The peer advisors are working with Buck and the NACADA faculty, to create a mission statement and action plan to help raise awareness of the program throughout student services.

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Two student civic engagement projects are rolling out this fall as the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College puts strategies of the Florida College System’s Civics Literacy Initiative into action.

The Florida College System Civic Literacy Initiative launched as a workshop hosted by the Institute in October 2013. The initiative aims to make civic engagement a part of the college experience of every student in the FCS system.

The first project is TurboVote, an electronic platform that assists students in registering to vote by becoming part of their fall college registration process. The second, called The Great Debate, is a revival of inter-campus debate competition from past years to recruit students for the first round of debates in mid-October.


SPC announced in June that it was joining the TurboVote partnership, along with the rest of the colleges in the Florida College System. TurboVote is a non-partisan electronic system that makes it easy for students to register to vote for the first time.

Following up on the June announcement, Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, recently appointed two SPC faculty members as implementers of the TurboVote project:

  • Tara Newsome, Associate Professor, Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Earl Fratus, Instructor, Social Sciences

The two are working to integrate TurboVote into SPC’s registration and orientation process. They also are working with the Student Life and Leadership Coordinators around the college to provide TurboVote voter registration tables at fall Welcome Back events on all campuses.

Smiley said an announcement will be added to the ANGEL home page, in the Public Announcement section. Arrangements also are being made for a link in the new learning platform, Desire2Learn.

Thanks to a 50 percent discount offered to the FCS by TurboVote, the Institute was able to fund the upfront costs for all member colleges of the system to ensure maximum participation. To date, only two of the 28 colleges have not joined.

Since launching its college partnerships program at Harvard University and Miami Dade College in January 2012, TurboVote’s partnerships program has grown to include more than 125 institutions nationwide, including 35 participating institutions in Florida.

The Great Debate

The second project, The Great Debate, is a competitive academic event that invites students to engage in debate of topical issues outside the classroom.

ISPS sees it as an ideal vehicle to advance one of the goals of the Civics Literacy Initiative. Six campuses have committed to the competition:

  • Seminole
  • Clearwater
  • St. Petersburg/Gibbs
  • Tarpon Springs
  • Downtown/Midtown
  • Health Education Center

Students who volunteer for the competition are randomly paired to debate the pro or con viewpoint of an assigned issue. The best debater from each campus will advance to the finals and compete for cash prizes. Implementers on each campus will recruit instructors to make the debate competition a component of their classes, especially in Speech, Communications, Ethics and Social Sciences.

Preliminary competition will be held during between-class lunch breaks the week of Oct. 13-17. Finals will be held Nov. 13 in the Digitorium at the Seminole Campus.

The Great Debate fulfills three of the SPC’s strategic priorities by promoting critical thinking, effective communication, independent research and teamwork while also encouraging civic engagement:

  • Student Success Initiative
  • Out-of-Class Learning and
  • The College Experience Initiative

The 2014 election year is an ideal time to re-launch this initiative. There is no shortage of controversial issues to debate, some of which will be on the November ballot and some that are in play on the national stage. This project will broaden public understanding of those issues.

“This is just the kind of project we envisioned to fulfill goals of the Civics Literacy Initiative,” said Jim Olliver, Provost, Seminole Campus. “It combines in- and out-of-class experiences that get students involved in studying issues important to their community and state while expanding their academic knowledge and career-building skills. It’s a win-win-win for them, for SPC, and for civics engagement.”

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Tampa Bay Times coverage

Bay News 9’s coverage

To help strengthen the skills of Tampa Bay’s future workforce, St. Petersburg College will award $520,000 in scholarships through a National Science Foundation grant to academically talented and financially disadvantaged students who pursue degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.

The initiative will support students as they earn a degree and find employment in STEM fields. The grant will target women and minorities, who have been historically underrepresented in those areas. The program, called Tampa Bay SEEDS (Scholarships for Education & Employment Development in STEM) will also help fill a crucial gap in skilled workers in the Tampa Bay area, Florida and the United States.

“This grant demonstrates SPC’s deep commitment to accessible, learner-centered instruction and STEM education,” said President Bill Law. “The program will ensure a diverse applicant pool for potential STEM scholars at our college. It is very exciting for me personally because the project harmonizes with a student success initiative called The College Experience.”

Through the grant, students will engage in The College Experience by using integrated academic and career advising, tutoring centers, a project-specific orientation and career mentoring. Over the five-year grant, 80 students will be selected to take an employment-centered curriculum that includes job shadowing and internships. Students will work with newly created Campus Faculty Champions, who will give each student a “road map to graduation.” Using this road map, students will identify academic goals, determine which academic support services they need and investigate STEM careers.

“St. Petersburg College is to be commended on its efforts to help students achieve success through a higher education in STEM,” wrote Abdul Lateef, chief executive officer for local manufacturing firm Plasma-Therm, in a letter of support for the project. “This one project could have a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay region and help prepare future workers for high-demand careers in STEM.”

At the state level, Florida will need 120,000 new STEM workers by 2018, according to the Florida Department for Economic Opportunity. In addition, Enterprise Florida estimates that 15 out of the 20 fastest growing job fields in the state will require a STEM education.

Locally, a study commissioned in 2011 by the Tampa Bay Partnership projects that job growth in the high technology electronics and instruments industry and marine and environmental industries will grow by 10% by 2020, resulting in 22,000 new jobs. This report also notes there are 19 billion-dollar corporate headquarters in the Tampa Bay area, with four being Fortune 500 companies. Recently, several national technology companies have located facilities in the area and need an educated workforce with STEM skills.

“We are keenly aware of the worrisome shortage of new graduates entering the workforce in the STEM fields,” said Ed Peachey, president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas. “We are pleased that as students in the Tampa Bay region look to transition to an institution of higher learning, they will find an abundance of STEM training and degree opportunities at St. Petersburg College. For years, SPC has demonstrated its commitment to STEM and to helping attract a diverse group of students.”

SPC will bring its prior experience with STEM scholarship programs to bear, since it has ten years’ experience with similar National Science Foundation grants and initiatives. For example, from 2007 to 2011, Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) were awarded to 152 students, exceeding the project’s goal of 100.

The $6,500 individual scholarships will be available beginning Spring 2015.



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Share this moment with friends and family by using the #SPCGrad hashtag and any of our images for your social media accounts.

St. Petersburg College will mark its 125th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. About 350 of the 1,121 graduates are expected to participate.

“We congratulate the students – and their families – who have persevered to this graduation milestone. They always inspire us with their determination,” said President Bill Law.

SPC dates back to 1927 when it became Florida’s first two-year institution of higher learning. There were 48 members of the first graduating class in 1929.

Saturday’s ceremony is expected to last about an hour. Featured speakers include Crystal Hampton, representing four-year programs, and Tait Sorenson, representing lower division programs.

“I’m 35, but (my mom) still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker,” said Hampton, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration. Read her story here.

“The faculty and the advisors at SPC really encouraged me in finding the roadmap that would get me where I wanted to be,” said Sorenson, who will earn his A.A. degree from SPC and pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida in the fall. Read his story here.

Graduates and guests can check our instructions page for the big day. You can also follow social media posts and catch a live stream of the ceremony on our page dedicated to the ceremony.

Here are our summer graduates by the numbers:


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Jonathan Jacques, president of the Seminole Campus SGA presents his campus' student budget July 11.

Seminole Campus Student Government Association President Jonathan Jacques presents his campus’ student budget on July 11.

Providing free Microsoft Office programs and counseling services to St. Petersburg College students has proven to be very popular. For the third straight year, Student Government Association leaders from SPC campuses will support both items in their 2014-15 budgets.

Each year, SGA groups receive 25 percent of student activities funds to develop spending plans that support enrichment activities for campuses and students. They present their budgets to SPC officials, who this year included Tonjua Williams, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, and Jamelle Conner, Associate Vice President for Business Services.

“I can’t wait to see what you do this year,” said Williams. “This is what leadership is about – when you realize it’s not about you, but your students and those you serve.”

