St. Petersburg College’s Emergency Management Council, in conjunction with local, state and federal officials, continues to closely monitor the rapidly changing situation regarding the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and in Florida. SPC values safety and security for all, while advancing student learning and academic success, and fostering employee care and support.

As such, the college is using due diligence to encourage “social distancing” and will be making the following adjustments to best prepare for and prevent the spread of the virus and ensure a safe learning environment:

  • The college will extend Spring Break for students by two days. Classes will be cancelled for students on Monday and Tuesday, March 16-17.
  • The college will open as normal for faculty on staff on Monday, March 16. (During March 16 and 17, college leaders and faculty will continue to prepare to move previously scheduled face-to-face courses to the online format, while facilities teams will be working to disinfect campuses and ready all facilities to ensure on-campus students are maintaining recommended distances.)
  • The college will move to online instruction for the majority of courses beginning Wednesday, March 18 through March 29.
  • While the majority of courses will be offered online, all campuses will remain open. Normal operations will resume Monday, March 30, unless the situation changes.Our highest priority is to maintain normal operations for student services on campuses including tutoring, advising, computer labs, registration, financial aid, business offices, etc.
  • With a multitude of workforce programs, many requiring hands-on interaction (such as labs, clinical rotations or internships), select courses/programs that are not suitable online instruction will continue to be held on campus at this time and are being addressed on an individual basis.

“St. Petersburg College values safety and security for all, while advancing student learning and academic success, and fostering employee care and support,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams. “Please know that your health, well-being and success are my top priorities. I have no doubt we will continue to work together to move the semester forward, while showing care for one another. This flexibility and teamwork are the bedrocks of our ‘Community of Care’ and I want to express my gratitude for your patience as we work through this situation.”

In addition to moving classes online:

  • SPC’s Second 8-Week Session will start on Wednesday, March 18.
  • All large-scale, college-sponsored events will be canceled, postponed or conducted virtually Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 13. At that time, SPC will review the situation and provide additional information.
  • All college athletics events will be canceled through Friday, March 27, effective immediately. At that time, SPC will review the situation and provide additional information.

Today, SPC students and employees were notified of the changes online, by email and also through the college’s social media channels. Supervisors are also reaching out directly to their teams to answer questions and assist them with any adjustments.

At this time, the college has not been contacted by the Department of Health about any individuals testing positive for the virus.

For additional information, please refer to the college’s Emergency Preparedness website and FAQs regarding the college’s response involving the coronavirus COVID-19.

St. Petersburg College has been closely monitoring the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) for several weeks and is working under the guidance of state, local and federal officials to prepare for and prevent the spread of the virus.

At this time, no determination has been made regarding any campus or college-wide closures. However, we do have plans in place should that decision be made by SPC President Tonjua Williams, in conjunction with local, state and federal health officials, as well as officials with the Florida Department of Education. As always, the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are our highest priority. While the college is on Spring Break this week (March 9-13), the College’s Emergency Management Council has been meeting regularly to monitor the situation.

The College has an Instructional (Academic) Continuity plan for students and faculty should the college, or specific campuses, be forced to close due to the virus. All of the College’s 1,800 face-to-face and blended classes held on campuses have online capacity. College leaders are continuing to refine this plan, as the situation evolves, to minimize interruption of student learning. College faculty and staff will work through each class, including labs, internships, etc., and their requirements, to address students’ needs as they arrive.

Here are some of the additional measures the College has been taking proactively to ensure we are prepared and providing a safe learning environment:

  • College leaders are sending updates – through email, the College’s Emergency Preparedness website and social media channels – to ensure that the most up-to-date information is quickly and accurately disseminated.
  • The College’s Facilities Planning and Institutional Services Department is using disinfectant cleaners in all high exposure areas, including restrooms, cafes and areas where people congregate. The department is also regularly checking that all hand sanitizing dispensers are full and functional.
  • SPC leadership is encouraging all faculty, staff and students exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms to stay home and not come to college sites. The College has also communicated additional prevention measures provided by the CDC.
  • Out of an abundance of caution, the College has postponed two Study Abroad trips – one to Japan and one to Italy – that were previously scheduled for this spring. Those who planned to take part in the aforementioned trips have received communications directly from the SPC Center for International Programs.

Additional information is available on our Emergency Preparedness site, including resources and an FAQ.

When Richard Atwater’s father passed away, he put his goals of going to college on hold.

