All posts by Cory Skeates


Polk State College to Unveil Steelcase Education Active Learning Classroom

Polk State College PSC_Strong_BLK_2Color

Lakeland, Fla., November 27, 2018 — Polk State College will unveil its Steelcase Education Active Learning Classroom on Friday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. on the Lakeland Campus, offering tours of the transformed makerspace that uses design and technology to boost student engagement.

Polk State is one of only 16 institutions in North America to receive a Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant in 2018 to create an active learning classroom. The classroom is utilized by Polk State’s Education baccalaureate program, further enhancing the College’s ability to produce highly-skilled teacher candidates to fill Polk County’s workforce needs.

“As colleges are charged with producing teachers equipped to handle the demands of the 21st century classroom, it is critical to maintain a hands-on, collaborative learning environment that promotes exploration, critical thinking, and scientific, quantitative reasoning,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “This grant recognizes that Polk State’s Education baccalaureate program fosters this type of atmosphere, and the creation of the Steelcase Education Active Learning Classroom will allow us to further enhance our best practices.”

The grant is a two-year partnership between Steelcase Education and Polk State, who are working together to conduct assessments and research on the impact of the newly designed space, which received approximately $67,000 in upgrades.

“We are excited to learn from these innovative and enthusiastic teachers and faculty members,” Steelcase Education Training and Professional Development Leader Marisa Sergnese said. “As we share with instructors best practices for incorporating the active learning environment into their curriculum, their insights will also inform our research, future products, and strategic development to better the educational experience.”

The “360-degree classroom” uses surrounding white boards, flat-screen monitors, and work spaces that allow instructors and students to utilize all areas of the room creatively and interactively. Forgoing desks and straight rows, swiveling seats and easy-to-move tables give students the ability to reposition themselves for various activities and lesson types in the classroom.

“There is no ‘sage on the stage,’” Polk State Director of Education Patricia Linder explained. “The classroom is strategically designed to engage students in the learning process, requiring them to make connections between theory and practice, and ensuring that they acquire the skills they need to be successful future leaders of our classrooms.”

The Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant Program has invested approximately $1 million to improve classrooms across North America. Polk State was chosen out of more than 1,000 applications for its unique approach to active learning. Students enrolled in a dozen Education courses will benefit from the upgraded space.

Polk State launched its Education baccalaureate degree program in August 2016 in response to the community’s need for access to local, affordable Education degree options after the University of South Florida exited Polk County. The College’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Bachelor of Science in Elementary in Education were developed in collaboration with Polk County Public Schools, putting in place built-in measurements for state-mandated standards.

The program will graduate its first class in December 2018 and has already seen great success with students excelling in their courses and field experiences. The program’s first class has maintained an average grade-point average of 3.94, and each student has passed all certification exams for Florida Professional Educator Certificates. Additionally, all six students who have participated in Polk County Public Schools internships have accepted jobs and have started teaching in elementary classrooms.

The College boasts a 96.93 percent job placement and continuing education rate, and with 70 percent of Polk State graduates staying in Polk County after graduation, the Education baccalaureate program is confident that it will see success in placing teachers in Polk County Public Schools classrooms.

“Polk State is dedicated to working closely and collaboratively with local employers to create a pipeline of quality graduates to fill the workforce needs of Polk County,” Falconetti said. “The creation of the Steelcase Active Learning Classroom allows the College to take student engagement to the next level, ensuring that Polk State’s teacher candidates are well prepared for our local classrooms.”

About Polk State College

Located in Winter Haven, Florida, and established in 1964, Polk State College is a multi-campus institution serving more than 16,000 students with Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, as well as a wide range of certificate and workforce training options. The College also operates three charter high schools.

Polk State’s advantages include small class sizes; hands-on learning; dedicated faculty; day and night classes; online options; affordable tuition; excellent financial aid; and a diverse community and vibrant student life, including fine arts opportunities, clubs, and intercollegiate athletics.


Saint Leo University Names New Vice President of Academic Affairs

stleoFormer Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Begins New Role

  1. LEO, FL – Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, president of Saint Leo University, has announced the appointment of Dr. Mary T. Spoto as vice president of Academic Affairs, effective immediately. Spoto, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has served as the acting vice president of Academic Affairs since Senese was named president in July.

