The hiring this week of a new chancellor for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg opens a new chapter at an evolving campus with even more potential. Language scholar Sophia Wisniewska will be the first competitively selected leader since the campus achieved individual accreditation seven years ago, and she comes with significant experience in running similar institutions. USF president Judy Genshaft has chosen well.
With just under 6,000 students, USF St. Petersburg will be the fourth regional campus that Wisniewska has run. She most recently served as chancellor of the 1,700-student Penn State Brandywine. Before that, she was dean and CEO of two campuses for Temple University. That experience of navigating campus needs within the dynamics of a regional system should prove invaluable as she maps a five-year plan for USF St. Petersburg.
The new chancellor's most obvious challenges will be finding money to build a home for the business school, further expanding student housing and fighting off the occasional attempts by meddling legislators to make the campus an independent institution. But the community will also look to her to provide an even broader vision of how the campus can better serve students and the community.
Wisniewska will arrive as the favorite of those in St. Petersburg, not necessarily just the USF administration in Tampa. That's a contrast to the last go-around, when Genshaft hired the previous chancellor, Margaret Sullivan, on a short-term basis to address an accreditation problem and then made the appointment permanent. (Since August, the school has been led on an interim basis by the former dean of the USF College of Marine Science, Bill Hogarth, who did not make the list of finalists.) Those who met Wisniewska last month during her interviews called her charming and said she was easily the favorite of three candidates among students and faculty.
Wisniewska is an experienced leader with a campus already excited about her arrival. That is promising not just for USF St. Petersburg, but for the entire community.