Golden Bull Awards
Congratulations to the 2020 Golden Bull Award winners! Take a moment to learn more about these exemplary students and consider your own nomination. You can also explore the winners from previous years.
Grace Laila Benmhend
Grace Laila Benmhend is a second-year M.D. candidate in the Morsani College of Medicine. Grace is from Gainesville, Florida.
Grace embodies the traits of a seasoned, academic physician with her compassion, commitment to healthcare and dedication to her personal education, and to the education of her peers.
As an example of this commitment, Grace helped to develop a free refugee clinic in Tampa with the assistance of several physicians. The clinic offers care, including access to physicians, imaging and lab tests for uninsured refugees and asylum seekers. She saw a need in the community and took proactive steps to address it. She continues to lead other students in volunteering there on a monthly basis.
Grace has also served as a visiting medical student at Oregon Health & Sciences University, performed research on the association between food allergies and the gut microbiome and president of the Family Medicine Interest Group in the College of Medicine, as well as serves as president of both International Health Service Collaborative, Preventative and Integrative Medicine Interest Group. She completed international service trips to both Mexico City and Jamaica through her involvement as well.
Justine is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Arts candidate in the College of Arts and Sciences studying psychology with a minor in applied behavior analysis. She is also a member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College. Justine is from Largo, Florida.
In the words of one recommender, “Justine has a kind heart with a passion for service.” From 2018-2020, she served as the Bulls for Kids Hospital Relations Director. In this capacity, she worked closely with the staff and families of Shriners Healthcare for Children - Florida. During this experience, she most notably expanded programs to connect Shriners families with the USF community; this year she developed the Mini Kid Captain position to help increase patient and family interaction with the Bulls for Kids program and deepen engagement opportunities
Additionally, Justine has been involved as a GloBull Ambassador Accountability Director with the Global Citizens Project, as Make-A-Wish Chair for Chi Omega Fraternity, Peer Mentor in the Judy Genshaft Honors College and completed extensive research through her academic program and as a research assistant with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
John is a Bachelor of Arts candidate in the College of Arts and Sciences studying economics with minors in Spanish and entrepreneurship. He is a member of the United States Marine Corps and serves in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at USF. John is from Canby, Oregon.
Leadership and volunteering are key themes in John’s life. He serves as a platoon commander and a Battalion Physical Fitness Instructor at USF, serves on the executive board of the Dean’s Student Leadership Society for the College of Arts and Sciences as the Vice President of Campus Relations and oversees the Freshman Mentoring Program, and served as Team Captain with Relay for Life at USF. John also is a USF Ambassador, three-time Dean’s List recipient, tutor in the Office of Veteran’s Success, student leader with the Global Citizens Project, long time volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa Bay. John was named Marine of the Year in 2015.
Of John, one of his instructors wrote “Simply put –John is a stellar student and has been a true joy to work with!
Britney is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Arts candidate in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science with a minor in mass communications. Britney is from Tampa, Florida.
Britney’s intellect, passion, commitment, multicultural competencies, and ethical decision-making skills are core to her leadership style.
Britney serves USF as the 2019 - 2020 Student Body President and Board of Trustees student representative. In this role, she is responsible for the management and oversight of the student government association at USF. Through her current role, she demonstrated dynamism, energy and a tireless work effort as she as she assisted in the consolidation of the three geographically separate USF student governments into one functioning unit. She has held a role on student government since 2017 including time as the Assistant Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Senate Relations Committee Vice-Chair and Street Teamer. Britney is also a USF Ambassador, The Order of the Golden Brahman member and former officer of the Student Alumni Association. In 2019, Britney received a commendation from the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and in 2020, was named Haitian Woman of the Year from Fanm Kreyol Incorporated.
Sarah is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Science candidate in the Muma College of Business, studying in business administration marketing with a concentration in sales and a minor in entrepreneurship. Sarah is from Riverview, Florida.
She is a first-generation college student with a passion for sales and is determined to give back to the next generation of USF students.
After her father passed away in a motorcycle accident shortly before her freshmen year of college, Sarah founded the Howard Gimbel Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the proceeds going towards high school seniors seeking higher education. Since its inception, Sarah has raised $26,500 at three annual events, with another event scheduled for November. She plans to establish a scholarship fund here at the University of South Florida in her dad’s memory to help business students continuing their education.
Additionally, Sarah is a USF Ambassador, president of the Professional Sales Club and was recognized as one of the 25 under 25 for the Muma College of Business in 2019.
Sarah is a junior, Bachelor of Arts Candidate in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying in political science with a minor in women’s studies. She is also a member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College and is from Sarasota, Florida.
