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SPC Alumni Amy Rice

SPC Alumni Amy Rice

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School alumni Amy Rice was recently awarded the prestigious Pritzker Research Fellowship in the Ph.D. program in Physics at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.

The Fellowship pays tuition, stipend and research funds totaling more than $200,000 over the four-year term of the award.

After earning her A.A. degree from St. Petersburg College in 2009, Rice transferred to IIT. Last year, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics.

“Biology was my first love,” said Rice. “It’s what got me interested in science in the first place.”

Looking back to her time at SPC, she remembers loving her anatomy and physiology class.

“The professor had a way of making the class incredibly interesting and bringing in his outside knowledge to make it more real to us,” she said.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Rice was homeschooled through eighth grade. In ninth grade she attended Veritas Academy and transferred to SPC’s Collegiate High School for grades 10-12.

“I have always been very motivated academically,” she said. “I thought it (Collegiate High School) would be a great program to be around others that took their education seriously.”

Like many Florida students, her plans were to stay in Florida and take advantage of the Bright Futures Scholarship she had earned. Her high SAT scores meant she was pursued by numerous colleges from around the country. A brochure from IIT caught her eye.

“I saw that they had a major in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and I thought that sounded like an awesome major,” she said. “It sounded like it would be very interdisciplinary.”

She applied for and got a full tuition scholarship and started her bachelor’s degree in the Chicago-based university the next fall.

During her undergraduate studies at IIT, she worked as a teaching assistant in biology and physics and a research assistant in microbiology and physics. She was involved in Alpha Sigma Alpha, the Honors Medical Society and competed on the university’s cross country and track teams. She was awarded the College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend in 2011 and 2013.

Entering the second year of her Ph.D., Rice’s research is focused on Computational Biophysics and is primarily computer based. While she has experimental collaborators that she works with, her research does not happen in a traditional laboratory.

“My project specifically is looking at a class of antimicrobial peptides produced by most animals,” she explained. “It is thought that bacteria don’t really become resistant to them. Not a lot is known currently as to why they work so well, but are not harmful to human cells.”

In Computational Biophysics computerized simulations are used to enable researchers like Rice to explore actions and reactions that happen within cells in very short time frames – nanoseconds – and very short distances.

“It’s hard from the experimental side to figure out what is happening on such small time and distance scales,” she said.

She is currently working with a team of researchers led by Dr. Jeff Wereszczynski at IIT. The Wereszczynski Group also includes two postdoctoral researchers and another Ph.D. student. This summer the group also has three undergraduate research assistants, two from a local community college. Rice is in charge of one of the assistants.

“I’m very excited to have an undergraduate student assistant!” said Rice. “I’ve been the undergraduate assistant to graduate students twice before, so it is really interesting and rewarding for me to be on the other side of that now and help mentor someone.”

Learn more about her research with the Wereszczynski Group at IIT.

Rice plans to continue her career in the same general field of research by teaching, working with graduate students and doing research.

“I love computational work,” she said. “It is a big up and coming field – new in the last 20-30 years. It’s exciting for me to think about where it will be in future when computers are even more powerful,” she said.

Her advice to other students is practical:

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Rice. “In science you fail a lot. I’ve had to start my research project over nine times now. The first eight times I failed. If you are not failing, you are not at the cutting edge of your field.”

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alumni-skillsSt. Petersburg College alumni rank fifth in the nation and first in the state of Florida, among two-year colleges, for possessing the most valuable job skills, according to a recent report released by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, an independent, nonprofit think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The study, entitled “Beyond College Rankings, a Value Added Approach to Assessing Two and Four Year Schools,” used data from multiple government and private data sources, including the Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education, LinkedIn, and Burning Glass, a labor market intelligence firm. The study explored the median mid-career salary, earning potential, and student loan repayment rates of graduates.

