University of South Florida


A graphic showing students in their caps and gowns with the text '123rd Commencement Convocation Summer 2021'

USF honors summer 2021 class, along with graduates whose ceremonies were impacted by COVID-19, during Aug. 21-22 commencement

The University of South Florida conferred approximately 3,000 degrees during summer commencement on Aug. 21-22, as ceremonies returned to the Yuengling Center in Tampa after being held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg in the spring.

In addition, approximately 1,200 graduates from the classes of 2020 or spring 2021 whose commencement ceremonies were impacted by COVID-19 made plans to return and were welcomed back by USF to participate in a traditional in-person experience with their families. When COVID-19 forced their commencement ceremonies to be modified or held virtually, USF committed to offering those graduates an opportunity to participate in a traditional in-person ceremony at a later date.

USF President Rhea Law presided over the ceremonies.

Facts about the summer 2021 class

Nearly 3,000 degrees were awarded in the summer 2021 class, including 1,995 undergraduate, 809 master’s, 181 doctoral and 10 specialist degrees.

The graduates represent 39 U.S. states and 78 nations, with 16 undergraduate students earning a perfect 4.0 GPA. The youngest graduate is a 19 year old earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic studies and justice. The oldest graduate is a 69 year old earning a master’s degree in intelligence studies.

Ceremony information

Saturday, Aug. 21 – Summer 2021 Graduates

  • 8:30 a.m.: Morsani College of Medicine, College of Nursing, Taneja College of Pharmacy and College of Public Health – Live Stream
  • 12:00 p.m.: College of Arts and Sciences – Live Stream
  • 3:30 p.m.: Muma College of Business – Live Stream
  • 7:00 p.m.: College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, College of Education, College of Engineering, Patel College of Global Sustainability, College of Graduate Studies, College of Marine Science, College of The Arts and the Office of Undergraduate Studies – Live Stream

Sunday, Aug. 22 – Previous Graduates   

  • 9:00 a.m.: College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, College of Education, College of Engineering, Morsani College of Medicine, College of Nursing, Taneja College of Pharmacy and College of Public Health – Live Stream
  • 1:30 p.m.: College of Arts and Sciences – Live Stream
  • 6:00 p.m.: Muma College of Business, Patel College of Global Sustainability, College of Graduate Studies, College of Marine Science, College of The Arts and the Office of Undergraduate Studies – Live Stream

Health and safety measures

In keeping with CDC guidance, all those in attendance were expected to wear a face mask for the duration of the ceremony, regardless of vaccination status. Masks were available at no charge for all those entering the building.

USF also added additional ceremonies to the original schedule for both Saturday and Sunday as an extra COVID-19 mitigation measure. The added ceremonies allowed for fewer graduates and attendees at each one, providing more opportunities for physical distancing throughout the arena. With no assigned seating, guests were encouraged to leave space between themselves and other parties when possible. This plan also created slightly shorter ceremonies, thus reducing the amount of time graduates and their families were in close proximity with others.

For guests who didn't feel comfortable attending in person, or were unable to travel, each ceremony was live streamed.

A graphic that says hashtag USF Grad
Jessica Senatus

Jessica Senatus
BS in Business Analytics and Information Systems

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and raised in Naples, Florida, Jessica Senatus attributes her drive and success to the sacrifices her parents made bringing their family to America when she was just a child. It’s motivation that has helped push her to new heights and make a lasting impact on campus. While at USF, Senatus has been extremely active both inside and outside the classroom. She served as a Student Government senator and Tampa financial officer and became involved in the Bulls Business Community and Business Honors Program. A student in the Muma College of Business, Senatus took advantage of numerous academic and professional development opportunities and completed an internship with Cyber Florida. Throughout her three years in college, Senatus was consistently working two part-time jobs as well. But whether she was juggling her responsibilities on and off campus or supporting her family after they all became ill with COVID-19, Senatus persevered and has been able to thrive. Now, she’s graduating summa cum laude as a King O’Neal Scholar and this semester’s “Outstanding Graduate.” She will soon be headed to the Greater DC area to begin her career in cybersecurity.

Francesco & Francesca Little

Francesco & Francesca Little
BS in Integrative Animal Biology | BA in Political Science & BA in World Languages and Culture

Francesca and Francesco Little have experienced a lot together. So, it would only make sense for the brother and sister to have the chance to walk across the graduation stage together as they return to USF for a final goodbye. Along with their parents, the Littles immigrated to the United States from their native Venezuela as children, bringing little more than the clothes on their backs. They would eventually settle in Florida, attend an International Baccalaureate program, and end up enrolling at USF just one year apart. Both took advantage of all USF has to offer, becoming members of the Judy Genshaft Honors College, excelling in the classroom to go on to graduate summa cum laude and participating in a variety of extracurriculars, all while working part-time. When COVID-19 forced their commencement ceremonies online (Francesca in spring 2020 – Francesco in spring 2021), the pair didn’t know if they would ever be able to say a proper goodbye. But now, thanks to USF welcoming back more than 1,500 previous graduates, the brother and sister will get their chance to cross the stage together (or close to it). Francesca has already completed her first year of law school at Stetson University College of Law and Francesco plans to one day attend medical school.

