JU Upward Bound Student Chanice Howard earns 2014 Gates Millennium Scholarship

By Yolanda Thomas

JU Upward Bound

The odds may have been a challenge for Jacksonville University Upward Bound student Chanice Howard, but don’t ever count her out.

Out of more than 52,000 students who applied nationwide for a 2014-15 Gates Millennium Scholarship, the Lee High School senior is one of just 1,000 to receive one to help her achieve her dream of going to college.

Chanice Howard

Howard, who was featured in a Florida Times-Union article about the scholarships, has elected to attend the University of Florida, and while she always knew she wanted to attend college, she said she did not always know the path to get there. In 2011, she was accepted into JU Upward Bound, a pre-collegiate program for low-income and first-generation students that helps them succeed in their pre-college performance and higher education pursuits.

“Chanice is admired and respected by students and staff alike, and it is truly a success to see a student’s dream come to reality,” said JU Upward Bound Program Director Cee Cee Severin, who has seen her flourish over the past three years. “She is one of the student leaders in our program, has been an essential participant in many events and has been elected to the Student Government Association two years in a row. She sets an outstanding example for her peers and encourages them to do well in all of their endeavors.”

The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education. Because the program requires the student to commit to six weeks during the summer and Saturdays during the academic year for three years, Chanice has shown she is strong-minded and willing to sacrifice.

In addition to graduating this month from Lee High School, she is also earning her Associates of Arts degree from Florida State College at Jacksonville as a dual-enrolled student. She is ranked in the top 10 percent of her high school class, and in the fall will begin at UF, where she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science, After that, her plans are to attend pharmacy college to become a research pharmacist.

Gates Scholars are allowed to attend any U.S. accredited college or university of their choice. The renewable scholarship is based on the GMS guidelines. Students are also eligible for fellowship funding if they pursue graduate studies in Computer Science, Education, Engineering, Library Science, Mathematics, Public Health or Science at the master’s and doctoral levels.

In addition to the college funding, students participate in the GMS Freshmen Leadership Conference, as well as receive services to support them throughout their education, with graduate school planning and mentoring. Students are also able to connect with other GMS recipients via social networking and the online resource center.

JU grad Arelis Resto makes her (colorful) mark across campus

Recent JU grad Arelis Resto, 22, has left indelible images across campus for students, faculty, staff and visitors to enjoy for years to come.

Resto, who graduated May 3, 2014, with bachelors’ degrees in Illustration and English, painted three murals on campus in just the past year alone.

The first is on the second floor of the JU Marine Science Research Institute, done at the request of Dr. Jeremy Stalker, who had received replicas of fossil bones from a Mosasaur (a pre-historic fish). He wanted the rest of the bones to be painted to scale.  The mural is composed of two parts and is a whopping 36-plus feet long.

Arelis Resto '14

The second mural is in the Admissions Office in the Howard Building.  The concept was developed from Chief Admissions Officer Marisol Preston’s idea — a mosaic representation of a dolphin signifying various factors related to the student experience at JU.

The third mural, and the largest of all, is in the Tutoring Center on the third floor of the Swisher Library.  The concept was entirely conceived by Resto, thanks to the sponsorship of Jody Kamens, interim director of Academic Engagement in the Learning Resource Center.  It is called “Trip to Jax.”  The only specifications from Kamens were, “We want a pop of color, and a UFO.”  The mural is a psychedelic representation of Jacksonville from the river.  In fact, its horizon is designed to match at eye level the true horizon scenery seen from the library’s beautiful window view.

Resto was active in other pursuits at the university as well. She served as Assistant Editor of  The Aquarian, JU’s literary and art magazine; worked as a tutor in the Writing Center; presented her senior art thesis in 2013 at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Wisconsin; and published an art piece in “Mixed Fruit,” an indie magazine in New York.  In addition, her art thesis was published in the JRAD: Journal Resources Across Disciplines, thanks to JU English Prof. Edward McCourt’s submission.

She isn’t resting now that’s she’s graduated, however: According to proud mom Rosa Gyuris, who many know as the friendly, always-smiling receptionist for the Office of Admissions in the Howard Building, Arelis is hoping to gain further artistic experience this year before moving on to attain a master’ degree in Fine Arts next year.

Hands-on and up-close at 7th annual JU MSRI Ripples on the River

By Christina Kelso

JU Communications senior

For the more than 300 visitors who explored the Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute’s Seventh Annual Ripples on the River event on Saturday, May 17, the St. Johns River became more than a flowing backdrop to the university.

Captain Don Dingman of the television show "Hook the Future" demonstrates fishing techniques to the crowd at Ripples on the River. - Photos by Christina Kelso/JU

It became an experience up-close and hands-on.

Children and adults alike reached their arms into touch tanks by Florida Fish and Wildlife to hold and feel critters from the river, engaged in a family-oriented fishing clinic by Capt. Don Dingman of the TV show “Hook the Future,” listened to live music and fed tilapia in a working aquaponics system.

They also walked through the halls of the MSRI and across the grass of its adjacent riverbank, sailed up and down the St. Johns on the university’s new floating research classroom the R/V Larkin. They enjoyed seafood lunches by Seabest Seafood and, for adults, beer samples from SweetWater Brewing Company. At the end of the day, 200 children received free rods and reels from Fish Florida to take home.

Sarah Grace Beson pushes Abby Beson and Ryan Stone on a riverside swing while Evan Stone cheers on at the 7th Annual MSRI Ripples on the River event.

Quinton White, executive director of the MSRI, said the event was designed to promote understanding and interest in the marine science and the St. Johns River to children and families. He called it a time for public-outreach and “friend-raising.” The event continues to find success and strong support from the community.

“With the fishing clinic, seafood, boat ride, touch tank, it’s not the kind of thing you see everywhere all the time,” White said. “The kids really enjoy the touch tank and seeing the aquariums. I had one guy saying he couldn’t get his kids out of the lobby, there’s so much to do here.”

Captain Don Dingman hands six-year-old Brooke Deese her grand-prize for winning the Ripple on the River raffle, a new fishing pole. Following this, she turned to the crowd and announced that she would give it to her dad for Fathers Day.

For some families, like Valarie and Sean Toussie of Fruit Cove and their two children, Julien and Emilie Toussi, Ripples on the River was their first time visiting the JU campus.