Sarah's goal is to improve the quality of life of individuals around the world through public policy and international affairs. As an example of this, in 2018, Sarah served as Campaign Manager for a candidate running for County Commission. In this capacity, she created a marketing plan and focused on targeting local organizations and homeowners’ associations. She scheduled public appearances for the candidate and represented the candidate herself on numerous occasions. She planned two large supporter events and was able to gain significant name recognition for the candidate, which bolstered their campaign.
Additionally, Sarah is the Education Caucus Chair for the Florida College Democrat and currently serves as Vice President of the USF Chapter of College Democrats.
Renata Gomes Martins
Renata is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Arts candidate in the Muma College of Business majoring in global business with a concentration in marketing. Renata is from Curitiba, Brazil.
From her recommenders, she is an audacious citizen of the world with a passion for creating a better world. Renata’s outlook through a global lens is exemplified by her co-founding the Global Business Society. Under the pillars of diversity, passion, union, and leadership, she created a constitution, found an advisor, and developed a plan to help students get connected to leaders in their fields. The club quickly gained more than 30 passionate members. Additionally, she created the World Without Waste Sustain-A-Bull challenge, supported by Coca-Cola. Student teams will create a business proposal related to Coca-Cola's goals and their work will be judged by leaders from the company, some of which may be used within the organization.
Sarah served as a marketing research intern with the USF Florida Small Business Development Center, is a multi-award winning pitch competition competitor through her involvement with the Professional Sales Club at USF and served as President of the Global Citizens Project Student Association.
Zinah is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Science candidate in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in integrated public relations and advertising. Zina is from Amman, Jordan.
Zinah’s positive attitude, concern for others, and willingness to embrace new opportunities makes her well-respected by her peers. She works hard, offers an insatiable energy, and conducts herself with much grace and poise
Having moved from her home in Jordan to attend USF, Zinah was admitted to the Academic & Cultural Engagement (ACE) Program, a program for first time in college out of state and international students. After completing the ACE Program, she applied to be an ACE Mentor to transition and aid freshman. In this capacity, she planned inclusive events, and held one on one meetings. She also worked as a CampU Counselor in New Student Connections.
Zinah is also involved as the current Assistant Director of Outreach & Community Affairs for Student Government, served as an Events Director for the Center for Student Involvement and served as Marketing Director for Bulls for Kids.
Lauren is a second-year M.D. candidate in the Morsani College of Medicine from Tampa, FL. Lauren is from Tampa, Florida.
Lauren serves as the Street Run Coordinator for Tampa Bay Street Medicine. This organization is a non-profit, medical student-run organization that works to bring medical care to the homeless population of Tampa Bay. Through direct outreach, volunteers seek to provide medical care, education, community connections, and healthcare access to some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Volunteers engage individuals outside of the traditional healthcare system in order to assess each unique situation holistically and develop a realistic plan to improve their health. She also works as a volunteer Advocate for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to help individuals who are experiencing sexual violence navigate the legal process and provide support.
Lauren has also been involved as the VP for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Interest Group in the College of Medicine and she is a long time equestrian.
Wainella C. Isaacs
Wainella is a PhD candidate in the College of Engineering studying environmental engineering. She also received her Master of Science degree in Engineering science for USF. Her Ph.D. Thesis is titled “Socio-Technical Transitions in the Water Sector: Emerging Boundaries for Resilience,” with the plan to analyze utility resilience in a Carribean Island water sector. Wainella is from Georgetown, Guyana.
Wainella demonstrates a passion for university, civic, and international engagement that lies at the very core of whatever she does in her professional career. For three years, she has served a graduate assistant for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Programs within the College of Engineering. In this role, she has had an integral role in the submission of federal and private funding proposals, planning professional development and mentoring activities, and recruitment of underrepresented graduate students.
Tayler Mannarino is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Science candidate in the College of Engineering, majoring in chemical engineering. She is also a member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College. Tayler is from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.
Bulls for Kids (BFK) is a dance marathon program, one of the largest student run philanthropies on campus and one of USF’s top traditions. After serving on the team for one-and-half years, Tayler was elected President in February 2017. At the Dance Marathon, the team engaged 900 USF students and logged over 5,000 hours of community service in one day. But their reach didn’t stop on campus. They also partnered with 6 local high schools to develop their own Dance Marathon programs and secured 87 different sponsorships. With these collaborations, Bulls for Kids had its most successful fundraising total to date at $175K for Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa, a 17% increase from the year before.
During her tenure at USF, Tayler also served as a tour guide for the Honors College, is a member of the Global Citizens project, and won the Tampa Bay Lightening’s “Here’s to You” award.
After graduation, Tayler will be joining Johnson and Johnson’s Global Operations Leadership Development (GOLD) Program in which she will participate in three rotations around the country in the fields of engineering, quality, and operations.
Travis is a graduating senior, Bachelor of Science candidate in the Muma College of Business majoring in business analytics and information systems with a concentration in cybersecurity. Travis is from Tampa, Florida.
