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Opinion
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Guest Column
USF doubles down on its commitment to community partnerships
In announcing its Office of University Community Partnerships, USF wants to provide a way for community organizations of all kinds to access and collaborate with the university.
 
The University of South Florida campus in Tampa is pictured.  An intentional focus on neighborhood partnerships is a big part of the work at the newly created Office of University Community Partnerships.
The University of South Florida campus in Tampa is pictured. An intentional focus on neighborhood partnerships is a big part of the work at the newly created Office of University Community Partnerships. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 26

Every great city in the world has a great university. When the University of South Florida was founded nearly 70 years ago, a strong community connection was already in our DNA, and has since been part of our strategic plan. The community-engaged work that our faculty, staff, students and administrators have undertaken resulted in the Carnegie Foundation recognizing USF as a “community engaged university.” We are proud to announce an elevated commitment to community engagement through a newly created Office of University Community Partnerships, which provides a welcoming, consistent and user-friendly way for community organizations of all kinds to access and collaborate with the university.

Eric M. Eisenberg
Eric M. Eisenberg [ Provided ]

The new office exists to broaden our collaborations with community stakeholders, ensuring representation from education, industry, government, nonprofit organizations, the military and neighborhood groups.

Every potential partner will have a range of choices for collaboration, from hiring interns and recent graduates to joint research projects, scholarships, certificate programs for employee upskilling and philanthropy. We will catalog partnership initiatives, measure outcomes and report on tangible impacts, thus demonstrating the value of these partnerships to the broader community.

The idea for a new Office of University Community Partnerships emerged from my meeting about a year ago with USF President Rhea Law. We shared a vision for how to further define our identity as a metropolitan research university and do even more to engage with communities throughout Tampa Bay to help elevate our region.

The result was a new role for me after nearly three decades in academic appointments, most recently as interim provost. And it created, for the first time, a seat at the table with the university’s top leadership team to ensure our work in engaging community partners is represented in key initiatives and decisions.

An intentional focus on neighborhood partnerships is a big part of our work. This means helping to craft a coherent plan for the Uptown area and working with the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council to redevelop East Tampa to support smart manufacturing. It means continuing to bolster USF Health’s partnerships with Tampa General Hospital and other regional health care providers. And it means working with the communities that support our campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee on projects such as our Center of Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences in St. Pete and strengthening partnerships for risk management and insurance, nursing, hospitality and other programs in Sarasota-Manatee.

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Finally, our work with entrepreneurial support organizations such as Embarc Collective, the Tampa Bay Wave and our own technology incubator, USF CONNECT, is vital to realizing our overarching goal of making Tampa Bay an attractive destination for businesses focusing on cybersecurity, environmental science, fintech, health care and other industries.

Together, we will continue to align our partnerships with the strengths of the Tampa Bay region — and help to provide a better quality of life for those who call this area home.

We want to hear your ideas, and we want to help you achieve your goals. So, please, reach out and let’s work together — you can contact us at partnerships@usf.edu.

Eric M. Eisenberg is professor of communication, was dean of the USF College of Arts and Sciences for 14 years, and currently serves as USF’s senior vice president of University Community Partnerships.