University of South Florida


Graphic says 132nd commencement convocation spring 2024

USF to confer more than 7,000 degrees during spring commencement ceremonies

graphic with commencement data

By Daphne Kotschessa Almodovar and Kevin Watler, University Communications and Marketing

The University of South Florida will award more than 7,000 degrees during spring commencement exercises May 2-5 in the Yuengling Center on the Tampa campus. The ceremonies include recipients of approximately 5,260 bachelor’s, 1,618 master’s, 179 doctoral and six specialist degrees. 

The group features 114 undergraduate students earning a perfect 4.0 GPA and 168 student veterans, and includes students from 46 states and 89 nations. More than 40 percent of the spring undergraduates (2,124) are recipients of Pell Grants, reflecting USF’s impact on social mobility. Pell is a federal financial aid program for students from modest socioeconomic backgrounds. 

USF President Rhea Law will preside over all 10 ceremonies and will present several community members with awards throughout the weekend’s ceremonies. 

More information about the ceremonies is available here.

Deziree Price

Bachelor of Science in industrial and management systems engineering


They say it takes a village and Deziree Price had one indeed. She grew up in Virginia Beach, Va. with parents who had little money and no college education but were rich with unconditional love. Price’s mother brought her and her brother along to the daycare where she worked while her dad was often away serving the Navy. Her extended family and community of caregivers helped instill empathy and resilience, while her dad’s dedication was felt even from a distance. It motivated her success at USF.

“My journey at the USF Institute of Applied Engineering began with simple acts of kindness and a humble request for an opportunity,” Price said.

Starting as a student assistant at the IAE, she offered support to the engineers, later spending a year and a half as a quality and test engineering intern, followed by a project engineering intern, where she gained hands-on experience in planning the Rapid Experimentation Lab, which opened in March.

“I was involved in tasks such as scheduling, layout planning, risk management and process creation for the new Rapid Experimentation Lab,” Price said.







Today, her parents' journey serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration to her. Price’s father eventually earned bachelor’s and master's degrees in cybersecurity and her mother obtained numerous education certifications to now manage a daycare, showing Price that overcoming adversity is possible.

“There have been tough moments when I've had to rely on myself, but that is the reality of being a responsible adult and I always remind myself to persevere, knowing that all my efforts will eventually yield results,” Price said. “I take pride in my independence and my ability to provide for myself.”

Price affirms USF has been a blessing, opening doors to remarkable opportunities through the merit-based USF Green and Gold Presidential Scholarship and including an unforgettable journey to Iceland through the Green Program, a USF-affiliated study abroad program. 


A proud member of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers, along with the Kenneth Dorsey Jr. Foundation, Price gained friends at USF who have supported her in every aspect of life. She is grateful to her professors for their invaluable guidance and encouragement, which has played a pivotal role in her achievement, graduating with honors. 

Price was hired to work full-time as an engineer at the IAE and will remain at USF in the accelerated master's in engineering management program.

Tyler Moss

Bachelor of Science in integrated public relations and advertising




If you felt the fan frenzy in the Yuengling Center during USF basketball games, Tyler Moss can be thanked for making the magic happen. The sports aficionado is the mastermind behind SoFlo Rodeo, running marketing campaigns focused on enhancing engagement and attendance.

With support from USF Athletics, Moss created a comprehensive marketing plan in November 2023 that catapulted student interest, reawakened alumni and embedded memorable experiences that tapped untouched pockets of the USF community to nurture a new generation of fans.

“In my eyes, we bridged a gap between USF Athletics and the student body,” Moss said. “For what seemed like the first time in program history, the two were united and inspired a wave supporting other programs at USF.”


Moss began his journey at USF having first obtained guaranteed admission via the FUSE pathway program and transferred from Hillsborough Community College with an associate degree in sports management. He has helped the USF hockey club with marketing and served as vice president of the USF Public Relations Student Society of America, following in the footsteps of his parents, who are public relations professionals in Tampa Bay.While building strong relationships and crafting strategic plans come naturally to Moss, his biggest hurdle at USF was finding a balance.

“Throughout my entire journey at USF, I maintained at least three jobs and had five at one time,” he said. “All of this and my schooling created a challenge. However, I never failed a class or missed a commitment and for that, I am proud.”

Moss credits USF for granting him the many opportunities to showcase his abilities and thrive with constant support from professors and USF Athletics.

Upon graduation, Moss hopes to work in collegiate athletics and eventually become an athletic director. He has already accepted an offer to work on developing communications campaigns with the USF Greater Tampa Alumni Chapter.

