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1 USF Florida Studies Center Oral History Program USF 50 th History Anniversary Project Narrator: Luis Visot Interviewer: Andrew Huse Current Position: Executive Director of the Joint Location of Interview: Tampa Military Science Leadership Cent er Campus Library Date of Interview: June 28, 2004 Abstractor: Jared G. Toney Editor: Mary E. Yeary Date of Abstract: Nov. 16, 2004 Date of Edit: Nov. 19, 2004 Final Editor: Jared G. Toney TOPICS OF DISCUSSION Mr. Visot came to USF in 1 981 as a resident instructor. Background After graduating from the University of Georgia with a master's degree in higher education administration, Mr. Visot applied for a resident instructor position at the University of South Florida. Before this, he h ad never heard of the university. After being offered the job, he packed up his belongings and moved to Tampa in January 1981. Residence Halls Mr. Visot explains that he refers to student housing as residence halls rather than dormitories because, "There 's more than just sleeping ... Hopefully there is an experience that allows them to grow and become better citizens in the long run." As the resident instructor for Beta Hall, he had the responsibility of not only managing the residents, but also working a s an instructor in the department of sociology. Along with another staff member, he co taught a leadership development course to undergraduate students. From his post in the residence halls, Mr. Visot took advantage of an opportunity to work in the vice president's office with the university disciplinary officers. He remembers his experiences favorably, reflecting that being spread out across the university "enhanced [and] complemented your resume." Concern for students "The number one priority for me is the love for students," Mr. Visot says of his work at the University of South Florida. "That's what keeps me young." Working with students over the years, he explains, has been a learning experience for him as well. "Student development is very much one o f my passions." Another interest of his is leadership development, something which he "just kind of fell into." Hallway "slip n slide" On one occasion, he assembled some of the residents from his hall and created a "slip n slide" by pouring soap and water in the hallway so that students could slide along the floor from one end to the other. "As a good resident instructor who wanted to be part of
2 the team I did it! Although my responsibility was to discipline, I think it allowed me to build a rapport with the students." Power outages Mr. Visot also remembers that on several occasions, squirrels would get into the electrical systems causing the residence halls to lose electricity for periods of time. Working for Raymond King "Being a resident instructor here at USF was very rewarding ... It was a very positive experience." Mr. Visot also favorably recalls his experiences working for Housing and Food Services Director Raymond King. "A great mentor for us he genuinely cared for the students ... [and] he did everything in his power to ensure that we had the facilities and the environment for our students to be able to have a good quality of life." Village construction; Area Coordinator, Department of Housing and Auxiliary Services Promoted to the positio n of Area Coordinator in 1982/3, Mr. Visot began working on a plan to develop and construct the village housing facility (which has since been torn down). When completed, the housing complex consisted of thirty buildings, each building with ten rooms and t wo residents per room. "It really enhanced ... my portfolio in terms of me having an understanding and appreciation of what construction was all about. So that was a highlight ... to be able to see something from nothing." The first buildings were opened i n the fall of 1983, and the remaining units were completed in the spring of 1984. The construction of the Village in 1983 was prompted by a significant demand for more on campus housing facilities at USF. "We had overflow on a regular basis. We had more applications than we actually had space." The Village was reserved for upper classmen and graduate students and, notably, the first married couple living on campus moved into the new facility upon its completion. When the project was first being considered university administrators engaged a number of different businesses to find appropriate housing at a suitable cost. "It was a lot of fun I really enjoyed my time working in the Village." Assistant Director of Residence Halls Training After working as a rea coordinator for some time, Mr. Visot decided that he wanted to do something different. One of the areas where he felt work could be done was in staff development. Thus, he undertook a twofold effort to further develop the staff and provide some central ized information management for the housing staff. "I think the neatest part is being able to do staff training ... I was kept pretty busy ... I really got to be very creative and innovative that's what I liked about it ... That's really ... what allowed me to get more into leadership development." Retreat at Chinsegut Hill One particularly rewarding part of the job was an annual retreat at Chinsegut Hill for all of the residence halls. "It was just really nice ... I enjoyed that." As a part of their tr aining, he would stage various scenarios for the RA's that they would be responsible for
