Confucius Institute at USF Fosters Cross-Cultural Understanding Between Chinese, American Cultures

Kun Shi and the Confucius Institute are bridging the gap between China and the United States.

The Confucius Institute at the University of South Florida is helping students learn Chinese while submersing themselves into the Chinese culture.

“The USF Confucius Institute has numerous projects each year,” said Shi.  “All are focused on supporting the Chinese language programs and facilitating cross-cultural understanding.”

The Confucius Institute has a culture center that has helped students get acclimated to  Chinese language and customs.  Students speak and interact in a Chinese environment with books, games and movies in Mandarin for them to use.

“It’s beneficial to use class materials in a more real context,” student Nabil Smith said.  “You get to practice your Chinese on a more social level.”

The Confucius Institute holds many events throughout the year, including martial arts exhibitions, bridge competitions and Chinese New Year festivities.  There are also plenty of scholarship opportunities for students and chances to study abroad in China, with all expenses paid.

“We have some really great events here at USF, including Chinese opera and different kinds of music events,” student Fang Kairen said.  “There is even a Chinese competition for Hacky Sack.”

USF was the first university to have a Confucius Institute in Florida and it remains one of the best Chinese programs in the country.

Photo Gallery: The Faces Modeling Troupe Brings Crime Scene Style to USF

The Marshall Center Ballroom at the University of South Florida appeared to be a crime scene the evening of March 15 as The Faces Modeling Troupe and USF’s Faces collegiate chapter took the stage with a CSI-themed fashion show. There are seven Faces Modeling Troupes throughout Florida, and the USF chapter is making its comeback.

The USF chapter’s vice president and fashion coordinator, Jessica Davis-Hall, says the CSI theme is about “where we have come from and where we’ve been. We have been missing from campus, and the story evolves with us reappearing in the crime story.”

Faces, a non-profit organization, puts on shows every semester.

The collegiate chapter adviser, Terry White, said Faces helps to “keep kids from getting in trouble and help aspiring models get their name out there.”

CAUTION: extreme sexy about to take the stage in the Marshall Center Ballroom Sunday night with the Faces Modeling Troupe USF chapter.

Rows of seats wait to be filled right before USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI-themed event Sunday, March 15, 2015. The caution tape warns of the extremely sexy models taking stage at 7 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

Terry White, the USF Faces chapter advisor, receives news that the doors are about to burst with excited patrons.

Terry White, the USF Faces Modeling Troupe chapter advisor, receives word that excited patrons are waiting outside the door of the Marshall Center Ballroom for the CSI-themed event Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 7 p.m.

Anticipation rises as fashion show patrons wait to support their favorite models.

Patrons and Fashion lovers wait for USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI-themed fashion show to begin, and their favorite models to walk out in the Marshall Center Ballroom on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 7 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

"We got any Jamaicans in the house?" Eager patrons rep their heritage at the FCSI Fashion Show.

Eager patrons respond to the question “We got any Jamaicans in the house?” at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015, at 7 p.m. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

Draped in caution tape and black patent later, Jessica Davis-Hall  is no stranger to the camera. Work those angles, girl!

Draped in caution tape and black patent leather, Jessica Davis-Hall is no stranger to the camera as she walks down the catwalk at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. Work those angles, Girl! (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)


Donning nude leotards, the “Autopsy” act features models of all shapes and sizes at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

"Faces has been left vulnerable. Betrayal has ruined Faces and left it to fend for itself." The "Autopsy" act featured all shapes and sizes donning nude leotards.

Donning nude leotards, the “Autopsy” act features models of all shapes and sizes at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

The stems on Jessica Davis-Hall are hard to ignore as she struts the runway during the "Autopsy" act in a sparkly nude leotard.

Donning nude leotards, the “Autopsy” act features models of all shapes and sizes at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

During intermission,  fashionable male attendees take to the catwalk and compete for "best dressed."

During intermission, fashionable male attendees take to the catwalk and compete for “best dressed” at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

The "Conviction/ Acquitted" act featured more stripes than a jail in summertime. These models got the stripes and the groove.

The “Conviction/ Acquitted” act features more stripes than a jail in summertime at USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe’s CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. These models have the stripes and the groove. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

Friends of Jessica Davis-Hall show congratulatory love to their favorite model, fashion coordinator and vice president of the Faces USF chapter.

Friends of Jessica Davis-Hall show congratulatory hugs to their favorite model, fashion coordinator and vice president of the Faces USF chapter at the CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)

All models take your places! The FACES gang gathers for a final photo after a successful fashion show.