“This is a beautiful campus, and this institute is state-of-the-art, very impressive,” Valerie Toussie said. “We appreciate that it’s open to the public. It gets a lot of kids seeing things and experiencing and touching, which is important. We enjoyed the hands-on tank, where they could touch all the stingrays and different crabs and fish; that was very fun.”

On a dock outside the MSRI, Ashley and Rob Johnson and their children Land, (left) Miles and Libby Johnson test out the new fishing poles the children received after the Ripples on the River event.

Alongside her mother, Nichole Deese, a member of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, six-year-old Brooke Deese also explored the JU MSRI and riverfront for the first time during the event. Following the fishing clinic, Brooke Deese won the grand-prize in a raffle drawing: a new, full-size fishing pole. Upon receiving it, she turned to the crowd, smiling, and announced she would give it to her dad for Father’s Day.

“Today is a good day,” Deese said. “It was perfect for my life. If I go here again I will scream out ‘I love this place.’ ”

Meanwhile, a team of active volunteers from the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Fish and Wildlife, and JU stepped up to guide visitors throughout the day. St. Johns Riverkeeper volunteer Michaela Miller spent her day as a tour guide of the floating classroom, educating and entertaining riders with river trivia.

“I think it’s important for people to know about our river and why it’s so important to our community, and I think the best way to learn about it is to experience it,” she said.

Summer camps aplenty at JU this summer!

Jacksonville University will host numerous outdoor and indoor camps this year. Please see the list below for more information.

Passport Staff, June 4–14, http://passportcamps.org

Team Focus, June 8–10, http://teamfocususa.org

Tony Jasick Basketball Camp, June 9-13, aali1@ju.edu

Learn2Earn, June 8–13, http://www.coj.net/mayor/bizform/mayor-brown-s-learn-2earn.aspx

Tim Montez Baseball Academy, June 9-12, July 14-17, 21-24, August 1-3, August 30, 31, http://collegebaseballcamps.com/JU

Dolphin Soccer Academy, June 9–13, http://www.dolphinsocceracademy.com

Mike Hollis Kicking Academy, June 12-14, July 17-19, http://proformkicking.com

4th & 1 Football Camp, June 15-20 (Staff June 14), http://www.4thand1.org

Passport Camp, June 15-20, 22-27, 29-July 4, http://passportcamps.org

Dolphin Fine Arts Camp, June 16-20, 23-27, judolphincamp@ju.edu

Summer Dance Intensive, June 16-20, 23-27, jusummerintensive@ju.edu

Coach Yo’s Basketball Camp, June 16-21, 25-28, www.yolettmccuinbasketball.com

Marine Science Summer Camp, June 16-20, June 23-27, http://www.ju.edu/msri/Pages/Summer-Camps.aspx

JU Softball Camps, June 23-26, July 8-10, 14-17, 21-24, http://collegesoftballcamps.com/softball/JU

Camp QB, June 27-30, www.judolphins.com/football/default

Offense Defense Football Camp, July 27-30, http://www.o-d.com

Team Football Camp,  July 8-10, 11-13, www.judolphins.com/football/default

Passport Kids Camp, July 12-15, http://passportcamps.org

MCC Sports (Lacrosse), July 25-28, 29-31, http://julacrosse.mccsportsinc.com/wp

Offense Defense Football Camp, July 2 –30, http://www.o-d.com

JU Jazz faculty, combo hitting the stage at Jacksonville Jazz Fest May 24-25

Love Jazz? Look for JU faculty and combo members at this year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival downtown May 24-25.

The Jacksonville University Jazz Combo 1, under the direction of John W. Ricci, Director of Jazz Studies at JU, performs at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 24, on the Swingin’ Stage at Bay and Marsh streets.

The Gary Starling Group — featuring its legendary guitar-playing namesake, a JU Artist in Residence — performs at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 25, on the Breezin’ Stage at The Jacksonville Landing. Featured with Starling is violinist Russell George, and group members include Billy Thornton on bass (a JU adjunct professor for jazz bass), Peter Miles on drums and Carol Sheehan as vocalist.

See the full schedule here.

John W. Ricci, Director of Jazz Studies at JU

John Ricci’s bio (read more at http://www.johnriccimusic.com)

John Ricci is Director of Jazz Studies at Jacksonville University. He has been a performer, jazz educator, composer and clinician in the North Florida area for more than 12 years. He attended the jazz studies program at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, where he was mentored directly by internationally recognized saxophonist and jazz pedagogue Jerry Coker and former Art Blakey Jazz Messenger Donald Brown. He then attended Florida State University, earning a Masters of Music in Jazz Studies under a teaching assistantship. In that time he performed with Blue Note Trumpeter Marcus Printup and at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. He has received numerous awards, including a Downbeat Magazine award in 1995. John has since performed with a myriad of top recording artists and regularly in numerous club dates spanning from New York to Savannah, He’s performed locally as a tenor saxophone soloist with the Jacksonville Symphony Pops Orchestra, the Four Tops, The Temptations, and in festivals including Chijazz Festival in Singapore, as a regular performer in the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the Savannah Jazz Festival, as a guest artist with pianist/composer Donald Brown in the Knoxville Jazz Festival, and was invited to headline the Inaugural Jacksonville Jazz Series with his own quartet. Most recently, John was invited to open for guitarist phenom Julian Lage, performing his own music with his jazz trio in the prestigious Riverside Fine Arts Concert Series.

Gary Starling’s bio (read more at http://www.garystarling.com):

Gary Starling attended Georgia State University, Florida Junior College, Dick Grove Music Workshop and studied privately with jazz guitarists Joe Pass, Howard Alden, Peter Bernstein and others. As Artist in Residence of Guitar at Jacksonville University, Gary Starling has taught hundreds of aspiring musicians over the past three decades. He has performed with jazz legends Eddie Harris and Nat Adderley as well as Joshua Breakstone, Carla White, Jim Snidero, Irene Reid and many others. He has had the honor of playing with performers such as Bob Hope, Diahann Carroll, Rita Moreno, Empire Brass Quintet, Skitch Henderson, and the Jacksonville Symphony Pops Orchestra as well as a live appearance on Public Radio’s “Whad’ya Know.” He has made more than a dozen appearances at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, and in May 2012, Starling was inducted into the Jacksonville Jazz Hall of Fame. Since 1987, Gary has led his own group performing at various clubs, jazz societies, schools and festivals in the Southeast in addition to thousands of private engagements. Starling spent the late 1960s and 1970s on the road as a working musician. He studied at Georgia State University, Dick Grove Music Workshop in Los Angeles, and privately with jazz guitar master Joe Pass. Additionally, he has had many informal encounters/lessons with various guitarists over the years: Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Larry Coryell, George Benson, John McGlaughlin, Eric Gale, Jack Petersen, Peter Bernstein, Howard Alden and others.

