New Director for Office of Community Engagement

The University of South Florida is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Elizabeth Strom, associate professor of geography, as director of the Office of Community Engagement. Her appointment became effective on Jan. 21, 2011.


Established in 2009, the Office of Community Engagement is the university's single point-of-contact for community engagement research, service, and teaching at USF. Dr. Strom and the Office serves as a resource to assist faculty in making connections between their classroom teaching, their research, and the world off campus. In addition, the Office of Community Engagement assists in the development of mutually beneficial and reciprocal relations between the university and the communities – both locally and globally – that surround it.


"USF faculty, staff and students already use their academic skills to shed light on and help solve community problems; the Office of Community Engagement wants to help them further their work and tell their stories," said Strom. "Our professors and researchers possess an incredible amount of expertise on a broad range of issues affecting our community. Situated in a major metropolitan area, students have the unique opportunity to apply their classroom lessons to the Tampa Bay region, forging mutually beneficial partnerships between the community and the university."


Under the leadership of founding director Dr. Susan Greenbaum, the Office of Community Engagement developed a comprehensive review of the university's community engagement activities that support USF’s commitment to building bridges between campus and community. USF has now earned the classification of "Community Engaged" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The Community Engagement classification was first launched in 2005 and was comprised of two sub-categories: Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnership. At that time, USF was granted Community Engagement: Outreach and Partnership classification. In the 2010 classification, both USF-Tampa and USF St. Petersburg were granted both classifications in the Community Engagement classification, Curricular Engagement and Outreach and Partnership, in recognition of achievements in community-based learning initiatives that connect faculty and staff with the community through mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration.


A significant component of earning the Curricular Engagement sub-classification was the identification of 100 service-learning courses offered at USF last year, demonstrating the university's holistic approach to preparing its students to become leaders and effect positive change in their communities both locally while in college and globally upon graduation.


Dr. Strom, who holds advanced degrees in both Urban Planning and Political Science, has conducted research on cities in the U.S. and Europe over a 20-year career. Her past work examined how cities have utilized cultural facilities and university partnerships in downtown revitalization and redevelopment initiatives. More recently, she has studied the causes and consequences of mortgage foreclosures in the Tampa Bay area. She is responsible for developing the new Urban and Regional Planning masters degree program housed in the Department of Geography, and has taught service learning classes with community partners in East Tampa, Drew Park, Tampa Heights, and other Tampa Bay area communities.


"USF has set forth a bold and ambitious plan to become globally recognized for its work in community engagement and service learning. The Office of Community Engagement has made great strides toward forming a foundation in which our faculty and students can work together with our community associations for the betterment of society, and I am confident Dr. Strom will prove to be an exceptional leader in this initiative," said Ralph Wilcox, USF Provost and Executive Vice President.