Steven Garcia (left) and Bryan Jacobs were both chosen as Veteran of the Year.

USF Sarasota-Manatee student, alum are Veterans of the Year

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: November 09, 2017

Bulls Notebook LogoSARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2017) USF Sarasota-Manatee will be well-represented this Veteran’s Day when Sarasota and Manatee counties hold parades Saturday to mark the national holiday.

Steven Garcia, a USFSM College of Business student, and Bryan Jacobs, an alum of USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, have both won honors as Veteran of the Year.

Garcia, 32, finishing his senior year as a business management major, was chosen by the Sarasota County Veterans Commission two weeks ago as Veteran of the Year. Jacobs, 38, who graduated with a degree in hospitality management in 2015, received the same honor, but from the Manatee County Veterans Council.

Both said they were amazed and honored to receive the award.

“I was kind of thrown aback. I was extremely honored,” Garcia, a Marine Corps veteran, said. “I’m just happy that I can be of assistance to veterans.”

Garcia, who works within the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, was recognized for his dedication to veterans’ services. He previously worked as a veteran services officer at Sarasota County, assisting with benefit claims. He started his current job six months ago. He graduates in December.

Jacobs, a classically trained chef and former combat medic, was honored for launching Vets-2-Chefs, a program that educates veterans in the culinary arts and helps them find jobs, including vets who’ve struggled with homelessness. The veterans are trained at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch. So far, 35 veterans have gone through the program.

“I’m honored, but also I’m happy about this opportunity to draw attention to issues affecting veterans,” Jacobs said.

The two will ride in convertibles at the parades. The Sarasota parade will start at 10 a.m., winding through downtown Sarasota. The Manatee parade will take place in Palmetto around 11 a.m.

“I am extremely proud to have Bryan and Steven selected as Veterans of the Year for Manatee and Sarasota Counties,” said Todd Hughes, USFSM’s veteran services administrator.

“As a close friend to both, I am extremely proud of them and I know they deserve these awards given all the hard work they put in for our local veterans,” he said. “As a USFSM alum, I am happy to see fellow Bulls taking an interest in our local community, especially the veteran community.”

Oxfam Hunger Banquet inspires students to tackle poverty

USFSM student, alum are Veterans of the Year

USFSM students discuss issues of poverty at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet on Wednesday.

USFSM students this week learned lessons about hunger thanks to a role-playing exercise that had them thinking hard on the differences among poor, middle class and affluent people.

The group – about 30 students, faculty and staff – gathered for the annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet, a 90-minute exercise to point out how wealth, or the lack of it, can impact access to food.

“I think this event is important in looking at social imbalances and differences locally and among different countries,” said Tim Thomas, an ISS student and one of the event’s organizers, along with fellow student Ricardo Centeno.

Oxfam, an international coalition of charities focused on alleviating poverty, sponsors Hunger Banquets at high schools, colleges and other venues around the nation. The group provides materials and lesson plans.

As the students gathered in the campus café on Wednesday, each was assigned a ticket corresponding to their “socio-economic status”: poor, middle-class or affluent.

Students with affluent tickets sat at tables and dined on Caesar salads and chicken Alfredo while middle-class students sat on benches and ate beans and rice. The “poor” students huddled on the floor and ate a rice-only meal. They drank water from a metal tub.

As the groups ate, they talked about issues of hunger, including the seemingly wide disparity between meals of affluent and middle-class students, but the relative similarity to how the middle-class and poor students ate.

A representative from All Faiths Food Bank discussed how hunger affects communities locally, including at public schools where high numbers of students now qualify for discounted or free lunches. For some, lunch is their only meal of the day.

“We just really need to come together to start helping one another,” Thomas said. “I think that’s the most important thing I’ll take from this.”

2 USFSM students among 50 globally to win diversity awards

USFSM students find opportunity at psychology lab

Julia Smirnov and Carlos Santos have each won a SPSP diversity award.

Kudos to USF Sarasota-Manatee students Carlos Santos and Julia Smirnov. The two are among 50 undergraduate students worldwide selected to receive the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s diversity award.

The two are students of Dr. Jay Michaels, an assistant professor in the College of Science & Mathematics.

“I was very surprised and very proud,” said Smirnov, who was born in Russia. “The lab team and I put a lot of hard work into these projects.”

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Dr. Jay Michaels

Said Santos: “I was honored. It shows my legitimacy in my chosen field.”

The two wrote essays about their backgrounds and their work. Smirnov and Santos, both senior research assistants, are among seven students who work in Dr. Michaels’ psychology lab. They’re assisting in a project that examines how different thinking styles relate to religious belief.

In addition to feeling honored, the two said they hope the awards help as they apply to graduate school in the upcoming year. They will receive their awards at the March 1-3 SPSP conference in Atlanta.

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