The University of South Florida will hold in-person commencement ceremonies this weekend for the first time since December 2019, as COVID-19 forced ceremonies to be held virtually in spring, summer and fall of 2020. USF President Steven Currall will preside over spring commencement ceremonies scheduled for 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
The 9 a.m. ceremony will feature graduates from the colleges of Behavioral and Community Sciences, Muma College of Business, Education, Morsani College of Medicine, Nursing, Taneja College of Pharmacy and Public Health.
The 6:30 p.m. ceremony will include graduates from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Patel College of Global Sustainability, Marine Science and The Arts, as well as Undergraduate Studies and Graduate Studies.
View the Spring 2021 Commencement Program here.
Facts and figures about the spring 2021 class
Approximately 7,200 degrees will be awarded in the spring 2021 class, including 5,206 undergraduate, 1,691 master’s, 289 doctoral and 12 specialist’s degrees.
The graduates represent all 50 U.S. states and 100 nations, with 67 undergraduate students earning a perfect 4.0 GPA. The youngest graduate is a 17 year old earning bachelor’s degrees in both biomedical sciences and public health. The oldest graduate is a 69 year old earning a bachelor’s degree in history.
Health and safety measures
Using guidance from experts in USF Health, the ceremonies will have COVID-19 protocols in place for safety purposes. All graduates and attendees are required to wear face coverings and graduates will be seated six feet apart to accommodate for physical distancing. Each graduate will be honored individually during the ceremony by having their name called and briefly standing to be recognized. Holding the ceremonies in a venue the size of Tropicana Field allows USF to accommodate the number of students earning a degree this spring and provide enough space for some family members to attend. Each graduate is permitted to bring two guests to their ceremony with live streaming available for those who can’t be there in person. USF also intends to honor graduates from spring 2020, summer 2020 and fall 2020 who were unable to participate in person due to COVID-19. While this weekend’s ceremonies are limited to spring 2021 graduates, those past graduates and their families will be invited back for a more traditional commencement at a future date when COVID-19 restrictions can be reduced.
BS in Biomedical Sciences & BS in Public Health
Saefallah Mohamed has always excelled academically. In middle school, he earned enough online course credits to skip the sixth grade. And by his sophomore year of high school, he completed his associate degree. So, it may not be a surprise to learn that at 17 years old, Mohamed is USF’s youngest graduate of the semester. It’s an accolade that’s not unfamiliar to him. Three of Mohamed’s older brothers attended USF – two of whom also graduated as the youngest students in their respective classes. Mohamed credits much of their success to their mother’s dedication to education. She also happens to be a USF alumna. While working toward dual degrees in biomedical sciences and public health, Mohamed took part in the Judy Genshaft Honors College Student Council, volunteered in various health clinics and had the chance to conduct undergraduate research, an opportunity that resulted in a published journal article when he was just 16. After graduation, Mohamed plans to pursue a master’s degree and apply to medical school in 2022.
BS in Accounting
Dariana Granados came to the United States from Colombia when she was 13 years old. Raised by her mother and grandmother, she was always taught to be strong, kind, powerful and confident. They’re four words that have helped shape her into the woman she is today and have propelled her to succeed in all of her endeavors. As the first person in her family to attend college in the United States, Granados took advantage of the many opportunities available to her at USF. She was president of the university’s Accounting Society, chapter reporter for Beta Alpha Psi and has spent time as a peer leader in USF’s Corporate Mentor Program, among many other accolades. She says her time as a Bull has been one of the most transformative periods of her life, crediting her professors and friends for teaching her how to follow her dreams. After graduating from the Muma College of Business, Granados plans to attend New York University in the fall where she will pursue a graduate degree. She hopes her journey will one day inspire other young, Hispanic, immigrant woman to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles.
Molly & Katerina Wentzell
BS in Nursing
Twin sisters Molly (right) and Katerina (left) Wentzell grew up doing just about everything together. So, when the pair decided to attend USF, it might be no surprise that they wound up pursuing nursing degrees together. For Katerina, nursing had been her goal since middle school. For Molly, it wasn’t until her second semester at USF that she decided a nursing career was right for her too. The sisters say it’s been an amazing experience. While they admit they had to overcome some sibling rivalry and competition, they say having the other there for support ended up enriching their experience more than they could have imagined. Along with their studies, the Wentzell sisters lived in the Pre-Nursing Living Learning Community on campus. Both held leadership positions within Stampede Into Bull Nursing – Molly was president and Katerina served as treasurer. They were also involved in the Nursing Student Association, in which Katerina was president. As they prepare to graduate with their BSN degrees, both have already accepted nursing jobs in the Tampa Bay region.
BS in Health Sciences
As a staff member in USF’s Office of the Registrar, Tiara Bailey spends her days working to support a variety of nontraditional university students. Whether it’s her work assisting transfer students with credit requirements or helping non-degree seeking students with access, Bailey works tirelessly to make sure every USF student is supported and uplifted. It’s a mission that for her is personal. During high school, Bailey experienced a number of roadblocks, including medical issues, which derailed her progress. She wound up leaving high school and earned her GED. After that, she attended Hillsborough Community College, where she earned her associate degree, before transferring to USF. Over the years, she has continued to work toward her bachelor’s degree while juggling her fulltime staff role at USF. She admits it’s been challenging at times, but it’s those personal experiences that has helped her connect even more deeply with the students she supports.
Dauda Fadeyi Jr.
