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Tschiderer, J. M.
J.M. Tschiderer oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Milly St. Julien
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida,
1 sound file (61 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (24 p.)
USF 25th (1985) anniversary oral history project
Description based on CD version record.
Recorded July 11, 1985.
J.M. "Sudsy" Tschiderer recalls his time as Universeity Union Activities Counselor for the USF St. Petersburg campus.
Tschiderer, J. M.
University of South Florida at St. Petersburg
University of South Florida at St. Petersburg
St. Julien, Milly.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
i CD version:
Tschiderer, J. M.
t [J.M. Tschiderer].
USF 25th (1985) anniversary oral history project.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Milly St. Julien (MS): Today were talking with J. M. Sudsy Tschiderer, who is, at this time, the university union activities counselor for the St. Petersburg USF campus. Sudsy came to this campus in 1969 as a student and has stayed around for quite a while. What I first want to ask you, Sudsy, is about your first contact with USF. Why did you come here and what were your earliest impressions of the university?
J. M. Tschiderer (JT): I came to USF St. Petersburg, more or less, by default. I had received my A.A. degree from St. Petersburg Junior College and had fully planned to transfer to the University of Florida and pursue a degree in journalism. Unfortunately, I did not get all my paperwork in in time to go to the University of Florida, and I was with a friend, one day, who drove down to the St. Petersburg campus.
And, not knowing what the facility was, we more or less popped in. She picked up a class schedule, and I couldnt believe that we had a university here in St. Petersburg, and I picked up a class schedule too. And the next thing I knew, I was enrolled in four classes at USF St. Petersburg. My first impressions were guarded, given the location.
The location was beautiful, you know, right here on the waterfront, absolutely tranquil and a super place to get your mind and emotions in order for academic pursuit. But the barracks and the actual facility itself were a little bit intimidating and, certainly, not, to that time, comparable to what I was used to at the junior college and considerably less students around and a very small library.
However, I was quickly won over by the incredible faculty and staff here, and I think thats the reason Ive stayed here ever since. We had an incredible rapport with our faculty. They were so concerned about our academic well being and our personal well being, and they freely gave of themselves and their time to us as students.
It was very common to walk down the hallway, and youd be the only one in the hallway, maybe youre heading for the Coke machine or the canned soup machine, as the case may be, and there would be Dean Tuttle, whistling away, asking how you were doing, or Donna Christensen.
And my coursework at that time was in English, and Harriet Deer and Bill Garret were just tremendous as advisors and as teachers, and that basically kept me here. My first semester was a test, you know, and I was still thinking of transferring to the University of Florida but was putting in some time here because I, as I mentioned, hadnt gotten my act together. But Im very glad that I did.
MS: When we were talking earlier, you mentioned that you had started out in the Tampa campus. Could you give me your impression of the Tampa campus as compared to the St. Pete campus?
TJ: When I was a high school senior, I was editor of my yearbook, and, in that capacity, we were able to attend seminars, at University of Florida and at University of South Florida, in journalism. These were particularly aimed at high school students, and both of the seminars at both of the universities were really outstanding in content.
However, it gave me a very good chance to sense the environment as a whole at those institutions, and I was absolutely and totally smitten with the aura at the University of Florida. It was just so comfortable and so beautiful, and it had just a very relaxed yet stimulating atmosphere.
Unfortunately, my impression of the Tampa campus of USF was extremely negative, and I had made myself a vow that I would never, never go to the University of South Florida. It struck me as very cold and sterile. The college students who were in the union at the time just looked at us like we were some kind of zombies, you know, little high school students, and made us very uncomfortable.
I felt like this was not a place I wanted to pursue my higher education. I was very intimidated at that time. And, at Florida, it was another atmosphere. The reason I ended up at St. Petersburg Junior College was that I received a journalism scholarship at JC, so, of course, I went there because of the scholarship.
MS: What was your sense of the relationship between USF to the University of Florida or Florida State, as a student and even as an administrator or faculty later?
TJ: Okay. When I came to USF as a student, I really did not make any great distinctions between USF, Florida State [University], University of Florida. They were all name colleges to me. When I came to the St. Petersburg campus, I could see the clear differences between a monumental facility like [University of] Florida with its long history and its established traditions.
Then I became more aware of how young USF was and, particularly, how young the St. Petersburg campus was. And I guess it was because of the people I was aroundyou know, students, faculty and staffit was an incredibly creative and stimulating situation.
We really felt like, even though USF Tampa may not have recognized our existence and that was clear so much of the time, and we had a problem in the community. You know, I didnt know the campus was here, and the next thing I knew, two weeks later, Im enrolled as a student. I could see, not what we didnt have, but where we were going.
