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Genshaft gives acclaim to gifted students

Judy Genshaft was not speaking as the President of USF or as Business Woman of the Year for the Tampa Community when she addressed about 100 Honors College students Tuesday night. Instead, she was “Professor Genshaft” – an homage that highlighted her work and research in human intelligence and gifted education – when she and a panel of four guest speakers spent an hour discussing and advocating the importance of intelligence and gifted education.

“It’s a different kind of ability level,” Genshaft said of gifted students. “I used to tell parents … you’re so lucky to have a gifted child. Many parents were very frightened (by this) because they don’t know the kind of responsibilities they (now) have.”

Genshaft said that gifted students are “talented in a whole variety of areas.” Gifted students also feel comfortable with adults in adult situations, and are never satisfied with their performance, she said, adding that gifted children comprise the “largest underachieving group of students across America.”

“For high school, you all do very well, but you are not achieving up to your ability,” she said.

Gifted students have a variety of different needs to satisfy their intellectual thirst, Genshaft said. Such needs include multidisciplinary curriculum, for example, and the opportunity to expand one’s education in an unconventional way, like research or studying abroad.

“What we needed to do at the college level is to establish some kind of a program for students that are really different and need that kind of extra attention (and) a little more variation.” Twenty-five years ago, USF acknowledged this need and established the Honors College, she said.

“You are different in some way from the rest of the population, and you’re expect to do more with your gift,” she said.

Genshaft later elaborated: “there’s nothing wrong with being elitist, it is to be valued,” explaining that gifted students are high-functioning people, and that they are “the important group for society.”

Following her speech were four guest speakers, each elaborating on a certain aspect of gifted education. William Lee, a professor of chemical engineering who teaches philosophy in the College, spoke to the group about the importance of creativity and learning from one another. Fourth-year microbiology student Aleesa McQueen spoke about the importance of leadership and National Merit Scholar James Hudson expanded on the importance of the College. Professor of music Janet Moore also stressed the importance of alternative learning experiences.

During the question and answer session, Genshaft was asked to explain the difference between gifted students and hardworking students. Each has different aspects of intelligence and score differently on individual assessments, she said. However, the characteristic that stands out among all successful people is persistence.

“There is one characteristic that is stronger, that holds stronger than any other, and that is persistence. Persistence is key.”

She was asked what students of the College have to look forward to in the future, and discussed a new College building that would be paid for through taxes and boosted by private donations. The current design is a seven-level building.

As Honors College Dean Stuart Silverman presented gifts such as Smarties candy – a reference to Honors College students’ intelligence – and past summer reading books to guest speakers at the College, he also brought out an average, dark green USF cup which turned out to be a watershed gift.

“Take out your change and put it in (this cup),” he said to Genshaft, telling her to save her pennies before going to sleep. “When it’s full, you’ll give it to me and it’ll goes towards to the new Honors College building fund. Then we’ll give you a bigger cup.”

Amy Mariani can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or