The models of USF’s Faces Modeling Troupe gather for a photo after a successful CSI fashion show Sunday, March 15, 2015. All models take your places! (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fairchild)



Photo gallery: Muslim Students Association hosts Religious Extremism panel to discuss different beliefs among students

On March 11, four organizations co-hosted an event called Religious Extremism in the Marshall Students Center at the University of South Florida. This even consisted of a panel of speakers all representing different religions explaining the difference in what religion is and what extremism is. The point of this event was to bring light to events that have been happening around the world, due to religious extremism actions.

Each guest entered the room to a circle. This exercise included certain scenarios involving religious extremism. As each scenario was presented, the participants were asked to enter the circle if that event has affected their life in some way.
At the Marshall Student Center, guests attend the Muslim Students Association‘s Religious Extremism event on March 11, 2015. They participated in a circle exercise of certain scenarios involving religious extremism. As each scenario was presented, the participants were asked to enter the circle if an event has affected their life in some way. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
After the exercise, the guests, participants, co-hosts and volunteers took seats and began discussion about different types of religions and the extreme points they each consist of.
After the exercise, the discussion starts, detailing different types of religions and the extreme points that each one may be associated with. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
The panel of speakers consisted of professors in Religion, Head of Departments at USF and Chairs of Councils and organizations on campus.
The panel of speakers, Religious Studies professors, USF department heads, council chair members and campus organizations, provide neutral answers during the event. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
The audience listened to the questions prompted for the panel of speakers and engaged in the discussion portion of this event
The audience engages in the discussion portion of this event after listening to the questions presented to the panel of speakers. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
Muslim students Reena, Zuina and Lari enjoyed the discussions from the back of the room as most seats were taken up towards the front.
Muslim students Reena, Zuina and Lari listen to the discussions from the back of the room as most seats were taken toward the front. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
President of co-hosting organization Omega Phi Beta prompts questions for the panel as well as opens up the floor to questions from the audience for further discussion.
Omega Phi Beta president prompts questions for the panel and opens up the floor to questions from the audience for further discussion. Photo by Ashley Harnish.





The panel of speakers answering questions from the audience; Professor Mozella Mitchell from the Department of Religious Studies, Clay Cullaton from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Director of Council of American Islamic Relations Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson from Alpha Epsilon Pi.
The panel of speakers, from left, Professor Mozella Mitchell from the Department of Religious Studies; Clay Cullaton from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Director of Council of American Islamic Relations Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson from Alpha Epsilon Pi answer questions from the audience. Photo by Ashley Harnish.
Clay Cullaton, Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson, taking a group picture with representatives from Omega Phi Beta, Cynthia Perez, Luz Peguero and Yanil Muñoz, Delta Phi Omega member Amber, and Alpha Epsilon Pi member Ryan.
After the panel, top from left, Clay Cullaton, Hassan Shibly and Jesse Davidson meet with representatives from Omega Phi Beta, bottom from left, Cynthia Perez, Luz Peguero and Yanil Muñoz as well as Delta Phi Omega member Amber and Alpha Epsilon Pi member Ryan. Photo by Ashley Harnish.

USF student’s unusual phobia keeps her avoiding yellow menace: Bananas

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Laura Slack, a USF humanities major,  may seem like an ordinary college student, until you pull out a banana. She’s been terribly afraid of them ever since she can remember.

“As a baby, my mom said I refused to eat the bananas in baby food,” Slack said. states that bananaphobia tend to rise from the smell and texture of the banana itself.

“Everything from the way they look, to smell, to touch, to taste, the way that they sound when someone is eating them, it freaks me out,” Slack said.

Aside from the overwhelming fear of the yellow fruit, Slack said she mostly fears “real” bananas.  When bananas are featured on TV or if someone is dressed in a banana suit, she will not run in the other direction, but will feel a bit uneasy.

Growing up, Slack said her friends and family always found a way to tease her once until they found out about her phobia.

Once a friend went into her room and covered her bed with bananas. Unable to touch the bananas, Slack had to ask others to remove them.

According to an article by the Daily Mail, in 2011, John Bruce, a therapist working at Renfrewshire, Scotland, was able to cure a woman’s fear of bananas through Neuro-linguistic programming. In this technique, a therapist talks to the patient and tries to get him or her to separate the bad memories associated with objects and exchange them for positive memories.

“I took her mind back to a time when she didn’t have the phobia and taught her to associate those calm, happy feelings with bananas,” Bruce said in the Daily Mail.

Even though she  cannot touch, smell, or taste bananas without a jolt of fear, Slack said her fear of bananas has subsided slightly.

“I can actually sit at a table with someone eating a banana now,” Slack said.

Slack admits that she will never fully get over her fear of bananas. Just the other day, she recalls finding a banana sitting in front of the microwave in her apartment. Whether it was put there on purpose or by mistake, she does not know.

“All right, I guess I’m not going to use the microwave today,”  Slack said, as she continues her daily battle against her yellow-colored enemy.