And, again, the people I was around made up more than I could ever imagine for the lack of a beautiful facility, a variety of programs. We had one-to-one contact with our teachers. We had administrators who really cared about our extra curricular programs and the development and experience that we could get from them. We didnt have very much, but we were in a very creative and challenging position.
MS: So it was more of a sense of family?
JT: Oh, very definitely a family in the most positive sense of the word. You know, I can remember we had intramurals like volleyball, and we would have teams made up of faculty and students, and administrators and students, and wed have little round-robin tournaments. So it was really great fun, you know.
And wed have a semesterly social event in the early days with a chicken luncheon. Wed get a live band, and wed get boxed chicken luncheons, and everybody would come in and have a good time. And that was back when the auditorium had fans and no carpeting. But it was a good family.
MS: Did you participate in the development of any of the following things: the library, the bookstore, or especially, probably not that as much as student activities like student government?
JT: Well, I have to mention that I feel like I had a large contribution, in any case, to the development of the bookstore, as all students do. Actually, my contributions, if any, were in the area of the development of the office of student affairs. When I came here in 1969, as I mentioned, I had planned to pursue a degree in journalism.
We did not have that curriculum here at the St. Petersburg campus. We had an English curriculum, which I pursued and supplemented it with a lot of courses in journalism that were offered here but not leading to a degree in journalism. And, in that context, I, of course, wanted to write for the student newspaper, which was The Oracle.
And I can remember my early frustration, and I think I may have been the first student from our campus to write an article for The Oracle, and it was published on the front page. It was great. And then never again was my name to see print because we had, apparently, produced the obligatory story about the St. Petersburg campus, and anything else that was submitted was, forget it.
So that led us, my friends and myself who had been involved in journalism at the junior college, led us to develop a campus newsletter. And that was first called The USF St. Pete Bulletin and then, the following year, we had a contest, and it was named The Crows Nest. The name was submitted by Dr. Garret.
So that got me involved in campus life real early in that context, through the student newsletter. And this all came about because we went and had a conversation; we, the students from the junior college who transferred here, had a conversation with Mr. Bramus, who was center administrator at that time and said, Well, what is there for students to do here? You know, extra curricular activities.
And he said, Well, lets have a meeting and get you all together and see what you want to do. So we had a meeting, and out of that came the student newsletter and our programs and, eventually, a student association, which evolved into a student affairs committee, which was made up of students, faculty and staff. It was a comprehensive, representative body for the campus, though the main thrust was student input.
The second year I was here, a director of student affairs was hired. His name was Wayne Hoffman. I had the great privilege of continuing my work from the first year with Dr. Hoffman, and Dr. Hoffman was a creative, imaginative innovator. He was the ideal person for developing an office of student affairs.
I was so fortunate to have an opportunity to work with a man like Dr. Hoffman as a student assistant in, again, the capacity of student newsletter and student government, though, at that time, it wasnt called student government. I graduated with a degree in English in 1971 and left the country for my travels for the summer in Europe, and I came back, and I had quit my local jobI had worked in movie theaters for years and years.
I quit that job to go to Europe. I had graduated, gone to Europe, came back, and there I was, penniless with a college degree and nowhere to go. And lo and behold, the department of student affairs had begun to expand, and they needed a receptionist for B Building. We have a counteryou may rememberover in B Building, which was a student lounge and sort of the hub of action.
I became the receptionist for the department of student affairs. I posted bulletin board notices and made posters and worked with all student organizations, continued my work with the Crows Nest, and sold tickets. We had a very innovative program with ticket sales, had discounts for students.
We had daycare and we had pool, swimming pool, we had a coffee house. We were really doing all kinds of things in trying to develop programs that would enrich us as students and also give us practical experience in organizing and providing leadership to programs. And, as luck would have it, this job became available, and voil-lathere I was, an employee of the university.
It was particularly appealing because I could work with Dr. Hoffman and, secondly, because I was able to pursue a graduate degree, which I started in 1971 and completed in 1983 with a number of lapses in and out of there. So I have been with the Department of Student Affairs ever since, and I have worked in, basically, in student activities, beginning with the receptionist and then moving up to my current position now.
As people came and went, I stayed on. And, as we grew, we had more responsibilities and the excitement of creating new programs to meet student needs. Just for your information, the office of student affairs currently encompasses student activities, financial aid, veterans affairs; we work with Project Thrust, career placement, some academic advising. It really has grown since its early days, and I feel privileged to be a part of that.
