University of South Florida


USF conferred more than 7,100 degrees during spring commencement ceremonies

By Sandra C. Roa and Kevin Watler, University Communications and Marketing

The University of South Florida awarded more than 7,100 degrees during spring commencement May 5-7. The ceremonies included recipients of 5,430 bachelor’s, 1,492 master’s, 221 doctoral degrees and eight specialist degrees. 

The group featured 110 undergraduate students earning a perfect 4.0 GPA, 211 student veterans and includes graduates from 46 states and 98 nations and four U.S. territories.

At 17 years old, the youngest graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology. The oldest graduate, who is 74 years old, received a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary social sciences. 

USF President Rhea Law presided over all ceremonies, which were held in the Yuengling Center on the Tampa campus.


Friday, May 5

9 a.m.: Bachelor’s degree recipients from the Muma College of Business and the Office of Undergraduate Studies 

1:30 p.m.: Bachelor’s degree recipients from the colleges of Nursing and Public Health

6:30 p.m.: Bachelor’s degree recipients from the colleges of Education, Engineering, and The Arts

Saturday, May 6

9 a.m.: Bachelor’s degree recipients from the following departments of the College of Arts and Sciences: Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, Anthropology, Communication, Economics, English, History, Humanities and Cultural Studies, School of Information, School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, Journalism and Digital Communication, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Women’s and Gender Studies, and World Languages 

1:30 p.m.: Bachelor’s degree recipients from the following departments of the College of Arts and Sciences: School of Geosciences, Integrative Biology, Mathematics and Statistics, Molecular Biosciences, Physics, and Psychology

6:30 p.m.: Bachelor’s degree recipients from the colleges of Behavioral and Community Sciences and Bachelor’s degree recipients from the following department of the College of Arts and Sciences: Chemistry

Sunday, May 7

9 a.m.: Master’s and educational specialist degree recipients from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Muma College of Business, Education, Patel College of Global Sustainability, Graduate Studies, Marine Science, and The Arts 

1:30 p.m.: Master’s degree recipients from the colleges of Behavioral and Community Sciences, Engineering and from the colleges of USF Health: Morsani College of Medicine, Nursing, Taneja College of Pharmacy, and Public Health

*Samuel P. Bell, III, posthumously, will receive the President’s Distinguished Citizen Award

6:30 p.m.: Doctoral degree recipients from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Behavioral and Community Sciences, Muma College of Business, Education, Engineering, Marine Science, Morsani College of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Taneja College of Pharmacy, and The Arts  

*Emiliano Jose Salcines will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities and Jugal Taneja will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Pharmacy

James “Brad” Cecil 
Master of Business Administration 

Photo layout of James "Brad" Cecil's portrait and of him in uniform on the field.

Photo courtesy: Brad Cecil

Brad Cecil is a decorated student athlete who has made a significant impact on the community during his time at USF and was just signed as a free agent in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions. He grew up playing baseball and played football in high school. In 2018, he was recruited by USF to join the football team, where he excelled on the field and in his business management courses. As offensive lineman, Cecil served as team captain for three years and finished his career ranked second all-time at USF with 50 career starts. In 2021, he graduated cum laude with his bachelor’s degree and immediately began working towards his Master of Business Administration degree.  

Cecil's personal mantra, "nothing below my best is acceptable," has guided his success as a student-athlete. He stands out for his commitment to his team, academic excellence and community. In 2022, he leveraged his name, image and likeness with Big Man Big Heart to raise more than $425,000 for the charity. Recently, he was named one of the Muma College of Business’s 25 Under 25 for his demonstrated success in academics, professional development, leadership and community service. 

Kiante Smith 
Bachelor of Arts in language, speech, and hearing science 

Photo layout of Kiante Smith that shows her sitting in from the the MSC Bulls Fountain and sitting in a truck with food donations for homeless veterans.

Photo courtesy: Kiante Smith

Kiante Smith was raised by her great-grandmother near Gainesville. Despite facing various challenges as a young girl, such as having a speech impediment that limited her ability to communicate, she persevered and overcame her lisp with the help of a speech specialist who has had a profound impact on her life. Today, Smith is known for her exceptional public speaking skills and her passion for helping others. 

After earning her associate degree, Smith transferred to USF with the goal of bridging her passion for linguistics with her military service. She served in the Florida National Guard for nine years, deploying to Africa and Kuwait. Her leadership skills and dedication led to her appointment as the highest-ranking cadet in USF’s ROTC program, where she learned how to work well with people from diverse backgrounds and time management. 

Following graduation, Smith will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and work as a military intelligence officer. Her goal is to become a trailblazer for women and Black individuals in the field of military intelligence and eventually work in the White House. 