USF senior passionate about performing arts shoots for the stars

Many have fantasized, at one point or another, about being a famous entertainer. Most, however, do not pursue those dreams.  Naomy Ambroise, a young Tampa performer,  is determined to turn those dreams into reality.

Ambroise is a senior enrolled in the School of Theatre and Dance at the University of South Florida.   She has only been involved in theater since high school, but if you ask the students at the college, Ambroise’s name stands out.

“Naomy is very multi-talented, very dedicated and truly inspiring,” said Danielle James, fellow dance and theater arts student.

Being a performing arts career is not easy.  Besides theater performance, students take ballet classes on body disciplines and memorize pieces for performance in class regularly. The two weeks while a show is being put on require 14-hour days.

“I chose to be a performing arts major because there was just like a satisfaction you get from being able to reach people,” said Ambroise.

Ambroise has been involved in four productions while at USF.  She recently auditioned in New York for acceptance into theater graduate schools; 11 more are interested.  She plans to attend after graduation or become an apprentice for a theater company.

Revealing a Veiled Perspective: A Hijab’s Effect on One Student’s Life

Catalina Garzon subconsciously touched the pink hijab on her head as she walked to her class at the University of South Florida. She watched as person after person either avoided her gaze or quickly looked away. She smiled, but they ignored her. Were they really acting like this because she covered her hair? Until she tried wearing one for a day, Garzon never understood the effect a hijab had on day-to-day living.

Garzon, a sociology major at USF, realized there seemed to be more hate brewing than love on campus, especially with the infamously hateful speakers outside of Cooper Hall yelling at the passers-by. So on Jan. 28, she held an event to peacefully hold signs saying, “Love thy neighbor.” There, she met Nouf Fetais, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman and engineering major.

“When I saw her, I was kind of scared because I didn’t want her to think I was trying to convert her,” said Fetais. “But when I showed another friend of mine how to wear a hijab, Catalina seemed interested, so I invited her to World Hijab Day’s Facebook page.”

After wearing one on World Hijab Day on Feb. 1, Garzon posted on her own Facebook page that she wanted to continue wearing her pink hijab that Fetais gave to her, but wondered if that would be too disrespectful. While a couple people criticized her, she mostly received encouragement.

During World Hijab Day, and at least a handful of times afterward, Garzon discovered what Fetais and other female Muslim students experience on campus.

“I noticed less eye contact,” said Garzon, looking over to Fetais, who was nodding. “Usually when I’m on campus, I get lots of human interaction — hello, compliments, short conversation, usually from people I don’t know, and they’re the ones who initiate it. But when I was wearing a hijab, I didn’t get that. If people did make eye contact with me, they looked away really quickly, and it was kind of surprising.”

Muslim women are expected to start wearing a hijab when they reach puberty, although it’s the woman’s right to decide when and if they do so. Some common reasons for wearing a hijab are believing it is mandated by Islam, valuing the modesty it encourages, or simply liking that it identifies them as Muslim.

While the Muslim friends that Garzon made were supportive, other people were not. She noticed the people who had a problem with it were atheists, Christians, Catholics and non-Muslims.

“I had some people look at me twice like, ‘Is that a white girl wearing a hijab?’ basically,” she said. This was in addition to social media hate she received, she said.

Garzon learned that veiling oneself — such as wearing a hijab — dates back further than Islamic uses. Christians, Jews and Catholics wore head coverings for different reasons, but mainly for modesty.

“Muslim culture…they adapted the hijab; they did not invent the hijab,” Garzon said. That was when Garzon decided it was OK to wear it and that she would wear it for her own reasons.

Today people may wear a hijab or headscarf for other reasons, like fashion, or as a cancer survivor. Women like Garzon may do it to have control, feel confident, or for other personal reasons.

“When does a hijab or headscarf become religious and symbolic?” asked Garzon.

Garzon views the hijab as representing modesty and giving women the opportunity to be in control of how men view them. More importantly, she finds that it unveils a whole new perspective.

“What I find most beautiful of the hijab … when you cover, you see the face clearly and the eyes. I believe everyone is beautiful and unique,” Garzon said as she touched her face and demonstrated with her jacket’s hood. “When you’re able to see the face, you can see movements, the bone structure, the creases when you smile, when you’re excited or contemplating … When you eliminate one part of the picture [the hair], the other part becomes more significant.”

Garzon and Fetais hope other people realize the different ways women are treated when they wear a hijab and the stigma surrounding it. Garzon also hopes to start a support group for non-Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab.

USF Students and Faculty Promote Recycling Movement at RecycleMania

Nearly 100 students listened to local bands, made environmentally friendly crafts and answered trivia questions in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater Feb. 23.

Loud music and opportunities to win free items such as water bottles and Frisbees greeted students at USF’s RecycleFest. The mission behind the activities encouraged students to save the world through recycling.

“I think a lot of important movements start with students and start with the younger generation, so I think it’s our time to take on this project,” said Melissa Wolfe, communications and marketing coordinator of the Patel College of Global Sustainability.

Wolfe said young people have spurred change in the  past decades, whether the issue was women’s rights, equality or protesting the Vietnam War.  She believes today’s most important issue is the environment.

“The problem is that society is so separated and isolated that it’s hard to get a movement of people together, while at a university, we are used to bringing together students and collaborating on big ideas,” Wolfe said. “So, I think it’s our turn.”

RecycleFest was the kick-off of the month-long event RecycleMania 2015. The Student Environmental Association organized the event to educate students about recycling and to promote awareness. Next month, the SEA will host seminars, provide an electronic-waste drive, teach composting and show a documentary on plastic waste.

College students should be concerned about waste management for many reasons, activists say. Ninety-five percent of the forests in the U.S. have already been cut down, according to Princeton University’s “Top 10 Reasons to Recycle.” Wildlife can be protected by reducing demand for wood and other resources such as petroleum and mineral ores.

Furthermore, reusing materials helps manufacturers avoid using toxic chemicals that are used to treat virgin materials, environmental advocates say. Protecting our water and soil from toxins and reducing the amount of trash in landfills is vital to providing clean water and healthy food for people, they say.

Recycling is responsible for 1.1 million jobs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even with such benefits, only 32.5 percent of waste in the U.S. is recycled, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

RecycleMania will measure how much USF contributes to these numbers, said Kirsti Martinez, president of the Student Environmental Association and a junior majoring in environmental biology, and environmental science and policy.

The amount of waste produced by USF and the weight of recycled products will be recorded and published on the Patel College of Global Sustainability website.

Some students at RecycleFest shared their tips on how students can avoid contributing to the trash.

“I think the biggest thing is to reduce, because a lot of plastics can only be recycled so many times into new things,” Martinez said. “Glass and aluminum can be recycled a lot easier, but even then it’s just better to reduce the amount of waste that you’re producing.”

Calyn Lee, a junior majoring in environmental science and policy, said students could pick up trash when they see it and put recycling in the appropriate bins.

Lee and her roommates shop with reusable bags at the grocery store, turn off the lights in their apartment and unplug unused appliances.

Lee said recycling has saved her money in addition to protecting the environment. She buys less, and her bills are lower. Lee believes college is a perfect time to learn how to recycle.

“This is when people make changes,” she said.  “Usually, when people go to college, they’re more open-minded.”

“Ride the Yak” app tour by popular social network Yik Yak reaches USF

An eager crowd buzzed around the distinctively teal Yik Yak tent outside the Marshall Student Center. Students from all around campus flocked to the tent to claim prizes and take pictures with the Yak mascot.

Yik Yak, a popular social app, lets users post anonymous “yaks” that are meant to be visible only to nearby users. It’s popular on college campuses where there are high volumes of social-media-savvy young adults.

The app’s growing popularity has led to a nationwide tour to promote it on college campuses. There are two tours, one on the East Coast and one in the Midwest. The company plans to visit 59 colleges in 34 states, according to the Yik Yak website.

“Our goal is to spread the word about growing the herd,” said Colin Brennan, a 2012 Colorado State University graduate touring with other Yik Yak employees.

The promotional tour rewards active app users with prizes such as Ping-Pong balls, stickers, hats and socks. Brennan said there has been a sharp increase in the amount of posts on the campuses they’ve visited.

“I used to be active [on Yik Yak]. Not so much anymore. This will definitely make me go on again,” senior psychology student Grace McGirr said.

The prizes were in high demand on the USF campus when the Yik Yak tent made camp. Brennan said by noon on the first day they were out of 75 percent of the prizes. By the following afternoon, they only had a few Ping-Pong balls and pens left.

The most active campus on the East Coast tour so far has been the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“We saw the average user having 20,000 to 60,000 points. We also saw the two highest scores there – 526,000 and 568,000,” Brennan said.

Yik Yak is popular for both entertainment and information.

“If something happens on campus, everybody goes to Yik Yak,” said Sydney Thinnes, a junior chemistry student at USF.

“Yik Yak is basically our main news source,” Thinnes’ friend Anna Zeljazkow said.

In order to appear on campus, Yik Yak partners with student organizations to raise money for a cause. At USF, they partnered with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Yik Yak donated $1 to the organization for every post following a certain theme. They hope to reach out to even more organizations in the future.

“The goal is for Yik Yak to be a tight-knit community, avoid negativity, and be a strong herd while creating informative, relevant, and funny yaks,” Brennan said.

Venezuelan student at USF escapes from violent protests to quiet classrooms

At age 13, Clarissa H. Arriaga went to her first political protest in the streets of Venezuela. She and her classmates placed their desks to stop traffic in an attempt to protest against the government. She did not know why she was protesting, but her life would change drastically.