MS: Sudsy, the next question Id like to ask you is if you can tell us something about the early curriculum at the St. Pete Campus. I know it must be much different than what they had in Tampa and a lot smaller.
JT: Most definitely. When I came in 1969, we had full degreed programs, but there werent a whole lot of them. I believe in English we did, obviously. Thats the area I had my degree in. We had psychology. We had several business programs, accounting, general businesses, education, of course.
We had a lot of education courses, elementary and high school as well. And then we had internships. That was a very early program; that education program was very early. We also had courses in history, in geography; I believe we had some inI guess political science was a little later, but we had philosophy courses, and, of course, many of us took those as electives.
I had, basically, a second degree, if I wanted to complete it, in either mass communications or psychology. At that time, we didnt have minors, so you just built up a lot of extra courses. The geography program was very popular as electives, very difficult coursework.
Gary Shallman was the pioneer there, and he was really terrific. I can remember our first class. There were five of us in the course, including the mayors wife, and it was really quite an enlightenment. All five of us were chugging away at world history.
MS: How difficult was it, at that time, to complete a degree here? I mean, did you have to go to Tampa in order to?
JT: I took absolutely no courses in Tampa. Again, the benefit of having your advisors work closely with you, you knew what courses were coming up, what you needed, and you scheduled yourself appropriately.
MS: And as a fulltime student
JT: As a fulltime student, I took at least four courses. At that time, most of them were worth four or five hours, so it was sixteen hours. I worked a fulltime job. I was able to arrange my schedule different each quarterthen we were on quartersso that I could either take all my courses in two daysI remember I did that one semester; it just about killed me.
You know, Monday, Wednesday for two hours and then two hours in the afternoon and then a night course each of those nights. Again, the faculty who served as academic advisors were very conscious of our needs as students and the fact that many of us had families, jobs and other commitments, though academics did not come second.
With the small enrollment, almost every class was like a seminar, so you got the maximum from your education.
MS: Do you feel that this campus was different than most universities, first of all because it was in a retirement community at the time; also because there were no dormitories, it was all commuting; and thirdly because, did you find most of the students to be older than what you would expect at University of Florida?
JT: Yes, to your last question, and I learned to appreciate that difference. We had such an age variation in the classroom that we had many perspectives. And sure, we came in with our 1960s ideas and somewhat, perhaps, nave and idealistic. And then we had people who had very, very different ideas from ours.
And of course, we had the Vietnam War going on at that time, and you can imagine some of your American history classes got a little bityou know? But thats what education is about. If you cant test your ideas and obtain some kind of growth in the university, then where are you going to do it?
MS: So you found
JT: Absolutely. And the students in business said the same thing too. They were in classes, fresh from the junior college or wherever, and they were in class with business professionals who were finishing the degree they never completed or were trying to keep current in their own profession. And what a mixture that provides. Its just an incredible opportunity.
And you meet friends of different age groups, and that is really valuable. And I guess I didnt notice it as a big, giant change because, at junior college, it was very much the same thing.
I made friends with a lot of people who were, you know, considerably older than me and had different points of view, and it really was valuable. As far as the university being located in a retirement community, I had no big problem with that. It never really stood out.
MS: Do you think that might be one of the reasons that the extra curricular activities were built specially by the faculty and the students? Or the small campus might have had something to do with it because you wouldnt find a lot of outside activities?
JT: Yes. We kind of had a dichotomy in that regard because we were developing activities on campus during times when students wouldnt want to take advantage of it. But it was somewhat difficult to get everybody back on campus on a regular basis, and thats still true the same. Exactly.
And part of our development of the student affairs department, and the whole campus, was to address that issue. We were forced, at a very early age, to deal with commuter students, and we developed programs utilizing resources in our community. For example, the ticket sales program where we got discounts for students at local plays, concerts, et cetera, that we could not afford to duplicate on the college campus.
And so, we went into our community and used its resources, while, at the same time, looking at the resources we had on the campus and developed them to the maximum. Now, we did not have a lot of money. Most of our student money went directly to Tampa, and then they gave us back a pittance for our programs.
So we were forced to be creative early on. And I will add that I was able to get the traditional college fun-time by going up to the University of Florida on weekends as time permitted. Id go to University of Florida homecoming, and I had a lot of friends up there.
So I felt like I never, ever thought I was lacking in something because you can always make up for the losses that you feel you have to. But we had such a creative situation here, and I mean that very truly. I am eternally grateful for that creative, challenging situation that this campus provided me.