SPC ranked fifth for two-year colleges in skill sets that garner higher wages, as reported on LinkedIn. The professional social networking site has 99 million user profiles in the United States alone, and is one of many emerging websites that collects data on salary and skills, some with institutional detail for millions of graduates.

The value of alumni skills is reported under occupational earnings power and represents the labor market value of the 25 most common skills listed on the LinkedIn resumes of college graduates. These skills were matched with data, compiled by Burning Glass, on skills and salaries advertised in millions of job vacancies.

For SPC graduates, the value of alumni skills came in at $65,499 compared to a national average of $61,048 (for graduates of two-year colleges), while the SPC graduate median mid-career salary was $54,000 compared to the national average of $52,945 (for graduates of two-year colleges).

“At. St. Petersburg College, we are working very closely with our business partners in the Tampa Bay area to align our programs with workforce needs so our students are prepared to compete for high wage jobs when they graduate,” said St. Petersburg College President Bill Law. “Our number one goal at St. Petersburg College is helping improve our students’ lives, and increasing earning power is a surefire way to do that. This study helps validate those efforts to give our students the skills and tools they need to be successful in today’s job market.”

The Brookings report provides insight into how well colleges prepare students for high-paying careers and is the first to provide “value-added” measures for a broad range of two- and four-year colleges. The new data available helped the report authors develop new ways of measuring the economic value that U.S. colleges provide.

By using non-traditional tools and analyzing data on economic outcomes for graduates, the Brookings report moves beyond other college rankings by focusing on how well colleges contribute to student economic success, rather than simply their ability to attract top students and the preparedness of such students.

“These college-specific data can be used to learn about, evaluate, and improve college performance,” said Brookings Fellow Jonathan Rothwell, co-author of the report. “Colleges serve very diverse populations. The advantage of measuring value-added is that it adjusts a school’s ranking based on the type of college and the characteristics of its student body.”

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R. Gil Kerlikowske

R. Gil Kerlikowske, United States Customs and Border Protection Commissioner

United States Customs and Border Protection Commissioner and St. Petersburg College alumnus R. Gil Kerlikowske was the featured speaker at St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy Leadership Speakers Series luncheon on May 21.

About 125 people attended the event, including local law enforcement and politicians, SPC administrators, faculty and staff. The 64 bachelor’s degree students in SPC’s Public Policy Administration program were the focus of the event, asking the commissioner questions about drug policy, human trafficking, border security and more.

Kerlikowske reflected on his four decades of law enforcement and drug policy experience, including teaching as an adjunct professor in Florida, New York and Seattle.

“That ability to give something back and spend time with students is just so critical,” he said. “I think that there was nothing more helpful in my career than to be able to serve as an adjunct and to be able to interact with students — to have that kind of discussion and dialogue. It really keeps you fresh.”

He gave a brief history of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency that was created in 2003 as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. The new agency combined the efforts of agricultural inspectors; U.S. Border Patrol and Customs; and Immigration and Naturalization Services.

The goal was to have one face at the border. The challenge, he said, was to respond to the wide range of responsibilities — from managing counterfeit honey from China to the rise of Syrian foreign fighters in the U.S.

“The issues in front of Customs and Border Protection is like being in a tennis match – going back and forth from one issue to another on this wide array of responsibilities,” he said.

During his time working as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Kerlikowske said he learned that effective drug policy includes enforcement, quality prevention and treatment.

“I wish as a police chief I had the knowledge of drug treatment holistically from a public health perspective that I did when I took over at ONDCP,” he said. “We actually began to change the debate from ‘this is purely a criminal justice problem to this is a health problem.'”

An SPC Public Policy student Nicolas Louis interacting with Commissioner Kerlikowske.

An SPC Public Policy student Nicolas Louis interacting with Commissioner Kerlikowske.

Kerlikowske’s advice to the students was clear:

“For you that are students … the mentorships you have is everything,” he said. “You can be the smartest student in the world. You could do the best whitepaper on the subject. You could do the best PowerPoint, etc. But your ability to work with others and cooperate to figure out how to compromise — to figure out how to work as a team in order to accomplish a mission is the benefit that truly you will get here.”

