Archive for August, 2010

In a small corner of Seminole, in the middle of Florida’s most heavily developed county, a tract of nearly-forgotten land plays host to a wide variety of Florida plants and animals.

 The land, only about 40 acres in all, is owned by the college. It is the undeveloped half of a tract that the college acquired in 1969; the other half is home to the Seminole Campus.

 For years, the college has had ambitions to turn the land into a nature park, where students could observe the environment first-hand, and where Seminole residents could enjoy nature. Those ambitions became reality this year, when non-native plants (28 species in all) were removed from the site and construction began on a boardwalk, a 50-seat teaching pavilion and a floating dock (for use in water sampling) on the largest pond on the property.

 The nature park opens Tuesday. College officials knew there was plenty of wildlife on the site, which includes several ponds and wetlands as well as all sorts of plant life. But few people realized just how many species lived together in such close proximity on that small, suburban area.

 “We knew that site was a true asset to both the college and the community,” said Jim Olliver, Seminole’s provost. “But I don’t think anyone really knew just how alive that 40 acres was.”

 One person who was not surprised was Seminole resident Judy Fisher, an environmentalist who has spent many hours at the site, identifying plant and animal species of all types. Fisher’s research found rabbits, otters, opossums, raccoons, armadillos, coyotes and feral pigs; nearly 200 bird species; 24 species of dragonflies; 24 species of frogs, turtles, snakes and alligators; and seven species of butterflies.

 Common plants include slash pines, wax myrtle shrubs and sweetgum trees. Some others include sand live oak trees, red bay trees, grape vines and giant leather ferns.

 The recently completed boardwalk, nearly 200 yards long, offers a number of stations, which give visitors the opportunity to observe the site’s plants and animals. On one recent visit, a curious otter bounded up the boardwalk’s entryway and stopped to observe a human visitor before running off to a nearby pond. 

 The park and pavilion will support various SPC curricula (mostly in the sciences and especially for the Environmental Science Technology, and Parks and Leisure Services programs), and will offer recreation opportunities for the community. The Natural Habitat and Environmental Center will be open Monday through Friday from dawn to dusk; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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      Enrollment at St. Petersburg College continued its pattern of vigorous growth for the fall term, increasing to more than 32,000 students, an 11.2 percent increase over the same period last year.

      The college never has served more students than it will this fall.

      The increase in enrollment marks the second year in a row that SPC has recorded enrollment increases of more than 10 percent. Last year’s fall enrollment was 13.1 percent higher than the previous fall.

      Patrick W. Rinard, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, said fall enrollment was 32,132 unduplicated, credit-seeking students as of Monday, the first day of classes for the 2010-11 academic year. On the opening day of classes a year ago, enrollment was 28,897.

      Rinard said there are numerous reasons contributing to one of the biggest expansions of student enrollment in SPC’s history.

       “The sluggish economy is one contributor, certainly, as people return to school to improve their qualifications for employment,” he said. “Several new associate and bachelor’s degree programs are other factors.”

        The high quality of instruction offered by SPC; the value of education that SPC offers (almost a third less than the state universities); and the convenience of SPC’s campus locations, which exist throughout Pinellas County, also are factors, he said.

       Enrollment in associate degree programs increased 10.7 percent; bachelor’s degree  enrollment went up 20.5 percent. A year ago, those increases were 12 percent and 24.7 percent respectively.

       The most dramatic enrollment increases were recorded in some of the college’s newer bachelor’s programs, Business Administration. Sustainability Management and Biology.

       Kay Burniston, Vice President of Baccalaureate Programs, said the figures demonstrate the enthusiasm that Pinellas County residents have for SPC’s bachelor’s  degree programs. SPC began offering bachelor’s degrees in 2002.

       “A decade ago, we believed strongly that there was great demand for a four-year college here in Pinellas County,” Burniston said. “I am pleased that our program offerings are meeting the community and industry needs.”

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            The second in a series of programs examining the impact of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico – and particularly the impact on Pinellas County – was held late Wednesday at the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College.

