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July 2013

Around Campus
Townsend’s legacy celebrated by UNF community

Townsend with a group of supporters after his graduation (Photo by Jennifer Grissom).The University of North Florida community was dealt a crushing blow in June with the loss of J.T. Townsend, a spring 2013 graduate and member of the UNF family since 2006.

 

Townsend, 26, died Tuesday, June 4 after suffering heart failure. A public memorial service was scheduled at the UNF Arena Saturday, June 8, and hundreds gathered to honor the life of a man who touched the hearts of so many. Dr. Kris Webb, director of UNF's Disability Resource Center, said her staff is exploring institutional opportunities to honor his legacy as a tireless advocate for  individuals with disabilities through a scholarship fund or some other type of lasting memorial that will benefit other students.

 

"A word I've used to describe him is grace, and he is truly one of the most graceful people I've met in my life, as shown by his relentlessly optimistic approach to life," Webb said. 

 

Townsend was a budding football star at Jacksonville's Episcopal High School in 2004 when he suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury during a game. The on-field incident might have claimed his mobility, but nothing could stop Townsend's drive.

 

He started his own non-profit organization, the J.T. Townsend Foundation, in 2011 to provide financial assistance and adaptive equipment to other people with disabilities living on the First Coast.

 

"For me and my family, giving back is a heartfelt and passionate endeavor," Townsend said in a statement on his Web site that was included on the program at his memorial. "It is our hope that we can help others in their various circumstances and with varying disabilities, the way that we have been helped, and continue to be, by others

 

 He also majored in sport management at UNF, where he became especially close to the staff of the Disability Resource Center. Webb said it was a joy watching Townsend develop as a student — maturing from a reserved freshman to a confident and self-assured graduate.

 

"Once he discovered his learning prowess, he also discovered the impact he could have on the regional community," Webb said. "He really began to come into his own once he formed his foundation and began to conclude his studies. We spent many years working together, but I never heard that young man utter a single word of complaint. He was an absolutely remarkable human being."

 

Townsend's organization released the following statement shortly after his death:

 

"It's with a heavy heart, the J.T. Townsend Foundation (JTTF) announces the passing of our Founder, Friend, and President - J.T. Townsend on Tuesday, June 4. As we cope with the news, let us offer support and comfort to each other and remember the unyielding spirit of J.T. Townsend and the Townsend family.

 

At 26 years old, J.T. embodied courage, service and love for all. Through adversity and against all odds, J.T. persevered through extraordinary obstacles graduating from the University of North Florida in [April] 2013, fostering new breakthroughs in research for spinal cord injuries and providing aid to countless families living with disabilities in our community. Under his leadership, our organization grew to what it is today. JTTF will strive each and every day to fulfill his vision and carry on his legacy. We love you, J.T."

 

The Disability Resource Center is still in the process of developing opportunities to celebrate Townsend's contributions to the campus community. Any institutional announcements will be announced in Osprey Update. In the interim, donations can be made in J.T.'s honor to his foundation.

 

 

Around Campus
Osprey Clubhouse meets students needs on campus

A rendering of the proposed Clubhouse.Student life at the University of North Florida just keeps getting better.

 

Construction has started on the University's new, $6 million, 15,000-square-foot, student-centered Osprey Clubhouse and pool facility.

 

Located on the southwest side of campus adjacent to Osprey Cove and Osprey Village just off UNF Drive, the complex will include a 3,000-square-foot, four-foot deep pool, a 6,000-square-foot pool deck, a fully operational grill restaurant, a game room and a laundry facility.

 

Bob Boyle, the director of Housing and Residence Life, said the new facility was designed with all UNF students in mind. The concept for the Clubhouse started to develop in the fall of 2011, a few years after the opening of the campus' newest residence hall, Osprey Fountains. He said the Fountains residential complex, which boasts a fitness area, a pool with a lazy river and interior food vendors, provided residents with a truly inclusive environment, and University leadership wanted to offer a comparable level of amenities to all UNF students.

