As University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft made her way to the podium at the recent Congress of Regional Leaders, moderator and Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation chairman Ronnie Duncan threw out an aside that many may not realize about the university's sixth president.
She loves to zip line.
After her remarks at the economic development event, Genshaft chatted with the Times' Ernest Hooper about her affinity for zipping along suspended cables, her love of travel and why she wants every USF student to gain international experience.
It's a commitment reflected in the fact that she and her husband, Steven Greenbaum, donated $1 million to USF over the next five years for scholarships designed to aid students studying in other countries. So you really like to zip line?
I zip lined in Alaska. What you do is you go from tree to tree. You have a harness on and you zip along the line. I've done it in one of the Caribbean islands. There, you go from the top of the mountain down to the beach. I've done this in South Africa and Zambia. You get me a zip line, and I'm on it.
What do you love about it?
It's the thrill. You're speeding along, and you're looking at everything. It's just fun. When we were in Victoria Falls, zip lining over the gorge, it was definitely a fun experience.
So you're a continental zip liner. It sounds like you really love to travel.
I love to meet people. I'm a people person. I think when you travel and learn about other people, it's just fascinating.
How important is it for your students to experience international travel?
Well you know my husband and I gave a donation to the university of $1 million earlier this year for students who cannot afford to travel. We want to give them the experience of going international. We started an endowment. My goal is if they receive an acceptance to USF, I want them to get a passport. I want them to have an experience with an international group.
Can travel and studying abroad help with career development?
It's part of what business leaders want. They say, "You have a student who goes to elementary school in Florida, secondary school in Florida, college in Florida and then you're sending them to me at a multinational company? I shouldn't be the one to teach them about tolerance and understanding and cultural differences, you should be the one."
It sounds like they can learn about diversity on campus and by studying abroad.
I want to get them out of their usual world and learn about others and respect others. They don't have to believe in it, but at least respect others.
Clearly, you can learn a lot inside and outside of the classroom. I tell people I learned a lot hashing out those late-night debates in the dorm lounge.
You become more tolerant and understanding of one another once you learn about the other person. To me, that's all a part of this. You've been on the campus, you know how diverse it is. Everybody has a right to pursue their interests, but they should learn about the cultures of each other.
Ernest Hooper can be reached at email@example.com.