USF graduate manages Florida representative campaign


Brian Goff, University of South Florida graduate, is the campaign manager for Rep. Amanda Murphy State House District 36 in Pasco County.

Goff works approximately 85 hours a week on the campaign. His duties include coordinating volunteers, writing speeches for the representative, designing mailers, managing the representative’s schedule, planning events and fundraisers and managing the campaign’s budget.

“My duties as campaign manager are pretty much anything and everything” Goff said. “I do everything that needs to happen on a day-to-day basis to make sure that the machine, the campaign apparatus, runs smoothly and efficiently.”

Goff began working campaigns as an intern and has managed three races. Two of them being Amanda Murphy’s.

“The campaign manager runs the campaign,” said Murphy. “Without them you will fall apart. They are the driving force of any campaign, so it’s the first and most important piece.

“He was actually part of the team that brought me into being a candidate and they brought him down to staff my campaign during my special election” said Murphy. “This guy is running 24/7 trying to keep track of all the bits and pieces and make sure that everyone else has the items they need to go out and do their job.”

Voters of District 36 can vote for Amanda Murphy or her opponent, Chris Gregg, November 4th.  This is Goff’s third campaign, and he says he feels confident.

“Out of all the campaigns I’ve worked on I’ve never lost one yet” Goff said.

The Art of Hairdressing: Shear Talent and Personality

Rosalia Becerra Barragan is not a typical licensed hairdresser. Six years ago, her interests changed from fashion to hair, allowing her to better apply her creativity.

“Ever since I was very young I’ve always been creative and I’ve always been interested in doing hair,” she said. “First it was fashion and then hair really interested me a lot and it allows me to be very creative in my work.”

Everyone is unique, and hairdressers often create clients’ style based on their personality.

“It’s not only just color in a box that you’re going to mix together. You have to determine what their underlining pigment is to get to that result,” Barragan said.

Barragan’s client Laura Rodriguez comes every few months, and today she retouched her “peek-a-boos”.

“I would not trust anybody else with my hair but her,” Rodriguez said. “You feel beautiful… and like a million bucks when you walk out of here.”

Barragan studied at Woody’s Hair Styling School in Orlando and continues to attend advanced education to grow as a professional.

“Hair is always evolving. Fashion is evolving. So you have to keep up with what clients are requesting,” Barragan said.

She currently averages 120 clients per month. But Barragan said her greatest achievement is her clients’ happiness.

“When they’re happy, I’m happy.”

Located at 1128 SE Carlstrom Field Rd., Shear Talent Hair Design specializes in more than just hair. It provides manicure, pedicure and massage services as well.

Wholloween Brings Whovian Swing to USF Marshall Center

In full swing, Doctor Who fans and swing dancers came out to dance the night away and participate in costume contests. Wholloween, an annual event at USF, was held Oct. 23 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center’s amphitheater. The event was open to everyone. Roughly a hundred people came out to the event. It was a mixed crowd of Doctor Who themed costumes, self-invented costumes, and non-costumed attendees.

Teaching the dangers of rip currents through interpretive dance

Dr. Charlie Paxton has dedicated his career to raising awareness about the dangers of rip currents. As a Science and Operations Officer for the National Weather Service, he predicts when rip currents will occur. Paxton is currently working on an interpretive dance video project to help raise awareness.

“I like feeling like maybe I’m helping someone. I feel like I’m doing something good,” said young dancer Eliana Vogel.

Paxton’s passion of surfing put him in an environment where he realized there was a problem.  He pursued a Ph.D. in Environment and Planning from the University of South Florida to find a solution. During his studies, Paxton learned that on an average summer day in Florida, eight people drown in rip currents.

“I’ve saved people that have been in panic mode out in the water because they’re being pulled out. It’s important to not panic, to float, to tread water, and to know that if you’re in a rip current, the rip current will eventually let you go,” said Paxton.

“He has a passion for what he studied, and that’s what makes it so easy to work with him,” said USF Professor Dr. Jennifer Collins. “I hope to work with him again in the future.”

Heroes’ Haven Comics celebrates Halloween ComicFest

Halloween ComicFest is celebrated the Saturday before Halloween in designated comic shops around the world. Since 2012, Halloween Comicfest allows comic book fans to get involved in new comics by handing out free specialty Halloween comics ranging from Batman to Archie to My Little Pony. Most comic stores simply hand out free comics, but Heroes’ Haven Comics puts on an exhibition inviting families and fans. Heroes’ Haven Comics, a “Best of the Bay” winner, brings local and big name artists to the event for signings and commission work. They even hold a costume contest.

