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USF opens the doors of its new Judy Genshaft Honors College building

Shortly before she retired as USF president, Judy Genshaft and her husband, Steven Greenbaum, donated $20 million to help build a new home for the Honors College.

The University of South Florida Judy Genshaft Honors College is different from other schools in that they don't teach a single discipline.

"What we do is try to get students to connect dots and think about their major in relation to other majors, and think about problems that are interdisciplinary, that require people from different backgrounds to come together and build teams and solve problems," said Charles Adams, the endowed dean of the College.

He believes that desire to work together to find answers to big issues will be addressed inside the Honors College's new, $56 million facility.

"This building provides (the students) with the space that they need," Adams said during Friday's formal opening. "People need to be physically proximate — we learned that during the pandemic, it matters that people come together and work together. And so this space is going to provide them with the area in which they can collaborate, work together, build teams and network."

The new facility, located on the Tampa campus, is everything the Honors' College current home in the John and Grace Allen Building — one of the first five buildings built on USF's Tampa campus — isn't.

The five-story, 85,000-square-foot building boasts wide open spaces and dozens of places that are designed for all of the school's 2,500 students to learn, either on their own or together.

But it's not just about classrooms, according to Adams.

People walk through a "test kitchen." Windows are on the left side of the picture, a door is on the right. A number of tables and chairs are in the foreground.
Mark Schreiner
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WUSF Public Media
In addition to hosting events, Genshaft Honors College students will be able to learn in the Leona Genshaft Food and Culture Studio, as well as share their own cuisine.

His personal favorite feature of the new facility is the Leona Genshaft Food and Culture Studio, named after Genshaft's mother.

"It's essentially a teaching kitchen," said Adams. "We're going to bring in chefs from all different cuisine traditions, and our students are going to learn about the connection between food and culture, and demonstrate food from their own cultures."

Other highlights include a music studio where the college's orchestra and choir can practice and perform, an audio/visual studio for podcasts, a technology center for 3D printing, and an art and design studio.

There are also 39 "learning lofts" suspended around the five story atrium. Built to accommodate two to eight people, Adams says they're designed almost like the cells of a beehive.

A series of "learning pods" extend out over an atrium - they're connected over four floors with a latticed pattern of wood. People mill about tables and lounge chairs in the pods.
Mark Schreiner
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WUSF Public Media
Thirty-nine "learning lofts" extend over the five-story atrium of the USF Judy Genshaft Honors College.

"The idea was to to allow the students the space to work either collaboratively or on their own, but also to be part of the larger network, the fabric of the building," he said. "So they can be in those little cabins hanging out over the atrium, but they can see each other working."

That collaboration is one of the things that Judy Genshaft herself loves about the building.

"Environment enhances learning, you want to be in a special place that makes it more fun to learn from one another. And we have designed (the building) with the student, the bright, achieving student, in mind," she said.

Friday's ceremonies came just 10 days short of the fourth anniversary of the announcement that Genshaft and her husband, Steven Greenbaum, were donating $20 million to the construction of the facility. They've since donated another $3 million to endow the dean's chair for the school.

"I am just so happy about giving back in a way that will enrich other lives. I'm very, very, very fortunate to have been able to make a contribution," Genshaft said. "And you just have to keep giving back to others, whether it's through volunteer work or money or whatever you can give back to make life better for others."

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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