“Mary is a proven leader with strong support from our faculty and staff,” Senese said. “Her leadership experience in academics will be of great value as we move boldly and confidently into an even more successful future at Saint Leo University.”

A Tampa, FL, native, Spoto has served in several roles during her 25-year history with Saint Leo. Before serving as dean, she was the chair of the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Humanities, now referred to as the Department of Language Studies and the Arts. She also is a professor of English.

As dean, Spoto has been a leader in the development of the university’s general education program, University Explorations, designed with specially created courses to help students recognize the importance of the liberal arts to their larger learning.

Spoto expanded the fine arts programs at the university and leading the development of new academic programs such as the Bridge Program for second-language learners and the master’s programs in creative writing and psychology.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and doctoral degree in English from the University of South Florida.

“One of the things I’ve admired the most about Saint Leo is its strong focus on teaching,” Spoto said. “We are a university that truly exists to help students learn and gain the knowledge and skills that will help them in their careers and will guide them in life. In my new role, I plan to continue developing and strengthening this focus in partnership with our faculty and deans to create more innovative and distinctive programs, making academics a hallmark of the university for years to come.”

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.


The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.

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Central Florida’s Longest Running Economic Forecasting Event Sets Date for Mid-January

LAKELAND, FLORIDA (November 26, 2018) – Allen & Company of Florida, Inc. and the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce present Economic Forecast Breakfast 2019, for the 32nd year, on Thursday, January 17, 2019, from 7 to 9 a.m., at the RP Funding Center. With change being the only constant over the last year – including decisions on trade, taxes, and immigration – the 2019 forecast promises to be one to watch for insights into your strategic planning.

Nationally recognized Chief Economist Brian Wesbury of First Trust Advisors, L.P., returns as our guest speaker for the 32nd annual Economic Forecast Breakfast 2019 sponsored by Allen & Company of Florida, Inc. You can plan on hearing a perspective that is steadfastly germane to the economies and politics of the world we live in delivered in a dynamic and unwavering style.

Allen & Company of Florida, Inc., the oldest investment firm in Florida, will continue to provide Continuing Education Credits for Florida Certified Financial Planners™ (CFP®s) for attending the 32nd Annual Breakfast. The morning event will be held at the RP Funding Center on Thursday, January 17, 2019. Florida CFP®s interested in earning up to 2.0 credits for the event must pre-register online. At the event, they must specify their intent at the Allen & Company registration desk and receive a form that will need to be authorized at the registration desk after the event.

“This forecast breakfast originated from the idea that independent business owners needed exposure to economic intelligence.  The macro level of material that Mr. Wesbury shares translates significant concepts into easily digestable, relevant data that paints an economic landscape for businesses both small and large”, comments Ralph Allen, Chairman of Allen & Company of Florida, Inc. He further comments, “each year I feel the same way, that this year is the most critical in our countries history, and this year is no different.”

The doors will open at 6:45 a.m. for registration and breakfast at the RP Funding Center. Please register online at under the Events tab and there you will find all the details for the event.

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Contact:  Rebecca Fortier | (863) 688-8551 Ext. 229 – office |

About Allen & Company of Florida, Inc.

Since 1932 Allen & Company of Florida, Inc. has provided financial planning and wealth management services to the communities we serve.  Headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, with operations in Winter Haven and Viera, Allen & Company is Florida’s oldest investment firm.

About the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce represents 1,400 member businesses in the Lakeland area and provides opportunities for networking, professional development and advocacy for companies of all sizes. Five-Star Accredited by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber upholds the following vision and mission statements:  The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce will be the premier catalyst for the advancement of Lakeland’s economic growth and enhancement of quality of life– creating Florida’s community of choice; and, the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.


Polk County Visitor Center Hosts Seasonal Farmers Market on Thursdays, Beginning Nov. 29

Davenport, FL (Nov. 19, 2018) – Central Florida’s Visitor Information Center (CFVIC) in Davenport will host a weekly Farmers Market beginning Thursday, Nov. 29 running through April 25, 2019.  This will be the fifth year for the seasonal market, which will take place on Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A variety of vendors are signed on to participate, offering fresh local produce, handmade crafts and more.