His father, Richard Atwater, Sr., was an electrician and also helped out with his family’s restaurant, Atwater’s Cafeteria, a mainstay in the South St. Petersburg African-American community where Richard grew up. The restaurant has served southern-style food for more than three generations.

“Atwater’s Cafeteria has been around since my great-grandma. My dad used to have us there helping out sometimes,” Atwater said.

But Atwater had always dreamed of being a firefighter, and thanks to St. Petersburg College’s PITCH program, he’s one step closer to that dream. He recently completed SPC’s Fire Academy and is now a certified firefighter, and he is currently enrolled in SPC’s Emergency Medical Technician program to complete his firefighter training and make him eligible to apply with the City of St. Petersburg.

cohort of championsNow in its fourth year, PITCH (Providing Instruction for Tomorrow’s Collegians and Hires) focuses on helping low-income African American male students obtain industry certifications that enable them to move towards economic mobility. Funded by the City of St. Petersburg as part of its Cohort of Champions initiative, the program was recently awarded $329,325 to continue for an additional three years through 2022. Additional scholarship support is also provided by Verizon.

“St. Petersburg College is truly grateful for our continued partnership with the City of St. Petersburg,” said Ernest Gant, Acting PITCH Coordinator. “We strive to serve as catalysts to provide black males ages 18 -24 with the essential tools to be successful in careers throughout their lives and leave a legacy for generations to come.”

PITCH provided Richard with both the financial assistance and mentoring he needed to commit to going back to school. He credits the encouragement he received from Gant as part of his success. Gant not only helps students with assistance in getting registered and advising them on classes and programs, but he also provides one-on-one mentoring throughout the program.

“Ernest would send me motivational emails and text messages. He made me feel like I could do it,” Atwater said. “Sometimes it was too hard and I’d want to quit. But Ernest would remind me that my daddy would be proud.”

For more information about the City of St. Petersburg’s Cohort of Champions programs, please go to www.stpete.org/MBSK.

cohort of champions


St. Petersburg College’s study aboard trip to Italy is on hold due to the increased threat level of the coronavirus COVID-19. Students also have been advised that there is a strong possibility the college’s Japan trip will not take place.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of State have raised their travel alerts for Italy from level 2 to level 3, advising citizens to avoid or reconsider their travel plans at this time. Currently, the Japan travel advisory is at level 2 with travelers advised to exercise increased caution.

SPC’s Italy trip was scheduled for May 14 – 25, with June 1- 11 set as the travel dates for the Japan trip.

Decisions about these trips were made in response to country travel warnings, advisories and/or public announcements set forward by the State Department or other agencies such as the World Health Organization and the CDC. The SPC Center for International Programs Office will continue to monitor these reports. If a travel advisory or alert is in effect for the date of any intended college-sponsored and/or arranged travel, the college will further review the plans as the departure date nears.

SPC will continue to communicate updates regarding this matter as needed.

St. Petersburg College is working in conjunction with the Pinellas County Health Department to monitor the current outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19.

College officials will be meeting with Pinellas County Emergency Management officials, including the Pinellas County Health Department Tuesday, March 3, and other local colleges and universities on Wednesday, March 4. Further updates will be provided as needed.

The SPC Emergency Management Council has procedures in place to respond to student, faculty and staff needs should the county be affected. These include:

  • Communications – The Marketing Department and other college leaders are sending updates as needed through email, the college’s Emergency Preparedness website, and social media channels. The Pinellas County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assists in providing information for updates. Specific updates are also being shared with students enrolled in Study Abroad programs and members of our athletic programs.
  • Infection Control – The Facilities Planning and Institutional Services Department is using disinfectant cleaners in all high exposure areas, including restrooms. The department is also confirming that pre-existing hand sanitizing dispensers in all campus buildings are full and functional and, if not, will be working on replacement units.
  • Containment – Faculty, staff and students are being encouraged to adhere to CDC guidelines for prevention and containment.
  • Continuity of Operations – The SPC Continuity of Operations Plan has been reviewed and provides for Instructional (Academic) Continuity and Continuation of Pay guidelines should an event close or suspend activities on campuses. (Please note: there is no plan to close any campuses or office buildings at this time.)

The college will continue to communicate updates regarding this matter as needed.


fulbright scholar

Dell-Jones stands before an art installation of silk cocoons by the Moroccan artist Safaa Erruas.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has named St. Petersburg College a Top Producing Institution in the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program for the 2019-2020 academic year. SPC is one of 26 associate and baccalaureate institutions in the U.S. named in that category.

