Archive for May, 2011

The college has completed the acquisition of the former Faith United Church of Christ at 2401 Drew St., about 4 acres adjacent to and just west of the Clearwater Campus.

Plans for the property are not complete, according to Susan Reiter, Vice President of Facilities Planning and Institutional Services.

“The college has been interested in that property for several years,” Reiter said. “We will be working on a master plan for the Clearwater Campus in the coming months, and this new property will be an important part of that planning process.”

The property could offer a new college entrance, Reiter said, and parts of the property may be used for additional parking on an interim basis.

“It’s not often that a piece of property of that size becomes available, especially in an urban area like Clearwater,” Reiter said.

The property includes a church building, a single-family residence and a small classroom building. Demolition of the house and church will take place in the next few months. The classroom building will remain for now.

Purchase price for the property was $1.3 million, Reiter said.

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St. Petersburg College extends Bill Law’s contract

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Former utility regulator to lead St. Petersburg College think tank

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David Nelms admits he had a lot to learn when he went to college in Michigan, baseball scholarship in hand, just a few years ago. He partied hard during his freshman year, and within a few months he was back home in St. Petersburg with no real plan in mind.

Like a lot of people in similar circumstances, he decided to join the military.

“I went into the Marines,” he said. “I did two combat deployments to Iraq. I was a team leader during the second one.”

As his second tour came to a close, Nelms decided he would give college another try. This time, instead of a baseball scholarship, he had the GI Bill, along with a dose of maturity that age and his military experience had provided.

“The military helped me understand how to separate my party life,” said Nelms, 23. “There’s a time and a place for that.”

Like many returning veterans, Nelms had some anxiety about returning to college. After all, his first experience hadn’t been very good, and he knew his academic background wasn’t terribly strong.

But he needn’t have worried; once he showed up at St. Petersburg College in January 2010, he found it a lot easier than he had expected.

“When I came to register, someone was there to help me, and the whole process was easy,” he recalled. “Larry Hobbs in the Veteran Services office (on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus) helped me, and it was just really easy to register. I went online, clicked on my classes, and hit the VA verification schedule. Then I just had to show up for classes.”

Nelms was worried about whether he would have enough income to cover his expenses while he went to school, but the post-9/11 GI Bill has taken care of that.

“That pretty much pays my living expenses,” he said. “I have a part-time job as a bouncer at a place in downtown St. Pete, but I really don’t have to worry very much about working – I can just go to school.”

Nelms thought he would like to major in Art, but he now plans to change to Criminal Justice. He hopes to join the St. Petersburg Police Department once his studies are completed.

David Nelms

He said he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the SPC experience to other returning veterans.

“I would tell them that it is not as hard as they might think,” Nelms said. “The way everything is set up makes everything very easy. If anyone has any questions, the people at the Veterans Center know the answers and can point you in the right direction.”

Hobbs, the counselor, said most veterans make the adjustment quickly, due in part to their military training.

“The service is very structured, and we have made all this very much a step-by-step process,” Hobbs said. “The website does pretty much everything, from applying to the college to dealing with the benefits under the GI Bill. It is all pretty straight-up – getting the GI benefits is pretty easy, and then we take it from there.”

Jeff Cavanagh, the college’s Coordinator of Veteran Affairs, said the college has been working hard to help veterans make a smooth transition.

“Nearly two years ago, SPC began a series of initiatives designed to promote and encourage its growing veteran student population,” Cavanagh said. “A major component was to establish ‘one-stop shops’ for veteran student success.

“The first of these Veterans Services centers was located on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs and Clearwater campuses, and they have become magical places. I use the term ‘magical’ because that is the term I have heard used by faculty, staff and students – the magic happens when veterans connect at these centers, and through shared experience and the assistance of a trained and sympathetic staff, they succeed.”

Cavanagh said additional centers soon will be open at the Seminole and Tarpon Springs campuses. He said the college now has more than 1,500 veteran students, and that SPC’s goal is to increase that number to 10 percent of the overall student population over the next two years.


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The St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees approved a $145-million budget for 2011-12 Tuesday, which includes a 3 percent increase in tuition beginning July 1 and a promise not to cancel any class once it has been advertised. It also includes dozens of initiatives focused on staff and student success.

In the new state budget, which is still awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s approval, colleges and universities are expected to raise tuition between 8 and 15 percent.

“We were able to limit the increase in tuition and allow our students to make academic plans beyond the next semester,” said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President for Administrative/Business Services and Information Technology. “The budget also includes initiatives that are directly focused on student success.”

The budget focuses on improving the student experience, from registration to graduation. The areas identified are: Out-of-Class Support, the College Experience, Mission Focus, Community and K-12 Support, Technology Enhancements, Facilities Maintenance and Repair and Employee Development and Support.

Highlights of the budget can be found online in the Investing in Success document.

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President Bill Law drew high praise from the Board of Trustees on his one-year evaluation Tuesday. He declined a pay raise, but did accept an extension of his contract an additional year, through June 30, 2014. St. Petersburg Times story.

Below is the statement Board of Trustees Chairman Ken Burke read. Each of the trustees then made brief comments on their written evaluations of the president.

Among the most important responsibilities of the Board of Trustees of a college is the evaluation of the president each year. Dr. Bill Law joined St. Petersburg College in June of 2010; with this board meeting he completes his first year as our president.

Each member of the Board has had an opportunity (1) to review the self-evaluation of Dr. Law, (2) evaluate Dr. Law on a variety of leadership characteristics, and (3) meet individually with Dr. Law to provide direct feedback to him on his leadership performance.

I am pleased to report that members of the Board have given Dr. Law a very strong, positive evaluation for his first year at the college. Each member has observed that Dr. Law has brought a new energy and vision to an already high performing organization. He has been proactive in refocusing the college on the success of our students, on protecting the instructional quality of the college, and on renewing community relationships that are the hallmark of St. Petersburg College.

Our recognition of Dr. Law’s leadership contains an urging that he continue to find ways to support college activity through resources other than tuition and state support. Our expectation is that our underlying academic strengths can provide a means for private, foundation and grant support to help the college to meet the needs of our community. Dr. Law has already taken important steps in hiring and in organizational structure to meet this challenge.

As Chairman of the Board of Trustees, I wish to express my appreciation for the work done by Dr. Law in this critical transitional year. Our college looks for continued success under his leadership.

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Summer term started Monday at St. Petersburg College and enrollment was up 5.8 percent over the same period last year.

This year 18,923 students are enrolled compared to 17,878 last summer.

Bachelor’s degree program enrollment is up 11.8 percent to 1,391.

The increases are in line with enrollment in the last year. Spring enrollment was up 8.6 percent and fall enrollment climbed 13.8 percent.

“The academic and instructional excellence of the college remains a strong draw for those who seek postsecondary education,” President Bill Law said. “In tough economic times like these, we’re also the beacon for those who have lost their jobs and who feel the need to get additional education to face the challenges of the global economy.”

Registration for fall begins June 2; fall classes start Aug. 22.

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