Doctor of Public Health
A first-generation Nigerian-American, Dauda Fadeyi Jr. was always encouraged by his parents to pursue higher education. As a student-athlete throughout his undergraduate years, Fadeyi experienced first-hand the toll being a college athlete can take on a student. It was a realization that stuck with him for years, and eventually pushed him to explore further, as a doctoral candidate in the USF College of Public Health. But while he was passionate about his research study, Fadeyi nearly gave up on his pursuit after the sudden passing of his father – Dauda Fadeyi Sr. It was his dad who first encouraged him to get into the public health field and it was his memory, along with the birth of Fadeyi’s daughter less than a month later, that gave him the strength and motivation to keep going. Now, he’s graduating as a Doctor of Public Health and hopes to continue mentoring, guiding and advocating for student-athletes.
PhD in Marine Geology
A first-generation college student, Ryan Venturelli had no intention of studying science when she began her undergraduate studies in Indiana. But after stumbling upon geology, and the research opportunities tied to it, she knew she had found her passion. After completing her undergrad and graduate programs, Venturelli came to the USF College of Marine Science for her doctoral studies. At the college, she says she found a community that provided endless support throughout her five-year program. During that time, Venturelli had the chance to travel to Antarctica to study the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Through her work, she developed, optimized and applied innovative isotopic techniques that have allowed her and others to gain a new understanding of the ice sheet. Earlier this year, Venturelli successfully defended her dissertation and wasted no time in starting a postdoctoral fellowship at Tulane University.
BS in Biology
Joshua Ghansiam is familiar face to many on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. Whether through his Student Government efforts as the Sarasota-Manatee governor, as president of the Biology Club, or through his work with the Ambassadors program, Ghansiam has worked to leave a lasting impact on the university community. He first came to USF looking for a “real college experience” and says he found that and much more at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. Between the lifelong friends he’s made, and the opportunities provided to him through USF, he says his experience has truly shaped him for the better. And while it hasn’t always been easy, Ghansiam says he wouldn’t change a thing. After graduation, he plans to move on to medical school but hopes to remain a Bull and attend the Morsani College of Medicine.
BS in Elementary Education
For the first few years of Toby Tobin’s college experience, he struggled with coursework and connecting with others. He transferred colleges and changed majors multiple times. He felt lost, got easily overwhelmed, developed a fear of going back to class if he missed one and saw relationships with family and friends deteriorate. Seeking answers, Tobin sought medical advice. In 2016, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition marked by difficulty with social interactions and navigating new routines, as well as hypersensitivity to lights and sounds. In 2020, he was diagnosed with autism. Tobin eventually enrolled at USF's St. Petersburg campus and settled on his fifth and final major: education. He credits countless professors for their tremendous encouragement and the services and support provided by the close-knit campus community for helping him stay on track. Tobin will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education with endorsements in reading, elementary science instruction and leadership (ESIL) and exceptional student education (ESE). He is applying to become a fourth or fifth grade teacher in Pinellas County, where he hopes to help students like himself and share his love of books and art with others.
BS in Health Sciences
When COVID-19 forced USF to transition thousands of courses online last year, Samia Alamgir knew she couldn’t just stand by. The first-generation college student knows the challenges faced by students in the best of times, so she was determined to help her classmates and her university through the pandemic any way she could. A member of the Student Engagement Subcommittee, Alamgir worked with various USF departments to assess student needs and support services during the pandemic. Throughout her time at USF, Alamgir has strived to make an impact through her involvement with the Intercultural Leadership Conference, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and the Dean’s Student Leadership Society. She has also served as the editor-in-chief of Sparks Magazine, a student-led publication advocating for Asian American human rights and social justice, and served as the director of publicity and campaigns for the Doctors Without Borders USF chapter. Graduating with a degree in Health Sciences, Alamgir plans to pursue a doctorate in occupational therapy and hopes to one day work in pediatrics and help empower individuals to gain fine motor function.
BS in Biomedical Sciences
Struggle has been a part of Ibrahim Rahman’s life for as long as he can remember. For years, Rahman has dealt chronic neurological and physical health conditions, obstacles that derailed his journey through USF’s seven-year medical program and heightened a sense of loneliness and isolation in him. But instead of letting these things control him, Rahman used his struggles for strength. Rahman credits a deep support system for helping get him to graduation day. Along with the unwavering support of his mother, he says USF has provided him with so much. Between academic opportunities, counseling services and support from Student Accessibility Services, Rahman has been able to flourish at USF. He started a support group for young adults facing mental and physical health challenges during the pandemic and was able to get his academics back on track. Now, he’s graduating with honors and plans to continue his education in the field of neuroscience – hoping one day to help others facing the same challenges he’s been able to overcome.
BA in History
When Kim DeBois first pursued her undergraduate degree in the late 1970s, the U.S. Air Force veteran was talked out of studying history and instead pursued business. While that business degree helped prepare her for a long career with the Department of the Navy and equipped her for a master’s degrees in business, DeBois never lost her passion for history. Now, 40 years after her first go-around as an undergrad, she is graduating once again, this time with the history degree she always wanted. As USF’s oldest graduating student this semester, DeBois, 70, says that while she may not have been the typical undergraduate student, her experience at USF was no less rewarding. She credits completing her degree to the support provided to her by the USF St. Petersburg Office of Veteran Success. Without them, she says she isn’t sure she would have been able to accomplish her goals. After graduating with her history degree, DeBois plans to tackle some unfished business by completing a master’s program in political science she was diverted from more than a decade ago.