Chatting with Eckerd's John Sullivan

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A weekly series of interviews featuring people of St. Pete from all walks of life with the goal of showcasing and sparking an interest in the local community. Report conducted by Matt Thompson, Nick Napoli, and Chris Moore as part of a senior year service learning project at Eckerd College.

iLovetheBurg: Start off by introducing yourself and what you do at Eckerd College?

John Sullivan: I’m John Sullivan, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.

ILTB: In what ways does the city of St. Pete provide unique opportunities for Eckerd Students, current and prospective?

JS: Well certainly because it is a large metropolitan area that offers a lot of opportunities for our students downtown for students to do all types of internships either with the private sector or the public sector. In other areas, they can do internships with the hospitals, with attorneys, and social service agencies. So, a wide range of opportunities that a lot of other small schools don’t have because they are also in small towns, it is a huge advantage for our students.

ILTB: You are also involved with Leadership St. Pete so talk a little bit about that.

JS: Usually about 35 or 40 professionals in the St. Petersburg area are selected to go through the Leadership St. Pete program. They go through a series of seminars starting in January and go all the way through May, and some of it is looking introspectively at their leadership skills: ‘what type of leader you are,’ ‘how you interact with other types of people’ and you get to see what your strengths are what your weaknesses are and how to use both of those to your advantage. It also exposes the people within each class to lots of different industry within the community. They often form lifelong friendships with these people and become important in their lives. One of the neat things is that the class comes together every year for a class project in the community. So, for us, we did a program with Resurrection House where we refurbished one of their apartments into a library/study area; we got computers for the students and also for adults that were there who were doing job hunting. We also redid one of their apartments that a family would live in.

ILTB: The mission of Leadership St. Pete is to “identify, recruit, and develop leaders who represent the diversity of our community.” Talk about the importance of developing leadership within our own community. For example instead of bringing someone in from outside the city, we are developing our local talent.

JS: By developing the local talent I think it allows us to grow and to develop more formally if we can keep talented people here. And not so much thinking about how they can grow their businesses but also how they can grow the community to help make the city a better place to live for all of us. That continues to feed itself and becomes more attractive for prospective students to come to a place like this and also for employment opportunities after graduation, or just for people looking across the country for places to live, it’s attractive because it is a community on the move. It’s really active, really progressive. And that’s why we need to develop our local leaders and keep them here.

ILTB: What are the “secrets of the city” that you would tell to a perspective student?

JS: Well I think one of the things, and I don’t think it’s really a secret more than a myth, is that St. Petersburg has really been trying to reshape for a number of years, whereas at one time it was referred to as just a community of old and retired people. While there still is that element, I think the average age in St. Pete has dropped by ten years in the past five or six years. It’s now 38 where it used to be 48, so continuing to spread that word is real important to help people understand that there is more to do here than just retire.

For more information about Leadership St. Pete just go to: The registration for the 2013 class is currently open and you can find the application form on that page.

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