Kelin Griffin

Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, double minor in Deaf Studies and Linguistics


In elementary school, Kelin Griffin was asked to write a letter to her future self. And in it, she wrote that she was going to attend USF. With grandparents, parents, two uncles and a brother who are all alums, it was Griffin’s destiny to attend the University of South Florida. Although she grew up in a small town in southern Maryland, her parents were still active and avid fans of USF athletics.  Any time they visited Florida, it was a ritual to visit USF, go to the bookstore and take photos with the bull statues.

“USF was something I was always exposed to. When my dad's job brought us to Maryland, the things he missed most were the basketball and football games,” Griffin said. “Many of my mom's friends from college became family to me and my siblings.”

Griffin has more college-branded clothes than she can count. Once she applied and was accepted to USF, Griffin’s decision to attend was easy. She immersed herself in the summer Academic and Cultural Engagement program – designed to help students more easily transition from high school to college by facilitating specialized academics, community building and campus engagement experiences. 







Griffin found her calling as a supporter of the deaf community. She was elected vice president of the American Sign Language Bulls at the end of her junior year and is inspired to pursue a career as an interpreter.


“USF has given me opportunities to grow into myself and learn valuable practical skills such as organization, time management, leadership, communication and respect,” Griffin said. “I am very appreciative of my time at USF and cannot wait to participate as an active member of the Alumni Association.” 

Griffin’s parents have since relocated to Tampa and become season ticketholders for USF football and women's basketball games. They attend Alumni Association events and were named Family of the Year in 2022. That same year, Griffin married her high school sweetheart, Shawn. The couple will welcome their first child in August, a baby boy they hope will carry on the USF family legacy. 

William Rasmussen

Master's degree in history

William Rasmussen

William Rasmussen dedicated his life to serving his country and pursuing knowledge. A retired Army colonel who specialized in military intelligence, he transitioned from analyzing Soviet strategy to tackling terrorism in Africa. As a defense attaché in the Congo and Kenya, he navigated complex diplomatic challenges. In his civilian role, he continued to combat terrorism in Africa.

Now, as an educator at several Tampa Bay area colleges, he shares his expertise in American history, government and military history. With a master’s degree in international relations and soon a master’s in history, Rasmussen embodies a commitment to lifelong learning and service. At the age of 69, he is the oldest graduate this semester.

Anastasia Kovalyshin

Bachelor of science in health sciences

Anastasia Kovalyshin

At 17 years old, Anastasia Kovalyshin is the youngest graduate this semester. Her passion for medicine led her to excel in advanced classes and graduate high school early, at the age of 15. Despite challenges, including the ongoing war in Ukraine, where her family is from, Kovalyshin found strength in her faith and family.

A highlight of her time at USF was leading a course for first-year students in the Judy Genshaft Honors College. Kovalyshin also volunteers at her local Ukrainian Catholic Church, honing her leadership skills.

Cole eicher

Bachelor of Science in marketing

Cole Eicher

As Cole Eicher prepares to graduate, he’s also celebrating another milestone: ten years of being cancer free. In 2014 at the age of 12, Eicher was diagnosed with brain cancer. After weeks of experiencing migraines, dizziness, nausea and bouts of double vision, a golf-ball sized tumor was discovered in the back of his brain. He needed immediate surgery.

Now, he views the last 10 years as a gift, one where he was given time to learn how to drive a car, make new friends and even win USF St. Petersburg’s cardboard boat race. 

“And now I have the gift of walking at commencement,” said Eicher, who will be graduating magna cum laude.

He has taken full advantage of this time by helping other kids diagnosed with cancer. After his recovery, Eicher got involved in Relay for Life. This American Cancer Society initiative celebrates survivors and remembers those lost to the disease by organizing relay teams that gather for community events to walk, raise awareness and money, and support those fighting cancer. Eicher was so touched at these gatherings that he set a goal of forming a team.

Cole Eicher during USF boat race

That goal became Gold Together for Childhood Cancer, a non-profit he started in high school. He hoped through this organization to provide a platform that would raise awareness for childhood cancer and funds for research and support programs, while providing communities a vehicle to support kids fighting cancer by forming their own Gold Together teams for Relay for Life. It proved so successful that in 2018, it became the official childhood cancer initiative for ACS.

What started as one team, is now in nearly 150 communities and has raised more than $11 million. 

Cole has shared his inspirational story many times over the years. On one such occasion it inspired then-USF President Judy Genshaft to offer Eicher a full scholarship to come to USF. He chose the St. Petersburg campus for its atmosphere, community feel and small class sizes. 

