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Meet our students: Nayda and Wayne typify diversity, dedication on campus.

Who is the typical USF Sarasota-Manatee student? It's hard to define "typical" on this campus, where half the students are full time, most work and raise families while attending classes, and women out-number men two to one.

The median age is 28, but it comes from a wide range of ages. The common ground among USF Sarasota-Manatee students has a lot more to do with a love of learning and a passion for excellence.

Two students stand out from the student body for very different reasons. They are unique individuals, and yet both represent some of the common values and stories that come from so many USF Sarasota-Manatee students.

Nayda Rivera

Nayda Rivera got tired of being left out of conversations. "I wanted to voice my opinion and have something to back it up," she says.

So Nayda enrolled in the 2+2 program, graduating summa cum laude with her associate's degree at Manatee Community College and then making a smooth transition into the School of Business at USF Sarasota-Manatee. "It was a natural progression," says the 31-year-old senior of Puerto Rican descent. She was born in Indianapolis, Ind., and moved to Sarasota eight years ago with her son, Nikolas, now nine.

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Historically she hated school and even wanted to drop out of kindergarten, but in her 20s she started to get hungry for knowledge and information. "I just got fascinated with learning for my own enrichment. I excelled in my classes and couldn't get enough," says Rivera. And now she contributes to the conversation.

Rivera was awarded a Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections Jimmy White-house Scholarship. She was one of three scholarship recipients statewide selected from nominees in 67 counties. She also received the U.S. Achievement Academy Collegiate All-American Scholar Award and was nominated for the National Dean's List.

Rivera is getting her undergraduate degree in general business administration and will graduate in spring 2006. She may pursue an M.B.A. degree with a focus on international business.

"What I like the most about USF is knowing the people in each of my classes," she says. "I go into class and I know their work ethic ... and there's a continuum from semester to semester. I like the feel of that."

When asked how she manages her mind-bending mom/work/student schedule, she replies, "It's a matter of being organized ... It gets overwhelming if you look too far ahead."

Currently, Nayda works at Dolphin Aviation and manages the flight school, Cirrus aviation aircraft rental and a coffee shop called Ground Stop. Students and staff sometimes drop in for a cup. "There is no special place on campus yet for our students to gather."

As a student spokesperson for USF Sarasota-Manatee's new campus, she is excited about the growth at USF. "It's so exciting that we will have our own inviting and comfortable place--that really helps to give us a sense of unity and community. It makes the students here a tighter-knit group," she adds.

"The new facility will make USF Sarasota-Manatee's presence more known and welcome in the community it calls home," she says. "The focus point of the building for commuter students is really to give them a gathering space in more than just the physical sense. It offers students a place to hang out and study."

Nayda Rivera is pictured on the cover of Bay Bulletin and serves as an Ambassador for USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Wayne Peterson

Wayne Peterson loves history. But it isn't what he chose for his livelihood.

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Peterson spent 11 years in senior store management as Director of Administration for Burdines. He worked in stores in Sarasota and Bradenton. In 1994 he opened the Port Charlotte store and eventually worked and oversaw all four Burdines locations, including stores at Sarasota Square Mall and DeSoto Square Mall.

In 1955, when Peterson was in high school, he studied accounting, but as a sideline developed a love of history, especially American history. When he enrolled at USF Sarasota-Manatee, he didn't decide to get his bachelor's degree for employment purposes; he wanted to keep a promise he made to himself.

"Many people who retire golf or fish or volunteer; it's the thing to do during the retirement years," says Peterson. "I wanted to get my bachelor's degree."

Retired five years ago, Peterson has 12 credits left to graduate and needs eight credits of Spanish, which he will complete at Manatee Community College. "My USF Sarasota-Manatee advisor, Melba Sanchez, was just fantastic. They are really there to serve."

One of the biggest challenges facing an older person going back to school is computer technology--or the fear of it. Peterson says one of the best classes he took early on was a library science class taught by Nancy Allen, one of the reference librarians at the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. "It was excellent. Anyone starting back after being away from school ... start with that course, it gives you confidence.

"As we age it's important to keep our mind going, whether working for a degree, auditing courses or taking a class at the Senior Academy. I'm just a huge fan of USF because it offers learning opportunity for everyone."

Peterson always enjoyed history and geography. "To see how countries are formed and how so many problems are boundary and territory related gave me a way to understand the big picture.

"The professors here really put a lot of emphasis on bibliography," he adds. That wasn't a problem for him. Always one for great attention to detail and a trivia buff, Peterson almost made it onto the television show Jeopardy. He missed the final qualification round due to work.

In an American history course studying the era from 1914 to 1945, his professor allowed him to write a paper entitled, "The Role of Baseball During WWII."

In his paper, Peterson discussed the role of baseball on troop morale and public morale and looked at how baseball helped advance the role of minorities in American life. The possibility of publishing in The Society for American Baseball Research is exciting to him. "I'm a diehard Cubs fan."

Peterson is starting a course this fall called American Women II, taught by Prof. June Melby Benowitz. It's about women's roles from 1850 to present.

"The USF faculty is outstanding," says Peterson. "I think the new campus is so important. We really need to spread the word more, so the university has a bigger face, a larger presence in the community."

By SUSAN BLAKE, USF Sarasota-Manatee Staff

RELATED ARTICLE: USF South at MCC Venice

USF Sarasota-Manatee South at MCC Venice offers course work toward a bachelor's degree in general business, elementary education, and interdisciplinary social sciences. Also, classes are available toward the A.S. to B.S. in general business administration and criminology. Many South courses also work toward other majors such as marketing, management. secondary education, special education and many Arts and Sciences majors.

Since its inception, class enrollment has tripled and Director Susan Freeman has organized a South County Advisory Council.

The 2+2 program combines the convenience of an outstanding community college with the resources and prestige of a nationally ranked university. Advisors assigned to Manatee Community College freshmen guide students from day one through four years of study. Students receive special assistance in the transfer process and get help from USF advisors on orientation, financial aid, class schedules and available scholarships, making it easier to complete a bachelor's degree locally.

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Author:Blake, Susan
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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