JU’s Drs. Ray Oldakowski, Erich Freiberger selected for prestigious duPont Summer Seminar Series

Jacksonville University’s Dr. Ray Oldakowski, Geography, and Dr. Erich Freiberger, Philosophy, have been selected as visiting scholars in this year’s duPont Summer Seminar Series at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

This is especially noteworthy because the two were chosen to participate in an “off year” for JU, i.e., there were no guaranteed openings for JU facult, said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. Douglas Hazzard. The seminar, titled “Globalization and the Varieties of Modern Capitalism,” will be led by Dr. Edward Balleisen, Associate Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.

The summer seminars are sponsored by the Jesse Ball duPont Fund. The fund supports 42 colleges, universities and military academies, located primarily in the South. Each places a strong emphasis on teaching. Through years of collaboration with these schools, the fund has come to know the special rewards that faculty derive from working closely with students. It has also come to know the challenges that such effort entails. Heavy teaching loads and administrative duties often leave little time for the intellectual renewal essential for effective performance in the classroom.

To help address this problem, the fund in 1991 inaugurated, in conjunction with the National Humanities Center, a series of summer seminars for faculty from duPont Fund-eligible institutions. These three-week residential programs are designed to give faculty the opportunity for intellectual renewal by exploring with leading scholars significant topics of interest to teachers in a variety of disciplines.

While at the National Humanities Center this June, Drs. Oldakowski and Freiberger will have the opportunity to develop teaching units on Globalization and World Capitalism that they will then be able to incorporate into their curriculum at JU.

Previous JU participants in the duPont Summer Seminar Series include Dean Hazzard, Dr. Julie Brannon, Dr. Steve Baker, Dr. Scott Kimbrough, Dr. Joana Owens, Dr. Therese O’Connell, Dr. Nathan Rousseau, Dr. Janet Haavisto and Dr. John Buck.

 

Filling out NSSE 2014 pays off for JU student Erika Karon!

JU student Erika Karon with President Cost

Congratulations to JU psychology major Erika Karon (pictured with President Cost), winner of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Research!

During the Spring 2014 term, Jacksonville University administered the National Survey of Student Engagement 2014 to a sample of its students, to learn more about their level of engagement in university activities. Of 647 JU students who responded to the survey, Erika was randomly selected to receive the Galaxy tablet. In addition to being on track to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in December 2015, Erika also volunteers for Communities in Schools of Jacksonville.

For more about the the JU Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Research, visit http://www.ju.edu/IE. For more about the NSSE, visit http://nsse.iub.edu.

High school girls learn about STEM careers, JU’s unique cross-disciplinary approach at workshop

Jacksonville University’s recent STEM workshop for high school girls builds on an outreach effort started several years ago designed to grow interest among females in science and technical careers.

A continuation of a program begun in 2011 that was funded in its initial year by the Anita Borg Institute, the workshop this year was funded by the Division of Science and Mathematics and expanded to include Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities.

A great collaboration between strongly related departments was initiated as Dr. Huihui Wang, Director of the Engineering Dual Degree at JU, and Dr. Anna Little, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, teamed up with Dr. Mountrouidou to organize and conduct the one-day workshop.

Students from various high schools such as Bishop Kenny, Atlantic Coast, Bolles and Frank H. Peterson Academies learned about STEM careers and also JU’s small class size, high-tech classrooms, unique cross-disciplinary approach, real-world exercises and robust internship offerings.

Computer Science seniors Crystal Armstrong, Scott Jeffas and Rachael Jenkins have been helping for three years with the workshop, while mathematics major Rachael Woods and engineering major Nicole Buczkowski came aboard to help this year as well.

The goal of the outreach workshop is to encourage women, who are highly underrepresented in STEM, to pursue STEM degrees through fun activities and positive role models. There is a high demand for STEM majors on the current job market, and the current production of degrees fails to satisfy it. This lack of STEM majors is occurring even though STEM workers have a higher average income than non-STEM workers, and the number of STEM-related job opportunities is expected to increase by 17 percent over the next decade.

In a country where unemployment rates are increasing, it does not make sense to leave these jobs unfilled or outsourced, Dr. Mountrouidou said. The workshop is an effort to bring women into STEM majors.

The workshop activities included three parts: a computer science activity on mobile application development, a mathematics activity on cryptography, and an engineering activity on 3D printing.

During the first activity, the high school students developed and installed on smartphones and tablets fully functional Android applications and games. In the cryptography activity, students learned about the mathematical background of Caesar ciphers and competed in a game that included decryption of messages. Finally, the students witnessed 3D printing firsthand and designed their own artifacts using Solidworks software.

The students and volunteers had lunch at the cafeteria and took a campus tour led by engineering student Tyler Hardison. In the afternoon, parents were invited for refreshments, a showcase of the projects of the day and an inspirational presentation on women role models from computer science, mathematics and engineering, as well as on what differentiates JU from other schools in terms of STEM.

“In our computer science program, we teach our students how to develop Android and iOS apps,” said Dr. Mountrouidou. “Students put these on the market and earn real-world experience. We participate in programming competitions regularly and compete with other schools in the Southeast. We have an active CS club where we have fun meetings playing video games or organizing talks from alumni such as Matt Kane and David Beach.”

JU also has an active women’s club, the Women In Computer Science (WICS). Members participate in the national event Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. In addition, students receive paid internships (Parsons, Vistacom, GreenShades, Web.com and more) and are steered toward great careers (BCBS, Etchasoft, Morgan Stanley, Qualcom, GreenShades, Parsons, Starfield and others).

Meanwhile, the University’s Engineering program has students of such a high academic level that many finish their dual degree at schools such as Columbia, UF and Georgia Tech. They are active in research and present their work in NCUR and the JU Symposium, and they have an active engineering club.

JU’s Mathematics academic program features small class sizes, innovative use of technology in fully computerized classrooms, close faculty-student interaction and a very active Math Society, said Dr. Little.

“Also, students are encouraged to work on real-world problems through the International Mathematical Competition in Modeling and other venues,” she said. “Because JU is a small school, there is a lot of interdepartmental interaction, and this fosters interdisciplinary learning among the students.”

JU marine science students, faculty present on ocean habitats at Benthic Ecology Meeting

By Taylor Agnew

JU Communications senior

JU faculty and students recently presented at the Benthic Ecology Meeting in Jacksonville, one of the largest scientific gatherings of premier marine biologists in the world.

The team made a strong showing with three posters, said Dr. Dan McCarthy, director of the Marine Science Program at Jacksonville University. 

“This is a chance to see cutting-edge marine science and develop research ideas,” he said.

The JU contingent consisted of one undergraduate student (Krystal Dannenhoffer); one graduate student (Alex Paradise); and three faculty (McCarthy, Lee Ann Clements and Jeremy Stalker). McCarthy also chaired the meeting’s Community Ecology session.

The 43rd BEM meeting March 19-22 was hosted by the University of North Florida and brought more than 600 registrants, a mix of the nation’s top marine ecologists and up-and-coming graduate and undergraduate students. 

A summary of presentations and posters by JU’s faculty and students is below, with JU undergraduate students in bold: 

POSTERS

A comparison of algal communities on nearshore natural and artificial reefs in Palm Beach County, Florida

Dan McCarthy, Jacksonville University

Shallow hard-bottom habitats along the east Florida coast harbor a high diversity and abundance of fish and invertebrates. These habitats often need to be mitigated when they are covered by sand during beach restoration projects. It is unclear how well currently used artificial reefs (often deployed in deeper water) restore the ecological function of lost habitat. As part of a larger state-funded project, this study compared the algal communities encountered in artificial versus natural habitats at four depths (0-1, 1-2, 2-3 & 3-4 m) during six surveys that were conducted from 2009 to 2013. Over 800 quadrats were sampled for macroalgae within natural and artificial reefs in Palm Beach County, Florida.  Most samples contained turf algae, but some also contained larger macroalgae.  Algal richness and biomass were statistically highest (p=0.001) at natural versus artificial reefs at the two shallowest depths sampled. Natural reefs also contained higher abundances of coarsely branched taxa than their artificial counterparts (p=0.001).  These results suggest that future mitigation reefs in this area should be placed at depths similar to those of the habitats lost. It also suggests that natural algae communities in these highly disturbed habitats may persist longer than previously thought.

A comparison of algae-associated invertebrate communities in natural vs. artificial hard-bottom habitat in Palm Beach County, Fla.

Krystal Dannenhoffer; Dan McCarthy, Jacksonville University

Along the east Florida coast there are shallow hard-bottom habitats that harbor a high diversity and abundance of fish and invertebrates. They often need to be mitigated due to beach restoration projects that cover them with sand. As part of a larger state funded project, this study compares the algae-associated invertebrates encountered in natural versus artificial habitats at four depths (0-1, 1-2, 2-3 & 3-4 m) during five surveys that were conducted from 2012 to 2013.  Over 650 algal samples were collected from natural and artificial hard bottom habitats in Palm Beach County, FL. Over 8,100 individual invertebrates were collected and identified from the surveys, representing 131 taxa. Amphipods represented over 30 percent of all invertebrates within natural and artificial habitats, whereas polychaetes, sipunculans, and gastropods composed 11-18 percent. Invertebrate number and richness were statistically higher on natural versus artificial reefs at the shallowest depth tested. Multivariate analyses revealed differences in species composition with survey and reef type (p<0.05). Most of these observed differences were attributable to variation in abundance and diversity of mollusks. Considering the importance of algae-associated invertebrates trophically and in enhancing biodiversity, future reef mitigation efforts should occur in shallow water to more effectively restore lost habitats.

Stability of a soft-bottom community: impacts and recovery following dredging disturbance off Amelia Island, Florida

Alex Paradise; Dan McCarthy, Jacksonville University

Offshore dredging has the potential to drastically impact benthic infaunal communities. It is necessary to investigate the degree and rate of recovery in these communities to gain insight into short- and long-term impacts of such disturbances. Trends in benthic fauna abundance and diversity were monitored following the 2011 excavation of an offshore sediment deposit off Amelia Island, Fla. Sediment samples were collected from five excavated sites and five non-excavated control sites in 2011 prior to excavation, and afterward during 2012 and 2013. Initial analyses of year one post-excavation show no significant differences in faunal density between borrow and control sites. There were significant decreases in mean species richness in excavated sites, yet no trends at control sites. Further, while infaunal density decreased significantly in control sites after one year, high variation at borrow sites obscured any potential trends. However by, 2013 (two years post excavation), infaunal density and species richness declined significantly at only excavated sites. Observed temporal trends in infauna may have resulted from the combined effects of the dredging disturbance and an influx of fine fluvial sediments over time from a neighboring river creating anoxic conditions that ultimately adversely affected the benthic community.

Legendary JU mascot Nellie, oldest dolphin in human care, dies at age 61

Nellie the dolphin: 1953-2014

Nellie the dolphin, the beloved Jacksonville University mascot, former TV star and water-show performer who charmed generations of young and old alike while raising awareness of marine life, has died.

At 61 the oldest dolphin in human care, she was born at Marineland Dolphin Adventure and had resided there her entire life.

“Nellie brought such joy to so many, and was an inspiration to generations with her spirit and longevity,” said JU President Tim Cost. “We are honored to have had her as our mascot, and share our condolences with her caregivers at Marineland and with all those who shared such a special bond with her.”

Marineland announced the loss on its Facebook page.

“Her memory will live on in the lives she touched,” the Facebook post read. “She fostered a love of the ocean and promoted marine conservation to thousands throughout her lifetime. We will miss her dearly.”

Nellie received an honorary doctorate degree in health sciences and longevity during her 60th birthday celebration in 2013 at Marineland (see a video at http://ow.ly/wohGj). The certificate was Nellie’s third: She was proclaimed an honorary JU Dolphin when she was adopted as the University’s mascot in 1970, and received an honorary masters in marine science degree in 2008.

JU Marine Science Research Institute Executive Director Quinton White said Nellie was an important part of the JU Marine Science program.

“I can remember how proud students were when we visited Marineland on field trips and they discovered we had a real, live Dolphin as a mascot,” he said. “Classes enjoyed learning about Dolphin behavior by observing Nellie for many years. It was sad watching her decline over the last few years. But her longevity was a tribute to her caregivers at Marineland.”

