One of the great benefits of having a research university located in the heart of our community is the breadth and depth of educational opportunities that we can provide for members of our community.
At the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, we embrace the opportunity to connect with members of the community, as well as organizations and businesses who would enjoy engaging with our faculty and staff.
USFSM has the ability to attract well-respected experts on topics of significance to our campus and community, providing students, scholars, community leaders, residents and visitors to the area with unique opportunities to learn about contemporary issues, share information and engage in lively discussions.
Simply stated, we want to bring the classroom into the public arena to benefit civic organizations, businesses, public interest groups, research institutes, elected officials and the general public.
Last week, we hosted nationally renowned social justice speaker and advocate Kemba Smith, who shared her personal story of incarceration and inequities in the nation’s prison system. What made the evening so special was the diversity in the audience that included high school students, USFSM students and community members of all ages, cultures and walks of life. She delivered an excellent message about the importance of making good decisions and overcoming adversity.
Next Thursday, Feb. 22, USF Sarasota-Manatee will host an event aimed at enlightening and deepening our understanding of issues and opportunities affecting Cuba and other islands in the Caribbean. In partnership with several local businesses and organizations, including Sarasota-based Cumberland Advisors, the Global Interdependence Center, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Research One and USF World, we are bringing an amazing collection of well-credentialed experts to share their knowledge with our community.
One of the driving forces behind the conference, David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors, and I will have the privilege of framing this daylong event, “Cuba and Caribbean: What Now?,” with opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. The seminar will feature high-profile experts covering a range of topics important to investors and entrepreneurs, travelers to Cuba and the Caribbean, and anybody with an interest in Cuban and Caribbean affairs or the hurricane recovery efforts.
The day will begin with a presentation from Vicki Huddleston, a retired U.S. ambassador and the former principal officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and conclude with a bipartisan panel discussion with U.S. Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who serves Florida’s 26th Congressional District that includes the Florida Keys, and Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands; the session will be moderated by Ben White, a journalist from Politico and a CNBC political correspondent.
Many other experts with impressive credentials will be on hand, including Stephen Kay, director of the Americas Center for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Eugenio J. Alemán, director, senior economist and Latin Connection executive adviser for Wells Fargo Securities; Sara Banaszak, manager for public and government affairs at EXXON Mobil; Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute and a professor of anthropology at Florida International University; Mark Abbott, managing director of Raymond James Financial; and David Seleski, president and CEO of Stonegate Bank.
Our goals at USFSM are clear: We are fully committed to student success; we are passionate about conducting breakthrough research that can positively impact society; and we are continuously seeking ways to expand our community engagement and impact through partnerships and educational programming.
As we move forward, USF Sarasota-Manatee will seek even more opportunities to partner with community organizations, businesses and other colleges in the Cross College Alliance, to sponsor and host events of interest and importance to members of our community. In addition to inviting community members to our campus, we also will continue to seek ways to share the expertise that our faculty and staff have in community-based forums. We are excited about bringing the classroom to the public arena.
Karen Holbrook is the regional chancellor of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.