The farmers market will offer local vendors the opportunity to share their produce and wares with Polk County residents, and visitors alike, while also serving to familiarize locals with the amenities and services available at the visitor information center. CFVIC offers vacation planning ideas for residents and their visiting family and friends, a Florida souvenir gift shop and the availability of discounted attraction tickets for many Central Florida attractions, including LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, the Disney parks, Universal Studios, Kennedy Space Center, Busch Gardens and more.

CFVIC  is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week (excluding major holidays), and is located at 101 Adventure Court, Davenport, FL 33837 (along U.S. Highway 27), a half-mile south of I-4 at Exit 55. For more information, or if you would like to become a vendor, contact Dennis Budde at


Florida Southern Breaks Ground for New Weinstein Computer Sciences Center


LAKELAND (Nov. 16, 2018) – FSC today marked a major expansion of its computer science program with a groundbreaking for the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Computer Sciences Center, which will provide a state-of-the-art computing environment for the growing department.

The dramatically distinctive structure, designed by architect and Frank Lloyd Wright scholar Jeffrey Baker of the firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker of Albany, N.Y., will overlook Lake Hollingsworth. In addition to cutting-edge classrooms and collaborative learning spaces, the new structure will house a Cybersecurity and Informatics Learning Lab, a Logistics Center Suite, and student technology centers.

“This is a grand occasion,” FSC President Dr. Anne Kerr said, welcoming guests to the groundbreaking event. She expressed great pride in the College’s determination to expand the computer science program, saying “it is incumbent upon Florida Southern College to be as advanced as possible for our students.”

Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Brad Hollingshead, stressed the importance of creating a “new home” for students in the computer science department, an academic environment that “will inspire, stimulate, and bring out the best in our students,” he said. “It is being designed, in the end, to empower them.”

“Florida Southern has been steadily expanding its computer science program over the past few years, with concentrations in web and cloud computing, AI and machine learning, and cybersecurity,” said Dr. Hollingshead. “The generous gift from Dr. and Mrs. Weinstein will help meet the needs of this growth, allow us to grow the program further, and prepare students for high-demand areas that require the expertise that they develop through our program.”

The Center, named for FSC Trustee Carole and Marcus Weinstein of Richmond, Va., will provide approximately 10,000 square feet of academic space, with an additional 3,000-square-foot auditorium and food venue.

“In the past five years, we have more than doubled the number of majors,” said Dr. Christian Roberson, chair of the Department of Computer Science. Three full-time faculty and one adjunct faculty member currently serve a student population of more than 80 full-time computer science majors.

The Carole and Marcus Weinstein Computer Sciences Center, which will be located between the Sharon and Jim France Admissions Center and the Becker Business Building, has an estimated completion date of spring 2020. Mr. Baker’s campus designs include the France Admissions Center, which was dedicated in December 2017. He serves as the lead architect for restorations of the College’s historic Frank Lloyd Wright structures.

About Florida Southern College

Founded in 1883, Florida Southern College is the oldest private comprehensive college in Florida. The College maintains its commitment to academic excellence through 70+ undergraduate programs and distinctive graduate programs in business administration, education, and nursing. Florida Southern has a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio; is an award-winning national leader in engaged learning; and boasts 30 NCAA Division II national championships. It is ranked among the Top 20 Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report; named a Top Baccalaureate College by Washington Monthly; and included in The Princeton Review’s 384 Best Colleges, The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018, and Forbes magazine’s America’s Top Colleges Guide. The College is committed to the development of the whole student through vibrant student life programs that prepare graduates to make a positive, consequential impact on society.  FSC is conveniently located within an hour’s drive of both Orlando and Tampa. FSC is home to the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. Named the “Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation” for two consecutive years by The Princeton Review and one of the nation’s “Ten College Campuses with the Best Architecture” by Architectural Digest, Florida Southern is an internationally-recognized place of beauty and academic excellence.