Kerlikowske’s path to the White House

Kerlikowske earned his associate in arts degree from St. Petersburg Junior College while working for the St. Petersburg Police Department as a street cop. He eventually became head of SPPD’s criminal investigation division while earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from the University of South Florida.

He later graduated from the National Executive Institute at the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy in Quantico, Va., and went on to serve as police chief of four cities, and as a member of the United States Justice Department.

In his current role as commissioner, Kerlikowski runs the largest federal law enforcement agency with more than 60,000 employees and a budget of $12.4 billion. Before accepting the commissioner position in March 2014, he had served as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy since 2009.

Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series

The Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series luncheons, organized by SPC Professor Jeff Kronschnabl, gives students the opportunity to engage with highly acclaimed professionals from local, state and federal government in an intimate setting. Previous speakers have included:

  1. Kurt S. Browning, former Florida Secretary of State (March 21, 2012)
    Discussed the value of a higher education and the duties of the Secretary of State.
  2. Major General Karl M. Horst, Chief of Staff-U.S. Central Command ( 27, 2012)
    Discussed his experiences in leadership from his 39 year military career and also discuss his leadership and how it pertains to the USCENTCOM area of Responsibility.
  3. Charlie Crist, former Florida Governor (March 19, 2013)
    Discussed policy leadership while serving Florida as an elected official for over 15 years.
  4. Judge Nelly Khouzam and Judge Morris Silberman, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal (Oct. 16, 2013)
    This husband and wife duo discussed “A Nation of Laws: What is the role and responsibility of appellate courts as relates to the rule of Law?”
  5. Bob Lasala, County Administrator for Pinellas County, and Bill Horne, City Manager of Clearwater (April 2, 2014)
    Discussed collaborative leadership within local governments.
  6. Jack Latvala, Florida State Senator, and Ed Hooper, Florida State Representative (Oct. 29, 2014)
    Discussed collaborative leadership within the Florida Legislature.
  7. James Olliver, Seminole Campus Provost, and Frank Edmunds, Seminole City Manager (March 25, 2015)
    Discussed their distinguished public service careers and collaboration between the SPC Seminole campus and the City of Seminole.

 

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Anthony Holloway

Anthony Holloway

St. Petersburg College is honored to announce St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway as our 2015 Outstanding Alumnus. Holloway will be honored at SPC’s Spring graduation May 16, at 9 a.m. at Tropicana Field.

Chief Holloway attended SPJC in 1996 before transferring to Eckerd College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 1999 and his master’s degree in business administration in 2001.

During his nearly 22-year career with the Clearwater Police Department, Chief Holloway rose through the ranks to become the city’s first black police captain. He began as a patrol officer in 1985 and was named the city’s Outstanding Police Officer for his undercover narcotics work in 1989. During his tenure, he also served as patrol officer, community policing specialist, undercover vice and narcotics detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant (Economic Crimes Unit), Support Services assistant division commander, and Patrol Division commander.

Chief Holloway’s impressive service showcases his untiring commitment and steadfast passion to serving the community. These attributes have led to a number of awards: He is a two time recipient of the Clearwater Bar Association’s Allen L. Moore Memorial Gold Badge, and has been named the Joseph F. Cornelius Family Foundation Outstanding Police Officer of the Year (the highest honor given by the Clearwater Police Department), and the Fraternal Order of Police Officer of the Year. Chief Holloway also received the Chief’s Unit Citation.

In 2007, Chief Holloway was selected police chief of Somerville, Massachusetts. In 2010, he returned to Pinellas County after being chosen from a field of more than 200 candidates to succeed retiring Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein.

His passion and dedication extend beyond the role of police chief. He has taught the precepts of law enforcement to governmental, educational, and community organizations throughout Florida, sharing his primary philosophy of the “three E’s” – evaluate problems in the community, educate residents about services and public safety issues, and enforce laws.

