Art and cosplay – creating the new avenues of adventure

Ready for a quest, his shield and sword are in hand. The chiseled gladiator stands with a determined face, framed by tousled brown hair and budding goatee. His journey is with a hodgepodge band, OP-Pirate Alliance. It is a pirate’s quest open to all.

Chibi Gladiator is on his first journey. He is also a graphic character online, created by Lydia Alejandro-Heather, a senior USF English major. Her eyes brightened and voice quickened as she spoke about her passion: creating characters and embarking in online role playing games with other global players. Her work is admired by many on DeviantArt, a leading website where users can store graphics and participate in forums and RPGs. Positive comments flood her gallery of artwork. Requests from other gamers to create their character are a high compliment to the self-taught artist.

“As a kid, I kind of liked doing silly doodles,” said Alejandro-Heather. “I didn’t take it as seriously until freshman year in high school.”

Alejandro-Heather loves developing the back stories of her characters as much as she enjoys creating them. Their identities and previous experiences determine the decisions of the characters, and new decisions continue to develop the character during game play. She, along with other players, writes the story as the game unfolds. It begins with a prompt, a quest created by an administrator.

Role playing has spilled into other avenues of life. She has participated in cosplay events. Cosplay is dressing up as characters from comic books, movies, cartoons, anime, and the likes. No game playing is involved. Alejandro-Heather created some costumes for the fun of it. She entered into a few contests, taking first prize at a small anime convention for one of her costume creations.

“Her Monkey D. Luffy cosplay was pretty outlandish,” said Laura F. Alejandro-Heather, Lydia Alejandro-Heather’s sister.

Monkey D. Luffy, a character from the anime and manga series One Piece, sports an unbuttoned, red sleeveless shirt exposing his lanky figure. His light blue pants are rolled up to his knees, with a yellow sash tied around his waist. Luffy’s straight black hair juts outward from a straw hat which emphasizes his devious smile and eyes that insinuate trouble. One Piece, featuring Luffy as its main character, first premiered in a Japanese anime magazine, Weekly Shōnen Jump, in 1997.

Since the days of Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970s, RPGs have changed. The format has grown in popularity and formats, and more people are connecting in fantasy worlds, embarking on quests and creating new friendships. Dungeons and Dragons-style tabletop RPGs still exist, but now gamers have access to role playing on computers, gaming consoles, tablet devices and mobile phones.

Video games promote positive motivation, cognitive thinking, emotional and social skills, according to an article published in the American Psychology journal, January 2014 edition. The same article claims that 91 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 17 have played video games.

Some professionals theorize that role playing creates a safe environment for people to act out deviant behavior. They can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without real world consequences, according to snippets of a book review from the journal, Transformative Works.

No data is available on how many people participate in role playing games. A quick search on the Internet shows a plethora of gaming communities, RPGs and numerous choices in genres such as historical, horror, science fiction, and superhero.

For Alejandro-Heather, the community is a perk – the real appeal is more about the creative opportunities.

“Role playing very much involves art and writing, and those are two things I love so much,” said Alejandro-Heather. “Both of those combined into this little fun activity I can do. It’s heaven.”

School Mom Trying to Save the World

Amid adversity, a suburban mom-turned-environmentalist in Tampa is following her dream at the age of 45.

Sarah Rogers had been out of school for 25 years–until now. After raising two sons and five stepsons with her husband, Rogers added saving the earth to her list of things to do, despite the challenge of going back to school.

“The first time I dropped my son off to his university, I felt so excited for his future,” Rogers said. “But then I realized I wanted to feel that way about mine.”

Rogers is an environmental science and policy student at the University of South Florida. She represents the non-traditional student demographic that is nationally increasing, as college education becomes a more prominent job requirement. According to the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, more than 30 percent of all undergraduate students in the United States were over the age of 25 in 2008.

