By Florence Snyder
The University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa was the first state university planned and opened in the 20th century, as well as the first to be located in a vibrant and rapidly expanding urban setting.
As west central Florida grew into a megalopolis stretching from Tampa Bay to southwest Florida, USF in Tampa expanded to become “the USF System” with independently accredited campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota. Each offers leisure activities that appeal to students and faculty taking a break between classes, as well as to visitors from around the neighborhood and around the world.
The Sarasota-Manatee campus is an hour’s drive to the south of the main campus, and the St. Petersburg campus lies in between, so you’ll want to do some advance planning if you’re planning to take in all three. A good place to relax and get organized is the Marshall Student Center, located at the northern entrance to the Tampa campus.
Don’t let USF’s bellicose mascot fool you: the true nature of the Bulls is best reflected in USF’s description of the Marshall Center as a place "where lifelong associations and friendships are developed; memories are created; and lives are enriched. The Marshall Student Center aspires to be the first and fondest thought that students, staff and faculty have when they remember their time at USF.”
You’ll find Bulls of all ages refueling at the eight fast food venues in the Center, or enjoying a special celebration at On Top of the Palms, which offers “sophisticated dining” and a birds-eye view of USF’s MLK Plaza.
Traffic picks up at the Marshall Center on Wednesdays during the fall and spring semesters, when vendors and bargain hunters meet at USF's outdoor “Bull Market.” The Center’s Ballroom and Oval Theater are home to guest lectures featuring nationally prominent speakers.
The Tampa campus’ Yuengling Center is the home of USF’s men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams and a rowdy place to be when fans put on their school colors, green and gold, and come out to cheer the Bulls. The 10,000 seat venue is large enough to attract artists like nine-time Grammy Award-winner Mary J. Blige, and speakers like actor and activist George Takei, yet small enough that you don’t need screens to see them.
USF’s Music Building and Concert Hall is among the top acoustically perfect performance spaces in the nation and a magnet for internationally known artists who frequent USF to teach and perform. Theater and dance round out USF’s arts calendar.
Nature lovers will delight in the Tampa campus’ 16-acre USF Botanical Gardens. Come early in the day, because you won't want to rush as you explore the Gardens’ vast collection which includes fruit trees and palms from around the world, along with orchids, begonias, mallows, bromeliads, gingers, ferns, aroids, cycads, and carnivorous plants.
Keep an eye out for native insects, gopher tortoises, and more than 60 species of birds, all enjoying the herb and scent gardens, as well as the butterfly garden. Check the website often for special events offered throughout the year, as well as up-to-the minute information about current weather conditions in the Gardens.
USF’s Graphicstudio was founded in 1968 and has been on the forefront of contemporary art ever since. Internationally known artists come to Tampa to “pursue new directions to advance their practice” and to inspire students and faculty. You can see examples of their work at the USF Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), where exhibits focus on “current cultural trends” from Florida as well as from other continents.
CAM’s holdings include contemporary photography and African art, as well as graphics and sculpture by internationally acclaimed Graphicstudio artists in residence, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist.
Enjoy the view from the bridge as you cross Tampa Bay to continue your adventure at the Bulls’ St. Petersburg home. From modest beginnings as an “overflow campus,” USF St. Petersburg has emerged as the “Jewel on Bayboro Harbor” and a major contributor to St. Petersburg’s downtown renaissance.
USF St. Petersburg offers daily 90-minute walking tours; on Fridays, the tour expands to two hours and features a short faculty lecture. Public lectures on a variety of topics are offered weekly in the University Student Center, a striking building which features a 65-foot-tall multicolored glass-enclosed circular staircase for the campus’ residential tower, and an 8,000-square-foot curtain of glass along 6th Avenue South. The Reef dining hall is open to the public and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
The Sarasota-Manatee campus is the newest “bull run” in the USF system. With its main building surrounding an expansive and attractively landscaped courtyard stocked with hammocks and seating areas, you might mistake the place for a resort.
But students and faculty are focused on the serious business of “personal growth and intellectual development.” See for yourself in the beautiful 200-seat Selby Auditorium, where the Knowledge-a-Bull Speaker Series hosts public intellectuals from every corner of academia to “engage the community in cutting-edge conversations with experts on subjects that mean something to our lives.”
When you go…
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue
Tampa, Fla. 33620
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