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Published on September 18th, 2020 | by University Communications

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Faculty member named to cultural post with city of Tampa

Gianna Russo, assistant professor of English and creative writing at University Campus, has been named the city of Tampa’s first Wordsmith, an appointment that springs from Mayor Jane Castor’s plan to bring more arts programs, workshops, and artists into city neighborhoods. Russo also will be asked to work on some citywide projects during her two-year term.

This work is familiar terrain for Russo, both geographically and creatively.

She is a Tampa native who joined the faculty at Saint Leo in 2011. In addition to her classroom duties, she edits the university’s literary and arts review magazine, Sandhill Review, and directs the Sandhill Writers Retreat, an early summer event that offers classes and workshops to the general public and university community, featuring accomplished writers from many difference genres.

Russo is also the poet-in-residence for another Saint Leo publication, REBUS magazine, published annually by the College of Arts and Sciences to showcase creative and scholarly contributions that explore one specific theme each year.

Her own most recent collection, One House Down, was published in 2019 and captures elements of day-to-day life in Tampa during earlier and recent decades.

Russo has also edited a more recent work of Florida interest called Chasing Light. It is a volume of poems from a wide variety of authors who worked from the inspiration provided by black-and-white photographs from Tampa’s leading commercial photographic firm from 1917 to the early 1960, the Burgert Brothers Inc. A number of other Saint Leo poets have work in the volume, including faculty members Carol Ann Moon; Marissa McLargin, published as Marissa Glover; and Amanda Forrester. Russo collaborated on the project with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, which now owns the images, and supporters of the library system.

Dr. Mary Spoto, vice president of academic affairs, said she is very happy to learn that Russo has been recognized by the city of Tampa as an advocate for literary arts. “Gianna has long played a central role at the university and beyond in bringing a love and appreciation of language and literature to our community, to Tampa, and to the region. Her contributions to the university have been invaluable, and we are thrilled to see these talents applied to her new role as Tampa’s Wordsmith.”

Although she is on sabbatical during the current semester, the assistant professor is still carrying on her duties for Sandhill Review, which is currently accepting submissions.  

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