Born Feb. 27, 1953, she was famous for her showmanship to live audiences and in films, and for an iconic 1961 “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking” Timex watch commercial with broadcaster John Cameron Swayze.

Nellie was also the oldest living college mascot in the country and a longtime featured performer who, in an earlier era of Marineland, jumped through hoops and playfully interacted with trainers and spectators at Marineland’s dolphin shows. The sextenarian was long-retired and had showed signs of aging, including blindness and limited agility, as she continued to be studied and marveled at by marine researchers who compiled extensive data regarding geriatric dolphins.

Marineland said in a statement that its veterinary, animal care and training staff “attended to Nellie throughout the day yesterday [Wednesday] as her physical condition deteriorated.”

“Due to her rapidly declining health and inability to support herself any longer, the attending veterinarian administered a calming sedative to ease her discomfort,” the statement read. “When it became apparent she would not recover, the difficult decision was made to euthanize. As she peacefully slipped away, she was surrounded by her human family of caregivers who had tended to her so lovingly over the years.”

Marineland Dolphin Adventure is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit and an affiliate of Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Ga. David Kimmel, president and chief operating officer of the Georgia Aquarium, said during Nellie’s 2013 birthday celebration that she helped establish the standard for creating awareness and understanding of marine mammals.

“It all started here. We all have learned a lot from Nellie, who has made a lot of contributions to all of us about what we know about dolphins,” he said. “Every single day we learn something new.”

In addition to Nellie’s contributions to marine research and serving as JU’s mascot, she had a positive, lasting impact on children who attend JU’s Wilma’s Little People’s School, who sent her birthday wishes every year. Wilma’s founder, Kay Johnson, was on hand for her 60th birthday celebration – and for Wilma’s adoption ceremony in 1970.

JU alum David Cameron ’66, a retired principal and biology teacher, felt especially touched upon hearing of Nellie’s death, as he was the final alum to have his photo taken with her. On the university’s Charter Day “Global Toast” celebration of its 80th birthday April 16, the St. Augustine resident went to Marineland for what turned out to be an historic moment.

“They were very accommodating and brought me to her [habitat]. They tapped on the side and she came up swimming,” Cameron said, his voice choking up. “I brought many of my elementary students to Marineland, and they saw her as a performer and also in her role as educator to thousands on marine conservation and ocean habitat.”

Cameron said he would never forget Nellie’s impact.

“It’s kind of like when you lose a family pet, and I’m sure all the JU family and her caregivers at Marineland are having a hard time. I have a brass dolphin sculpture here at my home, and I’m going to be setting my picture of Nellie right by it. It’s a big loss.”

A public celebration of Nellie’s life is tentatively is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, May 15, at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, 900 Oceanshore Blvd. More information will be available on Marineland’s website as additional details become available. To share condolences and memories of Nellie, guests can post on the Marineland Dolphin Adventure Facebook page and on Twitter by using the hashtag #Nellie. A tribute video can also be viewed on the Marineland Dolphin Adventure and Georgia Aquarium blog.

The latest JRAD (Journal of Research Across the Disciplines) is out!

 

The latest edition of Jacksonville University’s Journal of Research Across the Disciplines (JRAD) is out, at http://journal.ju.edu.

The journal, overseen by Ed McCourt, director of the Writing Center and Writing Across the Curriculum, and assistant professor of English, is a peer-reviewed electronic journal dedicated to publishing and showcasing student research.

The 2014 edition includes an essay on Romantic Literature and Science via the work of Barbauld (Alyssa Stubbs); on family life in North Florida during the Civil War (James Thomas); on the effects of a Hunting and Fishing Club’s efforts to preserve a historic site (Richard White); and an artist’s perspective on illustration as a means to navigate a chaotic world (with images, Arelis Resto).

The WAC committee reviews all submissions, which are almost exclusively derived from coursework completed in JU classrooms, McCourt said.

JU Wind Ensemble Spring to perform “Piece of Mind” April 13 in Terry Hall

The JU Wind Ensemble

The Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts presents the JU Wind Ensemble in a free Spring Concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 13, in Terry Concert Hall on the JU campus. The public is invited.

The Wind Ensemble will present a program titled “Piece of Mind” that features an award-winning work by composer Dana Wilson. The composition is a sonic exploration of the inner workings of the human mind. The four movements are titled “Thinking,” “Remembering,” “Feeling” and “Being.” Other selections include music by Mackey, Grundman, Saint-Saens and Sousa.

The concert will feature outstanding trombonist and JU senior Corey Wilcox in Ferdinand David’s classic “Concertino for Trombone.”

The JU Wind Ensemble includes woodwind, brass and percussion instrumentalists and is led by music professor Artie Clifton. The group studies and performs the best of traditional and contemporary wind literature.

For more information, call (904) 256-7386.

Over-exercising not a good fit with eating disorders, JU researcher Hausenblas finds

Exercise, as we all know, can improve your health, but if you have an eating disorder and also exercise compulsively to help manage your weight, you may find your overall quality of life going down even further

JU Prof. Heather Hausenblas

Those are some of the findings of research by JU Professor of Kinesiology Heather Hausenblas and colleagues in a study titled “Pathological Motivations for Exercise and Eating Disorder Specific Health-Related Quality of Life” published in the April 2014 issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

“People with eating disorders often engage in purging behaviors to manage their weight, including self-induced vomiting, over-exercising and the use of diuretics, enemas and laxatives,” Hausenblas said. “The purpose of our study was to examine exercise dependency’s relation to eating disorders and a person’s quality of life. We found that exercise dependence may further worsen the quality of life for these patients.”

For example, a person with an eating disorder whose motivation for excessively exercising is to control their weight may experience heightened negative emotions such as anxiety, depression and stress that will further reduce their already low quality of life, she said.

An abstract of the study is at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eat.22198/abstract. The researchers are Brian Cook, PhD.; Scott Engel, PhD.; Ross Crosby, PhD.; Heather Hausenblas, PhD.; Stephen Wonderlich, PhD.; and James Mitchell, MD.

A .pdf of the full study is below.

Veterans’ issues, best college coaches, shape-shifting cell phones and much more on tap at JU Symposium March 26-28

JU’s 2014 Faculty & Student Symposium March 26-28 features results from more than 100 projects, with topics including everything from shape-shifting smartphones, veterans’ college transition issues and using yoga in kindergarten classrooms to the best college coaches of all time, how social media use affects SAT scores and reviving oyster harvesting in Jacksonville.