 

"We were thinking of the Clubhouse as a 24-hour destination for the entire campus — a multipurpose space in the core of campus," Boyle said. "It's open to everyone - not just residential students - and it offers a variety of top-notch amenities that will add to UNF's vibrant campus life."

 

The project should be completed by the end of spring 2014, said Zak Ovadia, the director of Campus Planning, Design and Construction. Ajax Building Corp. is the construction manager. Ovadia said the site plan consists of interconnected one-story buildings, as well as a modular classroom. Sloping metal roofs and a brick façade will contribute to an overall residential feel and help the new Clubhouse architecturally blend with other buildings in the core of campus, he said.

 

july rendering 1The new facility will also update a few key amenities for Village residents. A lighted mail center will replace the older residential postal area, and a new, top-of-the line laundry facility will take the place of the older laundry building. The grill restaurant built into the space will be run by Chartwells and serve a variety of made-to-order salads and burgers.

 

Boyle said the design of this all-in-one complex follows a shift in higher education construction toward communal, multi-purpose spaces aimed at a variety of student groups.

 

"It's all about offering as many experiences and amenities to as many members of the campus community as we can," he said.

 

Phase one of the project, which includes the construction of underground utilities, is currently underway. The construction process will impact on-campus parking, with just over 30 spots being lost between Lots 11 and 12.

Anyone with questions can contact Housing and Residence Life.

Around Campus
Students create app for musical history tour

The student team members nearby one of the locations from their app, the Ritz Theater in downtown Jacksonville (Photos by Jennifer Grissom).A group project by three University of North Florida history students started as a way for the trio of graduate school transplants to learn more about the First Coast.

 

But after delving into Jacksonville's rich musical history and presenting their work at the nation's first crowd funding festival in April, they're taking their project out of the classroom and into the community.

 

The goal is to create a functional smartphone application that provides an in-depth tour of Jacksonville's diverse musical history.

 

"This was a learning experience for us - getting to know the city better by looking at what makes it unique," said Josh Salestrom, one of the group members. "We initially thought we'd put together a podcast about downtown Jacksonville's musical history. Once we did more digging, we realized we had a ton of material - enough to do something even better."

 

Salestrom and his two classmates, Bryan Higham and Anthony Rossodivito, prepared the project for Dr. James Broomall's graduate seminar class. The initial idea came from Salestrom, a guitarist who gigs around town. He figured he could meld his hobbies with his coursework while getting a better feel for his new home. As their research materials grew, so to did the scope of the assignment.

 

Rossodivito said the months of preliminary work and project research for the podcast, which then morphed into a smartphone app proposal, was comparable to the pre-production phase of filmmaking. The app will include pictures, timelines, venue histories and artist bios for folk, soul, jazz and rock musicians.

 

"We wanted to make sure we weren't making a mountain out of an anthill," he said. "If anything, there's a lot more potential than we even realize."

 

The team said Jacksonville's musical history runs deep. Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong made the First Coast their stomping ground during the city's jazz heyday in the early 20th century. Woody Guthrie wrote scads of songs during his many visits to Stetson Kennedy's peaceful Lake Beluthahatchee homestead near Fruit Cove. And many music historians consider Jacksonville the cradle of southern rock thanks to the city's native sons in Lynyrd Skynyrd. The smartphone app would stretch from the early 20th century to about 1980.

 

With a rich vein of musical history to mine, the team went about gaining some momentum - and maybe some startup capital ­- for the project by presenting their research at One Spark, a five-day event in downtown Jacksonville. The festival attracted hundreds of artists, inventors and innovators who vied for $250,000 in crowdfunding dollars. One Spark spokesman Abel Harding said nearly 130,000 visitors passed through Jacksonville for the event. The UNF team placed in the top 30 percent for project votes and came away with more than $800 in capital to put toward designing an app.

