For the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, this is a summer of great promise. The chancellor who was hired last year is settling in, the Legislature steered millions toward new construction, and relationships with business partners are being expanded. A campus that too often struggled to find its identity is developing an ambitious long-range plan for increasing enrollment, enhancing its research and strengthening its ties to the community. That vision will benefit USFSP students, enrich the city and provide more skilled graduates for the regional workforce.
Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska hopes to increase enrollment from 4,700 students to 10,000 students over the next decade, which would generate more tuition money to hire more faculty, improve student services such as academic counseling and enhance research. Much of the growth would be in the later years, and a campus that did not have on-campus housing until several years ago would add more rooms. The University Student Center that was built two years ago bustles with activity, student applications are up and academic standards for admission are rising.
Wisniewska envisions closer ties to local employers who too often have to look elsewhere for new college graduates with the skills they seek. She sees how academic programs in areas such as finance, health care and information technology could be tailored to prepare students for jobs in the area workforce and enhance USFSP's position as an option for top high school students who gave little thought to staying home for college in other eras. The long-range plan is expected to be presented to USF president Judy Genshaft and the Board of Trustees in September.
While USFSP has its own academic accreditation, it remains appropriately tied to USF. Arguments for full independence by some legislators and other parochial interests in past years have faded away, and that is a positive development. This is a mutually beneficial relationship with plenty of branding and educational benefits, and there is every reason for that to continue. For example, the highly regarded USF College of Marine Science is on the St. Petersburg campus. And last week, USF and All Children's Hospital announced plans for a joint research and education facility on 1.4 acres the university gave to the hospital. That is a promising sign for USF Health and its plans to conduct joint research with All Children's, which joined Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2011.
Meanwhile, USFSP hopes to break ground this fall on a sparkling new building for its College of Business, whose students and faculty are scattered in several buildings now. The Legislature already has allocated $15 million toward the $27 million project, and the university is seeking a major private donation in return for naming rights. The building is expected to include an entrepreneurship center, which should fit nicely with other St. Petersburg efforts to create small business incubators.
USFSP's remarkable progress is evident in its sparkling campus, residential housing and increased presence of students, creating a small campus feel that was only a dream more than a decade or so ago. Its relationships with USF and the larger community are strengthening, and the long-term vision offers even greater promise for a vibrant university that is a key to St. Petersburg's future.