The University of South Florida unveiled the new home of the Judy Genshaft Honors College in a grand-opening ceremony held May 12.

USF unveils Genshaft Honors College building

TAMPA — The University of South Florida unveiled the new home of the Judy Genshaft Honors College in a grand-opening ceremony held May 12.

The five-story, 85,000-square-foot facility will serve USF’s most accomplished and talented students and strengthen the university’s position to attract the top talent within Florida and beyond.

The new facility, located across from the Yuengling Center along USF Genshaft Drive on the Tampa campus, provides a dedicated home for the unique classes and programs for honors students.  It features a variety of spaces for intellectual development and creative exchange, including open-design classrooms, 39 signature learning lofts and dedicated studio spaces for art, food and culture, along with music and technology.

A total of 50 spaces in the building are named through generous gifts.

The project is primarily funded through philanthropic support, including a historic lead gift of $20 million from USF President Emerita and Professor Judy Genshaft and her husband Steven Greenbaum. When the gift was announced in 2019, it represented one of the largest gifts of its kind ever made by a sitting university president to their institution.

The building will welcome its first class of students this summer.


Tampa Bay Water OKs $200M budget

CLEARWATER —Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors on May 15 approved a $199.6 million budget for fiscal year 2024.

It includes a 2-cent increase in the wholesale water rate at just under $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. For a typical residential household, which uses about 4,200 gallons of water a month, the rate increase means an extra 7 cents in monthly water bills from the wholesale rate.

The approved budget funds the utility’s capital needs through 2033, which include new water supply and water quality projects. The budget includes funding for two large projects to bring more water to the region with no added staff.

The agency’s 2024 budget anticipates a 200,000 gallon per day increase in water demands, largely due to growth in the member government service areas. 


Students with disabilities complete UMatter program

ST. PETERSBURG — Six students with intellectual disabilities have become the first cohort to complete the Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter Program.

The postsecondary education program at USF St. Petersburg allows students who aren’t typically represented at college to experience campus life and prepare for a career.

The students spent the past two years in UMatter, receiving a certificate of completion at the end of the spring 2023 semester. The program provides young adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to further their education and live on campus while learning social skills and career training.

With support from professional staff and mentors from USF’s College of Education, participants take topical courses that teach social skills and independent living. Students learn how to do laundry, grocery shop, budget and make healthy lifestyle choices.

In addition, students take actual college courses that align with their career path.

To qualify for the program, students must be 18, have a high school diploma and have a documented intellectual disability. 

The UMatter program was launched in 2020 through a $900,000 grant awarded by the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. In 2021, USF received a $1.2 million gift from Andrew and Eileen Hafer to help fund its operations and initiatives.

In addition to the six graduates, five students are entering their second year, and another cohort of 10 is starting in August.


USF lab is state repository for trafficking data

ST. PETERSBURG — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill that makes the USF Trafficking in Persons Risk to Resilience Research Lab the statewide repository for anonymous human trafficking data.

As part of the larger Senate Bill 7064, which supports victims of human trafficking and strengthens penalties for human traffickers, the provision appoints the TIP Lab with collecting and analyzing statewide data to better understand the magnitude and trends in human trafficking across the state and over time.

The lab is also tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of state-funded initiatives to combat trafficking and will work with law enforcement and state agencies to report data on human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, which can aid those agencies in combatting human trafficking and individuals. 

The TIP Lab is one of the first research centers dedicated to studying the myriad impacts of human trafficking in Florida and housed on the USF St. Petersburg campus. The mission of the lab is to make the region resilient to human trafficking by bridging information gaps in human trafficking, which can help organizations locate and access services quickly and efficiently.

Florida currently ranks third in the United States for human trafficking. Tampa Bay is considered a hotbed for child sex trafficking due to its vulnerable youth and influx of travelers.