Coral Skies Music Festival entertains with national headliners Cage the Elephant

The Coral Skies Music Festival brought talented musicians, gifted artist and delicious food to Tampa on Saturday Oct. 25. With headliners such as Cage the Elephant and Bombay Bicycle Club, Coral Skies provided an experience that pleased fans that were still reminiscing about Big Guava. The real stars of the festival were the fans that each had an interesting story about what Coral Skies meant to them and turned a music festival into it’s own world.

Brickworld Tampa 2014 shows off amazing Lego creations

Brickworld was held the past weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. LEGO enthusiasts were encouraged to attend and to bring the kids for a wonderful learning experience and chance to build your own creations. People of all ages roamed the isles to get a better look at the exhibits. LEGO engineers came together to form teams and were happy to finally show off their work at the Brickworld Exhibition.

Bangin’ Bungee provides flight at Wiregrass

The Tampa Bay Fresh Markets, locations found on, are a favorite event of people in the Tampa Bay area interested in food, fun, and great shopping. Bangin’ Bungie chose to participate in the market, which took place on the morning of October 18th at the Shops at Wiregrass. This slideshow shows the construction of the entertainment complex, as well as a 4-year-old Esperanza Bernal’s first experience on the Bangin’ Bungee.

Bradenton man turns photography from hobby to career

Billy Dzwonkowski is a self-taught photographer. He picked up his first camera when he was 12 years old and began his career at 19. Dzwonkowski currently resides in Bradenton, but frequently makes the trip to Tampa for photo shoots. He photographs everything from high school pictures, to Tampa Bay Rays games and Campus Lodge pool parties.

2nd Annual Crescent Classic Chili Cook-Off raises funds, fun

On Sunday, October 26, the Eta Eta Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta hosted its 2nd Annual Crescent Classic Chili Cook-Off in Greek Village at USF. The proceeds from the entrance fee go to the charity Girls on the Run. Guests voted on their favorite chili and were invited to play cornhole and line dance. Winning organizations received trophies. The first place overall winner Sigma Nu.

USF Quidditch Club practice shows magic, hard work

The USF Quidditch Club has been bringing the fictional sporting event from the Harry Potter series to life since the club’s inception in January 2011. The club boasts an active roster of approximately 30 members, as well as official membership status in the International Quidditch Association. Major achievements for the team include seventh place at the 2011 Quidditch World Cup and second place in the 2012 Swamp Cup. Take a closer look at the magic that happens during USF Quidditch practice.

Charlie Crist rally in Tampa features President Bill Clinton

Street Photography: Ybor City and Downtown Tampa

« 1 of 11 »

Florida Focus: 10-27-2014

In this episode of Florida Focus: An American Airlines pilot was sentenced and charged with possession of child porn; a twelve year old Palmetto boy bought illegal drugs to his middle school; prices at the pumps hit a four year nation wide low; a broken water main in Tampa; “Pink heals” tour at Moffit cancer center.


On The Streets: Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

The sponge industry saved the Greek community of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, providing them a place to share their handmade items, food and culture. (Photo by Elizabeth Engasser)
« 1 of 8 »

Faces of Courage offer free camps to Tampa children and their families

Peggie Sherry is a face of courage.

A Tampa resident and two-time breast cancer survivor, she decided to make a difference. She wanted to create a fun, fulfilling environment for women, men, and children affected by cancer and blood diseases.

In 2004, she took her inheritance money and invested it into creating Faces of Courage, a nonprofit organization offering free camps to children and families. The camps now have over 5,400 attendees and all programs are provided at no cost to the participants.

It all started when a female camp attendee kept bugging Sherry about getting a mammogram.

“I told her, as soon as camp is over, I will make the phone call. I had the appointment, I went in and had my mammogram and they found the cancer. It was the type of cancer that never would have formed into a lump. She saved my life,” Sherry said.

Throughout her recovery, Sherry made a vow to make caring for cancer survivors her life’s pursuit. Although Sherry says she is unaware of the scope of impact her camps have had, it is clear that she has made a difference in the Tampa area.

Ada Munoz is the parent of a Faces of Courage camp attendee. Her daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. She says Faces of Courage has undoubtedly made an impact in their lives.