3 resolving. "That was a fun job I enjoyed it thoroughly ... and the students were very happy with the program." Assistant Director of Residence Halls Operations Mr. Visot believes that as he matured, Raymond King trusted him with increasing responsibilities. After his work with staff training, he was asked to take the Assistant Director position which entailed assigning students to rooms, overseeing the cash operation s and foodservice sales. "That's really a time when we focused on providing quality service to our students, because that was [their] first impression." The work itself, Mr. Visot recalls, was more administrative in nature, and often "very tedious ... deta iled ... now you're talking about human life ... collecting payment from students that was a challenge ... We had fun." Mr. Visot served in this position for approximately three and a half years, making it one of his longer jobs at USF. Operation Desert Shield Just after he left his position in the residence halls, Mr. Visot (a Captain in the Army) was called up to serve in the U.S. war in the Middle East, Desert Shield, in November of 1990. He was there until early July, 1991. "So when I came back, I wa nted to do something different. And that's when I went and talked with Phyllis Marshall. Mrs. Marshall hired him as Assistant Director of Operations at the University Center. Transition to the Marshall Center Mr. Visot recalls a healthy "competition" at t he time between Phyllis Marshall and Raymond King, both of whom had been at USF for quite some time. "I wanted to go over to the student union to experience something different ... I don't think Mr. King was very happy when I told him ... [but] he was very supportive ... [and] Phyllis welcomed me with open arms." It was during this time that he met his future wife, Cindy Visot, who was working as the director of orientation. Mr. Visot laughs, noting that it was Phyllis Marshall's intent to "play the matchma ker" and set them up. Assistant Director of Operations at the University Center It was important to Mr. Visot that the UC be a place where all students could gather in a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. The Center also offers other opportunities, howeve r, to get involved with student government, multi cultural affairs, and Greek organizations, among others. As the assistant director, Mr. Visot was responsible for the reservations office, maintenance and housekeeping, information management, and the busin ess office. "I had a great team. We did all sorts of fun stuff during that period of time." Working at the UC provided him the unique experience of working with a large budget, amounting to approximately $3.7 million at the time. In addition, he was able t o work very closely with student government, something that he particularly enjoyed doing. Special Events Center Mr. Visot also had the responsibility of overseeing operations at the newly constructed Special Events Center, providing support and leadershi p for students as they managed various productions at the facility. This too was a learning experience for Mr. Visot which, he remembers, "worked out really well." At the same time that the Special Events
4 Center was being built in the summer of 1990, the U niversity Center was undergoing substantial renovations. Associate Director of the Marshall Center When the previous associate director left the university, Mr. Visot was asked to fill in as the interim director under Phyllis Marshall for a finite period of time. After being placed at the post, however, he was offered the position permanently. "I had the responsibility now for ... not only the operations side, but also ... the programming side" including the management of student organizations. As associa te director, Mr. Visot felt he was able to effectively reconcile the "underlying conflict" between the operations and programming departments at the UC. "It was a lot of fun I really enjoyed it." One of the challenging aspects of his job as associate di rector at the University Center was "trying to keep up with [the] times." One dimension of that mission was introducing more popular restaurants such as Burger King to campus dining. "Everything is timing ... culture ... what they want to do." Director o f the Marshall Center (August 1994) When Phyllis Marshall retired, Mr. Visot was promoted to the position of director at the newly renamed Marshall Center (formerly the University Center). Though university buildings are typically named for their donors, t he Marshall Center was unique in that it was named after someone who had devoted so many years of service to the university. "Students get all the credit" for the renaming, Visot says. "They're the ones that pushed it. They're the ones that went to Tallaha ssee." Marshall "really gave her heart, her soul, her whole life to the ... Center." Mr. Visot served as director for four years, from 1994 to 1998. Mr. Visot made a personal commitment as Marshall Center director to regularly attend student meetings. "I felt that if