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Claire McNeill, Times Staff Writer

Claire McNeill

Claire McNeill covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times. She joined the paper in 2014 and covered general assignment news in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

She grew up in a one-square-mile town in South Jersey and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where she studied journalism and political science. She has worked for The Boston Globe and The Charlotte Observer. She lives in St. Petersburg.

Phone: (727) 893-8321


Twitter: @clairemcneill

  1. New education dean at USFSP has deep roots in St. Petersburg


    A new dean of the College of Education will join the University of South Florida St. Petersburg this summer, settling in a city her granduncle helped integrate decades ago.

    Allyson Leggett Watson was appointed this week by Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska to lead the college’s faculty. She comes to USFSP from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, with a diverse student body of more than 9,000 on three campuses....

    Allyson Watson
  2. Hillsborough college notebook: Vanderbilt speaker, business of sports, TEDx talk and more


    Medicine, murder in 17th Century

    Vanderbilt professor Holly Tucker talks medicine and murder in the Scientific Revolution, presented by the USF Humanities Institute. Tucker holds appointments in French and Italian as well as in Biomedical Ethics and Society. She'll explore this tumultuous part of the 17th century history in a talk based on her book, Blood Work, in room 206 of C.W. Bill Young Hall at 6 p.m....

  3. Wary about science under Trump, USF graduate students seek support


    TAMPA — Anxious about an uncertain future for research under the Trump administration, University of South Florida graduate students have challenged USF to defend science.

    President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts could seriously hamper funding for student researchers, PhD candidate Erin Sauer said at a panel discussion at USF on Monday. She spoke for graduate students in requesting an official statement from USF that would highlight the importance of science, stand up for USF researchers studying climate change and “specifically comment on the serious consequences of science denial and science funding cuts.”...

  4. Too few conservatives teach at universities, USFSP professor emeritus writes


    A conservative University of South Florida professor doubts he would have been hired at USF had officials known his ideological leanings.

    “I believe I was hired because I had spent the prior year as a National Teaching Fellow at Florida A & M University,” USF St. Petersburg professor emeritus Darryl Paulson wrote in an op-ed published Friday. “Anyone who taught at a historically black university had to be a liberal.”...

    Dr. Darryl Paulson
  5. St. Petersburg officials again hear public suggestions for sewer fixes

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Some people came to listen, others to offer ideas, and a few simply to vent. In all, more than 60 people spent their Wednesday evening engaging with St. Petersburg officials as the city begins overhauling its overburdened sewage system.

    The night's focus was a 12-page consent order drafted by the state, essentially a roadmap to fixing the city's aging system in the wake of a prolonged crisis. Fulfilling the state's requests, such as increasing wastewater plant capacity, would help St. Petersburg avoid up to $810,000 in penalties. ...

    St. Petersburg's Albert Whitted Reclamation Facility, bottom, which was closed by city officials in April 2015. That decision has played a key role in the city's sewage crisis and was again a topic of conversation at a meeting this week. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  6. USF Sarasota-Manatee leader resigns, citing family issues


    The regional chancellor of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee announced her immediate resignation last week, owing to her “current family situation.”

    Sandra Stone plans to return to campus as a faculty member in the next academic year. Meanwhile, USF System officials will start a national search for her replacement.

    The Bradenton Herald reported that Stone’s mother has been sick. Her resignation also comes amid six years of lackluster fundraising at USFSM, a subject of concern for USF System trustees. University officials did not provide further details about her decision....

    Dr. Sandra Stone
  7. Whatever happened to Rick Scott's idea for $10,000 college degrees?


    ST. PETERSBURG — Critics spared no time in blasting Gov. Rick Scott's challenge as a gimmick, just another way to cheapen the value of a college education.

    But from Pensacola to the Florida Keys, state college leaders were already sitting down in conference rooms, figuring out how to make his mythical $10,000 bachelor's degree a reality.

    "It's like a unicorn, right?" said Amy Hyman Gregory, an official at Broward College, one of the first schools to latch on to the governor's big idea in 2012. ...

    St. Petersburg College has 450 students in a technology program but only a handful will graduate for under $10,000.
  8. Hillsborough college notebook: USF medical school and biologist win recognition


    USF recognized for work on allergies, immune diseases

    The University of South Florida's medical school has been named a World Allergy Organization Center of Excellence, the first such center in the United States. Only 10 institutions around the world share the recognition for the 2016-19 term. "It is a testament to the hard work of an amazing group of highly talented USF faculty members dedicated to the prevention and treatment of pediatric and adult allergy, immunology and immune diseases," said Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. The World Allergy Organization, an umbrella group combining nearly 100 allergy and clinical immunology societies around the world, uses its Centers of Excellence to accelerate innovation and education. For the last 30 years, Dr. Richard Lockey has led USF's department of internal medicine's division of allergy and immunology. The World Allergy Organization noted the division's accomplishments, including four National Institutes of Health grants, a $15 million endowment for research, accredited residency programs in allergy and immunology, clinical research and publications on airway diseases, and more. ...