“We’ve met so many friends throughout the years. We keep in contact with them even after she comes out of camp. They are awesome friends. They’re family,” Munoz said.

For more information on Sherry’s story and Faces of Courage, please visit

USF Foam Fighting Club Creates Lasting Friendships

Photo by Tayler Caddy
Photo by Tayler Caddy

Dirt clouds rose from the ground as a group of young men battled on the lawn, their swords hitting the bodies of one another with dull thwacking sounds. While most participants wore street clothes, one combatant looked like a knight straight from medieval times in a belted gray tunic with black pants and boots. He deflected attacks with his shield as he jumped and jabbed at enemies with his sword.

Bystanders watched the unusual scene with looks of amusement and wonder. But for the modern-day knight, Glen Greenberg, it was just another day doing what he loves.

Greenberg, 20, began the unofficial USF Foam Fighting Club in 2013 when he decided to bring his adolescent obsession to campus.

He claimed it all started about six years ago with a show on the Discovery Channel.

“In half an hour, my jaw was on the floor,” Greenberg said. “As my parents put it, it was the only thing I ever put initiative into, so they supported it in full, 100 percent.”

The name of the game is Dagorhir. Founded in 1977, the live-action combat game based on medieval themes and J.R.R. Tolkien lore involves players fighting one another with light-weight foam weapons, or boffers. Attacks on an opponent must be made with sufficient force, and all players are held to an honor system to acknowledge good, solid hits. When a player has “lost” two limbs, they are considered “dead,” and therefore out of the game.

Greenberg had led a group of Dagorhir fighters in his hometown of Boca Raton, but found himself with only his swords and shield for company when he came to USF. So he decided to go out and find people to fight with in a rather unconventional way.

Chase Brown, 19, a business administration major and club member, recalled seeing Greenberg outside of Castor Hall on campus last year.

“He literally stood up on the table and said, ‘Come fight me!’” Brown said.

Greenberg’s efforts weren’t in vain.

“Slowly, one by one, people actually went up to this crazy guy yelling up on the bench, and said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a shot.’” Greenberg said.

Since then, the group has grown to nearly 20 members. The club practices at Castor Lawn on Wednesday and Friday afternoons and never fails to draw a small crowd of spectators.

Brown said they are always open for new members, and encourage bystanders to join the fights.

“A lot of people come up to us and are like, ‘I saw the movie Role Models! Is this kind of like that?’” he said. “And we say, yes, definitely, but less magic, more fighting.”

In reference to live-action role play, the group emphasizes that Dagorhir is more live-action than role play. While Dagorhir players can wear costumes, or garb, and create characters and backstories for themselves, it doesn’t affect the way they fight or how the game is played.

The group hopes to be approved by the university as the official USF Foam Fighting Club, so they can use facilities on campus and receive funding to create or buy extra weapons for walk-on players. They would also like to do demonstrations at Bull Market, particularly around midterms and finals week, to help students release stress and to get the club’s name out around campus.

The group is quick to mention that its unofficial club status hasn’t affected on-campus activities.

“Campus security, teachers, administration, everyone loves us,” said Roman Guinazzo, 19, a business administration major and long-time friend of Greenberg.

Members have never gotten into trouble for fighting on-campus, or while toting their weapons to and from practices.

“We actually have campus security and the university police come out and watch us on their off time,” Greenberg said.

In the end, the group insists that fighting Dagorhir is all about having fun with others. Whether someone wants to fight, help make weapons or garb, or just hang out and watch, members encourage them to get involved.

“We try to incorporate everyone and make it a very diverse populace, because that’s what it is. It’s meant to bring the community together,” Brown said.

Guinazzo agreed: “It’s a really close-knit community. Once you’re in, you’ve got friends for life.”

Grammy-nominated professor to conduct for Denmark orchestra

After his night at the Grammys in January, USF professor of jazz studies Charles “Chuck” Owen is back with a project he says will top his nominations because it’s one he has never tackled.

Soon after the award show, Owen was contacted by email by Lars Møller, artistic director of the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra, to be a part of a performance in February 2015.

“I’ve been commissioned by an orchestra in Denmark…,” Owen said. “It’s going to be about half of new music that I’ve written specifically for this project. Some of the tunes from ‘Comet’s Tail‘ they’re going to take…, and I’m going to go over in February and conduct, so we’ll rehearse for about a week and then we’ll do four or five performances of this music. So, that’s the biggie right now.”

