TAMPA, Fla. (April 20, 2017) — The University of South Florida Alumni Association has named three Outstanding Graduates for the Spring 2017 Commencement ceremonies, one for each regional institution of the USF System. Outstanding Graduates embody leadership, school spirit, academic excellence, community involvement and a love for USF.
The following honorees will be recognized at USF Commencement ceremonies at their respective institutions May 5-8.
Natalie Soyster, BS Cell and Molecular Biology, BA Psychology, minor in biomedical physics
An Honors College student, Soyster began her academic career at USF as a Kosove Scholar. Her involvement with the Kosove Society spans her college career, including service as vice president for community service and legacy projects. Soyster has touched many lives as a volunteer with destitute and ill children in Peru and with quadriplegic and ALS patients at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital here in Tampa. She also was a research assistant in the USF Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology Lab and tutor for chemistry and other sciences through the Chemistry Society at USF’s tutoring lab. As president of the Student Alumni Association, Soyster led the largest student organization on the Tampa campus. She also served on the executive board of the USF Ambassadors, a selective student leadership organization. Soyster is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She plans to become a physician and will start medical school in fall 2017.
Hunter Paul Drake, BA Psychology, USF St. Petersburg Honors Program
For many years Drake struggled with an unsatisfying career, illness and even a period of homelessness. At 42, he made a decision to draw strength from the hardships he had endured and chart a new course for himself. He applied to USF St. Petersburg. For two years, Drake has served as research assistant and lab manager in Dr. Tiffany Chenneville’s Pediatric HIV Lab and he also has held three different teaching assistantships. He was elected president of the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology this spring, and treasurer of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society last fall. He has been an active member of the Psychological Science Organization. In addition to his academic pursuits, Drake volunteers at a local HIV service agency where he does everything from counseling to operating a food pantry to answering phones. He also tutors students at St. Petersburg College. Following graduation, Drake will continue his studies at USF St. Petersburg as a master’s student in psychology.
Katerina S Pluhacek, BS General Business Administration, USF Sarasota Manatee
Pluhacek moved to the United States seven years ago without family and not knowing a word of English. With hard work and long hours she learned English in about a year and was able to complete her high school education with a 3.89 GPA. She then attended a local community college. When she transferred to USF Sarasota Manatee, Pluhacek applied for and got the position of Campus Activities Board president , where she managed five coordinators and a $140,000 budget. Recognizing the need for academic excellence and school spirit, she has been actively involved on campus, starting The Adventure Club that now has more than 200 members, being voted Homecoming Queen, and receiving invitations from two honor societies: Phi Kappa Phi, the oldest honor society in the country, and Beta Gamma Sigma. Pluhacek will graduate with a 3.97 GPA and plans to attend law school.
About the USF Alumni Association
The USF Alumni Association is a nonprofit organization composed of former students and friends of the University of South Florida. Our mission is to provide meaningful ways for USF Bulls to support, protect and promote their university. There are more than 310,000 USF graduates worldwide. For more information, log on to www.usfalumni.org, like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USFalumni or follow us on Twitter @USFAlumniAssn.