Betty Castor Goes Global at USF

Betty Castor

Taking the helm at USF's Kiran Patel Center for Global Solutions seemed a natural for Betty Castor.

CASTOR: It's a good fit for me because I actually started my career as a teacher in East Africa. Upon graduation from college, I spent several years teaching in an African school in Kampala, Uganda. I'm excited that my career has gone full circle.

A former USF president, Florida education commissioner and state lawmaker, Castor will bring experience and contacts to help build the center's research faculty and bolster its visibility. One of her first tasks is establishing an advisory board.

CASTOR: We want an international board of people who are recognized. The university has hosted many international leaders such as Bishop Tutu from South Africa to Mohammad Yunus, who just received the Nobel Peace Prize. These people are familiar with the university already. I'm convinced that we can attract some of them to our international advisory board.

And that she says will help her raise additional funding.

The center was started with a grant from the Patel family worth more than $34 million, including state matching dollars. Some of that money will be used to build a permanent center. Castor says that amount could eventually grow to more than $60 million.

CASTOR: We need to build support for this mission. I think it's unique. Many institutions are involved in international exchanges. There are few that have made the commitment through an endowment to actually apply the research from the institution. But there will be much on my plate in terms of building those resources. Finding those foundations that would like to contribute to this effort as well.

In her first week, Castor has already opened disucsions.

CASTOR: I met with the new director of the global water challenge and we are very interested in perhaps assisting them. Their first project will be providing water for schools in the western area of Kenya.

The center's mission is to take the faculty's research and apply it to solve global problems such as potable water and sanitation. But she hopes to take it beyond typical projects like engineering and public health.

CASTOR: But in addition, we want to utilize the anthropologists. We want our department fo anthropology to be able to work at the ground level to understand what it takes to make something sustainable in a village, in a town, in an area that is very different from this country.

In addition to giving USF students global hands-on experiences - there's a hope that the program will attract students from other parts of the world to USF.

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