I was going to ask students for dollars, I need to be available for them." He particularly enjoyed the sorority rush period of the year, and often got involved in welcoming new students to Greek life. "During their first session, I used to get on top of tables and just get them all excited about being here at the University of South Florida ... [and] I used to go to all their sessions and visit with them ... I did the same for fraternity rush." Marriage Mr. Visot met his future wife when he fi rst began working at the University Center in 1991. After a year or two of occasional contact, they began seeing each other on a regular basis, and were married in March of 1994 at the Catholic Church on campus. Continuing military service In 1995, Mr. V isot was reactivated for military service, and was sent overseas to Bosnia and Hungry for about nine months. Special Assistant to the Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program (September 1998)
5 Because he speaks Spanish fluently, Mr. Visot h ad the opportunity to go to Venezuela for the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, visiting various universities and recruiting students for USF. He spent a great deal of time coordinating and managing scholarships for Latin American students duri ng this period. "I really built some very good friendships as a result of my time there," Visot reflects. "[It was] very rewarding." University Experience course At the time, Visot was also teaching a University Experience course, intended to expose incom ing freshmen to life at the university. He believes that he was particularly well suited for the position, considering all his experience at the university. "That was very fruitful," he remembers. Other responsibilities During this period, Mr. Visot had a lso begun doing his own consulting work, primarily motivational speaking. He also got involved with the University Ambassadors for some time. Often times, however, his momentum was disrupted by his recurrent service in the military. He tried to do much of the same coaching and mentoring with soldiers that he did with his students at USF. "I really enjoyed that opportunity ... There's nothing more gratifying than to be able to serve with American soldiers who want to serve their country and want to make a di fference." He served in this capacity for two years, from 2000 2002 while his wife was back in the States finishing her doctorate; he returned to USF after a two year tour overseas. Alumni Affairs In 2002, after returning from another military tour overs eas, Mr. Visot began working with development and alumni affairs at the university. "The focus behind it was [to] try to market the alumni association to our current student population." He worked there until February of 2003, when he was again activated a nd deployed overseas. Mr. Visot returned to the United States a year later in February 2004. Perspective Mr. Visot feels that his experience in the military gives him a different perspective when dealing with his responsibilities back in the university s etting. "It gives me a total different [ sic ] perspective in my day to day life," he explains. Executive Director of the Joint Military Science Leadership Center The Joint Military Science Leadership Center is a brand new initiative at the university whic h functions to house all branches of the ROTC programs under a single roof. At its inception, they were fortunate to receive a $6 million donation from the federal government. Mr. Visot was asked to serve as director with the responsibility of developing t he new program. "That was just a dream job for me ... [and] it's a fantastic opportunity for the University of South Florida and I think it's an initiative that's going to pay big dividends in the future." His job is to serve as a liaison between the milit ary branches and build a conduit for future joint cooperation. "They're going to provide a constituency ... the students for me to be able to do what I need to do." The intent of the program, Visot explains, "Is to engage all the other ROTC programs in the state of
6 Florida; engage MacDill Air Force Base; engage, if possible, other military academies," and other entities that stand to gain from such an endeavor. "You've got to develop a total [ sic ] new set of relationships." End of Interview
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interviewed by Andrew Huse.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (58 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 expanded summary (digital, PDF file)
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Interview conducted June 28, 2004.
Luis Visot discusses his involvement in a variety of areas within the University of South Florida. These areas include resident halls, the University Center, Special Events Center, and teaching a University Experience course. Mr. Visot also talks about the development of the University's Marshall Center and his current position as USF's Executive Director of the Joint Military Science Leadership Center.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
University of South Florida.
Huse, Andrew T.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
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