Archive for the ‘public policy’ Category

As baby boomers, the largest American generation to date, begin retiring, they are leaving looming gaps in the workforce. The departures have drawn media attention to the growing number of openings in the Tampa Bay area for public servants, specifically in public safety, policy and utilities.

In the City of St. Petersburg, for instance, nearly a quarter of the police force is currently eligible to retire. And when veteran officers leave, they take institutional knowledge with them.

St. Petersburg College is working closely with cities, counties, municipalities and companies to train and expose its students to the diversity of jobs available in the public utilities, public safety and public policy sectors.

SPC Career Exploration Event

public sector jobsRecently, more than 100 people attended SPC’s Public Utilities Career Exploration event at the Seminole Campus, where they learned about current and future career openings, training requirements, salaries and scholarship opportunities.

The annual career exploration event began a few years ago with a focus on job opportunities for students in SPC’s A.S. degree program in environmental science, but has expanded to include public policy students. The college eventually plans to hold the event twice a year and include students in information technology.

“The event illustrates a strong partnership between educators and local industries to inform students and the public of career opportunities in our region,” said Jason Krupp, director of Workforce Services for SPC. “It is very rewarding to help connect students with real opportunities in a sector they may not have considered otherwise.”

Job openings in public utilities

One of the most diverse departments in any municipality, public utilities positions range from mechanics and equipment operators to lab techs, biologists and chemists to accountants, marketers and attorneys. In St. Petersburg, Water Resources is the city’s largest operation and provides potable water distribution, wastewater (sewage) collection, treatment and disposal, and reclaimed water for irrigation purposes to city residents.

“Because water is a limited natural resource with increasing demand and regulation, there is a strong future need for skilled workers in public utilities,” Krupp said.

City of Seminole to hire SPC public policy students

Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds recognized this need and recently announced an agreement with SPC to hire one SPC public policy student or graduate each year for the next 10 years. This agreement is a testament of the high-quality instruction and career preparation provided by SPC faculty and staff.

The trainee will work their way through four departments: administration, public safety, community development and public works, to receive exposure to and specialized experience in the various areas of city government.

Public safety training

Over at SPC’s Allstate Center, students can enter a training academy to become a police or corrections officer or firefighter, move up in their career by earning an academic degree or take mandatory and specialized training available for emergency and first responders, military personnel, public safety, emergency management and judicial professionals and even the general public.

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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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Frank Edmunds, Seminole City Manager; Leslie Waters, Seminole Mayor; James Olliver, SPC Seminole Campus Provost.

Frank Edmunds, Seminole City Manager; Leslie Waters, Seminole Mayor; James Olliver, SPC Seminole Campus Provost.

The City of Seminole and St. Petersburg College signed an agreement today that will place one SPC public policy student or graduate in a one-year paid position with the city each year starting Aug. 1. Each year for 10 years a new student/graduate will be selected for a position with the city.

Recently passed by the Seminole City Council, the new Frank Edmunds Public Service Associate in Training program is named after 20-year Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds who is retiring in August.


“This is the continuation of a long history of partnership between the City and the College,” said James Olliver, SPC Seminole Campus Provost. “I think it shows that the two of us, together with the Chamber of Commerce and the various civic and social organizations in Seminole, are so much greater than the sum of the parts in service to our community. We challenge other municipalities throughout Pinellas County (and beyond!) to follow this model and help themselves and the college by providing a robust work experience to one of our outstanding graduates.”

The trainee will be assigned by the city manager and will rotate through four departments: administration, public safety, community development and public works, to receive exposure to and specialized expertise in the various areas of city government.

To qualify, the student must be either in their final term in the Public Policy and Administration bachelor’s degree program or a recent graduate (within one year of selection). They must also have been recognized for having achieved public service distinction during their tenure as a student.

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Rafael Murga

Rafael Murga

St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy Administration program is not just about politics. Senior Rafael Murga will graduate this summer with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy but hopes to use the degree to pursue a career in technology.

“My initial reaction is to say that this program changed the entire direction of my life — but the truth of the matter is that it gave me one,” he said. “Professor (Jeffery) Kronschnabl sparked the drive inside of me the first time I set foot in his classroom and made me realize what a true educator is. He has instilled the fact that what I am doing is truly a calling.”

