Transition and vision highlight 30th annual State of the College address

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Dr. Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health, christened the renovated Samuel P. Bell III auditorium with her 2014 State of the College Address on Monday, Nov. 10. Former Rep. Bell, “the Godfather of COPH,” was among honored guests at the refurbished facility’s first event.

COPH Dean Donna Petersen and Sam Bell III

COPH Dean Donna Petersen and Sam P. Bell III

After welcoming guests with a “happy anniversary” greeting and admiring the new surroundings, Petersen got down to the business of presenting COPH’s goals and strategic vision while noting the accomplishment’s of its 30th year.

“We start with our people, which is where we always start,” Petersen said, “because you are the college.”

As the dean noted, it was a year of transition that saw the departures of six faculty members and the hiring of six others, as well as the addition of 18 new staff members. Petersen also noted the promotion of Dr. Rita Debate to associate dean of academic and student affairs, the naming of Dr. Kathleen O’Rourke as chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the naming of Dr. Kay Perrin as assistant dean for undergraduate education.

It also was a year of honors and awards for numerous faculty and staff, and Petersen recognized all them:

–      Dr. Russ Kirby named USF Distinguished Professor

–      Dr. John Adams named USF Health Distinguished Professor

–      Dr. Ellen Daley promoted to professor

–      Dr. Wil Milhous named a recipient of the USF Research Achievement Award

–      Dr. Kay Perrin named a recipient of the National Riegelman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Public Health Education

–      Dennis Kyle (GLH) named Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

–      Yiliang Zhu (EPB) is a AAAS Science Technology and Policy Fellow

–      Dr. John Petrila selected for the 33rd class of Leadership Florida

–      Dr. Ricardo Izurieta elected to the Academy of Sciences of Ecuador

–      Dr. Bob Novak received the Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Vector Ecology

–      Dr. Bill Sappenfield received the 2013 Roy Pitkin Award for Research Excellence

–      Dr. Nicole Johnson named a recipient of the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero award

–      Dr. Karen Liller selected “Super Professor” by Faculty Row

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Presenting the newly renovated Samuel P. Bell III auditorium

Petersen also recognized staff members who had received USF awards and 10 graduate students who had received various fellowships. She further noted that, among 237 international students at COPH the past year, five were named Fulbright Scholars, including two from Swaziland and one each from Burma, Indonesia and Mauritius.

The College was able to re-establish its Professional Development Awards in 2014. Additionally, International Program Development Awards were granted for faculty research in China, Belize, India, Panama and the United Kingdom, and Length of Service Awards recognized 25 faculty and staff members for a combined 300 years of service to the College.

The year’s academic highlights included the launch of the first pilot of a transformed MPH core after several years of planning, with 37 new MPH students enrolled. Eight students are the first enrolled in the revised DrPH program. The first DrPH summer institute is scheduled for June 2015, and a new online MPH concentration in social marketing – the College’s seventh online concentration – is slated to launch in the spring 2015 semester. New undergraduate minors were launched in health education, MCH and nutrition, and COPH graduated its first cohort of students from the USF Institute for Translational Research in Adolescent Behavioral Health.

In general, the College’s numbers have grown large.  Within the past year alone, COPH conferred 223 graduate degrees and 351 undergraduate degrees after nearly 61,000 hours of instruction to 766 master’s students, 117 doctoral students and 910 BSPH students. More than 70 percent of instruction was delivered online, the highest percentage on campus, from nearly 100 online offerings. For international studies, 100 COPH students traveled to a collective 37 countries, and eight served the Peace Corps via the Peace Corps Masters International program. COPH faculty and staff also provided training to more than 38,000 public health professionals around the world.


After all the facts and figures, accomplishments and acknowledgments, goals and projections, the program turned to thanking the person who made it all happen in the beginning, Sam Bell. Dean Petersen presented a special video thank-you to the College of Public Health’s founder, who stood for an ovation, a fitting end to a banner year and a remarkable 30 years for the first college of public health in Florida.


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Attendees networked over a continental breakfast before the State of the College Address.

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Sam Bell and others share a laugh while enjoying the college’s tribute video.

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Related media:
SOCA presentation
SOCA photo gallery on Facebook

Story by David Brothers and photos by Natalie D. Preston, USF College of Public Health.