This was the beginning of Arriaga’s mission to bring justice to her home country.

Arriaga is a 21-year-old USF sophomore. She grew up in a middle-income family with two younger sisters in Venezuela. Arriaga was the only one in her family who protested and continued to do so while she was attending Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 1999, Hugo Chávez became president being a crucial point of change for the country. Chávez spent his time as president transitioning Venezuela into a communist country. With Chávez’s death in 2013, Vice President Nicolás Maduro assumed the powers and responsibilities as president.

Arriaga was involved in her second protest while she was a student in Venezuela. She was 20 years old when she took the streets in a peaceful protest with her friends and classmates. Arriaga explained that people the government paid and gave guns to, named colectivos, arrived at the protest shooting and killing a student. From that day on, Arriaga saw it as her duty to go out and protest every day.

“I felt like I needed to do something for my country,” Arriaga said. “I needed to feel justice because we didn’t deserve this.”

Arriaga and her friends had to wear gas masks during protests to breathe and protect themselves from gas bombs that were being thrown. She would not tell her mother about all the protests she attended because her mom would cry begging her to stay home.

While Arriaga was protesting, many students were being arrested or killed. However, Arriaga did not realize how severe it was until the day she took a phone call from her mother. She never used to answer her phone during protests because it would be stolen from her, but something made her answer her mother’s call this time. She ran behind a building to hide and told her mother she was fine. When she hid her phone and returned to the protest, her friends were gone. They had been arrested, and they had to spend the night in jail.

“If I did not take that call I could have went to jail as well,” Arriaga said. “This is when the danger of the protests really hit me.”

Even though Arriaga was scared, she still went out every day to fight for peace and hope for her country. This took a toll on her parents. Her mother cried all the time out of fear of losing her child. Both her parents begged her to apply to a school abroad to escape the terror that Venezuela had become. Arriaga decided to leave to end her mother’s misery.

Before Arriaga left to attend school at USF, she was driving home when four motorcycles pulled up around her car. The young boys driving ordered her to give up her phone. Arriaga refused to give it to them. She was lucky that they did not kill her, she explained. When she arrived home, her father was so happy that she would be leaving the country because he was sure that Arriaga’s bravery would get her killed.

“She is so brave and amazing,” said Alejandra Gotera, Arriaga’s Venezuelan friend. “I don’t know if I could have done what she did.”

Arriaga has been in USF for two semesters. She says that even though she is happy to be out of danger, she is constantly worried about her parents and sisters. Arriaga keeps herself busy while she is away from her family with a full load of six engineering courses. She is also involved in sports at USF by participating and playing club soccer.

“If Venezuela does not change by the time I graduate, I will have to look for a job here in America,” Arriaga said. “I can’t go back to that.”

USF Communication and Marketing Department stays in touch with students using Snapchat



Millions of people log in to social media every day. At the university level, this can be a complex task to oversee.

University Communications and Marketing, located in the Patel Center, must stay involved in campus activities despite its distance from the central hub of events.

The department employs about 20 people, including student interns, who help run social media applications such as Snapchat.

“It’s a balance between academic initiatives as well as scavenger hunts and promoting fun campus events that are equally as important,” said Ashley Rodrigues, a graduate assistant in the department.

During holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, the department encourages followers to snap pictures of their “bull pride.” The marketing team hid around campus and snapped pictures of their locations. Whoever found them won a Rocky the Bull hat.

The USF Snapchat was launched in August and has nearly 2,000 followers. The marketing students must save all posted snaps  for record-keeping. On certain days, different departments such as Athletics or Student Government will take over the Snapchat for the day to promote an event or share news. This requires communication so that the content is consistent, appropriate and pre-approved. The marketing team also follows organizations with successful social media campaigns — like Taco Bell — to learn better ways to produce unique content.

“At this point, we’re focused on reducing the redundancies, since there are hundreds of USF-related social media accounts that have gone inactive or dormant,” said Steve Dapcic, director of digital media.

The goal is to interact with current students and alumni while welcoming and inviting  future students.


From Immokalee to USF: One Student’s Story of Academic Success

TAMPA – From the fields of Immokalee to the State Capitol building in Tallahassee, Marcos Gonzalez has had quite the journey. Gonzalez had the chance to share his life story in front of the Florida House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Gonzalez grew up in a poor migrant worker family but excelled in school and earned a scholarship to the University of South Florida.

Gonzalez, a third-year student double majoring in accounting and economics, is set to graduate a year early with two bachelor’s degrees as part of USF’s Provost’s Scholars Program.

“You really kind of step back and evaluate your whole  situation and say, ‘Maybe I’m doing something right,’” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez has a keen interest in global affairs. He studied abroad three times, traveled the world in 80 days and founded the International Student Association at USF.

