TAMPA, Fla. (April 30, 2020) – For the first time in its history, the University of South Florida will hold virtual commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 9, to recognize thousands of graduates who are unable to participate in traditional, in-person ceremonies due to the coronavirus outbreak.
USF President Steven Currall will preside over ceremonies for campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee that will include conferring nearly 7,500 degrees.
The spring 2020 class features 43 students who hold a perfect 4.0 GPA, 272 student veterans and graduates from 50 states and more than 100 nations. The youngest graduate is Natalie Rodriguez, 18, earning a bachelor’s degrees in aging studies. The oldest graduate is 68 years old. Of the degrees to be awarded, approximately 6,617 are from USF in Tampa, 544 from USF St. Petersburg and 280 from USF Sarasota-Manatee.
Each virtual ceremony will include many elements that traditionally occur during an in-person ceremony, including remarks from Currall and each USF campus student body president, recognition of the Outstanding Graduate Award winners and graduates who earned a 4.0 GPA and conferring of the degrees. Instead of graduates walking across the stage one at a time, each ceremony will feature the names of every graduate on screen. The ceremonies will be available for viewing beginning at 10 a.m. on May 9 through the USF commencement website.
Spring graduates have also been invited to participate in USF’s traditional in-person commencement ceremonies in August, which are contingent upon ongoing guidance from federal, state and local government and public health officials regarding large gatherings.
Student stories for media consideration
Britney Deas, bachelor’s degree in political science. The Miami native became the first black woman to ever serve as USF Student Government president, and the first woman to hold the position in more than 20 years. Deas served as a member of the USF Board of Trustees, helped represent the voice of students during USF’s consolidation process and her administration completed a number of important initiatives, including a project to make mental health resources more accessible to students. She plans to attend law school.
Michael Congdon, bachelor’s degree in studio art. Congdon spent 15 years in the U.S. Army before medically retiring due to leg and back injuries. Upon transferring to USF, he changed his focus from business and marketing to photography. He says art has proven extremely therapeutic and has helped get his mind off some of the traumatic experiences he’s had in the past. Through USF’s Breaking Barriers program, a photography workshop developed for local veterans, Congdon gained opportunities to show his work at various venues and received much acclaim. He plans to pursue a master’s degree and he’s scheduled to participate in the national Veterans Creative Arts Festival competition in November.
Natalie Rodriguez, bachelor’s degree in aging studies. At 18, she holds the distinction as USF’s youngest graduate in the spring 2020 class. A first-generation American, Rodriguez attended a magnet high school and worked toward her diploma and an associate degree simultaneously. Two years ago, at age 16, she graduated from high school and Hillsborough Community College at the same time. Rodriguez plans to pursue an MBA before applying to medical school to become a physician.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.