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About us


The Eckerd College St. Pete Center for Civic Engagement and Social Impact enriches student learning by bridging campus and community to address real-time problems facing the greater Tampa Bay area. Through community-based research, teaching and service, the Center prepares students to be action-oriented change agents in an evolving world.

Opportunities for engagement

Here are several ways individuals and organizations contribute to the ECSPC mission:

  • Faculty Fellows—Eckerd College Faculty Fellows have been identified for their vision toward solving a problem in the community. These Faculty Fellows will collaborate with Eckerd students and the St. Petersburg community to create a course, research project or service initiative that addresses one of the Center’s areas of community impact.
  • Community Affiliate Program—Local organizations may propose a social problem, create engagement goals, host Eckerd student volunteers or interns and gain access to Eckerd’s campus space for project-related events and gatherings.
  • Service-Based Outreach—Targeted service opportunities catered to generating change in the Tampa Bay area in our four key categories are created, curated and completed by the Eckerd community in a partnership that supports multigenerational learning.
Eckerd College St. Pete Center for Civic Engagement and Social Impact

Quick contact

Jenny Fessler, Program Coordinator


Kanika Tomalin, MBA, LP.D.

Eckerd College Vice President for Strategy and Chief Operating Officer

Kanika Tomalin guides a team of expert leaders to strategically advance Eckerd College toward its goals. Prior to her time at Eckerd College she served two terms as Deputy Mayor of the City of St. Petersburg, four of those eight years in the dual capacity of City Administrator. Under her leadership the city saw poverty among its residents eradicated to historic lows, city development reach historic highs and generational projects such as the St. Pete Pier, a new public safety complex and implementation of a $300 million transformational wastewater management plan come to pass. Dr. Tomalin is the fifth generation of her family to call St. Pete home. She serves on many not-for-profit boards and is an advocate and champion for increased access to higher education and healthcare.

Jennifer Knippen, MBA, Ph.D.

ECSPC Co-Director and Associate Professor of Management

St. Petersburg native Jennifer Knippen was excited to return to the vibrant community she calls home as a professor at Eckerd College. Specializing in strategic management, she teaches courses on strategy, entrepreneurship and leadership while also exploring global perspectives in these areas. She is passionate about fostering an inclusive economy and encourages her students to engage their entrepreneurial mindset to solve contemporary problems. Knippen is active in the community and has taught entrepreneurship courses to empower local refugee women in the Tampa Bay area. She serves on the board of the Refugee and Migrant Women’s Initiative (RAMWI). Her research investigates the social and institutional influences that affect corporate governance decisions, with significant attention to women’s progress in the upper echelons of management.

Jessica Thonen, MFA

ECSPC Co-Director and Associate Dean of Faculty

Born and raised in a boisterous, musical and magical place in New Orleans, it is no surprise that Jessica Thonen has committed her life to coloring the world with stories onstage and in classrooms across the country. As a professor of theatre at Eckerd College, she developed a passion for creating space for everyone in discussions and narratives while she celebrated an inclusive approach within her work ethic. Her great passion in life is creating supportive, collaborative communities no matter the environment, and she is grateful to have carried that passion into all areas of her work.