Friday, September 21, 2018
Education

After years of planning, USF St. Petersburg opens new home for its business college

ST. PETERSBURG — Streaming into the sun-drenched atrium, business students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg are taking in the sights and smells of a brand new building.

Through unscuffed hallways, past a scrolling stock ticker, they trek to their classes, carrying maps to unfamiliar destinations: the Entrepreneurship Suite with plush, colorful chairs dotting the open space, or perhaps the Wealth Management Center with rows of computers primed for marketing research.

High-profile rankings and major donations have elevated the profile of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business in recent years, but its ambitions have been curtailed by a revolving door of business deans and a long stretch without a home base. As the university lobbied for state dollars, students were scattered among three buildings and faculty among four.

Now, nearly two years after breaking ground, the opening of Lynn Pippenger Hall marks the college's deepening roots in St. Petersburg, concentrating its big ambitions under one roof. A ribbon cutting is set for 11:30 a.m. today.

For university leaders, the new building brings a chance to more tightly knit the school into the fabric of the city, uniting students and faculty with community and business partners.

"The relevance we have to the community and the region here is going to be critical to us," said business dean Sridhar Sundaram, who joined the university this summer.

Peeking in on classrooms last week, watching students in Bulls green swarm the lobby, Sundaram couldn't contain his grin.

• • •

In June 2015, USFSP's chancellor called off the search for a new business dean. A memo went out to faculty and staff, saying the hunt would start from scratch.

Finding the perfect leader was critical in the eyes of regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska. She wanted someone who could work with faculty and the broader business community, enhancing the school's already-successful ventures, like its online MBA program, recently ranked 18th in the nation.

"If I hire well, life is a day at the beach," she said. "If I don't, it's hell."

The college was already pulling in sizeable investments. State dollars were helping shape its future home along Third Street S. Kate Tiedemann, a retired medical manufacturing entrepreneur, donated $10 million and her name to the college to support education and research, including a faculty endowment fund.

In early 2016, businesswoman Ellen Cotton donated $1 million to underwrite scholarships. A few months later, retired Raymond James Financial CFO Lynn Pippenger gave $5 million, also for scholarships. Her name now adorns the centerpiece building, one of few in the nation where both a business college and its building are named for women.

In Michigan, Sundaram was taking notice.

When he visited USFSP, he saw a waterfront university in an energized city poised for growth. He envisioned strong community relationships, like the ones he'd been building at Grand Valley State University's business school. He admired Wisniewska's leadership. And he saw potential.

• • •

With Pippenger Hall's debut and a much-needed residence hall in the works, Wisniewska's plan to turn USFSP into a distinctive four-year choice for students is gathering steam.

The contemporary, 68,000-square-foot business building cost about $30 million. Roughly $27 million came from the state.

Students can find academic advising and resume help on the first floor. Companies will be invited to hold interviews there.

Newly planted palms border the Collaboration Terrace, a sunny all-purpose space where Sundaram envisions entrepreneurial pitch competitions. A Consumer Insight Lab offers space to faculty, students and businesses for a variety of purposes, from focus groups to real-life sales training.

In a trading room, students can access market and company data for portfolio trading and class research. Reclaimed oak tables give trees that once stood on the land new life. A cafe will sell snacks in the atrium, where students hang out.

"Everyone has to go through there, and that's going to create a sense of community," Wisniewska said. "People will see each other, ask questions, exchange information. It'll be like an unending series of meetings."

From the upper floors, students and faculty can watch planes land and sailboats cruise on Tampa Bay. Across the street, construction continues on a Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital research building in the burgeoning Innovation District.

"If we just put our hand out the window, we can touch a partner," Wisniewska said.

To integrate with the community, Sundaram will coordinate intern fairs, donor dinners and a speaker series. He wants faculty members to serve on area boards and for businesses to work with professors and students.

A portrait of Tiedemann hangs in Sundaram's office, keeping him focused.