As a consistent and humble leader, Travis is noticed in the community for his interpersonal skills, and most of all, his dedication and passion for USF.
Travis serves as the 2019 – 2020 Student Body Vice President working with oversee partnerships like Uber and Tampa Bay Lightning, overseeing the 150+ student employees in SG agencies like Bulls Radio, Computer Services and Safe Team and worked on projects related to Esports, and parking. Most noteably, he has left his mark on the Activities and Services Recommendation Committee (ASRC), which he currently serves as chair of and served as vice chair of in 2018. His mark has included facilitating new processes and procedures that evoke efficiency for both the committee and the student organizations and departments who turn to the committee each year for funding. Most unique is Travis’s role as a member of the team who formulated the USF Consolidation plans for Student Government to bring together student leadership from St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee. He has left an indelible mark on the student experience, particularly on how students will experience being supported and advocated for through their Student Government structure, and on how their activities and services fees are spent.
In addition to his student government work, Travis is a fraternity man and treasurer of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Incorporated, member of the Order of the Golden Brahman, a USF Ambassador, Finance Committee Member for the USF Alumni Association Board of Directors, has served as Orientation Leader and member of the University Conduct Board and has served on numerous high-level university committees and planning groups.
Ridhi Mittal is a junior, Bachelor of Science candidate in the College of Engineering, majoring in chemical engineering. Ridhi is from New Delhi, India.
According to a recommender, Ridhi has an innate ability to connect and work closely with her peers and to inspire by leading by example. Ridhi has served as a resident assistant for two years in Magnolia Apartments. In her community, she offers personalized guidance to 22 residents via over 20 hours weekly of individualized interaction. She mediates roommate conflicts, organizes community gatherings, and enhances multicultural awareness and social justice in the community. Ridhi serves as a resource, ensuring her residents are connected with academic and co-curricular opportunities to help them get involved on campus, and make the most of their experience at the institution. She utilizes her strength as a relationship builder to connect her residents to internship opportunities and engage them in career conversations to prepare for career fairs at the university.
Ridhi is a winner of the USF Green & Gold Directors Scholarship Award, serves as the Fundraising Chair for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and as a student ambassador for the Bulls L.E.A.D program.
Blanche Pinto is a second-year, Master of Science Candidate in the College of Engineering studying computer science. Blanche is from Dubai.
Her determination to persevere and dedication to the community are hallmarks of her time at USF. Blanche coordinated Tampa’s first brain-drone race at the Yuengling center. The race consisted of people racing drones with their brains (hands-free). Blanche volunteered to organize the event. Due to her leadership skills, the race hosted more than 300 people in attendance both from USF and Tampa communities. Also, the race was showcased by several media outlets like Fox News 13, Channel 8, AUVSI Drone Magazine, and several drone YouTube channels. After the success of the event, she started a student organization called the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) Club at USF, a first of its kind in the US. This club held workshops and events for USF students to build their own drones from scratch, control them with their brain using BCI technology, and integrate AR/VR tech into these systems.
Blanche also worked as a software engineering intern at Twitter a software developing intern at Deutsch Bank, and has had five papers accepted for publication this academic year.
Natasha is a Bachelor of Science candidate in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in cell and molecular biology with a minor in public health. She is also a member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College. Natasha is from Palm Harbor, FL.
With a strong academic background, Natasha has garnered ample research experience as a Research Assistant at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and Teneja College of Pharmacy. She was an AMGEN scholar at Washington University in St. Louis under Dr. Kerry Kornfield. She was also an advanced undergraduate researcher in the Combined cell biology and genetics lab under Dr. Jones Mason. Natasha has presented at numerous academic conferences including the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, Washington University’s Summer Research Symposium, the Experimental Biology National Conference, among others.
Additionally, Natasha is a USF Ambassador, WISE Student Advisory Council members, Order of the Golden Brahaman member and has dedicated time to community service through USF’s Stampede of Service program.
After graduating from USF, Natasha will pursue a dual MD-PHD degree.
Sydni is a junior, Bachelor of Arts candidate majoring in economics and a Bachelor of Science candidate majoring in cell & molecular biology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is also a member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College. Sydni is from New Port Richey, FL.
Sydni demonstrates excellent communication skills, high levels of motivation and diligence in her academic and co-curricular work. As current president of Hope for the Homeless at USF, Sydni hosted on-campus events such as the OxFam hunger banquet and the annual Homeless not Hopeless Event to raise awareness for the issues surrounding homelessness in the Tampa Bay area. She leads groups of students in volunteering events. Her goal in leading this organization is to emphasize the underlying social issues of homelessness and how our efforts can make a difference in the lives of individuals in need.