MS: Okay. I want to ask you some general questions about the quality of the life at this campus. Youve answered a lot about the atmosphere and the personal contact with the students and faculty, but what aboutlike, you mentioned you were here during the Vietnam War, so it was probably the latter part. But do you recall any kind of student protest or anything that dealt with any kind of social issues, political issues?
JT: Generally, not on the campus. Again, since we were an urban university with commuter students, many of us were already involved in those activities through community groups, and it was not really necessary for us to duplicate that when we were already involved and very active and established programs within the community.
So we were looking more at developing communication within our own family, as it were, ways that we would be able to have more interaction with, say, the businesses students. So that it wouldnt be a place where you just came, went to class, and left; that we did get to meet each other a little more and develop student organizations, bring in speakers to give us some greater vision.
We did not ignore those things, but, like I said, more people were involved off campus. I was looking through the old Crows Nest to give myself some jogging of the mind, and I noticed, in there, we had, Peace Rally, October 30th, Tampa. So we were conscious of those things, and Im sure that there were a lot of heated discussions.
I can remember some of those very well in the student lounge. But, again, we were more interested in bringing students together, so we could have those kind of conversations with people who did not have their own point of view.
MS: What about race relations? Now, I know that, at that time, the public schools were not completely integrated. Im almost positive that the colleges had begun integration much sooner than the public schools. Did you notice any kind of, say, a difference at the St. Pete campus? Were there more black students? Were there less than, maybe, in Tampa?
JT: I was never consciously aware of that, so its very difficult for me to comment on it. I know that with this small student bodyI think they were like in the 400-person areathat there were not a lot of minority students. I know that we attracted more minority students, as we, in general, attracted more students to the campus. Of course, this would be in the later 70s, mid-to-later 70s.
There was really no problem. Again, when youre in a small family situation and everybodys here to get the most out of the academic curriculum, its not reallyI never noticed it as any kind of problem. I would like to see more minority students having access to the universities.
I dont know really what the problem is, whether its some promotion; you know, were not getting the information to minority sources so that they know that there are scholarships and opportunities here, et cetera, et cetera. I would like to see that grow more. I think that were probably a little low in our percentages.
And, like I mentioned earlier, I think its very important. The more perspectives you have in your students in the classroom, it just is so much more beneficial to everyone and creates much more tolerance and awareness of other points of view.
MS: This may be the same for a lot of the other situations, but what about the role of women in the development of this campus? Im sure you would say weve got a lot to do with it.
JT: Its kind of funny. As I was going through the old Crows Nest, I was going through minutes of old Student Government meetings, and the first group was all women. All nine of them, all nine women students. However, I can more seriously recognize that it was combination. At least in the student area, there was probably equal leadership but in different areas.
You found a lot of men in the business clubs and more women in theI hate to say liberal arts, but concerts and films were more done, at least in the records, by the women. And the accounting club and the management club were more organized by the men, and that may have been because those were the groups within those courses, you know, very natural.
As far as for the whole campus, I point to the people who made such an impact on me. You know, Dean Tuttle, Donna Christensen. The two of them were just superb. And then in later years, Mr. Kennerson and my boss, Don Haney, who became the director of student affairsgosh, I think about nine years ago, and I was here for seven years in that capacity.
At least with the university, he had several jobs but worked for a number of years as the director of student affairs, terrific man. Again, my first year, Harriet Deer and Bill Garret, so its pretty much divided, I would say.
MS: As a staff person now for the campus, what do you recallor do you ever notice any problem in a working relationship as a staff person, being a female?
JT: (sigh) Well.
JT: I hate to say it because it sounds so trite, and it sounds like its the typical thing that a woman staff person would talk about. I was very fortunate, in my first boss, Wayne Hoffman, to have a genuine visionary as a boss. There was absolutely no problem in my relationship with my first boss here. Subsequent directors I dont think were so enlightened, and there was a very strong, in my opinion, male administrative core at USF.
MS: On the St. Pete Campus?
JT: At the University of South Florida in Tampa. And some of those characteristics flowed over here in some of our relationships. You know, we did have a lot of people from Tampa coming over here, either to teach courses or perhaps to take on administrative responsibilities. Our second director of student affairs was a Tampa campus staff person, and he had quite a lot of Tampa orientation.
And of course, we were not very independent at that time. We did our own thing over here, but we had very, very strong tries to Tampa. Administrative policies were dictated by Tampa in many regards. As I mentioned, with student funds, they came to us from Tampa. We paid them in, and then Tampa said, Well give you some of them back if we have enough money for ourselves.
There were a lot of bitter fights, you know, students to students and students to administrators on the Tampa campus, trying to get some kind of recognition for the development of our programs. And I was involved in that as a staff person and as a student. I think weve come some way in that regard, though I think that its more difficult for women to move up in this system.