Chief Holloway was appointed to the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar in June 2012 and has served as consultant/trainer to the Department of Juvenile Justice, the U.S. Department of Justice, and St. Petersburg College. In June 2011, he received a certificate of completion for the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government and Executive Education.

In 2014, Chief Holloway was named chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department, where he continues his mission as a powerful and dedicated servant of the public, committed to protecting our community and kick-starting programs that address the social ills that lead to crime.

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St. Petersburg College will honor its top graduates and alumnus during commencement ceremonies May 16 at Tropicana Field.

This year, for the first time, award winners were notified before the ceremony.

Amy Bhatt was selected as the Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve.

James Stanley Lenas will receive the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Apollo Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards. It has been presented each year since 1966.

This year’s finalists are:

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class. While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC”.

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class. While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC.” Amy Bhatt

Amy Bhatt, Clearwater Campus, Winner

Ms. Bhatt is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate and a member of the Early College Program. She served as co-president of
the Honors College and co-chairwoman of the Pre-Law Committee for the Legal Studies Society. She was named to the All Florida Academic Team. She was the editor of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Newsletter, which acts as a community resource for attorneys and paralegals. Ms. Bhatt has a 4.0 G.P.A.

During her first year at SPC, she received the “Student of the Year” award in Honors Interdisciplinary
Studies, one of the youngest students at SPC to receive the award. In 2015 she was chosen as a recipient of the
Presidential Scholarship Award, which recognizes high school students who have attained academic excellence.

Dr. Richard Mercadante, Faculty Senate President, said: “Amy Bhatt is one of those rare students who excels
in multiple areas: academics, service, and leadership. She has earned the respect of faculty and her student peers
for her ability to serve as a positive role model regardless of the challenges she encounters. When I grow up I want
to be just like Amy!”

Ms. Bhatt’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at SPC. She would then like to attend Stetson University’s College of Law and pursue her ultimate dream of serving on the Supreme Court.

“I have felt tremendously encouraged and welcomed by St. Petersburg College, especially by the Seminole Campus. Through its resources, my college has taught me that I should not be afraid of my future, but instead step into it with confidence and fervent dedication.

“I have felt tremendously encouraged and welcomed by St. Petersburg College, especially by the Seminole Campus. Through its resources, my college has taught me that I should not be afraid of my future, but instead step into it with confidence and fervent dedication.” Samantha Sue-Ellen Engelhardt

Samantha Sue-Ellen Engelhardt, Seminole Campus

Ms. Engelhardt is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She was a member of the Early College Program, the Intervarsity Christian Club, the SPC Community Band, and the Math Club. She has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She has been a math tutor in the Seminole Learning Commons and volunteered as treasurer of the Early College program. She also has volunteered at the Vineyard Inn, an assisted living facility, and at Horses for Handicapped.

She was a finalist for the All Florida Academic Team in 2015, is a Take Stock in Children Scholarship recipient,
and received the Early College Excellence Award for her outstanding academic success and leadership qualities.

Mathematics Instructor Jeff Taylor said: “She displays a level of intelligence and responsibility well beyond her years. The only thing more impressive than her intellect and kindness is her humility.”

Ms. Engelhardt will pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of South Florida with
the goal of eventually becoming a certified civil engineer.

“St. Petersburg College provides a learning environment for a melting pot of all different types of people. There are high school students trying to better themselves for higher education, retired veterans who want to go back to school, adults who would like to earn a higher degree to obtain a better job to provide for themselves or their families. I believe SPC has not only offered me a better education, but also a better future.” – Anita Thuy An Nguyen

Anita Thuy An Nguyen, Seminole Campus

Ms. Nguyen is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She participated in Phi Theta Kappa, Seminole Campus Soccer, the Great Eco Race, and volunteered in the Student Support Center to help plan events and activities. She has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She served as secretary of the Early College Program, and helped coordinate Spirit Week and the Halloween Costume event. She served as a volunteer math tutor in the Learning Commons on the Seminole Campus, giving over 15 hours a week to help struggling students. She also participated in the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital 5k run, the SPCA Toys for Toto drive, and Phi Theta Kappa monthly road cleanups.

