USF World News

USF World’s Sash Ceremony Draws Packed House to Celebrate Graduation

group photograph of USF international students stading as a group at their seats with their country sashes in the MSC Oval Theater auditorium

Students and families from around the world join to celebrate accomplishing goals.

TAMPA, FL (May 7, 2024) -- An internet search for graduate programs in electrical engineering led Bhargavi Sudhir Koli from her home in Mumbai, India, to the USF College of Engineering two years ago.  At USF, she found a passion for wireless technologies and through internships, hands-on learning, and a job at the USF Bookstore, where she met new people and made friends, Tampa began to feel like home.

Koli and her parents, who had encouraged her to pursue her graduate degree in the United States and flew from halfway around the world to celebrate her graduation, were among more than 400 USF students and hundreds more friends and family members celebrating the tradition of honoring the home countries of international students and their achievements as new USF graduates. Koli draped the saffron, white and green sash — the colors of the Indian flag — around her neck as her parents beamed; more journeys to Tampa may be in their future as their daughter pursues an engineering job in the U.S. and hopes to stay here.

More than 1,000 international students from more than 70 different countries were among USF’s spring 2024 graduates: 30 new PhDs, 602 students earning master’s degrees and 388 earning bachelor’s degrees. The sash ceremony on May 1 at the USF Marshall Center’s Oval Theater drew a capacity crowd.

Vice President of USF World, Dr. Kiki Caruson, stands with the school's bull mascot, ROcky, two Indian international students, and their parents following the 2024 Spring sash ceremony

“You will make new discoveries and innovations, you will start your own businesses, you will create music, you will create art,” USF World Vice President Kiki Caruson told the gathering. “You are our next physicians, our next engineers, and our next teachers. By graduating from the University of South Florida, you have proven you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”

USF Student Body President Cesar Esmeraldi, who immigrated to Florida from Brazil with his family when he was just 15 and spoke no English, told the gathering he celebrates the shared experiences of immigrants and non-English speakers. “Going to a new country away from family and friends, not knowing anyone or anywhere, it’s a hard thing,” Esmeraldi said. “But feeling (you) have a home away from home, assimilating to a new culture and growing as a global citizen, these are challenges that only us will understand. I think that’s why we relate to each other ... and built a great community together at USF.”

For new alumni who are not staying in Florida, they will be able to stay in touch through USF Global Networks, which work to foster connections between graduates, current students, faculty, and community partners to build worldwide communities and professional connections. In addition to a general network for all international students, there are designated networks for alumni from Brazil, India, the Caribbean, Colombia, the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia. A new network for alumni from Canada will soon launch.

Among the students celebrating the blending of cultures old and new was Camila Vargas Herrera, whose family moved from Venezuela to Sarasota when she was in high school. Even though she didn’t learn English until just a few years ago, she’s graduated with honors from USF with a double major in Spanish and criminal justice. At the sash ceremony, she thanked her parents for taking a risk and building a new life in Florida.

“They did a great sacrifice when we moved here," she said. “They motivated me to keep going and going. I am proud of myself and proud of them for everything they’ve accomplished.”

View ceremony photos here:

View slideshow with student photo submissions here: