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College of Arts & Sciences

CAS Chronicles

Collage of 6 CAS graduates

From campus to careers: CAS graduates reflect on their time at USF

The University of South Florida (USF) awarded more than 7,000 degrees during spring commencement held May 3-5. The College of Arts and Sciences accounted for more than 2,500 of the total degrees awarded.

Now, after walking the stage and turning their tassels, many students are reflecting on their different experiences at USF and looking ahead to what the future holds.

Learn more about some of the incredible spring graduates of 2024 and hear their advice for the students following in their footsteps:


Mridula Singh initially chose USF because of Tampa’s network of hospitals in the area; and once she had the opportunity to conduct research at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute and discovered the crossover between biomedical sciences and psychology, her path became clear to her.

“Among all of the great things USF has given me, it has given me the opportunity to be an interdisciplinary student and to tie together all of my interests,” Singh said.

“And I feel like that’s something that not every college has offered –gaining that exposure so early has taught me that there’s no right decision and there’s no right path. There’s lots of things that you can learn from going down different areas and getting to the same goal that others might be achieving.”

Mridula graduated with a BS in biomedical sciences, a BA in psychology, and a goal in mind to continue her studies to receive a PhD in cognitive neurosciences.


Fabiola Morales Gonzalez (Photo by Azael del Rosario)

Fabiola Morales Gonzalez (Photo by Azael del Rosario)

Fabiola Morales Gonzalez’s journey in STEM started in high school where it was a primary focus in the curriculum – giving her early exposure to different career paths. After choosing the biomedical science pathway in high school, she decided to continue pursuing her interests in biomedical sciences at USF.

Morales faced several challenges while at USF that tested her resolve to complete her degree. She endured the sudden loss of her father to gastroesophageal cancer towards the end of her freshman year. This moment made her rethink her professional and personal goals. With the promise to her father to finish her degree, she followed his advice to “find what’s truly your passion, not what others think you should pursue.” With this, she set a new goal to graduate and pursue her true passion for public health, which she discovered through her minor at USF.

With that, USF became a second home for Moraels. She became a member and the Vice President of Events of the Dean’s Student Leadership Society (DSLS) and was elected Vice President of Communications and Events a semester later, She also participated in pediatric oncology research at the College of Community and Behavioral Sciences (HOPE) as a research assistant, working with underrepresented communities, specifically Hispanic populations, on wellness interventions post-cancer recovery.

Her advice for incoming students is something she wishes someone told her when she started college: it’s okay to not have a clear career path right away.

“The point of undergrad is to discover your interests through electives, core classes, minors, and more. If you think you like something but haven’t explored it, don’t be afraid to dive in! Take everyone’s path with a grain of salt. Every experience is different. Life and its roadblocks are set perfectly to guide you to your goals, however big or small they are,” she said.  

“Be proud that you’ve come this far; it’s an achievement in itself to set yourself up for a new journey,” she added.

Moraels graduated with a BS in biomedical sciences and public health and will continue her studies at the University of Pittsburgh where she plans to earn her master’s degree in epidemiology. Her ultimate goal is to aid in the prevention of the spread of disease to one day prevent pandemics and epidemics to keep optimum public health. She also wants to earn a doctorate degree in epidemiology and public health leadership to immerse herself in health policy reform for the federal government.


Kobe Phillips (Photo courtesy of Kobe Phillips)

Kobe Phillips (Photo courtesy of Kobe Phillips)

Kobe Phillips’ passion for pollinators has been at the forefront of his education since his first day at USF, earning him the title “Campus Bee Guy” among his Judy Genshaft Honors College (JGHC) colleagues and forging a career path unique to his passions. From founding the JGHC Community Garden and the USF 3D-Hab Lab, to being the first undergraduate to create and teach their own course at USF, Phillips took great strides in leaving his mark on USF as a whole – and he credits the university for allowing him to grow personally and professionally.

“USF gave me the room to experiment and grow,” Phillips said. “I met so many friends through sports clubs, campus activities, and outdoor recreation that allowed me to build a community even while pursuing a challenging degree.”

His advice to incoming students is to have the confidence to reach their goals.

“If you have an idea, just go for it! Tell a friend and work on it together. A lot of successful adventures just need you to take the first step,” he said. “Not everything is going to work out, and that’s the best part – because you open yourself to new opportunities by exploring this new fork in the road.”

Philips graduated with a BS in ecology and evolutionary biology and will head to Cornell University to pursue an MS in design technology. He aims to start his own research lab focusing on biodiversity monitoring and development to one day pioneer a new type of restoration ecology.