Christina Chadwick 
Master’s in marine science 

Photo layout of Christina Chadwick's image

Photo courtesy: Christina Chadwick

Tarpon Springs native Christina Chadwick earned her bachelor’s degree in biology after attending classes on the USF St. Petersburg campus. Although she originally intended to pursue a medical degree after graduation, her then-genetics professor recommended that she apply for a job at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) during her senior year. In the lab at FWRI, Chadwick worked for a few years examining molecular data samples from offshore, coastal and estuarine waters, which ultimately dissuaded her from pursuing a medical career. 

In 2019, Chadwick decided to take her research to the next level and enrolled as a master’s student in the College of Marine Science. Using genome sequencing and DNA fingerprinting, she has been identifying the characteristics of harmful algal blooms that produce toxins and contaminate marine life. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health. While completing her rigorous coursework and thesis research, Chadwick worked full-time at FWRI. After graduation, she plans to continue her research at FWRI in her new role as a lab supervisor. 

Blair Wood Jones 
Bachelor of Science in entrepreneurship and innovation 

Portrait of Blair Wood Jones

Photo courtesy: Blair Wood Jones

Blair Wood Jones grew up in Arkansas where getting a basic education was a challenge. The schools she went to in her local district were on academic probation nearly the entire time she advanced from kindergarten to 12th grade. Many of her classmates experienced poverty, violence and discrimination, and her teachers frequently quit. Jones persevered, becoming the salutatorian of her high school and an advocate for educational access.  

With a family who owned a small business back home and her desire to own a coffee shop one day, Jones said the entrepreneurship program appealed to her since it allowed her to blend creativity and new ways of thinking with a traditional business education. During her time on the USF St. Petersburg campus, she won a sustainability pitch competition for a community transit project she developed, was recognized for advancing ideals and overcoming adversity at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards banquet, studied abroad in Colombia and completed an educational programming internship at the Dali Museum. After graduation, Jones plans to attend graduate school at USF while beginning the process of opening her own business. 

Sarah M. Garcia
Doctorate in computer science and engineering 

Portrait of Sarah Garcia smiling

Photo courtesy: Sarah Garcia

Sarah Garcia is a first-generation Cuban American from Pembroke Pines, Fla. The interdisciplinary nature of computer science and its influence on nearly every aspect of life motivated her to pursue a career in this field. Garcia earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Florida, where she was persuaded to pursue a doctoral degree at USF by her then-instructor Marvin Andujar, who taught a course in brain-computer interfaces. Even though Garcia had never considered a doctoral degree, she joined Andujar’s new research lab in the USF College of Engineering.  

Garcia embraced her passion for research and cutting-edge technology, completed several notable internships, including at Adobe, and received multiple awards, such as being named a Department of Defense SMART Scholar, GEM Doctoral Fellow and Generation Google Scholar. Garcia is also an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM)  scholar and NSF FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate fellow at USF. The externally funded programs provided enhanced financial support and community-building with other underrepresented PhD students. For her dissertation, Garcia examined the cross-functionality of user interfaces in AR/VR and is now focusing on developing collaborative digital reality environments. After graduation, Garcia will continue her research in the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center in Orlando.  

Garcia is the first to earn a doctoral degree in her family. 

Pedro Abdo Breviglieri Nader  
Bachelor of Science in business analytics and information systems  
King O’Neal Scholar

Photo layout of Pedro Abdo Brevigieri Nader playing tennis and giving a speech at the University Club of Tampa

Photo courtesy: Pedro Abdo Breviglieri Nader

Pedro Abdo Breviglieri Nader, hailing from Brazil, is a problem-solver with a passion for technology. Originally intending to play tennis in college, Breviglieri Nader quickly pivoted after excelling in his SATs. Instead of pursuing athletic scholarships, he focused on his academic strengths. Breviglieri Nader’s goal was to apply his tech know-how to tackle real-world issues and he knew that USF and Tampa – with its diversity and growing professional opportunities – were the perfect places to make it happen. 

Breviglieri Nader hit the ground running as a freshman, living in the Bulls Business Living and Learning Community, which helped him adapt to U.S. culture and make new friends. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, he continued to attend classes online while back home in Brazil. Throughout his time at USF, he took advantage of the guidance offered by his professors, participated in the Collegiate Leadership Tampa Bay program to develop his leadership skills, and completed internships at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Goldman Sachs. He was recently named one of the Muma College of Business’s 25 Under 25 for his academic success, professional development and leadership abilities. Breviglieri Nader will also receive a King O’Neal Scholars Award during his commencement ceremony. After graduation, he'll join Ernst & Young in New York as a technology consultant. 

Breviglieri Nader’s younger sister also attends USF and majors in psychology and public relations. 

