Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New USF St. Pete leader takes questions



In her first week at the helm of USF St. Petersburg, Sophia Wisniewska got the academic's orientation: meetings, meetings and meetings. Possibly also a stray report.

The new chancellor took office July 1, and sat down this week with Gradebook for an hour-long interview at her new digs overlooking Bayboro Harbor. Check the St. Pete Times and Clearwater & North Pinellas sections of the Sunday paper for our Q&A.

In the meantime, not everything we talked about could fit in print. Here's a few tidbits from the cutting room floor:

Wisniewska was a little surprised by our daily monsoons. "I couldn't get out of the car due to the rain."

How she would describe USF St. Pete: "I think it’s a very high-quality institution with obviously undergraduate and graduate programs that’s research-oriented, with strengths in civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and so it’s um, it has many of the qualities of a large research institution but not at the same scale. One of the trademarks of the educational experience here is students do significant work with faculty on research. We’re small enough to be able to develop those kinds of relationships between students and faculties. I wouldn’t call it  a high-end boutique, but maybe."

A high-end boutique? "I wouldn’t. It’s too frivolous. But we have our niche and we have our focus. It’s not so much the niche but the distinguishing characteristic is related to the experience here, the opportunity to work with very extraordinary faculty who have terminal degrees in a small classroom setting, a laboratory if you will. A discovery, a creation of new knowledge, where undergraduate students get pulled into that experience very quickly. That’s unusual. That’s a rarity for a big-name institution."

What should USF St. Pete be? "That’s what we’ve got to figure out. That one I don’t have the answer to. And it’s going to take a lot of conversations and a lot of voices at the table. There are a lot of questions to answer, everything from how big USF St. Pete should be, to the academic profile of the students, to the number of programs to the focus on programs. So I think we need to take a look at our existing strengths and build on those strengths, but I also think we need to look at new opportunities and ways to innovate, and to make an impact in this community."

She has a message for students: "I would say to make the most out of their USF St. Petersburg educational experience. To use that education to make a difference in the world, to make themselves, their families and this institution proud. That would be the greatest giveback that any of our students could make."

Any chance of USF St. Pete becoming the flagship in the future? "You're tough. I'm not going to go there."

Check Sunday's paper for Wisniewska's thoughts on new residence halls, how large the university should grow, and when the new College of Business building is going to get off the ground.

[Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 5:14pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours