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Campus Joe

“Campus Joe” is a biweekly column from Oracle columnist Joe Polito that explores random spots on USF’s campus. How does it work? Polito throws a dart at a large map and goes there to find a story.

If a map of the campus were compared to a U.S. map, my dart landed on what I would call USF’s Colorado. Next to the Life Science Annex on the western half of campus lies the peaceful Simmons Park.

Dedicated to the civic leader Ellsworth G. Simmons, who served for 21 years on the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and seven years on the Hillsborough County School Board, the park has two linked ponds and is surrounded by trees — a piece of campus set aside for nature. A fountain in the center of the east pond provides a serene soundtrack.

There were the usual suspects — the unsightly Muscovy ducks waddling with their exponentially cuter ducklings on the shore — as well as suspiciously friendly squirrels who will walk right up to a picnic bench and sit next to you.

Several species of black and white birds stretched their feathers in the shade, and a few turtles swam under the bridge leading toward the Psychology-Communications Sciences & Disorders building.

What acts as a habitat for the animals serves as a crossroads for USF students and employees, connecting areas of residence, research and education.  Some pass through quickly, listening to headphones or chatting with friends. Others stop to enjoy nature after work or school.

An older man paced over on the north side of the pond smoking a cigarette. I approached him ready to get his story, but he waved me away, shaking his head faster than I could say “Oracle.”

I crossed back over the bridge to see if any people sitting on the park’s south side were more willing to talk. To my left was a couple giggling and practically sitting on top of each other.

To my right, a man sat on a bench facing the water. I went with option B.

Bryon Bewsher relaxed in the shade with his unbuttoned Dining Services uniform. After a long shift as front line cook for Juniper Hall’s dining services, he checked his Blackberry while waiting for his ride.

“I love the fresh air,” Bewsher said. “In (the kitchen), you get a lot of condensed air, but not so much grease because we’ve really been emphasizing healthy foods.”

A chef for 20 years, Bewsher is in his third semester at Hillsborough Community College, returning to school after being pronounced legally blind from diabetes.

After evaluations with the Division of Blind Services and the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, Bewsher said he decided to return to school to eventually teach visually impaired children.

“I’m completely blind in my left eye, and in my right, I have about 15 percent (vision),” he said. “I was still ready to be out and moving around, not just hanging back at home.”

Bewsher said he plans to transfer to USF and get his master’s in special education. For now, he is keeping resident students healthy with fresh organic foods and vegetarian dishes.

A woman sat down on one of the benches beside the bridge. I nearly tripped over a squirrel as I sat down to talk with her.

Nancy Chen had just finished her shift at Moffitt Cancer Center and was also waiting for a ride.

As a research specialist for the cancer center, Chen prepares tissue samples for the laboratory. She said she was waiting for her husband, who works as a research scientist at the center.

“I just love the birds, the fresh air, the water,” she said. “It’s just so beautiful.”