Natalia Prieto

Natalia Prieto has written 4 posts for The Digital Bullpen

Group for troops at USF bake sale

USF students and members of Group for Troops at USF held a bake sale outside of the library this afternoon in an effort to raise money to provide care packages to our troops overseas. Although it is a little too late for the package’s to arrive by Christmas,the girls of this group are hoping to shower the troops with love on Valentine’s Day.

Indian national makes cultural connection with Bollywood dance

Satish Devan, president of the Bollywood Dance Club at USF. Photo/ Natalia Prieto

Satish Devan, president of USF’s Bollywood Dance Club, brings a slice of India’s culture to campus with his enthusiasm for his native country’s traditional dance.

Devan is an international student from Vellore, India, one of the oldest cities in South India.  After receiving his undergraduate degree in Chennai, India, he applied to many U.S. colleges and chose USF to pursue his Master’s of Science in electrical engineering degree. His sister, a USF student, wanted him to join her so they could live close to each other.

One of the things Devan misses most from Vellore is bike riding on the city’s roads. Now that he’s in Florida, Devan has replaced that pastime with hobbies such as going to the movie theater and bowling alley. But one particular hobby takes up a majority of his time: his role as president of the Bollywood Dance Club.

“I love dancing,” Devan said. “I’ve always had a passion for dance and that’s why I’m really interested in being a part of the Bollywood Dance Club.”

Three years ago, the U.S. was introduced to Bollywood, the most famous Indian film industry, through the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” Since then, the Bollywood craze has been going strong. According to, some universities, such as the University of Manchester; the University of California, Berkeley; and Cardiff University, have gone as far as to include the study of Bollywood films to their course curricula.

While USF doesn’t have a course dedicated to Bollywood, students such as Devan bring a little bit of Bollywood to us. Some of his duties as president include scheduling dance classes every week and practice sessions for upcoming events. He also oversees each of the club’s elected officers.

Despite all of the work he has to do to keep the club up and running, Devan said he has a great time with it.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun,” he said. “I love teaching about Bollywood. I think American people do love Indian culture and they are passionate to learn about the dance.”

Despite the pressure of balancing graduate school and running an active club, Devan still manages to be a very pleasant person, said Prutha Bhise, a graduate student and club member.

He’s very easy going,” Bhise said. “He takes charge and makes things happen, but it’s not like he’s a dictator or anything.”

Manaswini Rao, a junior who is also a member of the Bollywood Dance Club, said Devan is more than just club president.

“Some people are like ‘We meet during meetings and beyond that I have nothing to do with you,’” she said. “But with him it grows to a friendship, and he’s always there when you need him.”

USF international student population is on the rise

The number of international students at the University of South Florida has increased at an unprecedented pace in the past year, enrollment statistics show.

Over the past six years, records show that USF has been a home away from home for more than 1,000 international students from more than 100 different countries such as China, India and Saudi Arabia.

Data shows that as far back as 2006, USF’s student body has only consisted of approximately 1,300 to 1,400 international students, however, the Department of International Services’ annual enrollment charts show a considerable increase in the number of international students from 2010 to 2011 from 1,465 to 1,745, the highest on record

Glen Besterfield, executive director of INTO USF, cites his office’s intensive international recruiting for the rise.

INTO USF heavily recruits in countries such as Brazil, Peru, China, Qatar, Italy and many more. Besterfield even recently returned from a trip to Russia.

“The draw is natural,” Besterfield said. “Here you have a great university in the United States that is trying to get their brand into the worldwide market place so naturally people will want to come.”

Despite the fact that USF has been making noticeable strides in attracting international students to its various campuses there are critics who still believe the university has a long way to go.

In a 2010-2011 world university rankings analysis conducted by Times Higher Education in partnership with Thomson Reuters, USF ranked regionally in the 301-350 category and received an international outlook score -which was determined by staff, students and research- of a mere 15 out of 100 points.

Outside sources are not the only ones who think that USF has a long way to go when it comes to its international outlook.

Students like 21-year-old Nigerian student, Murewa Olubela, believes departments like INTO USF are not the reason why students are being attracted to the university.

“USF didn’t do any outreach for me,” Olubela said. “I get emails from International Services to do things since I’m here but I don’t know if they reach their target audience. For international students peer recommendations go a long way and I think a reason for the increase is because of that.”

Although there are differing opinions on the reason behind the increase, one thing that cannot be denied is that there has been an increase and USF is definitely trying to hold on to its international students.

“We are beginning an initiative called the BUDI program,” said Aaron Holland, graduate advisor at the Office of Multicultural Affairs, “in which we reach out to international students who are trying to acclimate to the culture here at USF and in the states.”

“We are becoming a great national institution,” Besterfield said. “Next year I wouldn’t be surprised if the number goes over 1900.”

Tampa Bay Strong Dogs rolling onto the court for disability awareness

The last thing freshman LaNae Dennis of the University of South Florida expected to be doing after her weekly workout session was playing basketball with a local competitive team – in a wheelchair.

Tuesday night at USF’s Campus Recreation Center, the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs, a Division III team in the Wheelchair Basketball Association, came out to play a friendly exhibition game.

The Strong Dogs is a team of local community members and veterans ages 18 and up, all of whom are disabled, that gives adult wheelchair users in the area the chance to play basketball at a competitive level.

“This is about the second or third time the team has been invited to play an exhibition game at USF,” said assistant coach Christina Garcia.

For this game, the team was invited by USF’s Students with Disabilities Service to promote awareness.

And promote awareness, they did.

At first, many of the enabled participants who played with the team were hesitant. Once they adjusted to the wheelchairs, it wasn’t as complicated as it initially seemed and it was fun.

Students such as Dennis were surprised they had such a good time.

“I didn’t want to do it at first,” she said. “But once you get over the fear it’s fun. The guys are really cool and it makes me appreciate people in wheelchairs more.”

Willie Clay, whose left leg was amputated, is one of the disabled players who also enjoyed themselves.

After the game, Clay said, “Looking at it is one thing; getting involved helps you understand what’s going on. It was fun convening with everyone and watching everyone have fun.”

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