Robert Papadopoulos

Robert Papadopoulos
BS in Management Information Systems

After overcoming the challenges of a learning disability, Robert Papadopoulos was proud to earn his college degree. But celebrating that accomplishment with a traditional commencement ceremony took longer than he or anyone else could have imagined. Papadopoulos earned a bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic had by that time resulted in a transition to remote learning. That semester’s commencement, and the several that followed, would be held virtually. The 2021 summer commencement will be the first to welcome graduates and their families who weren’t able to attend and celebrate a traditional ceremony the year prior. The goal Papadopoulos accomplished was not only earning a degree but overcoming a disability. He was diagnosed with Slow Learning Disability while in kindergarten, a disorder that can cause significant difficulties when it comes to listening, reading or writing. Finding a small campus where he could more easily develop connections with students and professors was one of the reasons he chose USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Papadopoulos learned some valuable lessons from his college experience, such as planning ahead so you don’t fall behind when unexpected hurdles arise, which were magnified during his long wait to walk across a commencement stage and fully celebrate this milestone.

Abigail Cooper

Abigail Cooper
BS in Forensic Studies and Justice

Abigail Cooper has always had a passion for learning. In high school, she joined a dual enrollment program so that by the time she was 16 years old, she was graduating with both her high school diploma and associate degree. At that age, Cooper was hesitant about which university to attend. After visiting the USF St. Petersburg campus, she knew she had found the perfect place to continue excelling. But, while her first semester was filled with new friends, compassionate faculty and staff and a new home away from home, Cooper was secretly struggling. That winter break, she says she developed a serious eating disorder and was forced to move back home to prioritize her health. Thankfully, through support from her family and friends, as well as a six-month treatment program, Cooper was able to overcome her disorder and find a new sense of self. She’s continued to excel in the classroom and is now graduating as this semester’s youngest graduate -- a reminder that sometimes even the biggest obstacles can pave the way for growth.

Danielle Washington
BS in Public Health

Danielle Washington’s path to earning her bachelor’s degree has been anything but simple. Born and raised by her grandmother in central Florida, Washington became a mother during her teenage years and struggled to support herself and her child. Over time, she would work a variety of jobs to make ends meet, always wanting and trying to further pursue her education. Washington says it was USF’s transfer advisors who inspired her to become a Bull. It was a decision that would positively shape her life for years to come. Now, after so much struggle and perseverance, Washington is graduating from USF with the bachelor’s degree she was always after. Next, she plans to pursue graduate school and hopes to one day become a global health advocate.

Danielle Washington

Holly Lippman

Holly Lippman
BS in Marketing

For Holly Lippman, one of the most frustrating parts about COVID-19 derailing her last semester was not having a final chance to say “thank you” to those who helped her along the way. But now, she’ll get the opportunity as she returns to USF to walk across the commencement stage. Before graduating magna cum laude in May 2020, Lippman, whose parents also attended USF, was heavily involved across campus. She completed multiple internships at USF Athletics and USF Government Relations, was involved in the Bulls Business Community, as well as USF’s Women in Leadership and Philanthropy, played club lacrosse and served as a USF Ambassador, among many other distinctions. Lippman says each of those experiences helped her grow as a person, a student and a professional. Today, she works at the social impact technology startup, Givsly, in New York City, and is excited to return to campus to see and thank all those who supported her. 

Brittany Targaszewski

Brittany Targaszewski
BS in Biology

Brittany Targaszewski knew just what she wanted in choosing a college: A top-notch research university where she could feel at home and get to know her professors and classmates. She found that and more at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. A biology major, Targaszewski dove into her studies while eagerly engaging in campus life and working two jobs, including as a veterinary technician, a position she landed after participating in a USF-sponsored job shadowing experience. Amid her busy schedule, she joined the Campus Activity Board, founded the campus’s Pre-Veterinary Society student club and became a campus Ambassador to represent USF at official functions, eventually going on to become president of the Ambassadors. Targaszewski aims to become a veterinarian. She follows in her sister Lauren’s footsteps in attending USF. “USF has really given me the opportunities and skills that I need to become successful – not only in academics but in everyday life,” Targaszewski said. “Above all, USF has given me a family. As I say goodbye to this chapter of my life, I will take with me the long-lasting relationships I made with students, staff and faculty.”

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