“The concept behind it was to create an umbrella organization to kind of bring together all of the cultures represented at USF and to give international students a voice,” Gonzalez said.

Passion for music drives USF Drumline member

Freshman business major Tom Kelly attends the University of South Florida, but outside of the classroom, it’s all about the music.

“My favorite part about music is that there is a certain part of it that can express feelings better than any kind of words can, and something about that interests me,” Kelly said.

Kelly plays tenor drums for the USF Herd of Thunder Marching Band. Over the past year, Kelly has learned to multitask and adapt to the challenge of learning a new show each week of the season.

“Tom picks up music really well,” Kelly’s section leader, Marlon Rosenow, said. “We tell him to get something, and he gets it in the next rep or the next day. That’s pretty incredible, I think.”

Outside of school and the marching band, Kelly writes music and has a part-time job at a local hospital. His involvement in the marching band has made dealing with all of these things much easier.

“I’ve seen my grades do well,” Kelly said. “I can multitask well, and it’s given me a creative outlet.”

After he graduates, Kelly will continue to be involved in music.

“Music until I die,” he said.

USF Student Shares love for Juggling in Objects in Motion Club

Joseph Lawlor, the president of the Objects in Motion student organization, brought his hobby of juggling to the University of South Florida three years ago, and he plans to keep it alive on campus for years to come.

Lawlor, a USF senior and electrical engineering major, began juggling during his sophomore year of high school. He was assigned a project in his English class that required him to learn a new hobby and write in a journal about his experiences. He considered picking up break dancing at first, but when he saw one of his friends juggling at a party, he decided to give it a shot.

“I picked it up weirdly fast and thought the whole idea of object manipulation was so cool and different,” said Lawlor. “I just started to really love everything about it.”

When Lawlor came to USF in 2011, he and Jesse Lutz, a fellow student and juggler, sought to form a student organization where other jugglers and students interested in learning could meet, practice and grow as a group. This resulted in the formation of the Juggling Awareness Society at USF.

With the growth of student interest in other types of object manipulation, Lawlor renamed the Juggling Awareness Society to the Objects in Motions club to cater to a wider range of interests. Today, Objects in Motion is a community of jugglers, hula hoopers, poi spinners, unicyclists and slack liners who collaborate to teach and learn from each other on campus during weekly meetings.

“Joseph and the other members have taught me that hooping is a way to harmonize your mind, body and spirit,” said Brianna Privateer, USF psychology major and member of Objects in Motion. “It’s like a peaceful meditation, and the possibilities are endless.”

Lawlor welcomes students of any age, experience and interest to join the club. Objects in Motion hosts weekly meetings every Thursday from 8-10 p.m., Monday from 2-4 p.m. and Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. outside of the USF library.

Lawlor says that the most interesting place that juggling has ever taken him was to a juggling camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania last summer. He worked as a driver at the camp and taught a juggling class for one period a day, but spent all his free time with the camp’s trapeze group. Here he met and shared stories with a group of international jugglers from France, Spain, England and Australia.

Lawlor wants to continue juggling as a sport and a passion. But above all, he wants to keep the sport of juggling alive in the USF community by continuing the Objects in Motion club for years to come.

“I really love Objects in Motion just as much as I love juggling, and I want to keep that going forever,” said Lawlor. “Giving the art of juggling its own organization has been the best decision I’ve made since I’ve been at USF and has proven to be the easiest way to meet the most interesting people out there.”

USF student hopes to start henna tattoo business at Bull Market

Taylor Henna 2 edit

A University of South Florida psychology major is hoping to launch a professional henna tattooing business that will allow her to provide her fellow students a way to express themselves through body art every Wednesday at Bull Market.

Taylor Hlavacek, 20, became interested in henna tattoos through her friend in high school. She thought they looked cool and figured her cake-decorating skills would come in handy, since the techniques and tools are similar to those that are typically used in henna.

“I like henna tattoos because I can do my own designs,” Hlavacek said. “It’s painless, it’s quick, but it lasts for a while so I can easily get a good variety.”

Henna refers to the powdered leaves of a tropical shrub that are used as a dye to color the hair and decorate the body. It is also known as a form of temporary tattooing.

Hlavacek’s peers quickly began to notice her ever-changing body art and wondered if she was in business to do some for them. Samantha Kelleher, USF student and a friend of Hlavacek’s, has been continuously trying to persuade her to do one for her.

“I thought they looked awesome and wanted her to do one for me,” Kelleher said. “I would gladly pay her if they looked just as good as the ones she has.”

At the time, Hlavacek wasn’t interested in starting her own business, but with the amount of attention she was getting, the idea began to grow on her. She soon found herself researching how to make it happen.