A typical day in the life of Rogers is incredibly busy. During the day, she spends her time at work or at her internship with Pinellas County Environmental Services. Then she heads to class, and arrives home late after picking up her step-granddaughter from daycare. The day is almost over by the time she begins her homework. However, it is a life that Rogers wanted to pursue.

“A perfect storm of things influenced me,” Rogers said. “I wanted to show how important school was to my kids even 25 years later. But most of all, I wanted a meaningful job, something that mattered.”

Rogers is pursuing a degree in the environmental sciences because she believed it was the best way to help the earth. As an avid environmentalist, she believes that taking better care of the planet now will result in a better world and healthier living for both her kids and future generations. She is confident she has a better chance of making a positive impact by being involved with the ecosystem. In turn, she hopes that experience will provide her with fulfillment—something that is clearly lacking from her day job at an insurance company.

“Making a difference in the way we treat the environment means it’ll be there longer,” Rogers said. “That starts with caring.”

Rogers hopes to work with environmental agencies that measure the impact of modern society on nature and educate individuals on decreasing their carbon footprints.

Although Rogers is able to work, take care of her family and earn excellent grades, her journey is not without challenges. The biggest obstacles she faces include scheduling and commuting. Her packed schedule takes careful planning and commitment. As a commuting student, she also feels like she misses many opportunities with school clubs and events.

“You can’t be afraid; you have to go for it. Whether you’re 18 or 40, believing in yourself is the key.”

Her husband, Roger Rogers, says he is both proud and envious of his wife’s accomplishments. As someone who tried to go back to school but experienced a difficult time doing so, he understands just how much determination his wife has. Her son, Pascal Marriott shares similar beliefs.

“It’s an amazing feat of discipline and dedication to her family and her future,” said Marriott Rogers, the youngest son who is enrolled at a state college. “She inspires us.”

Rogers will be graduating with her undergraduate degree in May of 2015 and is planning to pursue a career with the Environmental Protection Agency.

USF Spends $2 Million In Library Renovations, Receives Mixed Reviews

Students returned to the remodeled library this fall semester with rather mixed feelings.

Over the summer, the library’s first floor underwent major changes in structure and appearance. The renovations were mostly directed toward reducing long lines for printers and computers and expanding the study area. A more efficient use of the first floor’s space was supposed to provide more room for additional printers, computers and more seating.

Brianna Sluder, a psychology and gerontology double major, thought the $2 million spent on remodeling the library should have been used otherwise.

“The library looks great,” she said. “But USF has their priorities mixed up. They should have used that money for better printers, grants, and better doctors and health care professionals at the Student Health Services.”

Five weeks into the fall semester, students are still struggling with insufficient seating in the first floor’s study area.

“It looks spacious and more open now,” said Jacob Smith,  a junior majoring in English education. “But it is usually full on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”

Smith comes to the library twice a week to meet up with his Japanese study group. Due to limited study space on the first floor, they usually get a room on another floor.

“We usually have to wait like 20 minutes to get a study room,” Smith said.

Vince Damian, a physics major, works at the library’s front desk. He also comes to the library five times a week to study in between classes. He usually looks for seats on one of the upper floors to do his homework.

“It seems like [conditions] have improved,” he said. “But I am more likely to find a seat up there because there is more seating available.”

Before the library’s renovations, students had to circle around in the computer area to find an available workstation. Additional computers have made improvements regarding this issue.

“I usually get on a computer pretty quick,” said Jackie Collier, an international studies major.

She comes to the library every day, mainly to use the computers or to study Japanese with Smith. Neither student has had problems finding an available computer.

But Sluder is not too optimistic about the new computer area, which is set up with computers grouped together in several circular formations.

“The library was fine the way it was,” she said. “I actually liked the computer setup better before.”

Sluder comes to the library three or four times a week to use the computers and printers. Students can now find five printers on a little island in the computer area. Despite additional printers and a new setup, Sluder has not noticed any improvements.

“The lines are actually longer now,” she said. “Two days in a row, I went to print something and waited in line for almost half an hour since the printers are not all working.”