Owen was nominated for two categories at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards for his album “River Runs: A Concerto for Jazz Guitar, Saxophone & Orchestra.” Not having his name called as a winner was a bit of a disappointment for Owen, but he hasn’t let that bring him down.

“When I do a project, I don’t do a project with the idea of trying to get a Grammy nomination or anything like that,” he said. “And so if it does [get recognized], great. And if it doesn’t, I’m still delighted to have had this kind of honor.”

The contact was made after the Grammy Awards, so Owen believes getting the opportunity to work with the orchestra could have been influenced a little bit by his nominations.

“It’s just like this wave that kind of builds and builds and builds and builds and builds from thousands of miles out,” he said. “So it’s kind of hard to know: was it this big gust of wind or was it that? I mean, you don’t really know what… Absolutely the Grammys kind of help out,”

In preparation for the performance, Owen has already written some pieces, one of which has been played at various jazz festivals in Europe.

“They wanted to kind of hype the February thing, so they asked me to have one track for them that they could do that, so that was fun,” Owen said. “I haven’t heard it, but they said it went well.”

Even with this performance occupying his time, Owen has other projects already in mind. With the 20th anniversary of his first album, “Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge,” coming around, Owen and his band have started bouncing ideas on what they should do for the big celebration.

“We have been talking about what we would do there, and the idea of doing an album in conjunction with that, possibly even a live album, which we’ve never done, is a little intriguing, so we’re thinking,” he said.

Along with the anniversary, Owen will be traveling around the United States on a lecture tour doing workshops and performances, as well as beginning to think about his next album.

“I’ve intended to come out with albums about every four years, and given all of my duties here [at the university], that’s about as much as I can get out, so that would mean that I probably need to get pretty serious about getting something together soon,” he said.

With the two Grammy nominations under his belt, Owen doesn’t feel the pressure of trying to gain another recognition. The pressure to grow comes from him wanting to write music that excites him and his listeners.

“I’m pretty good at pressuring myself. I always want to do good projects, and I want to make the project just as intriguing and as creative and as strong an effort as I possibly can,” he said.

In an unpredictable business, Owen never knows where his music will lead him. One thing he is certain on is conducting for the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra will be a gig he won’t soon forget.

“I’m thrilled to death to be getting a chance to write for them and go over and conduct, and kind of hang out with them,” he said. “Denmark in February, that’ll be fun.”

USF Graduate Remembers His Father

“He was my dad, my brother and my best friend,” said Mark Lombardi-Nelson as he remembered his father who died last November.

Lombardi-Nelson’s father, Mark Nelson, had been injured in a work-related accident seven years ago. A simple injury would turn into tragedy as a step on a rusty nail led to MRSA, osteoporosis, COPD and a loss of income for Nelson’s young children.

Almost a year ago, for his 21st birthday, Lombardi-Nelson put together a plan to raise funds to support his family. He started an Indiegogo campaign.

The online campaign was not his first effort to assist his father and siblings. He worked multiple jobs, sold his car and provided support in any way possible. He accomplished all these feats while still completing his undergraduate degree and becoming the student body president at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Although Nelson lost his life to his illnesses, he was able to live long enough to see his family’s struggle eased by the generous donations of friends and strangers. With the initial thought of raising $1,000, the family was shocked by the community response-contributions totaled at $4,274.

“He only got to see the first half of it, and we were so taken aback by everyone,” Lombardi-Nelson said. “Dad felt OK to go, because we were OK.”

What Lombardi-Nelson had described as a snowball of unfortunate events seemed to turn around in the months that followed his online campaign and his father’s death.

He graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship in May 2014, won a free car from ABC Action News and Precision Mazda in June, spoke at TEDxTampaRiverwalk and has plans to start his own business.  However, the closer the months draw to November, the harder things get.

“I can’t describe how difficult it was to lose him,” Lombardi-Nelson said. “For my younger siblings, not having a dad is really hard.”

Lombardi-Nelson has no plans to stop being there for his siblings, and says that his role really hasn’t changed. He still provides what he can for them and has stepped in as a father figure.

Despite the hardships and heartbreaks, he has kept his positive attitude and belief that everyone deserves love and help. He is excited to report that his younger siblings are all getting great grades and doing well, despite the loss of their father.

“You look at them all and they’re just kids, but they grew up fast,” he said. “I’m so lucky to be with them. I’m so happy and I can’t wait to make their lives better.”