“I plan on opening a side business pretty soon,” Hlavacek said. “Though I wasn’t going to at first, a lot of USF students were coming up to me and asking me if I could do henna tattoos for them and how much I charged. So I decided it would be a good idea to open up a little side business, and if it were to ever grow into something legitimate then that would be amazing.”

Creating a successful business while studying for classes is easier said than done. No matter how difficult it may seem, Hlavacek has figured out a way to create the exposure needed in order to bring her henna business to the next level.

“First, I want to make a Facebook page and an Instagram account specifically for my henna tattoos,” Hlavacek said. “I have already received a lot of positive feedback on social media. I also want to become affiliated with USF and (hopefully) work at the Bull Market doing henna tattoos for people. With any luck, this will help me with marketing and my clientele base as well.”

Bull Market provides a great deal of exposure with its location at the Marshall Student Center Plaza.

“Exposure would be my top goal,” Hlavacek said. “I think being able to do these tattoos, especially without using any stencils or designs that are pre-made, is a pretty unique skill to have. I think I can get this exposure through Bull Market because there are always students by MSC. I think I could have a lot of success here.”

Though Bull Market would help raise the level of exposure, it may not help raise the level of success. Henna may be a growing form of temporary tattooing but, according to Hlavacek, some people may think that henna tattoos aren’t for them, which may cause a lack of customers.

“Some people don’t like henna tattoos because they believe they’re not real tattoos, that you don’t have to go through the pain and time in order to earn the right to wear the art on your body,” Hlavacek said. “But the nice thing about henna is that it’s not permanent, so if you mess up it’s not a big deal. There’s going to be people that think its dumb, but for some people it’s a better option and it’s a nice way to make a short commitment to a piece of art you have on your body.”

Hlavacek hopes to have her own henna tattoo booth in Bull Market within the upcoming weeks. Her prices will range from $5 to $20 depending on the complexity and size of the design. She will also offer a special $25 deal that promises customers a new, one-of-a-kind design, which she assures will be their own unique work of art.

Muslim Students at USF Face Additional Scrutiny and Hardship

For third-year student Majid Almasri, being international has never been easy. Being Muslim has made his journey even harder, especially considering the recent rise in terrorist events.

“I came here three years ago to study, and being an Arab made it hard,” said Majid Almasri. “How you’re treated here depends on the community and your level of education.”

Being raised in the small country of Oman, not far from Dubai, Almasri was often warned about what to expect from Americans and their limited knowledge about his country. Although he took heed, he remained optimistic and hopeful about his journey.

“My family and friends warned me every day before I left that things were going to change, but of course you can’t be sure until you experience it for yourself,” said Almasri.

If being stereotyped for being Muslim wasn’t hard enough, Almasri and others like him now have to deal with possibly being looked at as a target and not just as a threat. Even though the Muslim community as a whole is not responsible for terrorist acts, some feel the results of unjust scrutiny and judgment.

“I think if it was role reversed, no one would be saying it was over a parking spot; it would be a hate crime,” said Jessica Brightman, adviser for international students.

The lack of coverage may raise some concerns, leaving some wondering whether college campuses are safe for Muslim students anymore.

“Campus was the one place I was comfortable. Now I see hate can happen anywhere,” said Almasri. “I’m not afraid, but I am aware.”

With so much going on and so little knowledge as to how or why, all there is left to do is seek justice and from there hope to gain equality.


Future of Tampa Bay’s estuaries will be decided in the USF area

Just a few miles from the USF campus, a careful balancing act between the upper and lower portions of the dam in the Hillsborough Reservoir could decide the future of Tampa Bay’s ecosystem.

Nearly 80 percent of Hillsborough county water bodies are polluted beyond a threshold of acceptable contamination and have been classified as “impaired,” meaning local agencies have a legal obligation to keep an eye on pollution and the environment pursuant to the standards in the Clean Water Act.

But with water management agencies stretched thin, crucial reports on projects, like the efficacy of a hotly debated minimum flow requirement for the lower Hillsborough River, are behind schedule trying to keep up with enforcement and also reporting on urbanity’s impacts on the ecosystem.

Continue reading “Future of Tampa Bay’s estuaries will be decided in the USF area”

Photo gallery: USF student government hosts Pastries with the President

On March 12, USF Student Government Association held “Pastries with the President,” where students  not only enjoyed baked desserts but got to meet with  USF President Judy Genshaft and talk with future and current SGA leaders.



USF dance major pushes past back injury, other obstacles

At 3 years old, Tatiana Quintero couldn’t resist the temptation to move to the beat. According to her mother, Janet Cano, her little girl would wiggle and dance to music anywhere she went. Cano enrolled her in a traditional Colombian dance class where Quintero would begin the study of her life’s calling: dance.

At the University of South Florida, 21-year-old Quintero is pursuing her dream of being a dancer. As an adult, she is learning how difficult it can be to reach her full potential.