In March, Murga was one of eight SPC students among 22 who took part in the inaugural Exploratory Lab Boot Camp.

Murga took advantage of the additional coursework made available to the team and earned his Cisco Certification. He was recently offered a summer internship at Tech Data that he hopes will result in a full-time job with their Cisco solutions team.

The boot camp took place at local companies Tech Data and Valpak and was designed as a business integration experience that compliments traditional classroom curriculum. The goal: to close the skills gap and increase interest in the technology industry among non-technology degree seeking students like Murga. View more pictures on Flickr.

He found being immersed in the Tech Data culture for a week with access to high-level executives invaluable.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “But I never would have stood out at Tech Data and the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp if not for being a Public Policy student at SPC.”

When Murga enrolled at SPC as a part-time student in 2012, he was working full time. His work for Best Buy’s Geek Squad, Verizon and Home Shopping Network sparked his interest in technology.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to see firsthand how communication and teamwork have become intertwined with technological leaps forward,” said Murga. “I always tell people that my degree says public policy, but it is really a course of study in leadership and collaboration.”

He was recently honored at the Seminole Campus as an outstanding student in the Public Policy program.

“Rafael is approachable, engaging and professional,” said Professor Kronschnabl. “His leadership traits are best demonstrated by the fact he would be the first to tell you that it wasn’t all about him – it was about how he could help others achieve their maximum potential.”

During his recent capstone project, a semester-long project that pulls together all the student has learned during their time at SPC, he presented a plan to create a framework to bring the Public Policy & Administration program fully online.

“His attention to detail was both concise and profound,” said Kronschnabl. “Rafael was never hesitant about taking on new challenges and often as a result, the resolutions suggested by him were both creative, effective and efficient. He is an engine!”

Like many of the students in SPC’s Public Policy program, Murga is passionate about making a difference in the world.

“Public Policy at St. Petersburg College is unlike any educational program I have ever seen,” said Murga. “The degree is structured so that students can realize that the only thing standing between them and positive change in the world they live in is the drive to go out and do it.”

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Peter-Parapon and his new daughterWith his wife due to deliver their baby any day, and a job interview scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, SPC Public Policy student and United States Air Force Veteran Peter Parapon expected the coming week would be busier than usual. But when he woke up on Monday, Nov. 17, he could not have dreamed what the next 48 hours would hold.

That night, his wife went into labor. After an exhausting, sleepless night, they welcomed their third child – a little girl – into the world. By the time things settled down, he had just enough time to run home, grab a shower, change into a suit and rush to a job interview for a volunteer position in U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s office on SPC’s Seminole Campus.

“They said: ‘You look so tired, what’s wrong?’” Parapon recounted. “Oh, we just had our third child.”

They were so impressed that he came in for that interview that they hired him on the spot.

“I called my wife and told her the good news,” he said. Then he went to class.

“I was awake for like 36 hours by the end of the day,” he said. “The next morning when I woke up I thought: ‘Did this really happen?’ Then I looked at the hospital bracelet on my wrist and knew it wasn’t a dream.”

Maintaining the school – life balance

Like many students at SPC, Parapon knows that balancing family, school and work is not an easy job. After graduating from Osceola High School in 2001, he started taking classes at St. Petersburg College.

“Before I entered the military I went to SPC without great results,” he said. “I was right out of high school and had to work — and work often trumped school.”

After serving as an Air Traffic Controller Apprentice in the Air Force in Texas he came home to Seminole to give college another try. This time around, the discipline and work ethic he picked up in the service gave him the tools he needed to be a successful student. And his Post-9/11 GI benefits meant he could focus on his education and getting work experience and still help support his growing family.

Parapon earned his A.A. from SPC and expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration this fall.

“It is just amazing what the Public Policy and Administration degree encompasses,” said Parapon. “There’s a huge spectrum of what you can do with this degree.”

He remembers the advice of one of his SPC professors, Jeff Kronschnabl, who encourages students to follow their heart and do what makes them happy. For Parapon, serving in politics and government is a dream job.

The value of work experience

Pictured from left: Peter Parapon and Congressman David Jolly.

SPC Public Policy student Peter Parapon (left) and Congressman David Jolly.