Raised in a one-schoolroom town in Germany, Tiedemann spoke no English and carried just $30 when she arrived in the U.S. at age 18. She stumbled into work as a maid in Manhattan, eventually landing a "girl Friday" job at a business that sold surgical instruments. Much later, after she had found success selling instruments for eye surgery, she still wondered where a formal education might have taken her.

"I told Kate, 'You're keeping an eye on me all the time,'" Sundaram said. "I can't goof around."

• • •

As Sundaram gave a tour of the building on its first day of classes last week, two wide-eyed students ambled through, gaping at the outdoor walkways and pristine classrooms.

One student in a USF hoodie gushed as he passed, "This is such a pretty building."

"Did you have classes here?" Sundaram asked.

"No," the student demurred. He just wanted a peek. "I'm not a business major."

"You are now!" the dean said with a laugh. The student introduced himself as Philo Rizkalla, a biomedical sciences major. The dean and chancellor shook his hand, expounding on the benefits of the business program.

"I'm going to be here all the time to study and stuff," Rizkalla promised. Then, convinced: "I'll definitely be taking a class here. Oh my god, this is beautiful."

Their sales pitch worked.

Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321. Follow @clairemcneill.

     
Comments
Pinellas education news: college fairs, lectures and more

Pinellas education news: college fairs, lectures and more

Students, parents invited to three upcoming college and career fairsThree events are scheduled over the next two weeks that are designed to help students plan their next steps after leaving the Pinellas County school system. The University of South F...
Published: 09/21/18
Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well

Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well

TRINITY — Julie Michael stood in the metal bleachers, flute poised at her lips, ready to play the national anthem with the Seven Springs Middle School advanced band.As the band segued into the school fight song, the eighth-grader continued per...
Published: 09/20/18
Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

And 200,000 third-graders just rolled their eyes.I swear, even they can see through the education proposals offered by gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum this week.Let’s see, the Republican wants more privatization. And the Democ...
Published: 09/20/18

Local rapper encourages elementary students to attend school every day(w/video)

Local rapper Corey Thornton performs original songs on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019 about the importance of school attendance at Walsingham Elementary School during a school wide assembly. During Attendance Awareness Month, Pinellas County Schools and th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

TAMPA — All summer, while most students were gone, the University of South Florida has been toiling away on a blueprint for the complex merger of the USF System.Its three universities in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota will soon consolidate into o...
Published: 09/19/18
Employee pay dominates Pasco schools budget debate

Employee pay dominates Pasco schools budget debate

LAND O' LAKES — The Pasco County School Board unanimously adopted a $1.26 billion budget Tuesday with a slightly lowered tax rate and funding for new school construction in both east and west Pasco.But the spending item that grabbed most of th...
Published: 09/19/18
Ernest Hooper: HCC helps light the way for those on life's winding paths

Ernest Hooper: HCC helps light the way for those on life's winding paths

After he graduated from a Maryland high school, Rickey Murray had a number of opportunities awaiting him at a number of four-year institutions.He eyed the University of South Florida, applied to Florida International University and considered Virgini...
Published: 09/18/18
School buses, technology updates and teacher recruitment on Hernando schools legislative agenda

School buses, technology updates and teacher recruitment on Hernando schools legislative agenda

BROOKSVILLE — Busing concerns, security technology updates and teacher recruitment efforts could headline the Hernando County School District’s concerns in Tallahassee next year. As the district’s legislative picture for 2019 sha...
Published: 09/18/18
Pasco-Hernando State College leader Robert Judson dies at age 77

Pasco-Hernando State College leader Robert Judson dies at age 77

Robert Judson, who spent a decade as a community college president, died Monday afternoon. He was 77.In 1994 Judson took the helm at Pasco-Hernando State College, then called Pasco-Hernando Community College. He became the college’s second president ...
Published: 09/17/18

Pasco Letters to the Editor for Sept. 21

Re: Pasco deal for teachers another 'slap on the face' | Sept. 7 letterKenny Blankenship’s recent letter to the editor confirms why he is a social studies teacher and not a math teacher. Like the Tampa Bay Times, Pasco County Schools has a fac...
Published: 09/17/18