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A large group of people stand in front of a screen showing a live stream. SPC Tarpon Springs Campus Provost Rod Davies welcomed more than 30 people, in person and via Skype, to celebrate SPC’s new partnership with the University of the Aegean (UA) in Rhodes, Greece on Feb. 19. The new collaboration promotes an exchange of experiences and staff in the fields of business, education, humanities and culture. UA Rector Chryssi Vitsilaki and Dean Ioannis Seimenis joined the presentation via Skype.

“We’re very excited to go beyond borders to strengthen our connections with St. Petersburg College and to enhance the learning experience for students,” said UA Rector Chryssi Vitsilaki.

“We’re delighted to build a long-term partnership with the Greek community and to open the eyes of our students to travel and experience a new culture,” said Dr. Susan Demers, Acting VP of Academic Affairs.

City of Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos was instrumental in bringing the two institutions together.

“The signing between St. Petersburg College and the University of the Aegean will offer an excellent opportunity to expand education and offer students and faculties a truly unique view of our interconnected world,” Alahouzos said. “The city is proud, and we look forward to watching the relationship flourish over the coming years.”  

 

Florida A&M University (FAMU) is striking down in St. Petersburg to meet with future Rattlers at St. Petersburg College. The two institutions are clearing the path for students who are interested in transferring seamlessly from SPC to FAMU through the Ignite program, which offers guaranteed admission and saves students time and money.

FAMU Ignite Day will be hosted from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27 at the SPC St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, SS Lobby, 6605 5th Ave. N.

This event is open to anyone interested in becoming an SPC student today and a Rattler tomorrow. Attendees can meet with SPC and FAMU to learn about:

  • Transfer admissions process
  • Ignite scholarships
  • Housing/dorm information
  • Access to on-campus sporting events
  • Upcoming Ignite events

To RSVP for the event, visit stpe.co/spcfamuday22720. For more information, contact Sheryl Mundorff at Mundorff.sheryl@spcollege.edu.

 

The barriers that continue to hinder students from maximizing their career and academic potential will be at the forefront of SPC’s Moving the Needle Conference: Narrowing the Achievement Gap.

The sixth annual conference will be hosted from April 1-2, 2020 at the SPC Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St.

Attendees will learn how equity with regard to race, gender, age and disabilities affect a student’s success rate and ability to obtain economic stability and growth. The conference will focus on Accessibility and Veterans, African American and LatinX Students, Age and Gender Equity, and Classroom Support and Techniques. It will feature the following tracks:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Student support
  • Community partnerships

Workshops and panel conversations will dive deeper into topics including transportation, housing/evictions, policies and procedures, food insecurities, support services within the institutions of higher learning, community outreach, and engagement.

Experts are encouraged to submit proposals on best practices for: strengthening 504 Compliance and enriching accessibility services; community engagement opportunities; and next steps ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of student and community success plans for 2020. The deadline is Friday, Feb. 21.

For more information, visit movingtheneedleconference.com

 

St. Petersburg College is expanding its international footprint by announcing its newest partnership with the University of the Aegean in Rhodes, Greece. Over the next five years, SPC and UA are collaborating to promote an exchange of experiences and staff in the fields of business, education, humanities and culture.

The two institutions will officially sign the agreement at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 19 at the SPC Tarpon Springs Campus Interactive Gallery in the Fine Arts Building. The University of the Aegean Rector, Chryssi Vitsilaki and Dean, Ioannis Seimenis will be present via Skype.

“SPC is excited to sign this agreement and begin working with the University of the Aegean in Rhodes, Greece,” SPC Director for the Center for International Programs Frank Jurkovic said. “This agreement will allow SPC to offer more international opportunities for our students, staff and community. We hope to have temporary faculty and student exchanges and to work on bilateral and multilateral projects together.”

City of Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos was instrumental in bringing the two institutions together.

“The signing between St. Petersburg College and the University of the Aegean will offer an excellent opportunity to expand education and offer students and faculties a truly unique view of our interconnected world,” Alahouzos said. “The city is proud, and we look forward to watching the relationship flourish over the coming years.”

For more information about the international partnership, contact Frank Jurkovic at jurkovic.frank@spcollege.edu.