He became a marketing major because of his love connecting with people, being a brand ambassador and building relationships. These were the same reasons he became a peer coach on campus, providing guidance and helping acclimate nearly 150 students into college life. Eicher also assisted in creating a student club on campus called ACS with the Bulls. The club will be bringing a Relay for Life event to the USF Tampa campus in the spring of 2025.

It is these experiences and relationships that he cherishes the most.

“My brain cancer operation took place at John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, right next to campus,” he said. “My journey truly feels full circle right now.”

Brandon gonzalez

Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity


Born in Miami, Brandon Gonzalez has lived all over Florida, helping his Cuban immigrant father work as a general contractor.

“Traveling to disaster sites immediately after major hurricanes to help my father replace roofs, seeing the damage caused and how much my help can change lives made me realize that even I can make a difference and change the world,” Gonzalez said. “This sparked a feeling inside, leading me down the path of cybersecurity, wanting to help the helpless and those who do not fully understand the complex technology today from cyberthreats.”

A first-generation college student, Gonzalez transferred to the USF Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering in the spring of 2022 after completing his associate degree Summa Cum Laude from the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota. He is a founding member of USF Cyberherd, a national-level cybersecurity competition team that recently took first place in the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Southeast Regional and runner-up at one of the most important defense competitions in the cybersecurity field, the Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition at Kennedy Space Center.

brandon and CyberHerd

“My experience at USF truly did change my life,” Gonzalez said. “The friendships I made along the way are who I dedicate the most of my success to. I would not have been able to get through it all without them.”

At USF, Gonzalez assisted the Muma College of Business in testing a free resource to enhance cyber safety in the workplace and was among the first to earn the KnowBe4-USF Cyber Resilience Program certification. Supported by a scholarship under the National Science Foundation S-STEM Program, Gonzalez also held various positions within the student-run organization, the Whitehatters Computer Security Club, which provides hands-on experience with real-world security problems, such as penetration testing, active defense, and cyber forensics.

In addition to winning competitions, Gonzalez spent his summers mentoring high school students on their path to cybersecurity participating in the 502 Project, a workforce development program, and interning with cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest. After graduation, Gonzalez will be moving up north to work in the public sector helping protect the country from cyber threats.

Amna Wajahat

Bachelor of Science in business analytics and information systems

Amna Wajahat

Meeting new friends and establishing a foothold in the business community proved to be the biggest hurdles Amna Wajahat faced while at USF. The New Tampa native was already familiar with the ins and outs of the university. Her two older sisters, Labeena and Leena, are proud Bull alums, graduating with honors in 2013 and 2022 respectively. But as a commuter student, Wajahat felt apprehensive about not experiencing the traditional college journey.

Once she delved into the networking opportunities offered by USF, Wajahat began to thrive.

“The Muma College of Business hosted speaker sessions with leading industry professionals, the Bellini Center for Talent Development offered valuable career development workshops and internship showcases, while the Judy Genshaft Honors College facilitated my interactions with fellow high-achieving students,” Wajahat said. “These three resources contributed significantly to my academic and professional growth during my time at USF.”

Taking advantage of dual enrollment during high school, earning the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and a scholarship from USF for her achievements, Wajahat arrived at USF with an associate degree, and accelerated her path to graduation. She maintained a 3.9 GPA and remained committed to academic excellence by engaging in rigorous coursework both within her major and through the Honors College.

Wajahat developed leadership skills by working as a Power BI developer on the Honors IT team, where she handled data analysis and reporting responsibilities. Additionally, she served as a peer mentor to first-year students, providing guidance and support as they began their college journey. For her Honors College Capstone project, Wajahat served as a student consultant for a European digital marketing agency and gained valuable insights into project management and client relations.





She most enjoyed a class focused on South Korean culture and identity, delving into topics such as history, language, and social customs. This culminated in a study abroad trip to Seoul, South Korea, where she experienced the Asian culture and even partnered with Yonsei University for a virtual pen pal program that later allowed her to meet her pen pal in person.

Participating in the Women in Business Society, Project Downtown, Collegiate Leadership Tampa Bay Class of 2024 and volunteering at Feeding Tampa Bay, the English and Urdu speaker excelled in her internship at Citibank. She was recently selected as a Muma College of Business 25 under 25 Honoree. Wajahat recently accepted an offer to join Citibank as an enterprise operations and technology analyst.

Shirley Ngo

Bachelor of Science in health sciences

Shirley Ngo

Despite growing up in Tampa, for Shirley Ngo, USF was still a foreign place. She’s a first-generation college student and Pell grant recipient with a strong, hard-working Vietnamese and Chinese family that supported her pursuit of a college education. They inspired her journey and infused her with love, but she had to figure out how to do college all on her own.

