Patricia Weeks is a typical, happy graduate student today, but nine years ago she was homeless.
“My parents had six kids to take care of, and the economy was already horrible,” Weeks, 23, said.
When Weeks was in middle school, her family got the news that they would have to move out of their three-bedroom home in Jacksonville.
“It was devastating and embarrassing,” Weeks said.
According to Weeks, her family had always struggled to pay bills, but this was rock bottom.
“At first we had family friends that let us stay with them, but who really has room for eight additional people?” Weeks said.
The two oldest children in the Weeks family, Kyle and Chris, were both old enough to get part-time jobs at the local supermarket. Even with the extra money, the family still struggled.
“We had one car to get everyone around with, and I remember it was a small Ford Taurus, red with faded black interior,” Weeks said.
Weeks explained that all eight people would sleep in the car when friends ran out of room for her big family.
“Thinking about it now I honestly couldn’t explain how eight of us slept in that car, but we had no choice,” Weeks said.
According to Weeks, it took her family seven years to get back on its feet, but now they have more than most people.
“I guess I am your typical rags to riches story, because after my dad got hired on as a manager at a local construction company, things really started to look up,” Weeks said.
Two years ago, the Weeks family bought a spacious, five-bedroom house in Tampa with enough room for the whole family.
“I used to be embarrassed about my story, but now I take pride in my past,” Weeks said.
Michael Miller, a University of South Florida international affairs professor, heard Weeks’ story for the first time last year in his public policy class.
“I asked the students to tell me a little about themselves, and when it was Patricia’s turn, she told the class how she used to be homeless, and everyone in the room seemed to feel touched,” Miller said.
According to Miller, the students seemed to look up to Weeks after learning about her past.
“It’s almost like people respect her more because of what she has been through,” Miller said.
John Sims, Alisha Hammond and Mark Rio, USF College of Business students, meet at this exact spot on campus every weekday morning around 8:30 to exercise. Like many USF students exercising is a huge part of their lives. According to Hammond, this has become a ritual for the three friends because they enjoy the fresh air over the gym atmosphere.
“So many of our friends love the new gym and they do not understand why we workout outside,” Sims said.
According to Rio, the gym has too many distractions for him to complete a proper workout.
Experts on illegal immigration in the United States argue that this double-edged sword has become a key issue for campaign platforms and debates.
According to Earl Morgan, director of graduate studies for political science at USF, the nation has a divided opinion on immigration.
“I have been studying political behavior for over 10 years now and it’s proven that when the people have a problem, the political candidates are expected to address it,” Morgan explained.
“It’s no secret that our economy is suffering, and many Americans blame this on illegal immigrants because they hold an increasing number of jobs in our country,” he said.
Morgan explained that some occupations, such as farming, hire illegal immigrants because they can pay the workers well below minimum wage.
According to a graduate study conducted by the Government and International Affairs Department, the average yearly income for an illegal immigrant is $8,992 with an hourly pay rate of $5.45.
“Americans are in fear of losing their livelihoods to these immigrants,” he said.
However, Morgan argued that immigration is not completely negative on society.
“Granted, some jobs have been lost to immigrants but tons of jobs have also been created in areas of Homeland Security and border patrol,” Morgan said.
Kiki Caruson, assistant vice president for Research, Innovation and Global Affairs at USF, has traveled all around the world studying people and different systems of government. She said getting into the United States as a new citizen is challenging.
“The test for citizenship in America is tougher than anywhere else,” Caruson said.
Caruson had to take a shortened version of the citizenship test to receive her master’s degree.
“I will never forget the question that I failed: ‘What is the square footage of Washington, D.C.?’” Caruson said. “I don’t think the people who live there even know that answer.”
Susan MacManus, a USF political science professor and professional political analyst, has 20 years of experience studying major political issues like immigration.
“The recent Republican debate on September 8 was a perfect example of how divided politics is on immigration,” MacManus said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the Dream Act, which gives financial help to students of illegal immigrants attending college.
MacManus quoted Perry saying, “I support this act to show young people that regardless of what your last name is, we believe in you.”
“On the other hand, there was Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, who criticized Perry for supporting illegal’s and then made promises to strengthen border control,” she said.
According to MacManus, Americans are still uncertain about immigration.
“Half of us want to lock the immigrants out and the other half wants to invite them over for dinner,” she joked.
“Any way that you look at the issue the facts are still there,” said MacManus. “America is immigration.”
Electronic voting is a method that is gaining support across some states, but in other states people are worried about the security of the machines.
According to Susan MacManus, political analyst and University of South Florida professor, this type of voting counts a vote and sends the ballot over the Internet.
“Electronic voting makes the whole process more convenient,” MacManus said.
According to verifiedvoting.org, 25 percent of states have switched completely to electronic voting systems.
MacManus explained that electronic voting has increased voter turnout in nations that allow this method.
“Now people with handicaps and people who can’t make it to the polls can vote via e-mail from their own house,” MacManus said.
Brian Corley, supervisor of elections in Pasco County, personally worked with the electronic system prior to 2007 when Florida switched methods.
According to Corley, in 2007 Florida switched from the electronic voting method to a paper ballot method with optical scanning equipment.
“The electronic machines made the voting more simple for the everyday person,” Corley said.
According to Corley, residents were concerned about the accuracy of this new method and some believed that the machines had major glitches.
“In the 2006 California primary, more than 6,000 votes were missed because of a faulty machine and this really worried people,” Corley said.