  9. Black student success rates earn USF top spot in new report


    When it comes to the success of black students, the University of South Florida takes the No. 1 spot in Florida and the sixth nationwide, according to a new report from the Education Trust.

    The non-profit advocacy group’s report looked at the achievement gap between black and white students at nearly 700 institutions. At many schools, black students fall far behind, with average graduation rates 22 percentage points below their white peers....

    Bradford Seabury, from left, Alejandro De La Pava and Osmonique Maitland listen to presentations during graduation ceremonies at the USF Sun Dome in 2015.
  10. Divest from fossil fuels and private prisons, student coalition urges USF


    TAMPA — As University of South Florida students cast votes in student elections this week, they’ll also be deciding on a referendum that would urge the university to “divest from fossil fuels, private prisons and companies complicit in human rights violations.”

    The referendum is non-binding but would send a renewed message to USF leaders that students care about how the university invests its dollars. It calls for the formation of a “socially responsible investment committee” to oversee a divestment effort....

  11. Pinellas college notebook: Forums tackle water issues, judicial bias, climate change and more


    SPC to host forum on the region's water challenges

    Award-winning author and journalist Cynthia Barnett talks about the future of Pinellas County waters in a talk Tuesday at St. Petersburg College's Seminole Campus. Barnett will outline a vision for a "Pinellas water ethic," exploring the question of whether citizens and local government can work together to solve the county's looming water challenges. Three local experts will join her: Paul Boudreaux, professor of environmental law at Stetson University College of Law; Christopher F. Meindl, associate professor of geography at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and Doug Robison, who created the management plan in the 1980s that revived Tampa Bay's health. Linae Boehme-Terrana, interim director SPC's Bay Pines STEM Center, will moderate. The talk runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at the conference center at 9200 113th St. N. Admission is free but advance registration is required at

  12. USF leads nation in producing prestigious Fulbright Scholars


    With 12 faculty members named as Fulbright Scholars in the 2016-2017 year, the University of South Florida led the nation in producing winners of the prestigious awards.

    USF’s number is double last year’s, putting it in the top spot among research institutions nationwide, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of State and Institute of International Education, and highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Education....

    USF's Fulbright Scholars for the 2016-2017 year put it ahead of other top research institutions.
  13. Hillsborough college notebook: Teen camps coming to HCC, sports conference to USF


    Sign up now for teen summer camps at HCC

    Registration is open for a broad lineup of kids' college and teen summer camps at Hillsborough Community College. The college's Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education presents a range of affordable camps for all ages beginning May 30. STEM-inclined students have options such as "Make your first 3D video game" and "Minecraft Modders." Middle and high school students who want to try out different career paths can dabble in "Broadcasting Boot Camp," "Young Architects," "Junior Veterinarian" and more. Other options include "Super Sleuth CSI" and "Extreme Home Makeover: Kids' Edition." The Explorers' Travel Camp offers a more traditional experience, with hiking and kayaking excursions. Most camps are held at HCC locations. Full-day camps run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and range from $160 to $275 per week, while half-day camps are $159 per week. Register before March 1 for a 15 percent discount. To find out more, visit or call (813) 259-6010....

  14. USF President Genshaft honored for advancement of women in higher education


    For her long-term efforts to advance women in higher education, President Judy Genshaft of the University of South Florida System has won a prestigious recognition from the American Council on Education.

    The annual Donna Shavlik Award, named for a long-serving ACE director, honors those who make helping women in higher education a priority, through leadership, career development, mentoring and campus climate....

    USF System President Judy Genshaft
  15. St. Petersburg College seeks public input in its search for a new president


    TARPON SPRINGS — The choosing of a president is a serious undertaking, and each college has its own personality and priorities.

    Should the leader be defined by a respect for teaching? Or are business ties more important? Will he or she be approachable and charismatic? A good listener? A visionary?

    Officials at St. Petersburg College are asking the public to help answer those and other questions as they put the finishing touches on the job description for the school's next president. They'll be seeking input tonight at SPC's Midtown campus in St. Petersburg, the second of two such forums....

    William D. Law Jr., who recently announced his retirement as president of St. Petersburg College, said the job is more demanding than ever. "You have to be able to craft a vision," he said. "Here's where we are, here's where we're headed, and here's how were going to get there." Law will remain in the job until his successor takes over this summer.