Like many degrees at St. Petersburg College, hands-on work experience is part of the curriculum. To complete the 180 hours of work experience for his

Co-Op Experience class, Parapon worked on newly elected Florida Rep. Chris Latvala’s campaign from July-Nov. 2014. He knocked on doors, handed out literature and worked at campaign events.

“It gave me a lot of insight on how running for office works,” he said. “Grass roots campaigns are very important. Getting out there and meeting people face to face plays a huge role in politics and is still a major part of campaigns.”

And since he landed the job in Rep. Jolly’s office, he works about 16 hours a week adding to his already impressive work experience.

“Congressman Jolly’s staff are amazing to work with,” he said. “I’ve learned so much since starting there. I deal with constituent issues every day. It’s very rewarding when you get a chance to help resolve their issues.”

He values the experience so much that even though he has long-since satisfied his classroom requirements, he keeps volunteering with Latvala, knowing that eventually the experience he is gaining will pay off. Eventually, he wants to run for office and serve in a governmental leadership position.

“I may not be ready for a front line position as a candidate, but I am happy right now being behind the scenes helping government officials serve the people well.”

Veterans Services

Parapon is one of more than 2,000 veterans that call SPC home. For the fourth consecutive year, St. Petersburg College has been named among the Best for Vets Colleges by Military Times. This year, the college ranks No. 15 among four-year institutions in the U.S.

Parapon is the President of the Student Veterans Association on Seminole Campus and also works about 25 hours per week with Veterans Services through the work study program.

“Veteran Services are a good group of people with a wealth of knowledge,” he said. “I get to see Veterans and I can relate to them. It gives me a good feeling of comradery that veterans miss once we get out of military.”

He shares his continued passion for serving with other veteran students.

“For veterans who want to continue to serve their country, SPC’s Public Policy and Administration degree program is a great way to go.”

Read more about St. Petersburg College on Twitter at #spcollege.

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Finalists in the Great Debate competition will debate Immigration Reform on Thursday, Nov. 13 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Seminole Campus Digitorium. Competition finalists include:

  • Zoe Gambel, Clearwater Campus
  • Laken Hamby, Seminole Campus
  • Sami Iachello, Tarpon Springs Campus
  • Catherine Stacy, St. Petersburg /Gibbs Campus
  • Martha Rhine, SPC Downtown Center/SPC Midtown Center

The debate competition is sponsored by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, with support from a grant by the Florida Campus Compact Democracy Project. Winners receive gift card prizes of:

  • $500 for first place
  • $250 for second place
  • $125 for third place
  • $75 for fourth place
  • $50 for fifth place

View event details.

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From left: Former Rep. Ed Hooper, Sen. Jack Latvala, Dean Susan Demers, and students Mecca Bellmore and Adriana Hulland.

From left: Rep. Ed Hooper, Sen. Jack Latvala, Dean Susan Demers, and students Mecca Bellmore and Adriana Hulland.

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, St. Petersburg College hosted its sixth Public Policy Leadership Speakers Series luncheon on the Seminole Campus. About 100 people attended the event, including bachelor’s degree students in the Public Policy and Administration program.

SPC President Bill Law introduced guest speakers Sen. Jack Latvala and former Rep. Ed Hooper. The legislators stopped by to discuss collaborative leadership within the Florida Senate and House of Representatives as well as within their own districts.

“Our Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series luncheons are exciting, interactive and on-point. We have had the good fortune to bring in highly acclaimed professionals from all three branches of state government, from local government and from national/international disciplines,” said Jeff Kronschnabl, Instructor in Charge, Public Policy and Administration. “For our students to be able to reach out and engage these leaders within an intimate setting is a very special opportunity.”

Sen. Latvala and Rep. Hooper participated in an unscripted, candid discussion about their experiences through years working as public officials and answered questions from the audience.

At the conclusion of the event, Sen. Latvala and Rep. Ed Hooper met and spoke with students individually, answering questions about career choices, public policy and relationship building.

“Public policy is exciting and promising,” said Adriana Hulland, a student in the Public Policy and Administration program. “It’s collaborative diplomacy at its best, with good people, good food, and opportunities of a life time. I love what we do. Public Policy and Administration is the right career for me.”

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