Dance is not about just dancing anymore. Every movement is perfectly orchestrated. The world of dancing is all about technicality, an obstacle that Quintero feels holds her back. She didn’t start to learn technical dancing until she was 12 or 13.

“Even that was only hip-hop, not ballet,” Quintero said. “Being here, I see everyone with their legs high and stuff; obviously it takes time to get there.”

Since high school, her biggest dream has been to go out to California and join the Diavolo dance company. She says that at Diavolo they move with big props and aren’t afraid to push the limit. The company is about risk-taking, which is what attracted her to it. Only the most technical dancers belong to Diavolo, and Quintero still has a lot of work to accomplish.

At the university, she puts in an average of six to eight hours of rehearsal a day. It can be a strain on her body, but it is more important to Quintero to be prepared for anything.

In August 2011, Quintero was involved in a car accident in Miami-Dade County that hurt her back. The injury still prevents her from dancing to her full ability. Quintero refuses to let this injury hold her back, though some days the pain often keeps her from even reaching her toes.

“It’s still hard, because I come back to dance and you know you can’t do stuff,” she said. “So, you have to hold yourself back, but I didn’t care. I just danced.”

There are times when Quintero feels like giving up. The pressures of time management and dealing with her injuries sometimes make her doubt whether she can continue a career in dance. She worries whether this career will give her the ability to provide for herself and possibly a family in the future. It is important to Quintero to have a backup plan.

She is pursuing a minor in nutrition as part of her plan to open and own a dance studio. By day, she wants to teach the technical art of dance. By night, she hopes to teach her students about the importance of what you eat, and also teach aerobic dance classes like Zumba.

Her inspirations come from feeling she has God by her side and from the support of her parents. Quintero’s father has kept her grounded, and her mother has always pushed her to keep doing what she loves.

“I know that she is accomplishing everything she set her mind to,” Cano said. “She knows that she can do anything.”

USF senior with passion for China wins Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship

Hiram Rios is a senior at the University of South Florida majoring in economics and international studies with a minor in Chinese. In his time at USF, Rios has received some of the most prestigious national scholarships, including his most recent, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

Rios was the first finalist for this scholarship in USF history, and he will begin the fellowship this summer.

“I’ll start work in the China office at the State Department this summer,” Rios said. “I’ll be working to coordinate a strategic and economic dialogue between China and the U.S.”

His interest in the Chinese culture began in 2008 when he traveled to the Beijing Olympics to play violin in an orchestra.

“As a 14-year-old at the time who had never left the country, to try and process all of this, it was a lot, and what it turned into was this obsession,” Rios said.

Rios has been able to merge his love of the Chinese culture with all of his scholarships. These scholarships gave him the opportunity to study abroad in China, fluently learn Mandarin, and teach English to Chinese students.

His passion and great work ethic are also seen while working in the Office of National Scholarships as a student assistant and peer leader.

“He takes initiative; he’s extremely hard working,” said Lauren Chambers, Interim Director of the office.

With the Pickering Fellowship, Rios will receive $80,000 to study international affairs in a graduate degree program of his choice. He will also receive one domestic internship and one internship abroad before starting his five-year post as a diplomat in the Chinese Embassy.

“It’s been an amazing feat for me,” Rios said. “I’m just so proud to be able to have this space to represent Puerto Rico, the Hispanic population, the Latino-American population in the State Department.”


President of USF’s Society of Automotive Engineers relishes showing what a girl can do

Amid the sawdust and graphite pieces, USF’s Society of Automotive Engineers is building an engineering masterpiece with an unsuspecting success leading the pack.

Jackie LeBrun is a 22-year-old Canadian native, a USF senior and an engineering major. LeBrun is the current president of the society and has been a member for four years. She was the first female to join USF Racing.

“She was definitely the most qualified for the position. She has all the passion to do the job,” says Christopher Smith, former president of SAE.

LeBrun will be graduating this May with an engineering degree in record time. To accomplish this feat, she aimed for 15 credits per semester, and some semesters she even took 19 credits with the help of waivers.

Smith was worried about how the current members would receive the freshman. Her membership was kept secret until the second half of the semester in which LeBrun was gradually introduced into the program. Other females have since joined SAE and currently, one of the lead engineers is a student named Nicole Santana.

The guys in the shop, however, have grown accustomed to the president’s presence and reminders to keep the shop in order. LeBrun has a meticulous touch with bookkeeping and organizing as well.

“I’m trying to leave a very detailed paper trail so that next year and years in the future, they can run it on their own,” LeBrun said.

LeBrun works at a bike shop and finds that customers are taken aback when she can do repairs on the spot in a few minutes.

“’Oh, you can do that?’ I hear that a lot. I love the challenge when people underestimate me,” LeBrun said.