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h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Mark I. Greenberg.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (75 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 expanded summary (digital, PDF file)
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Interview conducted January 30, 2004.
Cynthia Visot discusses different aspects of the University of South Florida. She speaks on programs such as the EXCEL Fellowship and University Experience classes. In addition, Dr. Visot talks about her experiences working in the office of the University President, University Provost, and on the Board of Trustees.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
University of South Florida.
Greenberg, Mark I.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND EXPANDED SUMMARY
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 200 8 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. T his oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
1 USF Florida Studies Center Oral History Program USF 50 th History Anniversary Project Narrator: Cynthia Visot Interviewer: Mark I. Greenberg Current Position: Director, Board of Trustees' Location of Interview: Tampa Operations Campus Li brary Date of Interview: January 30, 2004 Abstractor: Jared G. Toney Editor: Danielle E. Riley Final Editor: Jared G. Toney Date of Edit: March 3, 2004 TOPICS OF DISCUSSION Upbringing She grew up just outside of New Orleans, and went to one of the last all women public high schools, which was, "an interesting experience." She then went on to Southeastern Louisiana University for her undergraduate studies, recalling that there was never a time in her life when she did not expect to go to college. She had been set on Southeastern since she was a sophomore in high school, preferring a smaller institution with a strong program in education. All of her life, she wanted to be a teacher, and her dream was to one day become a principle. College experiences She was very active in her sorority at Southeastern, an experience that she believed helped her to develop strong leadership skills. She also served as president of her sorority, and went on to travel for the national sorority, which is when she discovere d that she "really liked the university environment." At Southeastern, education students were involved in the classroom as early as the sophomore year, serving as aids and teachers. While her experience was a positive one, she began to question whether that was where she really wanted to go. After graduation, however, the opportunity arose to serve for her national sorority, a job that required a one year commitment. Her plan at that point was to return to school after working for a year to begin her mas ter's studies. During a visit to her sorority chapter at the University of Minnesota, she made a friend who encouraged her to look into the higher education and administration programs at Bowling Green State University. What interested her most was the op portunity to work with college students while utilizing her skills for teaching. She believed her organizational and creative strengths would make her an effective teacher, helping students develop the skills to become strong leaders themselves. "It was ju st exciting!" Graduate work at Bowling Green Some time after visiting the Bowling Green campus, she got a letter from their program encouraging her to apply, which she did. Based on her chapter consultant experience, she
2 was selected to be a unit director ("House Mom") for one of the sororities at Bowling Green, a position that she occupied for two years. In the classroom, she studied the theories of higher education and student development. Instructors expected their students to use their classroom experi ences to inform their own academic work, applying theory to practice. Early career Her experiences at Bowling Green left her with a strong proclivity towards involvement in collegiate student life and activities. Following her graduation, she accepted a job in student activities at Tulane developing an orientation program for incoming students and families. She spent three years serving in that capacity at Tulane, and probably would have stayed longer had the opportunity at USF not presented itself. Still she knew that New Orleans was not the place she wanted to stay and raise children. Move to USF In 1990, she applied for a job as the Director of Orientation at USF. Her responsibilities were to develop an orientation program at the university with a re newed emphasis on academics. With recommendations from university administrators, the expectations were that she would "come in and transform the whole program." She worked in this position from 1990 through 1997. Fostering school spirit on campus One thi ng that she immediately noticed was a lack of school spirit on campus, attributed in part to USF's status as a commuter school. "I want every student to come and have pride in the fact that they attended the University of South Florida," something which sh e is starting to see more and more of. One thing that she introduced to the program at USF was an emphasis on publications and information flyers that exposed prospective students and their parents to the university. Marketing and merchandising were also important in increasing the school's visibility and spirit both on campus and in the surrounding community. Items such as t shirts and bumper stickers were made available, and were offered to incoming students as part of the orientation program. The Univ ersity Experience After a couple of years, she also started teaching the university experience course, an academic elective offered to incoming students. The goal of the class was the establishment of connections between the university and its student body "Orientation planted the seed the university experience would take it one step further," offering direction in the development of effective study habits and the establishment of some structure and self discipline in the lives of newly independent fresh men. The experience also gave her a better appreciation of student learning styles, something that she had been taught as a graduate student. "It was fascinating to watch the students learn." EXCEL fellowship In 1996 1997, she became involved with an EXC EL fellowship, a one year program that selected women and minorities who showed potential for future leadership positions. Working under the direction of a mentor, the program gave her an opportunity to gain
3 some experience outside of student affairs, whil e learning more about academic affairs and the operation of the university. PhD program Following completion of her EXCEL fellowship, she decided to rededicate herself to her doctoral studies, which she had begun in 1995. Her dissertation was very much student orientated, considering ways to help students develop the necessary skills to succeed at the university level. She graduated from the program in 2000. USF presidential search committee While Visot was working on her dissertation, President Castor resigned from her position at USF, and she was given the unique opportunity to serve on the presidential search committee. Thus, she set aside her studies for several months in order to participate in the proceedings. The committee first began with eight c andidates, who had been determined by the Chancellor's office, to be interviewed for the position. Judy Genshaft had a strong economic background as a result of her experiences at Albany, something particularly impressive to the Board of Regents. She also recalls that Genshaft interviewed especially well. Transition to the Board of Trustees She was working for Provost David Stamps when the Board of Regents was replaced by a local Board of Trustees. President Genshaft informed her of the upcoming transition and offered Visot a position as Director of Operations for the newly formed BOT Her personal opinion is that the Trustees are a real benefit for USF because, "They are so committed to our university." She believes that their connections in Tallahassee have also been instrumental in the success of the university's funding over recent years. Working in the office of the president When President Genshaft made the decision to integrate the Board of Trustees with the president's office, Visot was appointe d to the position of Chief of Staff to head up the joint operations. She enjoys working with Genshaft tremendously, noting that a "high energy" informs an atmosphere of intense engagement and teamwork. Issues in the president's office Funding is the bigg est issue at the time, a concern to which the president and BOT devote tremendous energy and attention. Faculty and staff salaries are also an important matter, and one which the administration hopes to resolve in the near future through the implementation of strategic plans developed within the president's office. "I think [Genshaft] is the driving force" behind many of these initiatives. Future at USF She predicts that while we may not see any dramatic changes at USF in the coming years, "It's only goin g to get better." Visot plans to stay at USF, noting that she loves being at the university, and enjoys serving as the person behind the scenes. "My goal is to be here as long as Judy Genshaft is here."
4 End of Interview