Patel Center prepared to function without director

University officials said the Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions can function despite an empty director position, so they are stalling plans to find a replacement.

Betty Castor, the center’s first director, stepped down Tuesday after serving since the center opened in 2005.

University spokesman Michael Hoad said President Judy Genshaft will appoint a replacement, but she wants to wait until USF World, a taskforce that assesses faculty members, reviews the center.

The Patel Center specializes in researching global concerns, and brings individuals
together for education and training in the interest of finding solutions, according to the center’s Web site.

Hoad said USF World is looking into “what is the best way for USF to move forward.”

Hoad said the taskforce will make a recommendation to the president regarding the director position.

“Rather than move forward and race to have a search for the Patel Center director, the president wants to wait … because that position could be a major strategic part of what we do with international outreach of all kinds – from study abroad to international research,” Hoad said.

Bessie Skoures, Castor’s former special assistant, said no one is acting in the position. She said the center was told that “the administration is taking care of it.”

Skoures still works at the center as an assistant.

This is the third time Castor has left a position at USF. She served as USF’s director of government and community relations in the ’80s and was the USF president from
1994 to 1999.

“My professional life has been very much intertwined with USF over four decades,” Castor said in a statement released by USF. “It’s come full circle from my early years in East Africa and winding up at the Patel Center.”

As director of the Patel Center, Castor secured partnerships with universities in Ghana and USF’s Global Schools Project, a partnership that includes the College of Education and Florida public school teachers.

The statement also said Castor was leaving the University to “pursue her advocacy work on behalf of education in the United States and abroad.”

During her tenure as the center’s director, Castor started partnerships with multiple organizations that allowed students to travel abroad, including UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, Netherlands.

The partnership allowed students to travel to Holland to study techniques with Dutch water officials.

Castor also oversaw construction of the new Patel Center, which will be USF’s first “green” building. Construction on the center began in May.

In addition to her work at USF, Castor has held political leadership positions. She served as state senator twice, from 1976 to 1978 and 1982 to 1986. She was also a Hillsborough County commissioner from 1972 to 1976 and a Democratic nominee for one of Florida’s U.S. Senate seats in 2004.

Castor was the first woman elected to the Florida Cabinet, serving as Florida Commissioner of Education from 1986 to 1993. She also served as president and chief executive officer of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards from
1999 to 2003.

Hoad said finding an interim or replacement soon was “not necessary.” He said a replacement probably won’t be found before the fall.

“The center already reports to the Provost’s Office, so it’s not like anyone isn’t in charge,” Hoad said.