Ms. Nguyen received the 2015 Early College Academic Excellence Award, and was a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship awarded to students who excel academically and maintain that excellence throughout high school.

Associate Professor Pelagia Mazarakis said: “She is an exceptional student, both academically and personally… respected and admired by her teachers and her peers.”

Her goal is to attend Nova Southeastern University’s College of Optometry with the ultimate career goal of becoming a practicing optometrist.

“Most memorably, SPC gave me the opportunity to realize my leadership potential by leading community service initiatives that benefited children and motivated my peers to go above and beyond.” Bernadette Praxides Mead

“Most memorably, SPC gave me the opportunity to realize my leadership potential by leading community service initiatives that benefited children and motivated my peers to go above and beyond.” Bernadette Praxides Mead

Bernadette Praxides Mead, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus

Ms. Praxides Mead is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She was a member of the  Student Government Association. She has served as a First Aid Responder for the Student Athletic Training Program at Boca Ciega High School. She has a 3.9 G.P.A.

She served as vice president of the National Honor Society, where she coordinated holiday gift drives, beach cleanups and social events. She was a member of the Interact Club and coordinated the Red Hand Day Commemoration Event, a worldwide initiative to stop the use of child soldiers. She also served as a volunteer
for All Children’s Hospital.

She received numerous awards, including: the President’s Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence from her high school, an Excellent Service Award from Junior Achievement, and the National Honor Society’s Community Service and Recognition for Outstanding Leadership award.

Leadership/Resource Instructor Sally Hoogewerf said Ms. Praxides Mead “represents everything admirable about SPC. Her contributions to class discussions were thought provoking, and she acts with joy in her heart
and a smile on her face.”

Her goal is to attend Georgetown University and become involved in international and development economics and then embark on her dream of helping the people of the Philippines escape extreme poverty.

Alumni Achievement Award Finalists

Four outstanding St. Petersburg College students have been selected as finalists for the annual Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Alumni Achievement Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards.

This year’s finalists are:

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research/clinical field.

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research/clinical field. I was a part of a group that gave me the chance to practice science outside the classroom in a relaxed, educational environment. I am not only proud to be a SPC graduate, but one who represents the school thereafter.” James Stanley Lenas

James Stanley Lenas, Seminole Campus, Winner

Mr. Lenas will receive a B.S. degree in biology. He has a 3.65 G.P.A.

He was a member of the Tau Delta Tau chapter of the National Science Honor Society, a senator in the Student Government Association and is a member of Golden Key.

He presented research in microbiology at the American Society of Microbiology Summit in 2014. He served as a microbiology tutor at the Health Education Center, where he also helped run workshops teaching students various lab techniques that applied to their curriculum. He served as the lead microbiology assistant for more than 120 students on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus.

He has participated in the Great American Teach-In and served as a judge for the 2015 Pinellas County Regional Science Fair. He was the recipient of an SPC Foundation grant and was named a Biological Research Nominee, an award given to biology program students who complete outstanding research in the field.

Dr. Katherine Siegler said: “Jimmy was one of two students whose research we supported with a stipend funded by the SPC Foundation. He is one of the few undergraduate students I have known that possesses the ability to pose independently, thought-out hypotheses.”

Mr. Lenas’ goal is to work as a medical technologist in the Tampa Bay area.

“I believe I am leaving SPC with a legacy for other students to follow. A legacy that shows them that hard work and integrity can give you a better life.” Robert Hurley

“I believe I am leaving SPC with a legacy for other students to follow. A legacy that shows them that hard work and integrity can give you a better life.” Robert Hurley

Robert Hurley, Clearwater Campus

Mr. Hurley will receive a B.A.S. degree in paralegal studies. He has a 3.69 G.P.A.