This recognition comes from SPC adjunct professor Dr. Julie Dell-Jones’ appointment as a Fulbright Scholar in Morocco. Dell-Jones is at Hassan II University at the Ben M’Sik campus, where she taught Media in the US and Educational Technology in the Fall 2019 semester. She is now teaching Intro to Media Studies and Oral Communication.

Ready to Return

Dell-Jones chose Morocco after several trips there; though, when she applied, it had been 15 years since she’d visited.

“I have always loved this country. I wanted to learn about the Amazigh (Berber) culture and history. I read about the tribal jewelry, textiles and other artisan products. Inevitably, I also researched the language and gender issues. I was overdue for a visit, and I wanted to see how much had changed and what had remained the same.”

Her time in Morocco has helped her professionally by allowing her to experience a very different type of educational organization.

“Since I teach non-native speakers of English at SPC, learning how other countries organize their educational system has been a valuable lesson,” she said. “SPC students in ESL benefit from having English available around them in various ways, but it is still necessary to make efforts to get them out of their comfort zones.”

Some things are no different than in the States, including the obstacles students face in getting an education.

“Like at SPC, I try to get to know the real challenges for students, so that I might be able to offer a work-around,” she said. “This may mean creating a new assignment for a student who can’t access WiFi, or bringing a snack for students who have been on campus the majority of the day and will be taking a test on an empty stomach.”

The appointment keeps her on her toes, with most of her time spent planning lessons and teaching.

“Since which courses I will teach is decided very close to the start of the semester, there is a lot of in-progress planning in order to stay ahead of the students,” she said.

The experience is not all work, however. She has been able to travel and immerse herself in the culture and language.

“I attended a conference on multilingualism in Agadir, and I saw the majority of art exhibits during the International Art Festival in Rabat,” she said. “I try to attend various art shows in Casablanca and hope to return to Marrakech to see more of the visual arts there.”fulbright scholar

Dell-Jones, who earned her doctorate in Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology from The University of South Florida, has been teaching English for Academic Purposes: Advanced Writing, Reading, Speaking & Listening, and Integrated skills at SPC since 2017. She also teaches French and English as a Second Language at other institutions. Already fluent in French and Spanish, she is also learning Darija, the Moroccan variety of Arabic.

“When I began studying this language via YouTube videos and a former colleague from Casablanca, I learned that the Moroccan Darija is considered the Arabic dialect that is farthest from the classical or formal Arabic,” she said. “I am studying Darija on my own, with an occasional tutor, but my learning is “shweeya,” or, very slow!”

Traveler’s Best Friend

One thing she couldn’t leave behind was her 70lb Australian Shepherd mix, Sophie. Prior to leaving the States, she researched how a dog would be received in Morocco and Casablanca, where many do not see dogs as family pets. Though bringing Sophie has required many logistical challenges, including travel, culture, housing and the effects of the move on her canine friend, she is sure that it was right to bring her.

fulbright scholar

Sophie, Dell-Jones’ Australian Shepherd mix, gets lots of attention and has helped her make friends.

fulbright scholar

“Other Americans who are working here are often surprised by how many Moroccans I have managed to meet and befriend,” Dell-Jones said. “I credit Sophie because she is almost always the catalyst for meeting people. She accompanies me almost everywhere, and I usually encourage people to pet her, resulting in a sort of dog-ambassador role for her. I have lost count of the number of times people have waved to me from across the road and called out her name.”

In addition to teaching and learning, Dell-Jones has some projects working, as well, including a reading club, a mini photography course, and, thanks to Sophie, a visual ethnography of Casablanca’s dog park community.

“I have become a regular at the dog park near my neighborhood,” she said. “There is such an interesting mix of ages, economic backgrounds, languages spoken, and, of course, types of dogs. I’m really interested in the perspectives of dog owners in this community regarding how dogs are viewed in Casablanca.”

Can’t Win if You Don’t Enter

Dell-Jones’ advice for anyone interested in applying for a Fulbright? Don’t give up.

“This was not my first application, so I am perhaps a model of ‘try, try again,’” she said. “As a graduate student, I had applied to do research in Sweden, but I was not selected. After graduation with my doctorate, I applied as a scholar in Mexico and was selected as an alternate. I explained this to my friends as getting fourth place at the Olympics, which, ultimately, is not an ideal outcome. When I found my latest Fulbright attempt was successful, I was ecstatic to come to Morocco.”

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.”