For Yang Geng, a secondary education graduate student, the lines for the printers always vary depending on the time of the day.

“Sometimes it’s faster, sometimes it’s slower,” she said.

New lighting, carpeting and furniture were also installed for a friendlier learning environment. The first floor now features brighter lights and different shades of green on its walls and carpets, which gives the library a more modern look. Old seats were replaced by cushioned chairs.

“The chairs are pretty comfy,” Collier said.

The fall semester’s midterms will be the first major test for the library’s recent renovations and its targeted problem areas when larger crowds of students come to the library to study.

Library administration could not be reached for comment.

PGA professional Jeff Gibson shows USF students how to play golf

by Julius Bzozowski
Oct. 17, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. – Jeff Gibson, a PGA certified professional, is in his fourth year of teaching golf classes to USF students, and he could not be happier.

“I’m so impressed with the last four years with the kids at USF because, to be honest, I was afraid I was going to have trouble with kids,” Gibson said. “I can be real frank and blunt. I can be real insistent, and I haven’t had a bit of a problem.”

A Texas native, Gibson moved to Tampa and graduated from King High School. In 1979, he graduated from USF.

Gibson went on to having success playing the mini-tours around the country for 20 years. He won multiple times and qualified for a U.S. Open sectional in 2006.

Co-workers and students often cite Gibson’s passion for simply playing the game.

“He’s a great guy,” said USF senior golf student Marcus Ellis.

Perhaps most important, Gibson is happy with his golf journey. Gibson has two children, who both went on playing Division I golf. His daughter is expecting a baby.

“I believe that if you work hard, you’ll end up in a good place,” Gibson said. “And I believe that I have.”

For more information, visit the Gibson Golf Academy website.

USF student’s active schedule, campus life


Bianca Echtler is not your typical college student. She’s made a ton of friends and has excellent grades, but what sets her apart is her drive to be her best and help out her community.

Born in Munich, Germany , she moved to America at a young age. Echtler learned early on that you had to work hard to achieve your goals.

“My parents have always inspired me to follow my dream,” said Echtler.  “They’ve always had a hard work ethic and a great attitude, and it’s helped make me the person I am today.”

Always striving to be the best that she can be, Echtler immersed herself into the USF community immediately. She is Phi Eta Sigma’s president, Sigma Delta Tau’s treasurer, in business honor society, a member of the honors college, and she won the prestigious award of 25 Under 25.

“I earned 25 Under 25, which is an award given to the top 25 business students under the age of 25,” said Echtler. “That really helped boost my confidence.”

After winning 25 Under 25, Bianca gained the courage to apply for a highly competitive internship in New York City with Goldman Sachs.

“I had no expectation going into the interview, said Echtler. “I reached out to former Goldman Sachs employees and asked about their experience and asked them what they thought would be in the interview. I really prepared the week before and on the flight to New York. I prepared myself with interview questions and made sure I was comfortable talking about it.”

It certainly paid off. Echtler was offered the internship and spent her summer in New York.

When Echtler actually has time to relax, she likes to spend her time playing volleyball and tennis, both of which she played for her high school.

Sundial St. Pete becomes home to first Bay area Tracy Negoshian fashion store

Fashion designer Tracy Negoshian opened a signature store, Tracy Negoshian and His, in her hometown of St. Petersburg at the Sundial St. Pete.

The store displays women’s clothing designed by Negoshian and her team. The men’s section is an assortment of popular brands, including Southern Tide.

Although she may be focused on fashion now, it hasn’t always been that way. Negoshian was a USF student and marketing graduate before she became a fashion designer.

“I didn’t have the inspiration until after I finished college and moved to Palm Beach and was really surrounded by fashion, then the idea came up that we were missing something in the market, affordable but designer quality apparel,” Negoshian said.

The brand is influenced by the Florida lifestyle. It is recognized for bright colors and unique patterns. Negoshian finds inspiration for her designs from living in Florida.

