Dr. J. Michael Francis received his PhD in History in 1998 from the University of Cambridge. Between 1997 and 2012, he taught at the University of North Florida. In 2012, Dr. Francis was named the Hough Family Chair of Florida Studies at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, and in 2016 he was appointed Chair of the Department of History and Politics at USFSP.
Dr. Francis has received more than two dozen national and international awards, including a four-year appointment as Research Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Jay I. Kislak Fellowship at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. He has written and edited five books, and he has published numerous book chapters and articles. His most recent book is entitled St. Augustine: America's First City. Dr. Francis serves as the Executive Director of an ambitious new project called La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas, and in 2018 Governor Rick Scott appointed Dr. Francis to serve on the Florida Historical Commission.
Gary Mormino, is prolific writer, author of a wide range of academic and popular books. Immigrants on the Hill (University of Illinois press, 1986) won the Howard Marraro Prize as the outstanding book in Italian history. The Immigrant World of Ybor City (University of Illinois Press, 1987) received the Theodore Saloutos Prize for the outstanding book in ethnic-immigration history. In addition, two of his articles have received prizes for the best writing in Florida history. He has written for the St. Petersburg Times, Orlando Sentinel, and Miami Herald. He currently writes a bi-weekly column on state and local history for the Tampa Tribune.
Almost two decades ago, Mormino began to research a social history of modern Florida. Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida was published in the spring of 2005 by the University Press of Florida. Readers have called it a seminal study in state history. Michael Gannon, Distinguished History Professor at the University of Florida, writes that Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams will be the book by which all future studies of modern Florida will be measured. In 2006, the Florida Historical Society awarded the book the Charlton Tebeau Prize.
Dr. Mormino received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and has taught at USF since 1977.In 2003 the Florida Humanities Council named him its first Humanist of the Year.
Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. In 2017 she was a Pulitzer and James Beard finalist and won the Paul Hansell Award for Distinguished Achievement in Florida Journalism.
Jim Verhulst edits the op-ed page at the Tampa Bay Times and writes editorials as a member of the editorial board, mostly about science, education, environment and civil rights. He was a 2016 Pulitzer finalist in public service for editorials based on Failure Factories, a series about St. Petersburg schools that were allowed to resegregate, become almost exclusively poor, and then were denied the resources to serve their challenged students. The series went on to win the local reporting Pulitzer for three of the Times' metro reporters. He has contributed on occasion to PolitiFact, the fact-checking website owned by the Poynter Institute, which, in turn, owns the Times.
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