 

The team members show off their One Spark presentation materials.The team members admit they aren't particularly tech savvy, so Higham said they plan to hire one of the driven, young tech professionals and app creators they met at One Spark to help put the finishing touches on their project. Between choosing a designer and fine-tuning the look of their app, the trio will spend the next few months wrapping up their UNF coursework while juggling their now-extracurricular project. The team said the framework for the app can encompass multiple genres and could potentially expand to other cities. The only limits they've encountered are self-imposed, Salestrom said.

 

"We're not trying to make any money off this - it's a free application," Salestrom said. "Since this isn't a profit-driven motive for us, it's something that we could ideally hand off to the city, Chamber of Commerce or historical society. We're just setting up the framework for others to build on. We learned a lot working on this in class, and we want others to experience the same kind of learning journey we had while putting together the materials for the app. Jacksonville's a great city with a unique music history, and we're lucky to have been able to document that for others."

 

 

Around Campus
Students dive into documentary filmmaking with ‘River Lives’

july river lives 1A University of North Florida film class spent the past spring semester documenting the St. Johns River's integral role in the Northeast Florida environmental and cultural ecosystem.

 

The class of about 20 students produced "River Lives," a series of documentary films that celebrate the cultural life of the St. Johns River, with the help of English faculty member Dr. Jillian Smith. Their work culminated in a live screening of their films May 4 at the Museum of Contemporary Arts Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida. The student-produced short films cast the spotlight on swimmers, activists, permaculture farms, disabled adaptive rowers, shrimpers and artists - anyone and everyone who has had their lives touched by the waters of the St. Johns.

 

Smith said the idea for the project stemmed from an oral history series produced by Duke University anthropologist Mary Anne McDonald in the '80s. McDonald interviewed more than 70 people who based their livelihood on the St. Johns River and helped illustrate the strong culture of those living along the water. Years later, representatives from the St. Johns Riverkeeper reached out to Dr. Charles Clossman, a UNF history professor, in the hopes of reviving the project. Clossman created a history class that tasked his students with creating a cultural history of the river, and he approached Smith to help integrate the research materials produced by the history students into cohesive documentary films.         

 

This collaboration became "River Lives," one part of the larger multimedia project, "Voices from the River: The People of the St. Johns." Smith said the documentary project came naturally to her students. The stories flowed freely, aided by the river's status as a natural highway uniting many of Northeast Florida's unique communities and people.

 

"The environmental aspects of the project meshed with the cultural history of the people involved in the river, and it really hooked them [the students]," Smith said. "They were drawn in by the sense that this was a larger project involving all kinds of people from different fields. They were all so excited to learn more about the river that I was kind of sad to see it end."

 

Many of the students used their own interests and hobbies as the lens through which they could focus their documentary work. Jesse Hanson, a sports fan and fitness advocate, chose to interview Jim Alabiso, a long-distance swimmer who uses the St. Johns as his training facility. Hanson said he quickly bonded with Alabiso, spending many early mornings with the swimmer as he trained with laps in the pool or miles in the river.

 

Hanson said he shot as much footage as possible and hoped for the best. The response he received during the MOCA showing of his film blew him away.

 

"Watching the showing on the big screen was phenomenal," he said. "The audience was extremely supportive. I received good feedback from every direction, and that helped relieve my nerves. The whole experience was unforgettably good."

 

The failures and successes he encountered while working on the project gave Hanson some insight into the day-to-day life of a professional filmmaker. He said his hands-on learning experience has given him the creative fire and the practical experience to pursue his dream of a career in the film industry.

 

"The 'River Lives' project not only allowed me to gain technical skill, but it helped me grow tremendously as a person working with others and taking on a leadership role," Hanson said. "If my personal growth wasn't enough, I have tons of footage waiting to be used in future projects that are already being developed."

 

Smith said she plans to continue the documentary film class in the coming fall and spring semesters. The new documentary topic will focus on military veterans reentering society and the programs and people who assist in their transitions. For now, Smith said she considers the "River Lives" project a great success. Each of the student films is available online, and many have been used by the St. Johns Riverkeeper during community presentations.