With 40 percent of nurses approaching retirement age over the next decade, job growth for registered nurses in Florida is projected to grow by 21 percent through 2026. The Florida Center for Nurses projects a critical shortage in the field that could cripple the state’s healthcare system and compromise patient care. St. Petersburg College is working fervently to provide the knowledge and experience that nursing students need to gain their licensure and be leaders in their field.

Practice Makes Perfect

nursingA large part of nurse training is practicing all the things that the nurses do on a daily basis. This is achieved through clinical experience. College of Nursing Dean Dr. Louisana Louis said that with increasing competition for clinical time at local hospitals, a key component of SPC’s clinical instruction is simulation.

“Simulation in nursing provides a safe, non-threatening environment for the student to demonstrate their clinical judgment and critical thinking abilities,” Louis said.

SPC uses simulation manikins to train students, including high fidelity manikins that act like actual patients in the real world. These manikins have pulses, their chests can rise and fall, and their eyes can react by blinking. Students can practice necessary skills like CPR on them to prepare the students before they ever have to work on a real person.

The Florida Board of Nursing encourages the use of simulation to accommodate the number of students in the nursing program. But Louis said that in order for the college to comply, more high-fidelity simulators are needed.

“We have to be able to allow students the proper amount of clinical time to reflect a real hospital experience and better prepare them to take care of patients in our community,” she said.

The Final Hurdle

Once nurses are finished with classes, the final step to becoming a registered nurse is passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Last year, SPC surpassed both the state and national rates with a whopping 93 percent of registered nursing students passing.

“The pass rates are proof that we’ve done our jobs well,” SPC College of Nursing Chair Virginia Schneider said. “It can only get better if we remain consistent in what we’re doing.”

Schneider worked for 23 years as a licensed practical nurse before returning to SPC to become an RN, then later joining the ranks of her alma mater to become first an instructor, then chair of the program in 2015. Schneider and the faculty she oversees use practice tests through Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) to measure student learning. If students don’t do well on a practice test, remediation is initiated. Schneider says test anxiety plays a big part, and she understands, because she has experienced it herself. So in addition to making students knowledgeable, she also offers a guided meditation to reduce anxiety on test day.

Assistant Dean of SPC’s College of Nursing Clare Owen attributes the high rates of student success to that level of faculty commitment.

“Many of our students are working adults, often with children or other family responsibilities. They need extra help to navigate a challenging program. The faculty are experts with years of clinical practice behind them, and they bring real-life experience into the classroom and make the lectures come alive for the students.”

SPC graduate Erin Hutter passed the NCLEX on the first try, though returning to school after 20 years was a challenge – especially in the testing department.

“I struggled with the test taking, but all of the ATI practice that they do really prepared me,” Hutter said. “And the faculty were so nice and supportive throughout the whole program.”

Schneider said that though it’s great that our students do so well on the NCLEX, it’s not just about test scores. Clinical experience, whether through simulation or in a real clinical setting, is what makes great nurses.

“Scores are wonderful, but clinical confidence is what’s really important. In our community, we graduate about 320 nurses each academic year. They feed right into local hospitals, about 75 percent at BayCare. Every faculty member wants to graduate students whom they would want to take care of them.”

 

At the end of 2019, St. Petersburg College’s Dean of Social/Behavioral Sciences and Human Services Dr. Joseph Smiley and Seminole Campus Provost Dr. Mark Strickland presented SPC’s Board of Trustees with recommendations from the African American male student success task force, formed in order to accelerate academic achievement and close achievement gaps for African American male students.

graduateSmiley said that discussions about student success over the past couple of years has made the issue of an achievement gap much more evident.

“When you look at the data, you see a very sore spot,” Smiley said.

SPC data shows that African American male success rates at just over 39 percent in Fall 2019, which is a -24.2 percent gap. Faced with this information, Smiley and Strickland, along with a task force made up of students, faculty and staff members, set about making a plan for change. After four months of research, they came up with several ways to assist African American male students.

Support is key, so the committee recommended an onboarding network, a mentoring program and a Learning Resources outreach initiative. The college is also considering the resurrection of the Brother to Brother program on all sites. The program, eliminated many years back due to budget constrictions, was designed to develop a sense of belonging for First-Time-In-College African American males. The program was so successful in previous years that other colleges across the nation have adopted the model.