JT: Yes, I do.
MS: Well, thats a good lead-in, then, to the relationship between the St. Pete campus and the Tampa campus. I know that, as a student and as a staff person, that you had to deal with that relationship. Do you want to tell us just a little about it? I mean, some of the problems that people should know.
JT: Yes. It has been a changing relationship. Its been a very difficult relationship, and a lot of it has to do with the growth, not only of the regional campuses, but the growth of the University of South Florida. Theres not enough time to do everything, and I mean that in relationship to Tampa administrators.
Its a lot easier, and it has been traditionally a lot easier, to just say, This is what youll do. Now, do it. And not have to worry about the little campus over in St. Petersburg that may syphon off students. And theres been some perceptual problems regarding the St. Petersburg campus.
In the early days, it was kind of stuck over there to idealistically provide college education in Pinellas County for upper-division students. Fantastic idea, you know. Spread that opportunity around. The city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County has always been supportive of the University of South Florida in the development of the St. Petersburg campus.
But too often the St. Petersburg campus was perceived as an unwieldy step-child and a facility that syphoned off the attention that shouldve been focused on the Tampa campus and its growth and its many problems. And, as a result of growingyou know, youre always your growing painsthat has been a traditional source of problem for us.
We often felt like there never was enough attention paid to us and our problems. And the value of the St. Petersburg campus is not always recognized in context of the overall picture of the university, and that can be extremely demoralizing. Often, it seems that we could not get promotions as easy as you could if you worked in the Tampa campus.
Our job classifications were not equivalent to those in Tampa because we were just, Oh, the little campus, they dont have that much to worry about. Whereas we here are wearing many hats. If you were in my situation, as the coordinator of student activities, I was also the advisor of student organizations.
I was the coordinator of the recreation facility. We had multi hats and a lot of responsibilities, which were wonderful. But our counterparts in Tampa, it seemed, always were getting many more opportunities for growth, professionally and monetarily. Whats the question?
MS: The relationship between St. Pete campus and Tampa.
JT: Oh, yes. We went through a very difficult period in relation to activity and service fee money; thats money thats generated, right out of students tuition, for programs. That was a long, bitter struggle. But in that process, as always, theres a light, and we have been so fortunate to have people like Phyllis Marshall, who is the director of the University Center, has been at USF forever.
And another person, Chuck Hewitt, who was the associate vice president of student affairs, both of them were very supportive of student programs and student affairs on our campus before it because fashionable to be aware of the St. Petersburg campus. They were willing to stick their necks out to help us, and they were willing to give their time to us.
In one case, when we were trying to get our fair share of activity and service fee money and Dr. Hewitt was the budget officer, he encouraged the students on the Tampa campus to listen. He said, Theyre generating that money, dime for dime. They should get it back. And that was an unpopular thing to say on the Tampa campus. But he was an honest man. He continues to be a superb administrator, in my opinion.
And the picture was not totally black, between the two campuses. The development of the other regional campuses, I think, has enhanced our credibility in the whole university system, though there are still those kind of problems that, when youre not on the home site, its a little easier to just say, Look, why cant you just do it this way, and we dont have to worry about it?
MS: Youd think that one of the problems that the branch campuses might suffer from is the fact that the University of South Florida has not received its fair share of money from the legislature. Also, when comparing the University of Florida and Florida State University, it must filter down through the branch campuses. They suffer even more so because its a
JT: Yes, absolutely. I dont have any statistics to back this up, but I think that they are available. One of the constant sources of problems has been directly related to funding. When you are the lowest on the totem polehey, theres not enough to get to you. You have a choice: you either take it or leave it.
Well, that is not very good for morale. When the legislature appropriates money to USF, its appropriated to USF, not to USF St. Petersburg. And if we have it on our dockets that we need X amount of new faculty to maintain an equivalent proportion of faculty to students, and Tampa needs it, Tampa takes the money.
I can remember some years where we were very distressed because our legislative delegation, who has been extremely valuable in promoting USF St. Pete, kind of pumped St. Pete campus and our needs, and assumed that in the total budgetif it was for St. Pete campus or new faculty and the legislature maybe informally assumed they were going to go here, that didnt necessarily mean they were coming here.
You know, when you are a low man on the totem pole, you are a low man. And too often we have had that attitude thrust upon us. Another thing Ill mention is that we are considered regional campuses. I believe our campus is the first regional campus in the state university system. Branch campus is not a term we really use for our campus because branch means little, tiny thing, and we are a regional campus.
MS: Has that always been the case? Or is that just recently?
