Tampa Mayor To Teach Honors Seminar

TAMPA, Fla.  (Jan. 22, 2010) – Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has been a part of USF ever since her father, a legendary English professor, became one of USF’s first faculty members. Now, the mayor will take her turn at the lectern teaching a class in USF’s Honors College for the spring term.


Iorio – or Professor Pam as some students are already calling her – will teach a seminar on local government’s experience with mass transit, growth and the current drive to bring light rail to Tampa. The class is a first for Iorio, who in previous years had met with Honors College students for question-and-answer sessions.

At the urging of Honors College Dean Stuart Silverman and after reflecting on how much she enjoyed her time with students, Iorio said she agreed to teach the weekly class beginning Monday, Jan. 25.

For Iorio, examining the city’s experience with transit and growth in a classroom setting is a natural fit.

“The issue of mass transit and what we are trying to accomplish with it really speaks to this age group,” she said of her soon-to-be students. “It’s that age group who will inherit what we are creating. They are vested in it.”

Iorio is at the forefront of the drive to bring light rail to Tampa which will culminate in a referendum later this year asking voters to raise the county sales tax by one penny to pay for a new rail and mass transit system. The hotly-contested issue is no small matter for USF – the rail line is slated to begin at the Tampa campus.

Silverman said he had been interested in bringing Iorio to the college to teach a class for several years.

“She made such an impression on the students I said, ‘This is someone I have to get to teach a class.’” Silverman said. “How many sitting mayors in the United States teach a college class? I bet you none.”

It took three tries – but Silverman said Iorio went from turning down his request (once responding, “I have a city to run!”) to agreeing to give it a try.

Iorio – who frequently can be heard telling stories of a childhood spent at a still-fledgling USF where her father, John Iorio, was known both as a brilliant professor and for his mentorship of students - began her political as the youngest person ever elected to the Hillsborough County Commission. She went on to be elected three times as Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County and has been Tampa’s mayor since 2003.

Iorio earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from American University and a master’s degree in history from USF in 2001. She has published several articles on Tampa’s civil rights and political history.

Twelve students will take the mayor’s class, one of 10 sections offered under the “Major Works, Major Issues” requirement for Honors students. Students are free to select from a range of topics, such as one that explores the design of an indigent health care system, one that explores social marketing or one that examines the Florida court system.

In addition to having time with students, Iorio said she’s looking forward to the students challenging her views on the future of mass transit and development in the Tampa Bay area.

“I’ve always considered being challenged by different points-of-view a positive,” she added. “Their way of looking at things will be exciting.”

But Iorio cautions, political watchers shouldn’t read too much into her foray into academia. The mayor hasn’t decided what she’ll do once her second term as mayor ends in 2011.

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.