Calvin Brown earned two Associate Degrees and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from SPC, then went on to earn a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He now works for the Pinellas County Urban League as a Workforce Development Specialist and at The Well for Life as a Master’s level clinician.

Brown said he was always did well in school, but Brother to Brother helped him through some personal issues that were blocking his success.

“I made good grades, but I had no direction and I was making super stupid decisions,” Brown said. “It was good to know I had support. Even after I finished, I would come back for advice on life. SPC was my home, and no matter how far I go in life, SPC will always be my home.”

The task force has advocated hiring a Director of Diversity and Inclusion Officer, whose primary responsibility would be to build a pipeline for the community to support African American male and other minority initiatives, including mentoring, partnerships and financial support.

Another area the task force wants to work on is training faculty and staff members, including mandating professional development focused on cultural competency, with a special focus on working with African American males and ensuring that the faculty and staff ethnic demographics match that of the community.

“Any good faculty member would want their students to succeed,” Strickland said. “But we have to be systemic. It doesn’t stop with just the faculty.”

“Students come from a community. Those communities have a vested interest in the success of their community members and can provide resources,” Smiley said. “We just have to put the infrastructure in place to provide community support. Successful students are more likely to get jobs and make a difference in their community.”

Strickland agrees, and believes the community will be a great resource.

“Communities are all different, he said. “But they all have African American males who need assistance. As word spreads that we need mentors, people will start stepping up.”

Extra support does not mean a reduction in rigor. Board member Nathan Stonecipher noted after the task force presentation at the November Board meeting that the work must continue to be challenging and rigorous.

“I think it’s critical that we’re in no way tying to lower the bar,” Stonecipher said. “It stays where it is, or it goes higher, because that’s what these students deserve. And that’s what we can give them.”

Some efforts are already underway. With research indicating that African American males perform better in courses that are shorter, the college is focused on adding more 8-week courses. And Smiley has already started reaching out systematically, sending a letter of encouragement to all Associate in Arts students, encouraging them to seek help from Learning Resources, communicate with instructors and register for the next term.

“We want you to finish what you started, and we want you to finish strong,” Smiley wrote.

SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams, along with the Board of Trustees, is excited about renewing efforts targeting the achievement gap among African American males.

“If you’re going to create a community of care, you can’t overlook equity,” Williams said. “If we’re going to make a difference in people’s lives, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves.”

 

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, which celebrates the value and achievements of CTE programs, also referred to as Workforce Education, across the country.

St. Petersburg College offers a short-term training alternative that prepares students to enter high-wage, in-demand careers, as well as two and four-year degrees in areas such as computer programming, cybersecurity, information technology, health sciences, advanced manufacturing and more.

SPC Dean of Workforce Michael Ramsey said programs like SPC’s align students to secure jobs in these burgeoning and lucrative fields.

“The opportunities are endless for short-term, two-year training programs that are in demand in the labor force,” said Ramsey. “SPC provides students with the skills to be successful and to gain high-wage careers in the Tampa Bay region.”

SPC has more than 30 two-year Associate in Science degrees and over 60 one-year certificates. In 2018-19, the college awarded more than 800 workforce certifications and continues to show an upward trend. With the education and services offered by SPC, students like Bradley Allen can graduate, get jobs in the tech field and make a lucrative living in an ever-expanding field.

Allen was working as a bartender at a resort while pursuing an Associate in Science in Computer Programming and Analysis at SPC. Everything was going great until the business closed with a week’s notice. Considering his future, Allen decided he wanted to move on from bartending and get his foot in the door of a tech company. That way he could establish his next career and put his schooling to use sooner rather than later. He contacted SPC’s Career Services office, where staff polished his resume and encouraged him to attend an upcoming Technology Career Summit. After attending that event and several others at SPC, in less than two months, he interviewed successfully and secured an apprenticeship with CloudPlus.

Allen thanked SPC for his apprenticeship.

“I wouldn’t be a part of this exciting, dynamic company, CloudPlus, without the help of SPC,” Allen said. “The road from school to career can be uncertain, but SPC helped shine the way.”