 

"I believe strongly in getting the students out into the community, interacting with the people and places that make Jacksonville unique," Smith said. "This film project is just that, a way for students to learn more about what's around them and ultimately return that knowledge to the greater community. I plan to keep this class going as long as I can."

Around Campus
UNF continues to meet health industry needs

july HITJacksonville's health care industry is one of the region's major economic drivers, and the University of North Florida is uniquely positioned to fill a growing demand for skilled job candidates through its new Health Information Technology (HIT) Certificate Program.

 

A joint venture by the Brooks College of Health and the Division of Continuing Education, classes begin in August, and a series of information sessions have been scheduled to give interested parties more insight into the two-year program.

 

Lori Frederick, a program director with Continuing Education, said industry trends point to the HIT program being an extremely useful resume booster for job candidates in the health care field. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Education indicate there will be an estimated shortfall of 51,000 qualified health care IT workers in the next five years. This increased demand springs from provisions written into the Affordable Care Act requiring hospitals and physicians to meet certain IT standards as the country moves toward a national adoption of electronic health care systems. Frederick said this certificate program is a way for UNF to get out ahead of this hiring trend and train Northeast Florida students for a dynamic career in a burgeoning sector of the health care field.

 

"Jacksonville's market is built around health care to a large extent, and UNF is focused on providing quality education in areas that correspond with the employment needs of the region," Frederick said. "We've heard from outside companies and agencies that they were looking for job candidates with the skills taught in these classes. It's a wonderfully symbiotic partnership that will teach students some very marketable skills that will help them well into the future."

 

The timing is also right, Frederick said. After all, Forbes Magazine recently named Jacksonville the third best city in the country for finding employment, citing the First Coast's bustling bioscience corridor as a dynamic job creator.

 

Aaron Spaulding, an assistant professor of public health in the Brooks College of Health with an expertise in health services research, volunteered to spearhead the program from an academic perspective. A recent addition to UNF's faculty, Spaulding said he got involved with the program because of the need for health care professionals to learn about how health information technology can help streamline the managerial and clinical aspects of health care. He said health information technology, when implemented effectively, can help prevent medical errors, reduce health care costs, decrease paperwork and ultimately expand access to affordable care for patients.

 

Spaulding said the course curriculum was designed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), and a number of experienced Brooks College of Health faculty, as well as multiple skilled adjuncts currently working in the field, will teach the courses. The general applicability of the certificate program is wide-ranging, he said. Program graduates would be qualified for positions in general IT, database management or other health care jobs.

 

"Our students will be well-positioned to put their skills to use in a number of different job sectors," Spaulding said. "As the Affordable Care Act continues to gain traction across the country, the implementation of HIT is only going to become more important. This program ensures our students will be at the forefront of those changes."


More information about the program is available online.

 

To be admitted to the program, candidates should have the following educational and work experiences:

 

For individuals who currently work in health care:

·                Associate degree's or higher in a health care-related field

·                At least one year of health care-related work experience (internships and clinicals do not qualify)

·                Or experience only with no degree, but at least five years health care-related work experience.

 

For individuals who currently work in information technology: 

·                Associate's degree or higher in computer science or another information technology field

·                At least one year of IT-related work experience (internships do not qualify as work experience)

·                Or experience only with no degree, but at least five years IT-related work experience.

 

For individuals who have no health care or IT experience (e.g. seeking career development skills):

·                Associate's degree or higher

 

Cost:

·                There is a one-time application fee of $50.

·                The Health Information Certificate program is $8,995.

·                Each individual course is $895. A $50 early registration discount is available up to 30 days prior to the start.

·                Textbooks and materials are all included in the cost.

 

Faculty & Staff

august faculty staff Brooks College of Health

 

Nursing:   Dr. Cynthia Cummings presented "Infection Control in Sheltering" to the American Red Cross Nurses Forum in June.

 

Nutrition and Dietetics: Jackie Shank, nutrition instructor and program director, presented "Unlicensed Activity in Dietetics and Nutrition" at the Florida Department of Health Medical Quality Assurance Annual Investigator Training in Altamonte Springs in May.

 

Public Health: Dr. Elissa Barr presented with co-authors Drs. Tammie Johnson, Michele Moore and Erin Largo-Wight "The Relationship between Suicide and Sexual Behaviors among Middle School Students" at the Society For Prevention Research's 21st Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. 

 

Barr also presented a two-day training session to 75 Duval County teachers titled "Sexuality Education - Effective Tools for Middle School and High School Teachers."   

 

Dr. Kerry L. Clark published a research paper titled "Lyme Borreliosis in Human Patients in Florida and Georgia, USA" in the International Journal of Medical Sciences.

 

Clinical and Applied Movement Sciences: Dr. James Churilla and two of his graduate students, Michael Richardson and William Boyer, along with one of his undergraduate students, Monica Lim, presented three papers at the 60th Annual American College of Sports Medicine meeting in Indianapolis, Ind. Churilla and Monica Lim presented on "Body Mass Index and Physical Inactivity" and "Body Mass Index and Vigorous Physical Activity" respectively. Michael Richardson and William Boyer presented on "Gender Differences in High Sensitivity C-reactive Protein and Muscular Strengthening Activity in U.S. Adults." Churilla was also part of a consortium paper presented on "Total Activity Counts and MVPA: Relationships with Biomarkers Using 2003-2006 NHANES."

 

Coggin College of Business

 

Accounting and Finance: Dr. Oliver Schnusenberg received an FMA Superior Faculty Adviser award from the Financial Management Association International (FMA). This award is given to faculty advisers who have made meaningful contributions to their FMA chapter through their involvement and who have gone above and beyond the standard role of a faculty adviser.

 

Management: Dr. Dag Naslund's articler titled, "Logistics case study based research: towards higher quality," was published in the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management as one of Emerald Literati Network's 2013 Awards for Excellence.

 

Drs. Paul Fadil and Bruce Fortado's article titled, "The four faces of organizational culture," was published in Competitiveness Review: An International Business Journal, as a Highly Commended Award Winner at the Lierati Network Awards for Excellence 2013.

 

 

Small Business Development Center: The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UNF  was named by the Jacksonville Business Journal as one of the "Best Places to Work" in its May 31 edition. The SBDC at UNF ranked No. 9 on the list of Small Companies with a 96.1 survey score. The College of Business at UNF has hosted the Florida SBDC Network program since 1976.

 

College of Arts and Sciences

 

Languages, Literatures and Cultures: Dr. Constanza López presented her paper, "Construyendo memorias y puentes: La música errante del desplazamiento y los campamentos de paz en Colombia," at the Latin American Studies Association Conference in June.

 

College of Computing, Engineering & Construction

 

Computing:   Drs. Roger Eggen, Sanjay Ahuja, and Behrooz Seyed-Abbassi had their paper "Performance Measures of an Implementation of a Parallel Compiler" accepted for publication in the proceedings of The 13th International Conference on Computer Design, which is schedule for July in Las Vegas.

 

Dr. Charles Winton will attend the Global Conference on Educational Robotics (GCER) in Norman, Okla. from in July as president of the Kiss Institute for Professional Robotics Board of Directors. GCER is organized each year by KIPR and features the International Botball Tournament, the KIPR Open Tournament and the KIPR Autonomous Aerial Robot Competition. More info is available online.

 

Dr. Ching-Hua Chuan served as a review panelist for National Science Foundation. Chuan also gave an invited talk on "Music Computation and Cognition: Human-centered approaches towards music analysis and synthesis" at Academia Sinica in June in Taipei, Taiwan.

 

Engineering: Dr. Juan Aceros's proposal titled "A Respiratory Air System for Biomedical Gas Monitoring Applications and Disease Diagnosis" was awarded the Auld & White Economic Venture Fund Grant.

