USF Sarasota-Manatee is hosting a seminar Thursday about Cuba and the Caribbean.

Bulls Notebook: ‘Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now?’ set this week

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 19, 2018

Bulls Notebook LogoSARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2018) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is presenting a special community event Thursday for investors, travelers or anyone who simply wants to learn more about Cuba and the Caribbean Islands.

Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now? will feature talks by a former U.S. ambassador, two members of Congress and top financial experts. The event, at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, starts with opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. Visit to register and learn more.

Panelists will discuss the region’s history, the changing economic and political climate, potential investment opportunities and recent hurricanes and the latest recovery efforts.

The day-long event features talks by Vicki Huddleston, a retired U.S. ambassador and the former principal officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana; Stephen Kay, director of the Americas Center for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Eugenio J. Alemán, director, senior economist and Latin Connection executive adviser for Wells Fargo Securities; Sara Banaszak, manager for public and government affairs at EXXON Mobil; Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute and a professor of anthropology at Florida International University; Mark Abbott, managing director of Raymond James Financial; and David Seleski, president and CEO of Stonegate Bank.

The afternoon will wrap up with a bipartisan discussion with Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who serves Florida’s 26th Congressional District, and Democratic Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ben White, a journalist from Politico and a CNBC political correspondent, will moderate.

Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now? is a presentation of USF Sarasota-Manatee, Cumberland Advisors, the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Research One and USF World.

Biology professor helping to build artificial reefs

Visiting biology professor Brett Blackburn has found a way to combine his academic and leisure interests. When not teaching fish biology, botany, coastal ecology and other science courses, the lifelong diver volunteers at Eternal Reef in Sarasota.

Affiliated with Reef Innovation and the Reef Ball Foundation, Eternal Reef creates artificial reefs made with concrete and human ashes. The igloo-like structures, or reef balls, are deposited onto the ocean floor to create marine habitats.

The structures are suitable for crabs and other invertebrates and make ideal environments for juvenile fish. Eventually, the reef balls become encrusted with coral.

Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now? set this week

Prof. Brett Blackburn

“It’s something instead of having your ashes sit in an urn,” said Prof. Blackburn, who joined USFSM’s College of Science & Mathematics three years ago. “It might be the last thing you do to give back to the environment, to be a part of something bigger.”

Being part of something bigger explains partly why Blackburn became involved with Eternal Reef 15 years ago. The group disperses reef balls every few months, mostly off Florida’s coast, and in so doing helps stabilize diminishing coral reefs and other depleted habitats.

“It’s valuable work and part of the research for what I do,” said Prof. Blackburn, a habitat ecologist. “And it’s a good thing to give back to the people.”

Blackburn will be back in the water today to help place 18 reefs in the Gulf of Mexico three miles west of New Pass. A participant of many reef-placing events, he says they’re generally solemn but can appear joyous and in many instances provide closure to grieving family and friends.

“They’re always respectful,” he said.

Typically, one boat will hold family while another outfitted with a crane lowers the structures onto the ocean floor 30 feet below. Divers steady the reef balls as they descend and video captures the completed site.

“Almost immediately you can see fish swimming in and out,” he said.

To learn about USFSM’s biology program, visit

Dr. Davis-Cotton to perform as ringmaster

Kudos to Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton. Today, she’ll be in the center ring, literally.

Cuba and the Caribbean: What Now? set this week

Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton

Dr. Davis-Cotton, coordinator for the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-integrated Teaching (PAInT), was named a guest ringmaster by Circus Sarasota Ovation, which honors the 250th anniversary of the modern circus and those who have impacted the art form.

She’ll be introduced as ringmaster at today’s 1 p.m. performance at the Circus Sarasota tent behind the Mall at University Town Center. Circus Sarasota is based at the Circus Arts Conservatory, 2075 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota.

“This is very exciting,” Dr. Davis-Cotton said. “Because my background is theater, I’ve always thought about performing, but never in the circus.”

The Center for PAInT has long supported the circus arts. Last summer, Dr. Davis-Cotton and a group of USFSM students attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which focused on America’s rich circus history.

Dr. Davis-Cotton and the students, assigned to a tent on the Mall in Washington, D.C., talked about the science behind circus stunts.

USFSM cosponsors internship seminar

USF Sarasota-Manatee last week partnered with CareerSource Suncoast, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation and other groups to sponsor an event to help businesses develop internship programs.

The Total Internship Management Workshop, held Thursday at the Ringling College of Art and Design, featured Robert Shindell of Intern Bridge. Shindell has held thousands of workshops across the country to help businesses develop internship programs.

Internships not only create a pathway to employment for students, they help create a pipeline of talent for companies expanding or replacing workers. Many interns also help with short-term projects.

To learn more about internships at USFSM, visit

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