“Whether it’s the inspiration from the waters, or the shells found in the sand, or just walking around downtown St. Petersburg with the umbrellas and rod iron, inspiration is found everywhere,” Negoshian said.

Negoshian is looking forward to adding activewear to her collections, which will soon be available online and at the signature store.

To shop Tracy Negoshian online, visit

USF students choose studying for midterms over Homecoming week

The lights of USF’s Homecoming Carnival illuminate the Sun Dome parking lot. A father and mother keep their three little girls in tow as they round the corner into the carnival. Sorority and fraternity members wear their Greek letters in representation during a tug-of-war challenge. As students take selfies and wait in line to ride 1001 Nachts, a mother sits on the curb and eats funnel cake with her two daughters.

Only a short walk away, as Daniel Sprouse plays cover songs on stage, students are studying, writing papers or taking breaks from differential equations. In the confines of the USF library, they are oblivious to the events of homecoming.

Homecoming is not just a week of events and free stuff. It is also a week of midterms, tests and papers. While not as busy as usual on Thursdays, the library still had its fair share of students working to keep up their grades.

“We just do papers all the time,” said Amanda Carlton, an elementary education major. Carlton and her fellow sorority sisters, Bailey Wojcik and Emily Stencil, were fulfilling their required study hours for the week.

Just one table over, Marci Crowley and Itay Hashmonay studied for next day’s organic chemistry test.

“She aced the first exam,” Hashmonay teased Crowley. “She’s fine.”

“Not this one,” Crowley said, as she scribbled down notes nervously.

“Probably not the best time for a homecoming week with it being midterms,” said Gabe Rodriguez, a friend of Crowley and Hashmonay.

Rodriguez provided comic relief and force-fed cookies to Crowley, flinging them on top of her paper as she wrote.

On the other side of the library, Tyler Alley, Al Lopez, Sam Glover and Miranda Glover took a study break from differential equations to get something to eat with a friend before continuing their night at the library.

Miranda Glover, who had three tests the next week, was one of the students who had to study and did not have time to go to homecoming events.

“You don’t get to enjoy homecoming,” Crowley said.

In her opinion, homecoming should be on the weekends since tests are scheduled during the week. This would make it easier for the students at the library to enjoy themselves along with other students.

As the music continues to play and screams of happiness are heard from the carnival, students continue to stroll into the fresh smell of Starbucks coffee at the library. As the fun continues, just a short walk away, Crowley tests herself with a study guide and strives to better understand the problems she got wrong the first time. But homecoming has not left her mind completely.

“There’s always tomorrow night,” Crowley said.

Japanese exchange program sparks friendships

The USF students who went to Japan with the Kakehashi Project had great expectations.

They expected to visit ancient Japanese shrines and modern museums. They knew they were going to meet students at Kyoto Sangyo University and meditate with Buddhist monks.

What they did not expect was the bond they would establish with one another – a bond that would continue long after their 10-day trip had ended.

“I’ve kind of added to my family,” said Andrew Machado, a humanities major at USF. “It puts a lot of things in perspective. You start to create connections that you would have never created here.”

Continue reading “Japanese exchange program sparks friendships”

USF Area Garden Diversifies Community Diet

The Harvest Hope Center reflects on the community garden’s success since its launch last November.

Harvest Hope is a part of the University Area Community Development Center, located on North 22nd Street. The Center allows volunteer members to grow fruits and vegetables for no cost in the garden.

“We’re trying to bring any kind of diversity into the diets of the people who live in our community, we know health and nutrition is a really big issue here, often we see obesity rates and we see people buying what’s cheap and fast and easy,” said Megan Gallagher, the Development Center’s sales coordinator.  “We want them to have a chance to buy something that is healthy for them, that’s good for their kids and to teach them how to live that really good lifestyle.”

The garden contains 18 vegetable and 12 fruit plots, with numerous starfruit trees alongside them. Gallagher urges the community to take further advantage of it.

