USF-Sarasota Manatee: A Great Choice For Long-Term Success

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By Ryan G. Van Cleave

In the fall of 2013, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee enrolled its first freshman class of four-year students. Prior to that, USFSM served primarily as a two-year finishing school, meaning only juniors and seniors attended, mostly coming from State College of Florida and other state colleges. success

Dr. Terry A. Osborn, Interim Regional Chancellor, says, “Our decision to add freshmen and sophomores came about after lengthy discussions and feedback from community leaders. It was important for our community to have a university where local students could earn their degree and a place that the community could look to for increasing their highly-skilled workforce in areas of strategic emphasis. Our four-year offerings also keep bright students local — they learn here, they live here, and hopefully they stay right here in our community after graduation. Our transition helped us meet the needs of the community.”

Close to home

One of the most surprising effects of the transition is how the campus has changed. Before this shift, USFSM was known as a commuter school for working professionals who sought to earn their degree at night, course by course. They’d come to campus for class and then go home. These days, the level of campus life and student engagement is constantly high. It’s a lot more like other traditional four-year schools — students are having fun at the beach volleyball court, they’re sipping coffee outside the Sudakoff Pavilion, and they’re studying in the newly renovated Student Commons. success

“Who wouldn’t want to live here while they earn their degree?”

The students on campus have changed as well. They’re no longer a standard type. “This is another thing that makes our campus great — there is no typical student,” Osborn says. “We have students who join us straight from high school and we have students entering USFSM with credits from dual enrollment. A large portion of our students came to us as transfers from State College of Florida and we also have working professionals and non-traditional students who earn their degrees at night or online. We have a terrific blend of all types of students, but what unites them is their thirst for knowledge and their love for this area. Who wouldn’t want to live here while they earn their degree?”

Generousity as a key to success

Part of what made the first four-year class a success was the generosity of donors such as Drs. Richard Wharton and Lou Bertha McKenzie-Wharton, who funded a freshman scholarship to cover all the unmet needs of the first 100 freshmen from local high schools. About that commitment, they say, “When we were asked a little more than four years ago to make a contribution toward providing scholarships to the first freshman class at USF Sarasota-Manatee, we did so because we, as educators, recognized the important relationship between education and such factors as socio-economic success. Perhaps, more importantly, we looked at our contribution toward providing scholarships to the first freshman class at USFSM as an investment in persons who will hopefully make a difference in our society by contributing their talents to what is often called ‘the greater good.’”

Sarah Bradtmueller, a USFSM student who is part of the May 2017 graduating class, is an elementary education major whose goal is to teach at a local elementary school, preferably kindergarten through fifth grade, she notes. “The scholarship I received played a significant role in my choosing USFSM. However, I also loved the idea of going to a university and not having to uproot myself. Staying in my hometown has been wonderful, as I’ve been able to save money as well as spend a lot of time with my family.”

She explains that the average 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio at USFSM is wonderful. “It allows relationships to grow between professors and students. It creates a comfort level where you feel ok with asking a professor for help. I also loved that I could walk down the hallway and have professors, the dean, and even the regional chancellor walk past me and address me by name. You just don’t get that at big universities.”

Osborn wants more local students to enjoy similar experiences. “We want to provide access to higher education to our entire area and are excited to see how large that number becomes,” he said. “We would like to have quality growth over time while we ensure that each of our students will be successful. We hope that everyone considers USFSM as an option.” Student demand has already created a good problem for the school — it’s in need of additional space. Osborn explains, “We have plans to add a new academic building, specifically for our STEM programs, but in order to meet the current demands we will need the support of everyone in the community. We hope their desire to keep students in this area will translate to the type of support we need to build that facility.”

“17,000 USF alumni live or work in our area.”

A community endeavor

That support might be easier to find than one might expect. Why? Walk into any business or organization in this community and ask how many employees graduated from a USF campus. The response might surprise you: 17,000 USF alumni live or work in our area, and that number is growing each year. As USFSM’s first freshman class graduates and enters the workforce, those alumni will put down roots in this area. “That’s what we hope for,” Osborn admits. “We want to keep our most talented students here, so they can become the next wave of business and community leaders. Our transition allows them to do that.”

He adds, “I’d like everyone to encourage young people to consider USFSM for their higher education. Come visit us at an open house. Give us a call. Come walk around our beautiful campus by the bay, or visit our Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch or our laboratory facilities at Mote Marine. Once people hear about our terrific programs and world-class faculty, we know that they will realize how much money they can save by staying local as they fall in love with their university. Our campus is the best place for your long-term success, and we welcome the opportunity to tell you why.”

For more information about the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, please visit www.usfsm.edu or call 941.359.4200.

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