Since August 2017, Sydni has also served as a research assistant, Department of Molecular Medicine in USF Morsani College of Medicine. She also participated in the USF Honors College Dominican Republic Medical Service Trip and now volunteers consistently with Quantum Leap Farm Inc-Equine Assisted Therapies and LifePath Hospice Circle of Love Center-Children’s Bereavement.
Molly is a Ph.D. Candidate in the College of Engineering studying chemical engineering. Molly is from Lake Mary, Florida.
As a Teaching Assistant and leader in the Society of Women Engineers, Molly is a role model and dedicated advocate in the community.
In April 2016, after losing her younger brother to a rare form of childhood leukemia, she and her family established the SkinnerStrong Foundation. Their nonprofit’s mission is to support research efforts, provide treatment, and assist in the care of children affected by childhood leukemia. The organization holds multiple fundraisers a year and Molly has served as secretary since its founding. She also helped write the bylaws and file paperwork with the IRS to get nonprofit status. In addition, in the of Fall 2019, Molly founded a GradSWE (Society of Women Engineers) Community here at USF. She has planned workshops, panels, and socials for graduate students and continues to combine a relentless pursuit of knowledge with community engagement.
In addition, Molly participated in the National Science Foundation’s program, International Research Experience for Students. Through this program, she traveled to the National University of Singapore for eight weeks.
Sebastian Michael Smith
Sebastian Smith is a graduating senior Bachelor of Science candidate in the College of Arts & Sciences, majoring in health science with concentrations in healthcare administration and biomedical science. Sebastian is from West Palm Beach, Florida.
In his tenure at USF, Sebastian has dedicated countless hours in the development of a program that will enhance the health, wellness, and safety of the USF community. As a founder of the University Emergency Medicine Student Association (UEMSA), Sebastian’s efforts have led the way to the launch of the university’s first Medical Response Unit (MRU). The MRU, in partnership with Student Government and Student Health Services, provides free Basic Life Support medical care to all students, faculty, staff, and guests on the Tampa campus. If needed, the MRU can transport a sick or injured student to the Student Health Services clinic for further evaluation and treatment. Sebastian was one of the key authors of the MRU’s operation and medical protocols that govern the care and treatment that the patients receive. As a staff supervisor, Sebastian oversees a team of four volunteers that garner over 180 combined volunteer hours per week responding to calls for assistance. As a training instructor, he has helped certify over 100 students with an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) certification through UEMSA’s eight-week EMR training program held every semester.
Sebastian experiences also include serving as a peer mentor for three years at the University of South Florida and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (USF-HHMI) STEM Academy, membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society and participating in a volunteering program in Cusco, Peru.
Zubiya Syed is a graduating senior Bachelor of Science candidate majoring in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts candidate majoring in biomedical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is from Temple Terrace, Florida.
Zubiya is a paragon of the type of globally engaged citizen that USF hopes to cultivate. In 2017, Zubiya created the Triumph Over Trafficking student organization. Since its founding, it has risen to national prominence. In its first year, Triumph Over Trafficking garnered 150 members. The organization has organized two Human Trafficking Victim Identification sessions, several fundraisers for human trafficking safehouses, hosted a guest speaker on trafficking, and co-sponsored a university screening of “I Am Jane Doe.” Each of these efforts has been directed towards raising awareness about trafficking on campus. While human trafficking is an immediate local issue in Tampa, many of their activities have helped to expose the global and local elements of trafficking.
In addition to advocacy work, during her tenure at USF, Zubiya served as a research assistant in the Mood and Emotion Lab, worked as a student assistant at USF Health, and has volunteered on a consistent basis with both Hope Lodge and Relay for Life at USF.
Zubiya was admitted to the Nova Southeastern University School of Medicine where she will begin her coursework in July 2020.
Avalon Jade Theisen
Avalon is a Bachelor of Arts candidate in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in religious studies with a certificate in food studies. She is also a member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College. Jade is from Tampa, Florida.
As the Vice President of Programming (VPP), for Sigma Kappa Sorority, Avalon has been a model leader in the chapter and has reached monumental achievements. She oversaw the organization of the chapter calendar, scheduling speakers and programs that aligned with Sigma Kappa’s national requirements and assisted in planning chapter events. She has created systems and training to help future sisters take on the role of VPP. Sigma Kappa Sorority’s national organization named her one of their 35 under 35.
In addition to her service with Sigma Kappa Sorority, Avalon raised over $2,197 for charity through USF related philanthropy and volunteered 270 hours since the fall of 2018.
Avalon was crowned Miss University of South Florida 2019 and received the Miss America Academic Award. Additionally, Avalon has presented research throughout her undergraduate career, is a USF Provost’s Scholar, Global Citizen Award recipient, USF Alumni Traditions Keeper, Order of Omega member, member of both the Golden Key and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies and president of the Religious Studies Club and longtime volunteer with Bulls for Kids and Forever Friends.