According to Corley, the voting machines did not provide any type of backup proof for a candidates vote in case the systems failed.
“Once a person puts the time and effort into voting they want to trust that their vote is going to count and the fact that we can’t provide that security draws a negative response,” Corley said.
MacManus argued that people have nothing to worry about with the electronic voting machines because the Help America Vote Act requires that professional technicians ensure that all systems meet high capability standards.
“All of the machines are thoroughly inspected before any election to ensure that there are no problems,” MacManus said.
USF political science professor and political analyst, Susan MacManus, accredits her success in life to her passion for politics.
MacManus is from the small town of Land O’Lakes and her family grows oranges in Pasco County.
“I may be from a small town but my family was very involved in the large world of politics,” MacManus said.
MacManus admitted that her politically divided family got her interested in politics because they could never agree on anything.
“My mother was a democratic University of Florida fan and my father was a republican Florida State fan. I’m surprised they made it through their first date,” MacManus joked.
MacManus graduated from Florida State University in 1975 with her doctorate in political science.
“After I graduated I started searching for ways to become a part of politics without actually running for office,” Mac Manus said. “That’s when I decided to look into analyzing.”
MacManus is now an expert analyst for News Channel 8 and she was featured on a popular Florida politics website called Sayfiereview.com.
Cheryl Hall, political professor at USF, said MacManus has made a good name for herself in the community.
“The staff always jokes saying she is a local celebrity at USF, but she really has brought a lot of good attention to our department,” Hall said.
MacManus is the co-author of the most widely used state and local politics textbook, “Politics in States and Communities.”
“One of my ultimate goals was to have the chance to condense my political knowledge into a textbook to share with students,” MacManus said.
Edwin Benton, fellow political science professor, said MacManus is a joy to be around and should pat herself on the back more often for her many accomplishments.
“She never likes to brag so I’ll do it for her, the St. Pete Times actually called her the most quoted political analyst in Florida,” Benton said.
“I never intended on making a career out of politics but I will say it’s the best decision I have ever made,” MacManus said.
Companies continue to steadily increase the annual number of outsourced jobs from the U.S., a USF professor and book author on the subject says.
“Outsourcing has increased dramatically in the past 10 years,” said Steven Tauber, Associate Professor for the Department of Government and International Affairs.
Tauber is the co-author of the book “American Government in Black and White.”
According to Tauber, information technology jobs are the largest number of outsourced positions in America at 28 percent.
“A lot of companies are realizing that India’s large interest in information technology makes them a better equipped country to perform tasks,” said Tauber.
Data from Tauber’s book shows that India has more than 870,000 information technology graduates per year.
“The graduates are English-speaking and computer-skilled in their department, not to mention there are a ton of them,” said Tauber.
Forrester Research, Inc. estimated that an additional 3.3 million U.S. jobs and $136 billion in wages could be outsourced to countries like India and China by 2015.
Forrester Research, Inc. also said that Meta Group, a large marketing and finance company, is expected to increase their outsourcing by 20 percent and increase market share by $18 billion by 2015.
According to Tauber, outsourcing receives negative feedback from Americans because they feel that too many jobs are being taken overseas.
Lizette Howard, a political science graduate student, said her uncle, Bill Howard, lost his job at Tampa’s Capital One call center two years ago because of outsourcing.
“Capital One told him the layoff was part of their goal to drive costs lower and maintain market success,” said Howard.
Howard admitted that her current knowledge about outsourcing has changed her view.
“The whole point of a business is to make money and this includes cutting costs where you can to make up for losses,” said Howard.
According to Eunjung Choi, USF assistant professor and co-author of “Socio-Economic Impacts of Political Corruption and Neoliberal Policies in Developing Countries,” outsourcing can save a company anywhere from 30 to 52 percent on cost.
“The amount of money companies save from outsourcing is a huge positive because they are able to lower American consumer costs,” said Choi.
Choi said that in the past five years Americans have actually started entire businesses in India.
“The numbers show that Americans are losing their jobs, but jobs are also being created to replace positions lost,” said Choi.
For USF alumna Jamie Cooler, the tailgate party before Bulls football games at Raymond James Stadium are all about tradition.
She and her family were just part of the thousands of tailgaters at the Bulls game against Florida A&M on Sept. 17.
“Football season is like a long holiday for my family and I,” Cooler said.
The Cooler family arrived early to set up their tailgate and welcomed friends to join in the festivities.
“USF games are my favorite tradition and they give us an excuse to cook a ton of food,” Cooler said.
Anna Smith, a close family friend, admits that she is always in charge of bringing the alcohol to tailgates.
“We don’t chug beers like most tailgaters,” Smith said, “The night before a game I make peach mimosas and that is part of our tradition.”
The USF football program started in 1997 and the official Bulls Tailgating Association began in 2000.
“Tailgating is definitely a long standing tradition for Bull fans and especially to our members,” Brad Sufficool, association president said. “I remember my parents laughing when I told them I wanted to start an official tailgating group.”
The tailgating association provides elaborate pregame activities for students like drinking games and cornhole.
Sufficool explains that local Tampa companies fund the expensive tailgating activities.
“I’m amazed that we have as many sponsors as we do because normally business don’t see tailgating as a reason to give money,” Sufficool said.
The association takes tailgating very seriously, “We have made it a tradition to stay overnight before the last home game,” Sufficool said.