Fourth Annual Future of Florida Summit

Hosted by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida

Friday, February 10, to Sunday, February 12, 2017

The fourth annual Future of Florida Summit will be held from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12 at the University of Florida's Bob Graham Center for Public Service. The conference is open to all college students in the state of Florida. 

A group of undergraduates from public and private colleges and universities around the state comprise the Future of Florida Summit's student organizing committee: 

  • Caroline Nickerson (University of Florida) 
  • Dalia Figueredo (University of Florida) 
  • Danisha Olcima (University of Central Florida) 
  • Erin McCord (Florida State University)
  • Jade Reindl (Florida State University) 
  • Jean Alonso (University of South Florida) 
  • Kevin O'Hare (University of Tampa) 
  • Lindsay Abbott (University of Florida) 
  • Meghan Piotrowski (University of South Florida) 
  • Rachel Muller (University of Florida) 
  • TJ Pyche (University of Florida) 
  • Wendy Serra (University of Florida) 
  • Whit Chisholm (University of Central Florida)

This year’s topic is the 2017-2018 Constitutional Revision Commission. Students will hear from former government officials, professors and other distinguished speakers. To learn more about the upcoming Constitutional Revision Commission, visit the Partnership for Revising Florida's Constitution's website

If you have any questions, please email


In Good Hands
Student summit offers promise for a bright future

Political pundits and scholars have long bemoaned the apathetic and unengaged millennial.  This is particularly true in Florida, where data continues to suggest that those ages 18 to 29 are far less engaged than their counterparts around the nation.

However, talk to any of the 100-plus participants from the Third Annual Future of Florida Policy Summit and one comes away confident that the future of Florida is in good hands.

Held in Pugh Hall at the University of Florida and hosted by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and its student organizing committee, students from around the state came together for a weekend of deliberation with the aim of better understanding the political process and political advocacy. Participants hailed from Florida State University, the University of Miami, the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida and a number of other public and private Florida colleges and universities. 

The three-day event kicked off with an opening dinner on Friday evening at which former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham greeted participants, applauded their leadership and discussed the importance of remaining civically involved. Graham welcomed students back to Pugh Hall on Saturday morning, sharing lessons on how to effectively participate in the political process.

Through personal stories and anecdotes, students were left with several tidbits of Graham-wisdom gained over decades of public service. He recalled a stop in Jacksonville as a member of the Florida Senate Education Committee.

Students complained mightily about the quality of the food found in their cafeteria. The committee, Graham noted, was the wrong audience for such an issue. The state senate’s education committee was relatively powerless in solving the issue of poor cafeteria food – a job more fit for the cafeteria manager, school principal or the district school board. Recounting that story and others, Graham showcased how identifying the appropriate channels for advocacy efforts is key to ensuring productive results.

“I am so grateful Gov. Graham was able to spend the weekend with us,” said student organizing committee member Ariella Phillips, a fourth-year University of Florida journalism student and Jacksonville native. “His passion for public service is infectious and his enthusiasm for students is truly remarkable.”

Other featured speakers included Joseph Glover, Ph.D., the current provost of the University of Florida; David Colburn, Ph.D., the former provost of the University of Florida and the current director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service; and Sean Shaw, a former Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate and son of the late former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Leander Shaw.

In addition to hearing from a number of speakers, students were also divided into groups to take part in a case competition. Assigned one of five topics – term limits for Florida legislators, redistricting, felons’ rights restoration, professionalization of the Florida legislature and closed/open primaries – groups presented their position and were evaluated by a panel of judges on the overall strength of their argument.

The panel included Susan MacManus, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the University of South Florida’s Department of Government and International Affairs; Jeff Schweers, a capitol bureau reporter for the Tampa Tribune; and Mario Piscatella, the political director of Rep. Alan Grayson’s 2016 U.S. Senate campaign.

“I was able to explore and further develop my own political views by working with and learning from students who had different perspectives and ideas I hadn't considered before,” said Erin McCord, a first-year economics and political science student at Florida State University.

Students left with new skills and knowledge of how – and where – to advocate for change. One group of students was particularly excited by the prospect of working on early voting polling locations on college campuses in order to increase civic participation among college aged students.

Planning for next year’s summit is underway, the students are focusing on the 2017-2018 Constitutional Revision Commission. The Commission, which meets every 20 years, reviews the Florida Constitution proposes amendments for voters to consider. The Fourth Annual Future of Florida summit is set to take place Feb. 10 to 12, 2017.