The SGA budget is split among campuses based on student semester hours at each location. Student groups and clubs can request funds for their events and groups through their SGA by explaining their budget requests in an online form or making their cases to their SGA in person.

“We require clubs to get multiple quotes for events and appear before the SGA” to be considered for funds, said Dee Evans, treasurer of the SGA at the Health Education Center, which didn’t have a strong student government group until two years ago. The SGA office at HEC is now located in the cafeteria and officers routinely scout the campus for new members.

Williams took note of their progress.

“I want to applaud how far you’ve come in two years,” she said. “It’s hard to get an SGA up and running, and it’s pretty brilliant having your office near the food.”

Direct from Athens, Greece

This year, Clearwater SGA President Euripides Stephanou presented his campus’ budget from Athens, Greece, via Skype.

“I’m honored that I can represent my campus from 6,000 miles away,” said Stephanou, who believes community events are one of the best recruiting tools the college has. “Our community events engage individuals who may want to enter college life and further their education.”

Supporting the College Experience

Many SGA groups developed their budgets in line with the college’s values as detailed in The College Experience. For example, the Seminole Campus allotted $15,000 for peer advising last year. It was so successful the college picked up the tab this year. Tarpon Springs is adopting the initiative this year with their own allocation of $15,000.

“It really bridges the gap between professional career advising and academic advising,” said Melissa Dabydeen, vice president of Seminole’s SGA. “The best feeling in the world is when they give you back the (electronic paging) buzzer and seeing them satisfied and their questions answered.”

Williams became a true fan of peer advising after sitting in on some sessions with students.

“It’s less intimidating for students, who don’t feel judged and were able to be candid. Any campus that is not doing this is missing out,” she said.

Campus by campus

This year, the $1.3 million will be divided as follows:

Other hot topics

Another topic on the minds of students was transportation. In the past, the Seminole Campus SGA provided passes for students to ride Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses. Currently the college is in talks with PSTA to provide free bus rides for all students to and from the college’s nine locations beginning in the fall.

Creating opportunities for fellowship among students, like intramural sports and campus events, remains a priority for SGA groups. Providing counseling and referrals through BayCare Student Assistance Program is also crucial.

“Most students go to BayCare because of stress so activities like intramurals are very important to relieve some of that,” Williams said. “I’m really addressing stress this year because our students really struggle with it. It affects everything they do, how they act, eat, perform in school, everything.”

The BayCare program offers expanded support services and counseling for students in addition to training for faculty and staff in dealing with student concerns and assistance after incidents that would impact students collegewide. Students get three counseling sessions a year through the program.

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St. Petersburg College has received national recognition for making significant strides in its effort to increase minority student enrollment and success.

SPC made the list as No. 83 in the Top 100 Four-Year Colleges and Universities Enrollment Undergraduate Degrees by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine in May 2014.

The move to increase Hispanic student enrollment at SPC is underway in light of the recent passage of House Bill 851, more commonly known as the immigrant tuition bill. The bill allows Florida colleges and universities to waive out-of-state fees for undocumented immigrants who attended state high schools.

Stan Vittetoe, Provost at the SPC Clearwater Campus, said the Hispanic population is underserved.

“They make up more than 20 percent of the Clearwater population but represent only 10 percent of our enrollment,” he said.

In 2012, SPC launched The College Experience, a major initiative to increase student success and graduations. While the plan is producing positive results, the greatest advances have been among African-American and Hispanic males.

“All of the components in The College Experience have a demonstrated impact on the success rates of students, particularly minority students,” Vittetoe said.

In addition to these institutional initiatives, the college also is reaching out to the international community, including Hispanics, in a variety of other ways. The most recent outreach activity was the FIFA World Cup viewing party at the Clearwater Campus on June 17. More than 100 community members attended the free event, which was open to SPC students, staff and members of the public.

“We think that these kinds of events will help members of the Hispanic community become aware of the campus and the educational opportunities here,” Vittetoe said.

Success among minority students

Success Among Minority Students infographic

Narrowing the Achievement Gap

A comparison of First-Time-in-College male ethnicities shows that the achievement gap between key ethnic groups at SPC is narrowing.

Narrowing the Gap infographic

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