He is founder and president of the Legal Studies Society, president of the Titan Blue Club, a senator in Student
Government, treasurer of the MAX program, and has spearheaded scholarship workshops for SPC students.

He has volunteered for the Salvation Army, participated in the Student Veterans Club Trash Cleanup and in the annual Turkey Trot for Student Government. He helped advertise and collect Thanksgiving food contributions with the MAX club, participated in the Christmas toy hand-out through Student Government, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity through Phi Theta Kappa.

Mr. Hurley received the Lynch-Reed-Wakefield Scholarship, and was a student speaker at the annual SPC Foundation employee giving event.

Student Life and Leadership Coordinator Stephanie Henningsen said: “He has worked tirelessly through the
Student Government Association and helped make students aware of opportunities.”

Mr. Hurley’s goal is to earn an M.B.A. from the University of Florida and return to St. Petersburg College as a professor.

“SPC has given me opportunities I have embraced and used to allow myself to grow as a professional.” Zayda Jania

“SPC has given me opportunities I have embraced and used to allow myself to grow as a professional.” Zayda Jania

Zayda Janiak, Clearwater Campus

Ms. Janiak will receive a B.S. degree in elementary education. She has a 3.75 G.P.A.

She was a member of Kappa Delta Pi and is an active blogger for SPC Learning Resources. She was a member of the
Early College Program, completed ethics training in the College of Education and has attended NASA Professional Development Education Workshops.

She volunteered as a student assistant at the Clearwater Campus Library and served as an intern at M.K. Rawlings Elementary School. She has completed more than 120 field-based hours as a student teacher in language arts, mathematics, and science.

She was the winner of several scholarships, including the prestigious Presidential Scholarship, which is awarded
for outstanding academic excellence. She is a member of Golden Key.

Adjunct Professor Cynthia Freed said: “Over the past seven years I have come into contact with hundreds of students. Few stand out as much as Zayda. She understands the meaning of diligence.”

Her goal is to earn a Ph.D. in education and teach at the college level.

“I and my family are staunch believers in the educational programs at SPC After taking the time to have a family, I decided at the age of 38 to go to college and now I am graduating with honors.” Angela Sue O’Connor

“I and my family are staunch believers in the educational programs at SPC After taking the time to have a family, I decided at the age of 38 to go to college and now I am graduating with honors.” Angela Sue O’Connor

Angela Sue O’Connor, Tarpon Springs Campus

Ms. O’Connor will receive a B.S. degree in elementary education. She has a 3.77 G.P.A.

She was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the Pinellas Reading Council, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

She participated in a teaching trip to Jamaica, where she served as lead teacher of third- and fourth-graders. She was a Girl Scout Leader for 15 years, leading her troop to a Bronze Award and a Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor.

She has volunteered at the Safety Harbor Library and participated in the Christmas Toy Drive in St. Petersburg.
Dr. Cher N. Gauweiler said: “Angela is among the highest achieving students in the College of Education.

She exudes a positive, friendly spirit and has the ability to make others feel at ease. The glowing feedback I
receive is indicative of her teaching ability.”

Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in education and become a full-time teacher.

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Lori VanValkenburg, SPC alumna of the Veterinary Technology program at St. Petersburg College.

Lori VanValkenburg, SPC alumna of the Veterinary Technology program at St. Petersburg College.

Lori is another wonderful example of our alumni. Through her efforts in her job and in the professional organizations she participates in, the quality of our graduates is reflected. This further solidifies our position as the leader in veterinary technology education.”
Rich Flora, dean of the School of Veterinary Technology

St. Petersburg College alumna Lori VanValkenburg credits the faculty in SPC’s Veterinary Technology program with helping her succeed in the field of veterinary medicine and education and for providing guidance throughout her education and beyond.