            “The Gulf Oil Crisis: Next Steps for Tampa Bay” took a close look at how the Tampa Bay region has been impacted by the spill, and how the area might prepare itself for similar future incidents.   

            One of the panelists, oil industry expert Dan Bedard, spent some time before the session discussing, among other things, the impact on the county. He noted that while Pinellas County has managed to avoid environmental damage from the spill, there’s been quite of a bit of economic damage.

            Tourists in northern states and in Europe have avoided Florida vacations because of the perception that the oil spill has damaged shorelines in the entire state. Restaurant owners, hotel operators and others have suffered serious losses as a result.

  Bedard’s comments can be viewed here and here.

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Rod Keskiner, facilities worker at the Clearwater campus, celebrated his second Bar Mitzvah on Saturday at age 39. Rod believed that his cerebral palsy may have prevented him from fully appreciating his orginal Bar Mitzvah at age 13. Read the TBO.com story about Rod’s Bar Mitzvah here.

Here’s the speech Rod wrote for his Bar Mtzvah ceremony:

Twenty six years ago when I was thirteen, I had my first Bar Mitzvah. I had that Bar Mitzvah because I was in the Bar and Bat Mitzvah class and it was just what everyone did. I was too young to really understand that it was a commitment to my faith.

A year ago, Rabbi Birnholz and I were talking and he suggested the possibility of doing a second Bar Mitzvah to celebrate 3 X 13 on my 39th birthday.  At first I thought he was just being nice, and I worried if I said yes, I would be doing a Bar Mitzvah for the same reason that I did it when I was 13 – because it was expected of me.

Fortunately I talked to Cantor Bain and she helped me realize that Rabbi was really sincere about doing this because he felt it would help me to reconnect with my Jewish heritage.


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More than 400 students and families, friends, and SPC staff, senior administration and faculty celebrated with the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Scholars recipients at the Palladium Theater on Aug. 5. The event was sponsored by the college and the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Chapter of the National Council on Black American Affairs.

“I thought it was absolutely fabulous,” said Lolita Brown, SPC counselor at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus and president of the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Chapter of the NCBAA. “It was not the first time we’ve actually had a ceremony, but it is the first time that we have done it at this level where so much of senior administration was involved, and it’s the first time we’ve done it in as large a venue as this.

“It was an absolutely magnificent tribute to Dr. Clarke and her legacy,” Brown said.

Johnnie Ruth Clarke was an educator and humanitarian who spent her life improving the lives of others. She was born in St. Petersburg in 1919 to parents who worked as head bellman and head housekeeper at the Soreno Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg, and she credited them and her teachers for encouraging her to succeed academically.

Clarke, who earned her bachelor’s degree in social science from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree from Fisk University, played an important part in the local academic, cultural and medical communities as well as our state history. In 1966, she became the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the University of Florida’s College of Education, and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at any Florida public university.


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             Students may enroll in the fall semester for SPC’s new baccalaureate degree program in Public Policy and Administration, a program designed for would-be government employees but which also offers benefits for those who work in the private sector in areas affected by national and local government policy.

            The curriculum focuses on areas of study useful to career government employees: 

  • Structure and processes of government
  • The economics of public administration
  • Evolution of law and policy
  • Tools used to implement policy
  • Processes by which public policy is formulated and implemented
  • Goals of public policy
  • Process improvement methodology 

            The program teaches students how to formulate, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of  policies that affect organizations, communities and even the entire nation, according to Susan Demers, dean of the College of Policy and Legal Studies.

            “A strong understanding of policy analysis is needed to design and implement policies,” Demers said. “Students in this program will be introduced to the theory and process of policy formulation and implementation.  An integral part of the program is the set of tools by which policy and its effectiveness are evaluated. ”

 While the program is primarily face-to-face, some classes can be taken on-line.

             The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says about 40 percent of Public Policy graduates are employed by the government. Others are employed by businesses and corporations, education and nonprofit administration.

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