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SRQ DAILY Apr 10, 2021

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Generally speaking, it helps to make people's lives better, and I want to be a part of it."

- Zhandos Zhaken, New College student

[Under The Hood]  Keep Up The Pressure At Piney Point
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

Piney Point, the Manatee County industrial site that put the region in the state and national spotlight last week, wasn’t a new name to the government officials representing this community. But don’t feel bad if live more than a couple miles away and never heard of it before. This abandoned mine, which has gone through multiple owners, stood for 20 years as a disaster waiting to happen— which begs the inevitable question of why nothing was done.

I’ll leave it to the environmental experts to lambaste the inaction and the elected officials to provide defensive soundbites. The practical truth? It just cost too much. It’s more than a local government can swallow on its own, and too big for a state or federal lawmaker to slip into a budget unnoticed. That certainly struck me as I watched the Florida Senate consider requests for $75,000 here and $500,000 there, but then got to Sen. Jim Boyd’s $3 million request for immediate cleanup funding. He had no problem winning approval, but that’s likely a matter of the headlines serving as co-sponsors. His request was by far the largest last-minute addition to the budget.

In other words, if Florida’s Department on Environmental Protection hasn’t just pumped 175 million gallons of nutrient-loaded industrial wastewater into Tampa Bay because it had no other choice, that type of appropriations request may have been more than a freshman Senator could lift on his own.

Of course, the money he just got into the budget (but which still needs to be approved by the House and Gov. Ron DeSantis) is a drop in the bucket as far as what it will actually take to fix the problem at Piney Point. There remain 600 million gallons of polluted water in three ponds on site. Not only does government need to find a way to drain that and a place to put it, but it needs to cap those ponds or flatten them to the ground.

These water stacks are something Florida would never allow to be opened at a mine today, and they are the only such stacks on property not owned by an active mining company. That makes them an enforcement nightmare for DEP, and when Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes testified about how the county even found out about a potential breach from HRK Holdings, he left the distinct impression a notification likely could have happened much sooner.

Florida will exert all possible effort to make land owners pay a cost for this ecological dustup. That could be a lot, especially if this affair results in algal blooms anything like 2018.

The one bright light there, as was the silver lining of the breach, could be that it makes it much harder to just forget these filthy ponds are there. Interest didn’t last long after a spill in 2011 resulted in pollutants reaching Bishop Harbor. Don’t think this spill will remain top of mind for anybody whose home was not evacuated in the last eight days.

That’s why it’s incumbent on anyone who wants those stacks leveled, who want Tampa Bay and other water bodies protected from another nutrient dump, to keep the public pressure up. It’s actually an aid to lawmakers to keep on pestering them about this threat; it let’s them to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. armed with genuine public outrage. The longer this story remains in the headlines, the more likely funding will materialize.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA. 

[Higher Education]  New College Launches Cutting-Edge Applied Data Science Program
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

For young people entering the job market—during a pandemic and amid great economic uncertainty—solid, lucrative careers in data science are in extremely high demand. One can

scarcely imagine a better time to introduce New College’s newest offering for students: the Master of Science in Applied Data Science program.

The Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida approved the program on March 23, nearly seven years to the day after New College’s first graduate program was implemented.

“This is indeed exciting,” says Burcin Bozkaya, Ph.D., New College professor of data science and the director of the Applied Data Science program. “The program will have an increased focus on the ‘applied’ nature of data science. And one of the major points regarding the new program will be a tighter collaboration and integration with the industry, as well as with the local community.”

A newly created advisory board, composed of local, regional and national executives and professionals, will add to and enhance existing partnerships. There will also be a new summer internship program in addition to the usual spring practicum, along with industrial workshops and a seminar series, and project-based and real-world data-focused courses.

The new program will allow undergraduates at New College in any major to combine their primary major with a secondary focus in applied data science, and earn both a data science bachelor of arts and master of science degree.

“This 3+2 pathway allows any New College undergraduate in any area of concentration to complete their undergraduate and Applied Data Science Master of Science program in five years, instead of the usual six,” Bozkaya explains.

Tiffany Washington, the director of graduate enrollment and undergraduate strategic initiatives, has been instrumental in recruiting students for the program (along with Data Science Program Coordinator Nikita Bagley).

