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USF SLIS Grad Students Make a Big Splash (groan) at the Florida Aquarium!

SLIS students Bill Harris, Ava Iuliano, and Eva Earles

SLIS students Bill Harris, Ava Iuliano, and Eva Earles


In an interdisciplinary community project, students from the USF School of Library and Information Science, Mass Communication, and the College of Business collaborated in four teams to assess needs and recommend designs for a new website that would meet the mission, market, and growing and changing needs of the Florida Aquarium.  More than 30 SLIS graduate, Mass Communication undergraduate, and Business undergraduate students participated in the competition to design and present web site prototypes to judges from the Florida Aquarium and faculty from USF on April 15, 2010 at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. The teams’ goals were to create a website that offered better user recognition of and connection to the Florida Aquarium attraction and research/education venue. They looked at ease of navigation and use, organization of information, visual interest and attractiveness, enhanced communication and interactivity, and accessibility using emerging user interface design.  They showed ways of raising awareness about research and conservation efforts, getting information about attending and booking public and private events, marketing and promotion the organization, and e-commerce tools. Students considered elements for access to information, tickets, services, entertainment/games, directions, donations, research and education activities, live and virtual fieldtrips and adventures, media resources, and much more.     

Thom Stork Announces Winners

Thom Stork Announces Winners


The website(s) goals endeavored to provide all types of users with a portal through which to find and use information, establish as a future reference source, provide entertainment, learn from, buy tickets, donate, browse for information and recreation, and find a reason to return frequently to http://www.flaquarium.org. Ideas for: connecting to and synchronizing with new mobile connection devices; online media (through YouTube and ITunes); search engine optimization; social networking venues (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr); using analytics to gather user statistics; incorporating streaming video for fieldtrips, onsite attractions, fieldtrips, and research tours; creating a virtual library and social bookmarks for accessing resources in the future; and creatively using other internet based features (such as a proposed “Brandon the River Otter’s Blog”), were integrated into the prototypes.       

The project gave today’s USF students, future business and information professionals, a chance to exercise their unique and contemporary insight and employ their educational  and professional design skills, dynamic user experience, unique insight of their educational discipline, fresh ideas and viewpoints,  and comfort with technology to make an impact on the community. Project Advisors from the USF Colleges included lead faculty advisor and project coordinator, Coby O’Brien from Mass Communications, Mike Bowen from College of Business, and Diane Austin from the School of Library and Information Science. Also attending the presentations were Hal Vincent and Kelly Werder from Mass Comm , COB faculty Maryanne Rouse, and COB Dean Bob Forsythe in support and recognition of the USF students.     

Winning Team, including SLIS student Ava Iuliano, with Thom Stork, FLA Aquarium President and CEO

Winning Team, including SLIS student Ava Iuliano, with Thom Stork, FLA Aquarium President and CEO


Special (and robust) applause and thanks to SLIS graduate students Eva Earles, Ava Iuliano, and Bill Harris for their hard work and time put into this effort for their own professional development and for helping connect SLIS to other USF departments and outreach to the Tampa Bay community!  Although a difficult decision to make in that all of the teams and projects contributed a fresh look at the Aquarium website, Ava’s team won the competition, which had a cash prize and a photo op with Thom Stork, President and CEO of the Florida Aquarium. Thank you to Thom and the Florida Aquarium for this opportunity to give an educational and service learning experience to our students and a collaborative model for our university community. Future interdisciplinary projects between the colleges were discussed even before the event concluded. This is a fine example of USF interdisciplinary collaboration (College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Business), experiential learning, Tampa Bay community outreach, and developing a passion for what we do.       



One Response

  1. Congratulations to Ava and her team for winning the Florida Aquarium project. This was a great learning experience for me. It forced me out of my comfort zone of library specific projects and think through rearranging the individual components of a website from scratch. In the next few days, I will actually start a similar project at work with the Tampa-Hillsborough County library website. The concepts I learned in this project will help me immensely on our future website.

    This project also gave me an opportunity to team up with students from different disciplines in the university. Each discipline brought something to the table and it was a very unique experience.

    My thanks to Diane Austin for giving me this opportunity.


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