JT: No, we started offits been probably ten years. But that was, you know, since Im mentioning it, Im making a big thing out of a little thing, that was kind of an important step in growth to us, that we were recognized as a regional campus and not just a little branch.
MS: Yeah. Â I think, probablyand Im sure you probably see this a lot, coming especiallythe fact that St. Petersburg and the Clearwater area has grown so much and those students seem to be filtering down to the St. Pete campus. What kind of influence do you think that has on the expansion of the St. Pete campus as a necessity?
JT: In the development of the St. Petersburg campus, there were several locations under consideration to develop this campus: one was in Clearwater, one was this location here, and another one was in Seminole. And the city of St. Petersburg was absolutely enthusiastic about having a university in its city, to enhance the city and provide the cultural and academic resources that a university does.
We do service Pinellas County, and the interstate has facilitated travel to our campus, and, of course, that helps it, I think, a lot for students coming from up county, like yourself, if you can remember that long drive. Since we are located two blocks from the interstate, that really helps a lot.
But I think a lot of students are attracted to us because we are small; you dont have to wait in huge, long lines; its a tranquil atmosphere. Its really nice. When you come on campus, youre coming through downtown St. Petersburg off the interstate where its all hectic and crazy, then you come here to the tranquil harbor.
Its almost like the best of both worlds. I anticipate lots of growth. Theres a real push by the city of St. Petersburg to continue its revitalization of downtown St. Petersburg, and more and more cultural resources are springing up, and Im very optimistic that it will continue.
We have an excellent relationship with our neighbors, the Dali Museum, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Of course, they came after we were here, but before us were places like the museum of fine arts. And I think these are appealing resources for students.
MS: The last thing that I want to talk about, and this may take the rest of the tape, Im sure, is the community relation because, I know, especially in your capacity, and I know as a member of the lecture series committee, how important community relationship has been with the university. So if you could sort of give us an overview, say, from the late 1960s and up to this point, and your changing relationship as a student and staff member.
JT: Right. Well, as a student in 1969, it was very, very evident that our community activities or our community relationship was at our own time. We had to put so much. When we were at the university, we were doing things in a context of a brand new educational facility. We just didnt have the resources, as I mentioned earlier, to outreach into the community, other than making the community aware that we were here and that we had courses.
But, you know, so early on, there was as much attention paid to getting the course schedule organized. So those of us who were involved in community activities were involved, not because of the university, but because we had already been involved. This slowly grew into such things as the lecture series, which, comparing it now, 15 years later, where we have a regular lecture series.
Every Wednesday we have the brown bag lunch lecture series, and we have huge support from the community. We have a group called the USF St. Pete Singers that Im extremely proud of. This group had its beginning in a small group of us back in the early 70s. We, again, in our own free time, not as an organized group from the university but friends who also went to the campus, would go and do little song fests at senior citizens centers.
In 1974, we actually formalized this into a group called the USF St. Pete Singers, which is a community service organization. We go out several times during the year and do 50-odd shows, mainly for senior citizens at the veterans hospital, at psychiatric centers and, as needed, for art shows or whatever.
This has generated a lot of publicity for us and the university. We wanted USF St. Pete to be known that, Hey, were here, and were not just taking from the community, we are giving back in our own way. We develop more student organizations, that in turn develop more community ties.
For example, the accounting organization would have regular meetings and invite local accountants; big accountants, corporate accountants, IRS accountants, CPAs, private accountants come in and talk about what its like and what to do and how to prepare. And, in turn, making those folks aware of the St. Petersburg campus.
So its been, perhaps, subtle in a lot of ways, our community relations. And a lot of those community relations were simply making the community a little bit more aware of the St. Petersburg campus. And of course, now we have the Poynter Library, which is making much improvements in library circles and in the community in that way. And we will continue to develop our concert series, our movie series.
And of course, in the last probably five years, weve developed major semesterly programs, such as the China program and the Festival du Brazil in semester 1, where we have a two-week celebration of a topic or a country or whatever, and we look at it from all angles, academic and social opportunities as well. And these are extremely, extremely well received by the community and, of course, by the academic community as well.
MS: You also use therent out rooms to different organizations, right? The conference room downstairs, so you have more involvement with community organizations.
JT: Yes. We dont rent. We make them available free.
MS: Okay, its free, so its even more of a community service.
JT: Right. We have done this forever. But the unfortunate problem is, in the process of growth, we just have not had enough rooms to do this. And since weve had Bayboro hall in 1980 and now Coquina hall in 1984, we have a little more space. But we are still bulging at the seams, particularly in the evening.