“I'm excited for what this program means for prospective students,” Washington says. “Now, master's candidates will gain even more hands-on experience through workshops and an additional internship component.”

Zhandos Zhaken, an international student from Kazakhstan, will be among the first students to experience the new program when he attends New College in the fall.

“I chose data science because it is very versatile and all industries need this,” Zhaken says. “It helps companies and institutions create better products, services and advantages over their competitors. Generally speaking, it helps to make people's lives better, and I want to be a part of it.”

And Zhaken is one of many. Even during the pandemic, the graduate program at New College has drawn keen interest from students across the globe. In Fall 2020, 18 students enrolled in the program—a significant jump from the inaugural class of seven in 2015. Bozkaya helped select the students from an applicant pool of 25.

Professor of Mathematics Pat McDonald, Ph.D. initially launched the data science program at New College and designed it alongside Associate Professor of Computer Science David Gillman, Ph.D. Bozkaya took the helm in August 2019.

There are currently eight faculty members—all from various disciplines, including statistics, computer science, mathematics, political science and bioinformatics. There were 14 students in the 2019 cohort, 10 in 2018, 15 in 2017, and seven in both 2016 and 2015. The post-graduate success rates speak for themselves.

“Our program has had a 100 percent placement rate in a data science position within three months of graduation for all students thus far,” Washington says. “Also, the median starting salary is $95,000 for data scientists.”

Behind this success lies the integration of corporate partners, such as LexisNexis and the Allen Institute for Brain Science, with the academic program.

Last year, with help from a grant from the New College Foundation, students and faculty in the data science program partnered with Riff Analytics (a Boston, Massachusetts-based tech company, born from the MIT Media Lab) to research ways to improve virtual communication in online platforms.

These partnerships provide master’s program graduates with a competitive edge. Graduates of the program are thriving data scientists in various industries, including healthcare, environmental and public services, city planning, and tech automation.

“Our program is designed to prepare students to land their dream jobs as data scientists. It prepares students to use their experiences to chart their own career paths,” Washington says. “We are proud to see graduates successfully penetrating the sectors they desire to bring solutions to. This is why prospective students choose our program.”

And we can’t wait to welcome many more of them.

Dr. Donal O’Shea is president of New College of Florida. 

Image from Pixabay

[SOON]  SPORTS: Sarasota County Croquet Club Hosts 2021 USCA National Championships , April 11 – April 17

The U.S. Croquet Association (USCA) will host its 2021 Association Laws National Championship April 11 - 17, 2021 at the Sarasota County Croquet Club (SCCC), located at Wellfield Park, 1400 Lucaya Avenue, in Venice. Forty of the top croquet players in the United States will gather to compete for the U.S. National Champions titles. Due to the event size, The Gasparilla Inn & Club, 500 Palm Ave, in Boca Grande will serve as a co-hosting venue Monday through Friday. The week-long tournament will feature single and doubles competitions, with the winners being crowned on Saturday, April 17, in Venice. Unlike many other sports, this national championship will feature a very diverse field of players competing against one another. Men and women of all ages will compete in the same divisions, which are only determined by skill level. Fourteen-year-old Blake Fields, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., is the youngest competitor. Targeting a younger generation of players is a special priority for the SCCC. While the club’s current membership base skews older, with the median age ranging in the 70s, outreach efforts are focused on youth organizations.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Virtual: A Day in the Life of at Save Our Seabirds , April 7 – April 11

Save Our Seabirds presents A Day in the Life of at Save Our Seabirds, a free virtual event. Take flight with them anytime between 7pm on April 7 and 7pm on April 11. This event will feature up-close encounters with some of their resident birds, rare behind-the-scenes footage inside their avian hospital, and an introduction to a very special new team member.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: The Ringling: Bayfront Gardens Tour , April 10 – April 26, 1pm