The free symposium, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  each day in the JU Davis College of Business Conference Rooms B and C, spotlights the excellence of JU students and faculty who engage in cutting-edge research in intriguing topics across a range of disciplines (see a .pdf of the full schedule below). Students and the community can stop by DCOB any time during the event and learn about JU’s exciting research, teaching, service, study abroad and internships, said co-organizer Dr. Brian Lane.

JU student Bryon Heylock presented a review of "Evolutionary Ethics: A Defense of Anti-Realism" Thursday, April 4, 2013, during the 2013 Faculty and Student Symposium at JU's Davis College of Business (Photos by Kevin Hogencamp/JU)

“The JU Symposium is a venue for faculty and students to share their work with the rigor and expectations of a professional conference in JU’s friendly campus environment,” Lane said. “We receive abstracts of all topics, allowing students to learn about work in fields very different from their own.”

For example, he said, research in history is very different from research in mathematics, and a business major’s internship is very different from a sociology major’s service learning project, so the JU Symposium is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about what their classmates are working on.

“Many of these presentations will later be delivered at national conferences (such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research) or lead to papers submitted for publication, so the feedback that presenters receive at the Symposium is vital to the further development of their work.”

Another great feature of the Symposium is that professors and students present side by side, sometimes even co-presenting, Lane noted.

“As students near the end of their projects, the Symposium marks a rite of passage to becoming a professional in their fields.”

This year’s Symposium Planning Committee included Dr. John Buck, Dr. Laura Chambers, Dr. Teri Chenot, Dr. Janet Haavisto, Dr. Jesse Hingson, Dr. W. Brian Lane, Prof. Ed McCourt and Dr. Chris Robertson. The 2014 Symposium is funded by ECHO: JU’s experiential learning program.

Follow the Symposium on Twitter (@JUSymposium) and Tweet about it using hashtag #JUSymp2014.

Jacksonville’s colleges unite to enliven City Hall windows at One Spark

JU student dancers will add some electricity to the opening of this year’s One Spark festival April 9, joining with UNF, FSCJ and the Looking Lab in “Spaceshifts,” a collaborative art installation.

JU student dancers

“The Looking Lab: Art in Empty Storefronts” began activating the Downtown urban core with storefront art projects in February, thanks to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s Spark Grant initiative. The latest, “Exhibit B: Spaceshifts” at City Hall in Hemming Plaza, is curated by UNF Sculpture Prof. Jenny Hager, JU Dance Prof. Lana Heylock, FSCJ Art Prof. Mark Creegan and Looking Lab Director Joy Leverette.

The professors are not the only contributions from the schools, however. University of North Florida sculpture students will install art in nine City Hall windows with a theme related to “place,” Deep Sea, Coral Reef, Swamps, Forest, Mountains, Cities, Clouds, Deep Space, and Other World. Each window will be carefully curated to transform the “place” from day to night and will be fully built with foreground, middle ground and background spaces.

The middle ground spaces are of particular interest: the Jacksonville University Dance Department will perform in the ongoing “Spaceshifts” installation within the middle ground of the UNF installations. The JU performances are scheduled for the opening of the exhibit at 7 p.m. March 28 and three performances starting at 5 p.m. April 9. They will also present a dance for city officials at 4:30 p.m. March 25, prior to the City Council meeting.

JU student dancers

“The JU Dance Department embraces the collaborative experience and is thrilled to be a part of this exciting project,” Heylock said. “Each year, Choreography III dance students embark upon site-specific assignments.  The very nature of site-specific involves taking dance off of the traditional proscenium stage and putting it into the environment.  This produces a closer audience encounter and a vibrantly engaged experience for the performer, as well as the viewer. The Spaceshifts Project between JU Dance choreographers, UNF and FSCJ visual artists, The Looking Lab and the Cultural Council has epitomized the spirit of artistic synthesis in Northeast Florida.  It is an exciting prospect to truly ‘Enliven Space’ with dance and art.”

“I’m so honored and excited to be a part of this renaissance in Jacksonville,” said Leverette. “Here we are, transforming the old department store windows of City Hall with cutting-edge installation art. Our partnerships with City Hall, Petra and Prime Realty are proof that Northeast Florida city and business leaders are realizing how this storefront art initiative can revive dead space and restore vibrancy to our urban landscape.”

“The Looking Lab” is a series of unconventional pop-up exhibits featuring regional artists within empty storefronts throughout downtown Jacksonville. Participating artists include Jim Draper, David Montgomery, Crystal Floyd, Staci BuShea, Casey James, Mark Creegan, Sister Feathertoe, the UNF Sculpture Program, and the Jacksonville University Dance Department.

For more information, please visit www.lookinglabjax.com.

New JU Beta Gamma members inducted; Finley, Hoffman honored

By Courtney Jimenez

JU Communications Senior

JU’s chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society for business, initiated new members  March 7 in the Kinne University Center. Senior Alexandra Hoffman was introduced as the scholarship recipient for the year, and Renee Finley ’88 ’02 was named an honorary member.

New JU Beta Gamma members were inducted March 7. Photo by Courtney Jimenez

Beta Gamma Sigma is the honor society for students enrolled in business and management programs accredited by AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Election to lifetime membership in Beta Gamma Sigma is the highest honor a business student anywhere in the world can receive in an undergraduate or master’s program at a school accredited by AACSB International.

Todd Hall, JU assistant professor of sport business, said Hoffman was a triple threat on Jacksonville University’s campus.

JU Senior Alexandra Hoffman

“Alexandra is an excellent scholar, an amazing athlete and a contributing citizen to the community,” he said.

According to Hall, Hoffman has held a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout college, is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and was recognized by Advantage Business Magazine as one of the Top 40 students in the Davis College of Business. She was a spring 2013 Beta Gamma inductee and was chosen to receive the annual Beta Gamma $100 Scholarship based on an essay she wrote and her outstanding GPA and JU contributions.

Her other accomplishments include:

  • President’s List each semester
  • Brumos Circle of Excellence
  • Beta Gamma Sigma
  • 2014 Lead manager of JU’s Fin Fund
  • 2013 A-Sun Scholar Athlete of the Year
  • 2012-2013 Academic All-Conference
  • 2012 1st team all conference
  • 2012 MVP JU Women’s lacrosse attacker
  • 2012 Lead JU women’s lacrosse team in points and assists
  • Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Academic Honor Roll.