 

Dr. Adel El Safty was awarded UNF's Outstanding International Leadership Award for 2012-2013.

 

Dr.Ujjal K. Bhowmik and R.R. Adhami had their paper "A Novel Technique for Mitigating Motion Artifacts in 3D Brain Imaging System," published in the Journal of Scientia Iranica in May.

 

College of Education and Human Services

  

Leadership, School Counseling and Sport Management: Dr. Terry Cavanaugh was the keynote speaker for the closing session of the Duval Elementary Reading Academy. He spoke on the topic that teachers should consider e-books. In addition to the local work, Cavanaugh made a presentation at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in San Francisco on improving student timeliness in online classes titled "Using a Generalized Checklist to Improve Student Assignment Submission Times in an Online Course." 

 

 

Exceptional, Deaf and Interpreter Education: Dr. Kristine Webb was the keynote speaker at the Florida Division on Career Development and Transition conference in Tampa May 16. Along with UNF graduates, Michelle Castanos and Tara Rowe and current doctoral student Joanna Ale, Webb presented a session about THRIVE, the program for college students with Autism Spectrum Disorders at UNF.

 

Childhood Education, Literacy and TESOL: Dr. Katie Monnin's fifth book, "Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts: An Illustrated Adventure," is now available online.

 

Dr. Gigi Morales David made an author visit to Lonestar Elementary May 15. She enjoyed sharing her poetry, stories and tips for being a better writer.  David also recently led a professional book club for the faculty at Ortega Elementary focused on visual literacy. The name of the text is "I See What You Mean" by Steve Moline.

Dateline

august dateline Dateline

Milestone anniversaries

Congratulations to the following employees who will celebrate a milestone anniversary at UNF in July:

 

30 years

Tammy Oliver, Law Enforcement Lieutenant, University Police Department

 

25 years

Katherine Kasten, Professor, Leadership, School Counseling and Sport Management

 

20 years

Ralph Glover, Assistant Maintenance Support, Physical Facilities

 

15 years

James Edwards, Telecommunications Manager, Telephone Services 

Marc Anderson, Program Assistant, Parking Services

10 years

John Delaney, President

Shane Borden, Administrative Coordinator, Auxiliary Services

Barbara Soliah, Enrollment Services Director, Enrollment Services Processing Office

James Greer, Maintenance Mechanic, Maintenance and Energy Management

Stephen Lyon, Assistant Director of Network Engineering, Networking Services

Elizabeth Noriega, Office Manager, Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Vincent Smyth, Director of Auxiliary Services, Auxiliary Services

 

Five years

Jeffrey Cornett, Chair/Professor, Foundations and Secondary Education

Ronghua Ouyang, Chair/Professor, Childhood Education, Literacy and TESOL

Nancy Purvis, Administrative Secretary, Student Affairs

Belinda Rudolph, Assistant Child Development Teacher, Child Development Research Center

Marian Watters, Applications Systems Analyst, Enterprise Systems

Sheryl Elias, Program Assistant, Student Health Services

Byron Wynn, Custodial Worker, Physical Facilities

Marcie Hickey, Head Coach, Softball

Gaea Holt, Senior Buyer, Purchasing

 

Welcome

The following employees were either hired by UNF or were promoted from OPS positions in late May:

 

Aaron Leedy, Academic Adviser, Arts and Sciences

Kate Onstead, Academic Adviser, One Stop Services

Lisandra Carmichael, Director of Public Service, Library

 

Great job

The following employees were promoted in May:

 

Laura Colomb, Academic Support Coordinator, Undergraduate Studies

Leigh Palmer, Director of Development, Arts and Sciences

Paul Schreier, Senior Academic Adviser, Coggin College of Business

 

Goodbye

 

Heartfelt well wishes in their new endeavors for the following employees, who left UNF from late-April to early-June:

 

Rose Marie Turner, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Counseling Center