This walking tour led by volunteer guides will introduce you to interesting botanical specimens on the estate while providing a historic overview of the development of the estate from April 10 through April 26 at 1pm. The Ringling Arboretum has been accredited at Level II through ArbNet and there are over 2350 trees within the arboretum representing native, exotic, historical, and culturally significant trees. Garden Tours are available Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays and will take place entirely outdoors. It is 90 minutes in length and covers approximately 1 mile. We encourage visitors to bring bottled water, and wear appropriate footwear, preferably closed-toe, sunblock, and hats. There will be a maximum of 10 participants per tour. Masks are required of all participants, as well as social distancing. Tours are subject to weather conditions. Tickets are $15 for nonmembers and $10 for members and will be available 30 days prior to each event. Please check it at the Visitors Pavilion prior to your tour.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: The Ringling: Salon with Karen Jenkins-Johnson , April 30, 5:30pm

Join Warren Colbert, collector and Ringling Museum of Art board member, in conversation with noted gallerist Karen Jenkins-Johnson virtually via Zoom on April 30 at 5:30pm. Mr. Colbert and Ms. Jenkins-Johnson will discuss the Ringling’s exhibition Sam Gilliam: Selections in the context of the current art market and emerging trends in collecting, including the rediscovery of master artists. Audience members will have a chance to participate in the conversation and ask questions of Ms. Jenkins-Johnson. Tickets are $5 for nonmembers and free for members.

[SOON]  DANCE: The Ringling: Summer Latin Dance Series , May 6 – June 24, 6:30pm

Join us outdoors on Thursdays at 6:30pm, from May 6 through June 24, for this 8-class series to learn about the most popular Latin social dance forms from DK Dance Creations' top instructors. Salsa, Bachata, Merengue and more. During this educational opportunity, you will learn the basic movements, while exploring the rhythms, characteristics, and cultures that have come together to create each unique style of dance. Each 90-minute class will focus on one Latin style to provide students with a broad overview of each form. Every session will include an introduction to the dance style, the historical importance, and an hour of introductory dance instruction. This is an outdoor event. Please dress in workout clothes and wear sneakers. We also advise participants to bring a water bottle. DK Dance Creations is a Latin dance studio located in Sarasota, FL. Offering Latin dance classes, choreography services for wedding/quince/sweet-sixteens, private instruction, dance teams, dance shoe store and makeup classes. They provide an array of classes including but not limited to Bachata, Salsa On1, Salsa On2, Cha-cha, Kizomba, musicality, spinning techniques, tricks and lifts and many more. Individual Class tickets are $15 for nonmembers, $14 for members and $10 for students. Purchase the complete 8-class series and save. The complete series is only $80 or $72 for Members.

[SOON]  GALLERY: Sarasota Art Museum: Family Day , April 10, 2pm-4pm

Family Day offers artmaking activities and special events for visitors of all ages to engage with art and one another on April 10 from 2pm to 4pm. Reservations required; Space limited to accomodate safe physical distancing. Look: Enjoy the Janaina Tschape: Between the Sky and the Water exhibition prior to Family Day activities. Gallery admission rates apply. Free for Museum Members and those under 17 (accompanied by an adult). Talk: Emory Conetta, the Museum’s Curatorial Assistant, and Ross Johnston from Mote Marine will speak on the aquatic animals that can be experienced both at Mote and in the Museum’s current exhibition, Janaina Tschape: Between the Sky and the Water. Create: Use materials similar to the artist to create your own aquatic-inspired artwork to take home. Talk & art making activity free for all. Gallery admission rates apply. Free for Museum Members and those under 17 (accompanied by an adult). Bistro specials for Family Day: Margherita Flatbread Pizza, starfish cookies, and strawberry Shirley temples. During Bistro hours of 9am to 3pm. We recommend joining us for lunch in the Bistro (extensive outdoor and physically distanced indoor seating available) prior to the event. Reservations for Bistro seating encouraged, but not required.

[SOON]  FESTIVAL: 2nd Young Entrepreneur Market , April 10, 10am-3pm

It was so successful, The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime is doing it again. Meet 20 local entrepreneurs all under the age of 17 selling their wares on April 10 from 10am to 3pm. From bakers to artists, you will be impressed with the creativity and skills these young people offer. Free to attend outside in the courtyard of 821 Apricot Ave, Sarasota. Live music all day from students with the Music Compound. Hamlet’s Eatery will be open as well as the 30+ local vendors inside The Bazaar. For more information visit www.BazaaronApricotandLime.com.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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