We just dont have enough classrooms for everything. And we dont have enough student space to accommodate all club meetings and this and that. But where we can, we try very hard to make our facilities available to groups off campus as long as theres no conflict with the primary purpose, which is classroom space.
MS: It would seem to me that, because of the difference in the age of the studentsyou get young students, people right out of high school up to people who are starting back to school; people who are in business, already established; and people who are retired going back to schoolyou get such a diverse group of people who graduate from this campus and then support it, that it must contribute to the community support so much more than a lot of universities.
JT: We, of course, like to think that. But when you look at numbers, our enrollment is probably 2,600 bodies. And a lot of people come just for a course here and there, and they dont really take the time or see the kind of programs that they could get involved with. Or the typical problem that students feel that they only want to come and go to class and then go home.
They dont want to recognize the opportunities that involvement at a student organization, for example, can give them in developing leadership skills, organizational skills, management skills, speaking skills, things that they will have to develop in the professional world. This is a good opportunity to learn or hone some of those skills, or tackle a skill that you didnt know you had.
Maybe you dont have it, but at least give it a shot. That is a problem that keeps us on our toes. And the diversity of the student body means that a program that worked last year may not work next year. That makes it really challenging. It helps you avoid becoming stagnant and stale. Though I never dreamed that I would be here this long, I had not planned to complete my masters degree in 1983. I thought I would be done a lot earlier.
MS: You were speaking of the problems with the diverse age group in the community and in the university with keeping the university creative and not stagnant.
JT: Yes, in terms of student extra curricular programs, you can really see changes in where peoples interests are. Theres a lot more attention these days to careers and dressing for success and interviewing skills. Back in 69 and in the early 70s, there were more conversations about social interests and social concerns and how you could apply your talents and skills to those.
Its interesting to watch those changes. Its hard to believe its been 15 years, Ill tell you that. One of the other things that is very exciting in terms of the diversity of the student body and the community, we are getting more and more co-operative programs with facilities like the St. Petersburg Art Center. They hold a fantastic annual art show here. Two centers art show each fall. We have a revolving art show concept in the library.
We still dont have a gallery on campus. I hope we get that one of these days. We dont have suitable exhibit space as a result of that, nor do we have an ideal facility for lectures and concerts. Our auditorium is a reconverted cafeteria-gymnasium back in the old merchant marine days. And it holds 300. Its got a flat floor, not ideal acoustics. And our very lovely, small conference room holds 150.
But when you are fortunate enough to bring people like Ralph Nader and Jack Anderson and Allen Ginsberg, national and international names where you anticipate an audience larger than 150 and, in some cases, 300, it becomes a problem. Of course, looking back to 1969, Im absolutely ecstatic that the auditorium would be too large for a program. In those days, a closet was too large, you know.
MS: Well, it has grown really fast. It really hasnt been around that long if you think about it. Its such a new university. What about, do you feel that youve gained more, say, political support among the city council or the Pinellas council? Do you think that is going to help the university in the long run, maybe especially in development of new buildings? Because I know theres a lot of controversy about the airport versus the university.
JT: Yes. Im somewhat saddened by those kind of airport versus university arguments because I think part of the root of the problem has been the lack of a full redevelopment concept for this area.
And Im not sure that you could ever have something like that, but we have so many major contributors to our environmentthe Bayfront Medical Center, All-Childrens Hospital, the airport, the Bayfront Center, the Dali Museum, the Poynter Institute and the Universityall in the same areas and with various projected growths. But theres only so much land.
And, you know, if we could look at the big picture, I think it would be better for us in the long run. We have enjoyed, historically, support from our council and the Pinellas delegation for the University of South Florida, and particularly the University of South Florida in St. Pete.
Im sure that thats walking a fine balance because, when you have that much political support, sometimes, when its all for one and one for all university concept, all that enthusiasm might be challenged, and rightly, to USF and not USF St. Pete or Sarasota or Tampa or whatever.
So sometimes its a bit of a fine line. But, again, historically, and it continues to grow as we become more visible and as we have enough facilities to have more courses, you hear time and time again, students saying, Oh, I wish I didnt have to make the drive to Tampa. My course starts at 6:00; I have to be on the bridge at the worst time. I would do anything. Why dont you offer that course here?
And, of course, we have to say, We dont have the space, or we dont have the money to have a faculty member. And so many of those things are tied up in the purse strings that are held by the Tampa campus. Thats just the nature of the beast. I hope that we can not look at the negative relationships that we have in this situation when you have the big campus and the little campus.
