USFSM students Katee Martell and Devin Hill relax in the new Student Commons area.

USF Sarasota-Manatee starts fall semester with new Student Commons

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: August 22, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 22, 2016) USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomed students back to campus Monday with a new $1.6 million Student Commons area.

The 6,900-square-foot space was unveiled the first day of the fall semester as hundreds of freshman and returning students made their way to campus at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. More than 2,000 students are expected on campus this semester.

The project, to create a more open and inviting space, started in May with workers demolishing the former commons area and Student Government offices. The result three months later is a larger fitness area, office space and lounge that together flow into Jonathan’s Café at the campus’ north end. Workers installed glass walls in some places and opened up others to create a more accessible student-centric space.

USF Sarasota-Manatee starts fall semester with new Student Commons

The new Student Commons includes a larger fitness area.

“It’s so much more bright and open compared to the old one that was more closed off,” third-year education major Katee Martell said as she surveyed the lounge and its gaming area, study carrels, couches, tables and three 96-inch TV screens.

“I like that it’s a lot more spread out,” sophomore business major Devin Hill said.

Hill, admittedly a “huge gamer,” said he was most anticipating the new gaming space. Most of the equipment was already in place but a few items, including gaming controls, a coffee bar and roll-away ping pong table, are being added over the next day or two.

The project, approved last year by Student Government and USFSM’s senior leadership, was funded by Capital Improvement Trust Funds and Student Activity and Services Fees collected over several years.

Students were involved at every phase of design to create the space. Student Government President Andrew Becht said it’s important as USFSM moves forward to produce an engaging and welcoming campus life.

“Aesthetically, it looks very pleasing,” said James Davis, a senior business management student. “There’s a lot more space. It’s very comfortable.”

Breakfast is served

USF Sarasota-Manatee starts fall semester with new Student Commons

Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone serves up pancakes to welcome students, including Ricardo Centeno, a senior finance major.

Regional Chancellor Sandra Stone said she was happy to see the return of students to campus Monday.

“It’s just fun to have them come back. It was getting too quiet,” she said as she and other senior faculty served pancakes in the rotunda for two hours to welcome the students.

The breakfast was one of several activities planned this week as part of Week of Welcome, a USF and USFSM tradition. For the breakfast, IHOP at 6320 State Road 64, Bradenton, donated the batter and Darren Gambrell, coordinator of Student Engagement, made the pancakes on a griddle at Jonathan’s.

USF Sarasota-Manatee starts fall semester with new Student Commons

USFSM Coordinator of Student Engagement Darren Gambrell makes pancakes as part of USFSM’s Week of Welcome.

Other activities for Week of Welcome include a “House Party” scheduled 6 p.m. Tuesday in the courtyard; a “Lawntopia” party, noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, also in the courtyard; and a Trivia Night and Comedy Hypnotist Show set for Thursday and Friday night, respectively, at Selby Auditorium.

For more information about Week of Welcome events, visit

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