VanValkenburg, 39, serves as Program Director for the Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Assistant programs at Pima Medical Institute in Houston. Since it’s a new program, she has been preparing the program to earn AVMA accreditation.

“The knowledge and skills that I learned while taking courses at SPC have prepared me well for my career field,” VanValkenburg said. “Every single course that I have taken in my degree program at SPC has made a positive impact on my career.”

Veterinary medicine and education is actually VanValkenburg’s second career. She worked in the medical industry for nearly 10 years as a surgical assistant, but realized it wasn’t humans she wanted to spend her life treating; her sights were set on taking care of man’s best friend and teaching others how to do so.

“I always loved animals and I had the opportunity while I was married to be able to go to school and really do what I wanted,” said the now single mother.

After earning her associate degree in veterinary technology from the Lone Star College System, VanValkenburg wanted a veterinary bachelor’s degree. But she had trouble finding a local program that could meet her demanding schedule as a busy working professional.

While searching for veterinary technology bachelor’s degrees online, she came across the St. Petersburg College website and was excited to discover the program was offered entirely online. VanValkenburg also found SPC’s faculty very caring and dedicated.

“They were just so personal and understanding, and they connected with students really well,” said VanValkenburg.

While in school, VanValkenburg faced personal family challenges that made it difficult to keep up with her studies and appreciated the support she received from some of her vet tech faculty, even when she took a break from classes. She eventually graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology from SPC in Summer 2011.

She has remained in touch with her instructors since then.

“I feel like they are proud of who I have become and that I can contact them any time for further guidance. I guess you could say they are my cheering section.”

Cynthia Grey, professor of Veterinary Technology, describes VanValkenburg as a creative, goal-oriented individual.

“As a learner, it was not enough for her just to complete something,” Grey said of her former student. “Lori went beyond looking at her degree path as a series of assignments to check off when completed. She capitalized on having an enriching learning experience.

“I think what further contributes to Lori’s success both academically and professionally is her passion for veterinary medicine … She is enthusiastic and proud of herself and her profession, and this is reflected in her successes.”

Rich Flora, dean of the School of Veterinary Technology, said VanValkenburg always looked beyond the surface and wanted to understand the deeper principles.

“Having a student like Lori, who loves our profession and has dedicated herself to it, assures me the future is in very good hands,” Flora said.

VanValkenburg has always been active in her field. Since February 2010, she has taught full-time veterinary technology classes and written exam questions for the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) national boards. She currently serves as Director-at-Large for the Association of Veterinary Technician Educators and recently served as president of the Texas Association of Registered Veterinary Technicians (TARVT).

On Sept. 20, she expects to graduate from the University of Phoenix with a master’s degree in adult education and training. She is considering working on a doctorate degree once her 5-year-old son, Nathan, gets older.

“I’m a single mom and he’s just known me as doing my homework all the time,” said VanValkenburg. “I’m sure that him seeing me as a student like this will be a positive motivation for him in the future.”

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St. Petersburg College graduate and blogger Maria Thurber now has another entry on her resume – embassy intern.

Maria, who writes the college’s “Ask Maria” blog, also is interning this summer in the Ambassador’s Office at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington, D.C. In one of her posts, she creditsembajada-630x210 social media for getting in touch with the embassy about a possible internship.

“I follow the ambassador and her office through Twitter and one day I tweeted to her office regarding possible internships opportunities. She responded back with the contact information to apply,” Maria wrote. “Through this experience I learned to never underestimate social media ever again and that opportunities can come in all formats.”

In May 2013, Maria graduated from SPC with an Associate of Arts degree. She received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which provides a full-ride, good-through-graduation scholarship to the student’s college of choice. She now attends Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She has been blogging for SPC, answering questions from potential and current students, since Fall 2013.

Read more about Maria’s internship and other posts on her Ask Maria blog.

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