Comfort Anyanwu  
Bachelor of Science in computer engineering 

Portrait of Comfort Anyanwu smiling

Photo courtesy: Comfort Anyanwu

Comfort Anyanwu was born in Austria and moved to Tampa in 2010. Her father, a Tampa native, served in the Navy as a satellite technician and her mother was a small business owner from Benin, West Africa. They both instilled in her a sense of hard work and ambition. Anyanwu attended Thomas Jefferson High School and participated in the Tampa Bay Girls Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle Camp, a K-12 partnership program where girls learn to build underwater robots. The exposure to automated robots inspired Anyanwu to pursue a degree in computer engineering. As a first-generation college student, Anyanwu’s assertiveness and dedication paid off. She was accepted into every state university she applied to, ultimately choosing USF for its exceptional scholarship opportunities. 

AT USF, Anyanwu’s enthusiasm for engineering blossomed. She took advantage of a broad array of engineering opportunities, from conducting research to presenting her findings at conferences nationwide. She also served in the USF chapter of Engineers Without Borders as their public relations and fundraising chair where she set record fundraising records. Her experiences expanded her network and gave her insights into different computer engineering careers. In 2021, she completed a summer internship as a systems engineer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. As a recipient of the United Negro College Fund, she hopes to impact the field by making the technology industry more equitable for others like her, including people of color and those from the LGBTQ+ community. Her time at USF was marked by the challenges of balancing full-time coursework and multiple jobs with internships and networking, but it also provided her invaluable real-world experience. Now, as she prepares to graduate, Anyanwu's internship at ConnectWise in Tampa will transition seamlessly into a full-time role as a software developer.

Kathleen Doermer 
Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary sciences 

Portraits of Kathleen Doermer in the 60s and now.

Photo courtesy: Kathleen Doermer

Kathleen Doermer first attended college back in 1966, but at the time, she wasn’t able to earn a degree. She started a career in real estate and decades later, after raising three daughters, Doermer felt a strong desire to complete her higher education journey. She chose to attend USF and with the guidance of her advisor, decided to study interdisciplinary social sciences with an emphasis in anthropology. Once enrolled, Doermer took two classes every semester, including summers. Some four years later and at the age of 74, this grandmother of five is the oldest student to graduate during the spring 2023 class. 

Richa Bisht
Doctor of Medicine 

Portrait of Richa Bisht

Photo courtesy: Aaron Hilf

As a National Merit Scholar, Richa Bisht had her pick of nearly any university she wanted. But it was USF's endless resources and commitment to its students that sealed the deal on her becoming a Bull. Bisht earned her bachelor’s degree in 2020 and pursued her medical education at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine where she served as vice president of Tampa Bay Street Medicine and co-director of its Refugee Clinic. As a student in international medicine, Bisht partook in a study to examine contributing factors to COVID-19 vaccine acceptability among people living with HIV at Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda. After graduating, Bisht will complete her residency in general surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. 

Xiomara Montes Gil
Bachelor of Science in finance and business analytics and information systems 

Born in Lima, Peru, Xiomara Montes Gil is the first in her family to graduate college and work in finance. As a freshman, Montes Gil was awarded USF’s Green and Gold Scholarship and the Bright Futures Scholarship. In 2021, she completed the JP Morgan Global Finance Internship program in New York City and was offered a full-time position there, which she’ll begin following commencement. 

Portrait of Xiomara Montes Gil

Pyper Vaughn 
Bachelor of Science in Nursing  

Pyper Vaughn made USF her home to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse, a profession that has been part of her family for generations. Vaugh also served as president of the USF College of Nursing Student Council and is secretary of the women’s lacrosse club. After graduating, Vaughn will start her dream career in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Portrait of Pyper Vaughn

Paola-Marie Mannino   
Bachelor of Science in marketing  

Portrait of Paola-Marie Mannino

Photo courtesy: Paola-Marie Mannino

Paola-Marie Mannino is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a strong resume built while taking classes on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. During her time at USF, Mannino was the voice behind the  Office of Student Engagement and the Campus Activities Board’s social media channels, served as campus director of marketing and promotions for Student Government and was elected to the Homecoming Royal Court last fall.  

In the weeks and months following Hurricane Ian, Mannino leveraged her royal status leadership skills to promote the Cross College Alliance, a network comprised of five institutions dedicated to higher education and community building in the Sarasota-Manatee area. The alliance coordinated hurricane relief efforts in south Sarasota County, such as cleaning up debris.  

Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing; Georgia Jackson, University Communications and Marketing; Lorie Briggs, Muma College of Business; Kristen Kusek, College of Marine Science; Kiersten Denny, College of Engineering and Patricia Harrison, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, contributed to the article.

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