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New leader will come at key time for USF St. Pete

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 09:16 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg is expected to whittle the list of candidates in the coming weeks as it searches for a new regional chancellor to guide its growing campus.

A group of stakeholders is meeting today to set guidelines for a series of interviews with the remaining 10 candidates — a list that will be pared to three finalists, said university spokesman Tom Scherberger.

Whoever the university picks as its next chancellor will come in at a crucial time for the school.

"The university is kind of at a crossroads," said Gary Mormino, the USF Florida Studies program co-chair. He's also a member of the 18-member advisory committee charged with recommending the top candidates to USF President Judy Genshaft.

The role of regional chancellor a title Mormino described as "a fancy word for president" entails fundraising, shaping USF St. Pete's strategic plan and determining whether the campus should continue to grow and, if so, how.

"We need to make a decision as a faculty, a university within a system: How large do we want to grow, given our capacity, our space, and given the resources that we have and the declining budgets over the years," said Frank Biafora, dean of arts and sciences at USF St. Pete and the chair of the advisory committee.

"We have to manage that very carefully."

Political science major Chris Talley said he hopes the next chancellor is in it for the long haul.

"There's been a lot of turnover," said Talley, who was student government president in 2008.

The next chancellor will be the third in the past decade.

The search began shortly after Chancellor Margaret Sullivan resigned last summer. Sullivan is credited with helping the campus restore its accreditation in 2009, after the school had been put on probation for failing to fulfill certain academic standards. Sullivan replaced Karen White, who resigned in 2008, six months after the campus was penalized.

William Hogarth, the campus's interim chancellor, is among the top 10 candidates. Hogarth, then the head of USF's College of Marine Science, led the research team that studied the impact of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The campus, once a cluster of Merchant Marine barracks, is no stranger to change. USF officially added the property in 1965 and created a sparse commuter campus that served graduate students and upper-division students enrolled in core classes in Tampa.

Now pushing 50, the downtown St. Petersburg campus sports towering residence halls, meticulous landscaping and a student body that seems to skew younger than ever.

The next chapter, in many ways, will be up to the next chancellor, Biafora said.

One thing Biafora and others ruled out was breaking from the USF system, as the Lakeland campus did.

"We benefit from this relationship with an outstanding research university," Biafora said.


kbradshaw@tbo.com (727) 215-7999

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