“As a freshman, I saw one of my classmates get invited to join Beta Gamma Sigma, and I immediately went back to my dorm and researched it,” said Hoffman, a business major and lacrosse player. “I realized what an honor it would be to be part of such a prestigious society and knew I had to make goals for myself to succeed something like this.”

JU alum Renee Finley

Meanwhile, Finley, vice president of Innovation and Market Intelligence for Florida Blue and a JU EMBA graduate, offered the students some words of advice as they proceed with their education and careers.

“Each of you has this wonderful gift ahead of you of the many paths not yet taken,” she said. “We start out on a path of life without always knowing where that path will lead, but eventually we will find our way.”

The key to success on the path is education, she said.

“Learning is truly the foundation of life. Without the education I received at JU, I wouldn’t have gotten a job with Florida Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and I wouldn’t still be there 16 years later.”

Undergraduate inductees into the honor society are in the top 10 percent of their class; graduate students are in the top 20 percent of their class. Only the best business students in the world, and the professionals who earned the distinction of “the Best in Business” during their academic careers, can claim membership in Beta Gamma Sigma.

Davis College of Business Beta Gamma Sigma officers are Dr. Don Capener, chapter dean; Dr. Matrecia James, Chapter President; Dr. Angela Mattia, chapter advisor and vice president; Dr. Hugh Van Seaton, chapter treasurer; Dr. John Shaw, scholarship director; and Mary Boggs, chapter graduate director.

For information on Beta Gamma Sigma’s JU chapter, contact Mattia at amattia@ju.edu. For more information on the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society, visit betagammasigma.org

Following are the newest JU Beta Gamma Sigma inductees:

Juniors: Joseph Merritt and Victoria Seitz.

Seniors: Theresa Acevedo, Kristopher Bacon, Macy Bedingfield, David Dibagno, Carlie Gehlhausen, Ellis Harr, Samuel Helms, Shaun Hysler, Jena Kent, Krista Lamberti, Sonya Larson, Tanja Leiser, Alexis Richens, Rodney Smith, Charles Springer, Lisa Stover and Toi Tanner.

Masters: Subbarao  Ayyagari, Maram Alessa, Faisal Alhunaiti, Fahad Althanyan, Matthew Bauer, Andrew Broyles, Ryan Bush, Brian Dodson, Christopher Farrell, Tyler Fugitt, Ranganath Gangasani, Herbert Hadley, Thomas Johnston, Kelli Kemple, Michelle Markum, Juliane Mickler, Janice Milligan, Tetiana Musiienko, Ashishkumar Nayak, Amy O’Brien, Martina Partee, Amanda Poole, Kiran Reddi, Frances Teller and Haomin Yang.

Chapter honoree: Renee Finley, vice president, Innovation and Market Intelligence, Florida Blue.

JU’s Dr. Paulina Rippere awarded APSA Congressional Fellowship

Dr. Paulina Rippere, JU Assistant Professor of Political Science, has been selected for a prestigious Congressional Fellowship for 2014-15 with the American Political Science Association.

Dr. Paulina Rippere

Congressional Fellows are announced after a rigorous selection process and learn about the legislative process through direct participation. Over their nine-month fellowship that begins each November, they work with congressional staffs, securing their own office assignments and interacting with members of Congress to learn about their governance and electoral roles.

“Working as an APSA Congressional Fellow is an invaluable opportunity for me to learn about Congress from the inside,” said Rippere. “This experience will help me bring the institution to life for students in my political science classes. It will also aid me in my research on bipartisanship and networking in Congress by giving me the opportunity to observe real-life interactions among legislators.”

Former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has said that few other Washington mid-career programs have admission standards for awarding fellowships that “come close to those set by the American Political Science Association.”

“Paulina came to JU last fall as a new assistant professor after completing her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Florida,” added Dr. Sherri Jackson, Chair of Social Sciences and Interim Dean of the College of Fine Arts. “This is a huge accomplishment and a great honor for both Paulina and JU.”

Here’s a video with more on the Fellowships:

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More on the fellowships can be found at http://www.apsanet.org/content_10184.cfm.

Tony Award-winning musical “Drowsy Chaperone” April 3-6 at JU

The Tony Award-winning play The Drowsy Chaperone April 3-6 at Jacksonville University is a clever tribute to the “Great American Musical” tradition — with a sarcastic twist sure to delight anyone who appreciates Broadway shows.

The production by the JU divisions of Music and Theater, which won five Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards in 2006, was originally conceived by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. A nostalgic evening of wit, exciting dance numbers and great singing voices, it is classic Broadway fare with a snarky edge.

As a spoof on musicals, the romp never leaves the small apartment of a devoted and slightly Mad Hatter-like narrator, “Man in Chair” (senior theater major David Bilbray). When this die-hard fan of musical theater dusts off his favorite cast album, a 1928 smash called The Drowsy Chaperone magically bursts to life and the audience is immersed in the glamorous, over-the-top comical tale of a celebrity bride and her uproarious wedding day.

JU’s production is under the direction by JU theater Prof. Deborah Jordan, with choreography by Jacksonville’s Curtis J. Williams and musical direction by JU music theater Prof. Jay Ivey. A send-up of the conventions of musical comedy, the play has been lauded as one of the wittiest, zaniest shows to hit Broadway.

The Drowsy Chaperone (music theater junior Lexi Inks) dazzles the audience with her rendition of “As We Stumble Along.” Other memorable musical numbers include Janet Van de Graff (music theater sophomore Rachel Romo) performing “Show Off”; Alec Hadden’s “I Am Adolpho,” the tale of the sordid Latin lover; and the snazzy tap number “Cold Feets” (musical theater freshmen Matt Robertson and Parker Lawhorne). Endearing gangsters disguised as chefs (Wayne Woodson, Chris Robertson); the cigar-chomping producer Mr. Feldzig (James Webb); and the adorable Kitty (Victoria Miller) add to the cast in comic supporting roles.

The Drowsy Chaperone is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). Critics have praised it as “irresistible,” “a witty, winning, refreshing cocktail of a show” and “delightful and sparkling entertainment.” The accolades are well-earned for this clever and witty production with uproarious songs and great performances.

More information: Prof. Jay Ivey, JU Assistant Professor of Voice and Music Theater, (904) 256-7334.