Ariana Matondo (Photo courtesy of Ariana Matondo)

Ariana Matondo (Photo courtesy of Ariana Matondo)

Writing has been a part of Ariana Matondo’s life since she was thirteen, so it was never a question about whether she wanted to write for a living. It was her undergraduate experience at USF that fostered new passions that she could build upon in her career goals. After presenting at USF’s Humanities Institute Research Conference, Matondo discovered her passion for research beyond writing; fostering a deeper curiosity about the world and a renewed hope in a generation of people searching for answers to key issues in our society.

Matondo credits much of her success to the College of Arts and Sciences faculty and staff.

“The faculty with the English department have been incredibly encouraging, and they have uplifted me to dream beyond my self-imposed limitations,” Matondo explained.

“I also owe a lot to the advisors in the College of Arts and Sciences. I worked with them as a Peer Mentor, and the advice and experience they provided me with was invaluable. My friends in the creative writing program are not only incredible writers, but also future world changers. I am so lucky to know them and I'm excited to see everything they do in the future,” she explained.

Her advice for incoming students is simple: put yourself out there.

“College is what you make of it, and you get out exactly what you put in. Although it can be extremely uncomfortable to put yourself out there at first, one thing that helped me was remembering that everyone is in the same boat as you are. Everyone is looking for friends or to get involved in the campus culture. Your professors want to help you and see you succeed.”

Matondo graduated with a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing. You may see her around campus, though, because she decided to pursue her master’s degree at USF. She aims to continue research and community outreach that works toward making creative writing accessible to communities that have been historically blocked from creative writing teachers and resources.


Rahul Jain (Photo courtesy of Rahul Jain)

Rahul Jain (Photo courtesy of Rahul Jain)

Rahul Jain is part of the 7-year BS/MD program – a program spearheaded by the Judy Genshaft Honors College and USF Health providing first-time college freshmen with an accelerated pathway into the USF Health MD Program. Though his time with CAS is over, he credits the last few years of his academic career to a lot of personal and professional growth – including learning the importance of work-life balance. When asked about what he liked most about his time at USF, he said:

“The freedom to choose from such a wide variety of different opportunities. As a freshman, there were tons of clubs, activities, organizations, research, and even employment options to choose from. Learning to navigate through this and maintain a work-life balance is something super important I learned.”  

His advice to incoming students encourages having the tenacity and confidence to go after what you want.  

“Always shoot your shot,” Jain said. “There’ll be times you don't get a leadership position or a job but keep shooting and that next opportunity you snag might be way better than things you previously wanted. There's no way to know unless you try.”  

Jain graduated with a BS in biomedical sciences with a minor in public health and will continue his studies at the USF Morsani College of Medicine to continue working toward his dream of being a surgeon.


Matthew Stoner’s unique combination of degrees started with a single class that opened a new realm of possibility for his studies. The computer sciences major, wanting to supplement his degree by learning a new language, enrolled in Chinese with one of his friends and he quickly fell in love with the language and – more importantly – realized the importance of broadening his horizons academically.

“Doing computer science alone, it sounded great on paper, but it wasn’t really something I wanted to continue doing all the time, nine to five. My Chinese classes broadened my horizons and made it so that I actually feel good and passionate about where I’m going in the future,” Stoner explained. Since this realization, he seized the opportunity to travel abroad to Taiwan in 2023 – fully immersing himself in the language and culture as well as giving him a clearer idea of what he wanted to do with his career.

His advice for incoming students is to be adventurous inside and outside of the classroom.

“For a new student, I think that one of the most important things you can do to make your university experience fulfilling is to make sure you put yourself out there and try new experiences. Even things that you might not have thought would be something that you were even interested in because who knows? You might discover a new passion or just even a new hobby,” he said.

“When you try new things, don’t be afraid to make new friends too,” he added. “There are some people that I’ve met that have become lifelong friends for me. I have been able to glean a lot of knowledge and experience from everybody that I've met here, whether they're older than me, younger than me, same age, everybody has something to share. And I think that's something that's really valuable. Because when you have access to a student body as large and diverse as USF, there's a lot of things that people know or experience, and that is something that is really valuable to glean from them.”

Stoner graduated with a BS in computer sciences and a BA in Chinese. His next adventure will take him to study for his master’s degree in teaching Chinese as a second language with a Fulbright at a university in Taiwan. Afterward, he intends to combine his coding abilities with his passion for learning languages to create software to facilitate the language learning process.

Learn more about some other recent USF graduates.

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About CAS Chronicles

CAS Chronicles is the monthly newsletter for the University of South Florida's College of Arts and Sciences, your source for the latest news, research, and events at CAS.