“Our garden is open to anyone in our community, we love having anybody come by, we currently have volunteer groups from all over Tampa Bay,” she said.

For more information about the Harvest Hope Center or how to get involved, please visit


Tampa Bay Cypress Beehive Business as Sweet as Honey

Laura and Mike Gilkison’s business and vision is special.

It’s rare to find people doing what they love and able to make money doing it. It’s even more rare to start that process after holding full-time jobs your whole adult life.

But that’s exactly what they’re doing.

“Years went by and I saw people, like at the fair and stuff,” Laura said. “They were showing beekeeping and I said, ‘That’s a good idea, I want to do beekeeping.’”

Driven by Mike’s expertise in carpentry, USF’s classes on beekeeping and Laura’s life-long passion for bee’s and nature, two years ago they started their own handcrafted Cypress beehives business.

Their cypress beehives were on full display at the 5th annual Taste of Honey festival hosted by the USF Botanical Gardens.

When asked if she was impressed with the turnout and exposure provided, Laura responded with a simple answer.


The festival presented over 100 different types of honey, spanning several continents including almost all of the 50 states. Along with the honey samples, the festival featured a live band and plenty of food samples that included honey as an ingredient.

Encouraged by the interest in their beehives, Laura provided a glimpse into the future of their family business.

“We actually want to sell local to Florida, and mainly the Tampa Bay area,” Laura said. “We just enjoy it because we love bees, and we feel like we’re doing something for the environment. It’s not just making money, I mean that’s not the only reason why we’re doing it, otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. ”

For more information on handcrafted cypress beehives, email

Dr. Jane Goodall enlightens guests at USF Sun Dome with words of encouragement, inspiration

Primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall took the stage at the USF Sun Dome earlier this month  to encourage students and audience members to raise their conservation efforts and environmental awareness.

This event was brought to USF by the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with Frontier Forum and University Lecture Series.

Eric Eisenberg, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, felt that his goal in getting Dr. Goodall to speak was one meant not only to inspire students, but also to give them perspective on all of the positive change they can bring to the world.

“It seems to me that one of the main goals we have in educating students and preparing our graduates for the world today is to really have a global perspective on what the grand challenges are that are facing us as a species, as a planet.

Dr. Goodall spoke about her experiences living with chimpanzees in Africa, her perseverance with her research and stressed the importance of having compassion towards both each other and animals.

Students, among other interested guests, were very moved by Goodall’s virtue and true care for the world and her work.

“It was absolutely incredible. I am so ecstatic that USF got her to come and speak,” said Alexis Beaudoin, senior in Health Sciences. “It was inspiring and it really gave me hope.”

There are two more lectures planned for this school year and the dean thinks students will really enjoy them.

“Every year we get together and we try to identify three or four people that we think would really be transformative to bring to campus,” said Eisenberg.  “And I’ve been very proud of the people we’ve invited and brought in the past.”

3-D printing technology reveals possible advances in multiple fields at MOSI exhibit

Chris Donery
The Digital Bullpen

3-D Printing the Future: The Exhibition is the newest attraction at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). The museum has 3-D printers that create objects during the exhibit.

3-D printing is making consumer goods cheaper by allowing people to print almost anything imaginable.

“Basically what the exhibit shows is the next industrial revolution in all sorts of different industries that 3-D printing is applicable to,” Tom Hamilton, a 3-D printing expert, said. “There was this dad. His son was born without fingers on his left hand. Instead of being $20,000 to $50,000, it cost only about $5 to $15 for that one prosthetic hand.”

Anything from solid concrete buildings to pancakes can be designed and printed using 3-dimensional technology. Not only are scientists making significant advances in the engineering and culinary fields, but in the near future, they hope to be able to print organs to use for transplants.

“Even in the medical field, they have managed to print off graft-able ears and noses out of cellulose and either collagen or hydrogen,” Hamilton said. “They can just take a CT scan of you and use that as a computer assisted design file and they will just print that. We have a 3-D printed heart here, not a real heart, but it’s a plastic heart that has been printed from a CT scan of a patient.”