Kinne, Hogshead-Makar, Corey, Bayat featured at JU Women in Leadership March 7

Some of the speakers for JU's first Women In Leadership Conference March 7, 2014

State Attorney Angela Corey, Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Afghanistan’s Ariana Television Senior Vice President Fatema Bayat and Ambassador Marilyn McAffee are just some of the speakers lined up for the first JU Women in Leadership Conference this Friday, March 7, at the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business.

With the theme “Lean In To Leadership,” the event geared to students is designed to connect JU women with each other and give them a chance to learn from outstanding and accomplished local women. (See schedule and .pdf of the program and speaker bios below.)

The conference will begin with a panel dialogue based in part on the work of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” a bestseller and an inspiration to many young aspiring graduates.

The afternoon will continue with two breakout sessions that will allow participants to choose from several different topic areas, including “The Leadership Ambition Gap,” “Success and Likeability,” “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder” and “Working Together Toward Equality.”

The JU Women’s History Month Event honoring Women of the Year is being held the same day (story at http://waveweekly.ju.edu/?p=13353).

Students may register for the Women’s Leadership Conference and the Women’s History Month Reception and Program on DolphinLink:

https://dolphinlink.ju.edu/form/start/34396

Students may register for only the Women’s History Month Reception and Program on DolphinLink:

https://dolphinlink.ju.edu/form/start/37611

JACKSONVILLE UNIVERSITY’S

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE

“LEAN IN TO LEADERSHIP”

03.07.2014

DAVIS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

March 7, 2014

 

12:30 p.m., Conference check-in begins, Davis College of Business atrium

1-2:15 p.m.: Keynote Discussant Panel, Davis College of Business, 165, 171, 174

Opening remarks, Dr. Fran Kinne and Mrs. Stephanie Cost

Panel Moderator, Dr. Sherri Jackson

Panelists: Fatema Bayat, Angela Corey, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Honorable Mia Jones,

Ambassador Marilyn McAfee, Lisa Rinaman, Kim Anspach Ward

2:15-3 p.m.: Breakout Sessions

The Leadership Ambition Gap: What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?

Identifying your Leadership Style, Ambassador Marilyn McAfee, Davis College of Business 114

Success and Likeability

Professionalism in the Workplace, Honorable Mia Jones, Davis College of Business, 119

It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

Creating Your Path to Success, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Davis College of Business 117

3-3:45 p.m.: Breakout Sessions

Working Together Toward Equality

Cultural Diversity in the Workplace, Dr. Carole Barnett and Fatema Bayat,

Davis College of Business, 114

Sit at the Table

Leading with Passion, Crystal Freed, Davis College of Business, 117

It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

Creating Your Path to Success, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Davis College of Business 117

4-5 p.m.: Closing Session, Davis College of Business, 165, 171, 174

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette

Seek and Speak Your Truth, Kim Anspach Ward

5 p.m.: Closing remarks

5:30 p.m.: Jacksonville University Women’s History Month Reception and Celebration

Honoring JU Community Woman of the Year, JU Woman of the Year, and JU Student of the Year, Davis College of Business atrium

Smart policy led to Florida schools progress, Chartrand tells JU PPI education policy forum

By Courtney Jimenez

JU Communications senior

Leadership, strategic planning and budgeting were topics brought to light during “Education Policy: Why it Matters,” a forum hosted Tuesday, Feb. 11, by the JU Public Policy Institute.

From left, JU Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney moderated as Duval County Schools Supt. Nikolai Vitti and State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand led a JU PPI Education Forum discussion in front of a crowd of about 150 people at the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business.

State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand and Duval County Schools Supt. Nikolai Vitti led the discussion in front of a crowd of about 150 people at the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business (see a Facebook photo gallery here).

Chartrand, who has been in his post almost a year, said he came to JU because Florida’s 2.7 million students need the attention that places like the JU PPI are paying to public policy.

Duval County Schools Supt. Nikolai Vitti

He said Florida has made a turnaround with five policy initiatives: early literacy, no social promotion, school choice, accountability and effective teaching.

“Policy does matter,” he said. “It starts with leadership, and that leadership starts with the executive branch that has to make education a top priority.”

JU PPI Director Rick Mullaney, who moderated the discussion, said education policy is important to the country.

“How do we give every child, how do we give every person in this country an opportunity for a better future, economically and otherwise?” he asked. “The answer to that is education.”

Chartrand said during the past 10-14 years the high school graduation rate in Florida have risen from 50 percent to nearly 80 percent.

“If you go back 10 years, Florida was 30th of the 41 states that took part in the National Assessment Educational Progress reports, but this past year, Florida was sixth of 50 states,” he said. “That’s pretty significant.”

Vitti said he has acclimated four goals into the Duval school system to ensure there can be more charter schools and a better system added to the county.

The goals are to develop great leaders and great educators, to engage the community, to be more efficient and effective with resources and to develop the whole child.

The first goal is being reached by revamping the curriculum and training more than 500 teachers over the summer. The second goal is being addressed by developing a parent academy to engage 900 parents on issues from how to teach literacy in the home to graduation rates to how to create a better environment in the home for discipline.

For the third goal, a zero-based budgeting process was created. Vitti said $7 million was moved from the district level back to schools to put music, art and physical education teachers back into the schools.

The fourth goal, to develop the whole child, is being addressed by placing a graduation coach at every high school and expanding dual language at the elementary level.

State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand

Chartrand said that in accordance with these goals, teachers are just as important to the classroom.

“The most effective component for student achievement is certainly all of these policies, but most important is effective teaching,” Chartrand said. “Nothing trumps effective teaching in the classroom.”

Vitti agreed with Chartrand’s point, but also said Duval schools are different from others.

“I think what’s different about Duval County public schools is that we still have the heart and passion, but we function with a sense of urgency and a bottom-line perspective when it comes to student achievement,” he said.

The passion, urgency and developments taking place in Duval County schools and in Florida are bringing education to a new level in Florida, Chartrand noted.

Vitti said his goal is to modernize Duval county schools from a technological perspective and that it will be important for the future of Duval County.

He said it was time to embrace changes in the classroom so children can learn better, so that these good numbers of graduation rates and literacy rates can keep going up.

“At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that every child should have access and be exposed to the highest level of education standards.”

For more information on the JU PPI, visit www.ju.edu/PPI, or contact Rick Mullaney at (904) 256-7342, rmullan1@ju.edu.