But its very critical, in my mind, to USFs growth to recognize the advantages each type of campus holds for the community. I mean, were here for students. Thats the bottom line. Were here to be educators, to provide an educational opportunity to enrich our Tampa Bay area. Thats what were here for.
And we must look at ways of appreciating each others differences and making the most of them, as the University of South Florida, and not tearing ourselves apart, while maintaining the integrity of each individual campus. I am a staunch supporter of the St. Petersburg campus and will always be.
MS: What about the curricula here? Is it more a liberal arts school or is it more a business college at the St. Petersburg campus in particular?
JT: I would say its a combination of all of the above. However, some areas in the liberal arts are lacking, most notably in the sciences. And that has worried a lot of people. We dont have laboratory facilities. We dont have laboratories for language programs. We dont have space for fine arts programs.
Our sciences are all at the graduate and PhD level. We have a very strong business college, but I think thats part of a sign of the times. More people, I think, see careers in business as something thats immediately within ones grasp. And we would very much like to have more of the broader base of liberal arts here, but when you dont have the space for it, it becomes a problem.
Where are you going to put it? Buildings mean money, and money, we all know the problems related to money. Theres only so much to go around. Â So I dont really see it as being heavy-weighted in business. It may be that the business colleges are very visible at this particular time.
I think that the administration, at least here on our campus, is very, very concerned about having a broad base in its curriculum and, I think, has historically shown this to be true. Looking back at the courses that were here in 68 and 69, they were very much the same. We have just grown, added more added degree programs, et cetera, et cetera.
One of the things thats quite exciting is a new program at USF, the masters of liberal arts. We will have that program here on the St. Pete campus within the next few years. Theres a faculty committee headed by Steven Turner on this campus, developing that here. So thats a good sign too.
MS: I think weve covered mostly all the questions that I had. As an overview of everything or a conclusion, how would you, if you look back at all the time that youve spent here as a student and staff person, what would you say were the best or the worst changes that have happened on this campus?
JT: Both of those relate to growth. You know, its like a two-sided face. It was very hard for us to actually move into Bayboro Hall. Those of us who had been here for a long time, and that included some of the marine science students, some of the eternal students like myself, the graduate students who had been here as undergrads and continued on.
And, of course, for a lot of the staff people, it was fun watching the building rise out of the mound of dirt and everything that was over herethe sandspur hills and the old sunrise tavern and all of those great places of our undergraduate days.
But when we actually made the move from the humble barracks, which we all grew to love as a second home, as odd as that may seemits almost like it was so homely that it became homey, and you became very protective of those old barracks.
And I remember, not too long ago after wed moved into Bayboro Hall, a part of B Building was taken down to make a parking lot for the Department of Natural Resources, which also is housed on the peninsula here. And one of those former students absolutely went insane trying to get the roomthe plaque with the room designation on it. It was 141 A.
He had had so many courses in there that he really wanted that piece of memorabilia for his personal memories. So thats kind of funny. I think we all were like that to a certain extent. We really thought it was terrific moving into this new building right here on the waterfront, and, wow, look at the brand new toy.
But it was a little hard leaving the old, comfortable shoe. So that was a positive change, in the sense that it gave us optimism for growth, developing new programs and new facilities to do things in. But, at the same time, we lost a lot of our sense of being a family because, in the new buildings, there are lounge areas that you pass through, and then you go to your little offices, and you dont necessarily intersect as much or anymore.
In the old barracks, you had one hub, and all of the classrooms jetted out in the hallways that were adjacent to the main hub, and everyone ran into each other. You had to, students, faculty and staff. That was the only place to go, virtually.
And, of course, our delicious snack machines were in that area, and then our little snack bar, while we had one, provided and opportunity to have a cup of coffee and a conversation. We really miss that. And its harder to get around in these new, modern buildings. Theyre more like a maze of modern architecture, and not the homey, old, comfortable shoe.
JT: And it was kind of a shock to have new faculty and new staff and, most importantly, new students come on campus and not even get to know them or see them until they were seniors. We didnt like that too much.
MS: Well, thanks a lot, Sudsy. I think that youve covered just about everything I can think of right now. And maybe 50 years from now we can do this again.
JT: I understand were working on projections for the year 2000, which should be a real interesting phase in the growth of the whole university, not to mention, us here. I want to leave on a positive note, though, Milly, and I think that USF, in spite of my early observations about the university, once I got past that first semester here on this campus, I had a billion times improved perspective of this campus.
And I think, along the way, I have learned to appreciate USF as a whole, and I really hope that university administration will perceive the richness that its regional campuses provide the entire University of South Florida and will consider the jewels in the crown, not just the biggest. Were pretty terrific.
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