UWF: giving back to Northwest Florida
After four decades of working diligently within the community to build a prestigious regional institution that is dedicated to shaping today's students into tomorrow leaders, University of West Florida students, graduates, faculty and staff are also dedicated to improving Northwest Florida. Whether it's a graduate student working with the UWF Community Outreach Research and Learning (CORAL) Center evaluating the Santa Rosa School District's Early Reading Intervention program or UWF students planning a "Project Green Shores Beach Clean Up" event, the enthusiasm for community engagement has never been stronger.
After four decades of working diligently within the community to build a prestigious regional institution that is dedicated to shaping today’s students into tomorrow leaders, University of West Florida students, graduates, faculty and staff are also dedicated to improving Northwest Florida. Whether it’s a graduate student working with the UWF Community Outreach Research and Learning (CORAL) Center evaluating the Santa Rosa School District’s Early Reading Intervention program or UWF students planning a “Project Green Shores Beach Clean Up” event, the enthusiasm for community engagement has never been stronger.
“UWF knows how to provide a quality education,” said Bense. “We know how to respond to regional needs and we know how to make a difference in our community.”
Two of the 25,000 UWF graduates that work in the Northwest Florida region, John Hosman, B.S.B.A., Marketing, ’00, and MBA, ’02, and James Hosman, B.S.B.A, Marketing, ’99 and M.B.A., ’01, have used their UWF degrees to create successful business careers. Founding members of Pensacola Young Professionals, a group aimed at attracting and retaining young talent, the Hosman brothers help inspire Pensacola’s next generation of leaders to take responsibility for their community by working to improve economic growth, education and quality of life.
“I love being involved in the community and trying to help make it a better place for my children,” said John Hosman. “I hope that Northwest Florida will work to attract more business opportunities to the region. Ten years from now, I hope that we will have a thriving downtown and waterfront and one of the top education systems in the U.S.”
Teaching and inspiring Northwest Florida’s next generation, UWF alumnae Lenora Shilston and Stephanie Humes-Brown are two of the many UWF graduates who have dedicated their careers to fostering a love for learning in the Northwest Florida region. Shilston, who credits UWF with providing her the tools and the tenacity she needs to guide even the smallest stars lighting Northwest Florida’s future, received the Florida Education Association’s 2008 Teaching Excellence Award.
“It’s an incredible feeling to get to teach students at this stage in their lives,” said Shilston. “I get to help set the tone of how they feel about education. They truly are little sponges and every day I get to watch the lights come on for them as they start to grasp what they’re learning.”
Like Shilston, Humes-Brown always had a love for teaching. After serving 20 years in the Army as a chief warrant officer, Humes-Brown took advantage of the UWF Hometown Heroes Teach program, designed to help wounded and disabled military veterans receive their Florida teacher certification. Hired by the Holley-Navarre Primary School as a first-grade teacher, Humes-Brown was the first Hometown Heroes Teach participant to be hired by the public school system.
Across the disciplines, the number of research projects for UWF students continues to grow through opportunities with UWF faculty and research projects through the UWF Community Outreach Research and Learning Center. Opening its doors to graduate students to provide valuable opportunities for community-based research projects, the center enables students to become liaisons with community organizations, and students gain hands-on research skills while providing crucial information to local agencies.
“One of the biggest benefits of the CORAL Center is the opportunity it provides for students to conduct authentic research projects that connect to the community,” said Carla Thompson, director of the CORAL Center. “Through their research and analysis, it’s a great way for students to give back to the community.”
Currently, UWF students are working with Santa Rosa County School District evaluating the Early Reading Intervention program, examining the effectiveness of services used by the Independent Living for the Blind and determining factors that predict employability of welfare transition participants for Workforce Escarosa. Other projects include analyzing data from prisoners in work release programs through Pathways for Change and creating student achievement profiles for the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola. Graduate students of all career field interests have an opportunity to engage in community research projects through the CORAL Center.
Through Volunteer UWF!, students also have the opportunity to gain experience by performing volunteer work, independent field studies and work studies with local agencies such as Habitat for Humanity and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The organization has more than 40 local organizations serving as “community partners” for volunteer projects around the area. Students also have the opportunity to take advantage of the Alternative Spring Break Program, a non-profit organization that seeks to train, assist and connect campuses and communities in promoting quality alternative break programs that inspire lifelong active citizenship.
“The people that we help, across the board are always in shock that college students would sacrifice their spring break to provide community service,” said Brandi Wahl, ASB president. “It truly opens our eyes to how many people we are affecting, just by one small act. But we don’t look at it as a sacrifice; it’s something we all are very passionate about and it’s a part of who we are as UWF students.”