Dominic McKnight, Groundskeeper, Grounds

Rachel Barlow, Admissions Evaluator, Enrollment Services

Melissa Baxendine, Director of Compliance, University Compliance

Lauren Church, Assistant Athletic Coach, Strength and Conditioning

Carrianne Kinney, Executive Secretary, Student Affairs

Trey Gowdy, Events Planning Coordinator, Enrollment Services

Rhonda Ware, Senior Internal Auditor, Internal Auditing

The Goods
Sweet Potato

july spThe sweet potato is a root vegetable known by many different names throughout the world. Its smooth skin comes in an assortment of colors, including light tan, orange and purple, and its flesh ranges from pale yellowish-brown to dark, rich orange, depending on the variety and region where it's grown. The darker flesh is usually sweeter and moister once it's cooked.

 

The varieties with dark orange flesh are considered to have a higher content of beta carotene (a pro-vitamin A carotenoid) than those with light-colored flesh. Carlie Abersold, a registered dietitian and instructor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics Flagship Program, discusses this nutritious vegetable. A recipe has been provided to help you add sweet potatoes to your diet.

 

Myth: Sweet potatoes are high in calories.

Fact: Published nutritive values indicate that one small sweet potato baked in its skin contains 115 calories with only a trace amount of fat and no cholesterol.

 

Myth: Sweet potatoes have little nutritional value.

Fact: The Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutrient content of sweet potatoes to other vegetables and ranked the sweet potato highest in nutritional value in 1992. Using a point system for nutrients, the sweet potato earned 184 points. This was 100 points above the white potato, which was next on the list. Nutrients in a sweet potato include complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, C and B2 (riboflavin), manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, lutein and zeazanthin. In Africa, where vitamin-A deficiency is prevalent and is considered a serious health problem, the varieties of sweet potatoes with dark orange flesh containing high amounts of beta carotene are being cultivated to help address the vitamin A deficiency.

 

Myth: A sweet potato and a yam are the same.

Fact: Often mislabeled a yam,  the sweet potato isn't in the same botanical family as a yam. What we often call yams are in fact the paler, drier-fleshed sweet potatoes. The true yam is a tropical vegetable native to Africa and Asia. The sweet potato is also distantly related to the potato.

 

Myth: Sweet potatoes need no specific storing to stay fresh.

Fact: A sweet potato will spoil quickly if not stored properly. A sweet potato can keep up to a month, if stored in a dry, cool cupboard or on the counter to keep it fresh. Storing in a refrigerator can cause the development of a hard core and affect the taste. Scrub the sweet potato well just before cooking, but don't wash the sweet potato until you are ready to cook it because the moisture left from washing will accelerate the rate of spoilage.  

 

Myth: The only way to serve a sweet potato is as a side dish baked in the skin or baked in a casserole.

Fact: A popular way to serve a  sweet potato is to cut it in strips, brush it with olive oil and bake it in the oven as a healthier version of French fries. A sweet potato can also be roasted, grilled, boiled, mashed, added to a cobbler, pie or salad, pureed to make a soup or added to baked goods. To benefit from the nutrients contained in the skin, the skin can remain on the sweet potato when cooking. The Internet has a wide variety of sweet potato recipes.

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Raisins and Pecans

4 sweet potatoes, washed in skins and cubed

4 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper, dash of each

1/2 cup raisins

1 tbsp. natural buttery spread

1/2 cup pecan pieces

1/2 cup maple syrup

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and raisins. Add cubed sweet potatoes and toss until coated. Spread sweet potatoes in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Melt buttery spread in a skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and stir until fragrant, about three minutes. Add maple syrup and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed, approximately three minutes. Pour pecan mixture on top of sweet potatoes, cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until potatoes are tender. This recipe makes approximately eight one-half cup servings.

 

The Goods is a monthly column about food myths and facts by faculty members in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics Flagship Program and runs in The Florida Times-Union's "Taste"

 section. Have a question about sweet potatoes? Contact Carlie Abersold at cabersold@unf.edu.