"Although it is a privilege and an honor to be able to attend and let alone be the first in my immediate family to do so, I really did struggle at first when trying to figure out financial aid and other factors,” Ngo said. “There were many nights when I felt alone.”

Taking advantage of the various financial resources offered by USF, including grants, work-study programs, and advisors available to consult along the way, Ngo flourished. And armed with a deep understanding of the struggles first-generation students can face, she was right there for her brother Jason when it came time for him to attend USF. He is now a junior studying health science and thriving, just like his sister.

Shirley Ngo and family

“I am grateful for my parents, Emily and Tim. They instilled the value of education and building a strong community in me,” Ngo said. “Their sacrifices taught me to value resilience and develop a deep appreciation for my community."

At USF, Ngo made the Dean’s List while juggling her coursework and working part time on- and off-campus. She held various leadership positions within the Vietnamese Student Association, including as president and senior advisor. She participated in several student organizations including Asian Students in America, the Korean Student Association and Journey to the East. Ngo beams at having raised funds for a variety of philanthropic causes. 

“USF has helped me thrive, allowing me to meet so many wonderful people that are my backbone. Not only have I made incredible friends here, but the faculty and staff made me feel comfortable and let me grow as a person and a student.”

With an intense sense of pride, Ngo cultivated community beyond campus, collaborating with local cultural organizations to bring arts to the public. She is excited for the personal and professional journey following graduation. While traveling and applying to graduate school for health informatics, she is assisting with research on the impact of post-COVID-19 reforms on data transparency, ethical guidelines, and protocol compliance in clinical research organizations.

Ashlie cruz

Bachelor of Science in biology

Ashlie Cruz

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Ashlie Cruz enrolled at USF Sarasota-Manatee with the goal of someday attending medical school and becoming an orthopedic surgeon. On the GI Bill, she experienced USF’s embrace of a veteran inclusive approach and found some of the most important moments for her occurred soon after enrolling in school and leaving military life behind.

“When you can find an advocate, people who understand you and provide support, it makes a big difference,” said Cruz.

While at USF Sarasota-Manatee, Cruz served as the events coordinator for the Campus Activities Board. Using work-study financial aid to help pay for college., she worked part-time in the Office of Veteran Success, enhancing campus engagement for veteran success and alumni affairs.

Cruz enlisted the humility and dedication to service gained during her five years as a United States Navy hospital corpsman to connect with fellow student veterans and ensure a sense of belonging on campus.

The New Jersey native offers words of encouragement to military personnel transitioning into college life. “It’s easy to feel alone. Don’t be scared to engage in campus activities,” Cruz said. “You would be thrilled to find out just how much fun you’d have and all the cool people you’d meet.”

Cruz will continue serving others in her professional endeavors. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare administration at USF Sarasota-Manatee then apply to medical schools.

Alana Mayott

Bachelor of Science in environmental science and policy

Alana Mayott

The Florida native from the small town of Melbourne was attracted to USF for the big city feel and the generous financial aid package. A Pell grant recipient who worked hard to earn the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, and recognized by USF through scholarships that include financial education, Alana Mayott was able to take advantage of the many opportunities that come with college life at USF.

“From the moment I stepped on campus for a tour, I was surprised,” Mayott said. “The layout was beautiful. The center of the Tampa campus is just gorgeous. I immediately pictured myself here.” 

Location was key for Mayott. Pursuing a minor in urban studies, she was especially interested in the city’s growth and approach to finding infrastructure solutions that progressively make the heart of Tampa more walkable and accessible to the entire community.

“From the ethics to the social aspects, I was excited to see how the city develops plans to connect beyond the bay area to the region with public transportation,” Mayott said. “I’ve learned how the science of planning leads to developing policy alongside community partners.”







Alana Mayott at Raymond James stadium

Mayott experienced public transportation networks first-hand as a recipient of the Provost Ralph Wilcox USF-Exeter Student Exchange Scholarship, which allowed her to spend a semester in the United Kingdom and explore Europe on her downtime. “It sincerely changed my life, especially my perspective of the rest of the world outside of the United States,” she said.

On campus, Mayott found community by engaging with peers who shared her interests. She enjoyed the school spirit around athletics games, became president of the Botanical Gardens Club, vice president of the Student Environmental Association and proud member of several organizations, such as Alpha Sigma Kappa. After graduation, she will return to her hometown with greater perspective and newfound knowledge, taking a gap year to explore internships and graduate programs.

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