Some of the unique artifacts in the exhibit include: a pistol, a model car, a bikini, a heart, a fetus, a mask, a microscope and a working wrench.

The exhibit will be at MOSI until Sept. 28.

Extracurricular Activities Help Tampa Catholic Senior Prepare for Real World

Tampa Catholic High School is known for its excellent academic and extracurricular programs. The school prides itself on the fact that its students feel prepared for whatever life may throw at them after high school.

“It’s just helped me develop a lot of people skills and helped me stay really organized,” senior Ariel Mathias said. “Being so busy makes me have to be on top of all my stuff, which has been really helpful and will probably be really helpful in the future.”

Busy is an understatement for Mathias.  She the captain of the varsity volleyball team, members of Ambassadors, Student Ministry and the Senior Class Secretary.  Mathias excels in the classroom as well, being in Advanced Placement and Honors courses.

Getting involved “allows them (students) to be successful in life in general because they’ve had experiences in groups …and are able to conduct themselves successfully in different environments,” Dean of Students Cheriese Edwards said.

Tampa Catholic truly offers its students exactly what they need to make them the best version of themselves and prepare them for the real world.

Local church provides safe haven to local youth

Our Savior Lutheran Christian Church doesn’t just care about bringing people to their congregation. It cares about getting kids off the streets and into their youth group as well.

Every Sunday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Our Savior allows youth from all over  St. Petersburg  to come hangout and worship in a safe and positive environment.

Graham Barber, the youth director at Our Savior, loves helping students build a relationship with Christ and stay out of trouble.

“I’m blessed,” Barber said. “I get to interact with students on a daily basis and just hear their stories, hear how gods working and is moving in their lives. I’m just happy to be part of their journey”

The youth group not only allows students to have a place to hangout and be with their friends, but also helps them get involved with the church itself.

Aaron Hall, a youth group member at Our Savior, is extremely grateful for what the youth group has done for him.

“I met a whole bunch of new people,”said Hall. ” I’ve expanded my horizons and I’ve been to a whole lot of places that I never would have been without all the youth group trips I’ve been on.”

The youth group is continuing to grow and expand every day. It started off with having around five to seven kids showing up on Sundays and now has up to 50 students in attendance, according to Barber.

Our Savior will continue having a positive impact in the St. Petersburg community as more kids continue to flow toward the church and away from the streets.

Local radio hosts work to find homes for dogs

Bay area radio personalities Phoebe Kushner from Hot 101.5 and Danielle McBroom from 97X love animals so much that they co-founded Dog of the Week at their radio stations with the Pinellas Humane Society.

Kushner wanted to work on a cause she believed in and she knew the Pinellas Humane Society would be a good match for her.

“My first dog I ever had was from the Humane Society of Pinellas County, his name was Comet,” Kushner said. “I have two dogs of my own and so I wanted to do something for the community and something that really mattered to me. Dogs and animals matter to me, so we started having the Pinellas Humane Society come in every week.”

McBroom joined Kushner with this cause.

“One of the reasons I love working with them is because they are a no-kill shelter, so dogs are there until they find homes,” McBroom said of the Humane Society.

Every week, The Pinellas Humane Society comes in to their studios and bring a dog with them. Kushner and McBroom take pictures of the dog of the week and start plugging and raising awareness for them. Between their voices and their computers, they always get the word out.

“When you spotlight them on social media where we have over 60,000 followers. . . we have a very high success rate,” McBroom said.

“I always talk about it on air and I send people and drive people to our website and our Facebook to have people check out videos and pictures of the dogs,” Kushner said. “Then I just hit every form of social media.”

Kushner and McBroom have been working together for this cause for more than two years. Together, the two are finding homes for these dogs one week at a time.

For more information, visit to get in contact directly with the organization, or follow 97X and Hot 101.5 on Twitter and Facebook to see the dogs that get selected each week.