TAMPA, Fla. (May 1, 2020) — The University of South Florida has announced the three Outstanding Graduates for spring 2020. Through their leadership, perseverance, school spirit and determination, these students have embodied what it means to be an Outstanding Graduate.
USF recognizes one Outstanding Graduate for each regional institution of the USF System – USF, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, there won’t be a physical Commencement in May. USF plans to recognize spring graduates virtually on May 9 and at the Summer 2020 USF Commencement in August.
Keller Blackwell, BS Mathematics, USF Tampa
A non-traditional transfer student, Keller Blackwell spent many years working full-time in the restaurant industry before arriving at USF in 2017 as a sophomore majoring in mathematics. His passion for research has produced groundbreaking work in multiple research groups, including internships at Clemson University and Williams College. Blackwell founded the USF Putnam Group to bring the nation’s most prestigious mathematics competition to Tampa, and has served on the executive board of multiple USF student organizations, including the Chinese Culture and Language Club and the Mathematical Association of America. His work in coding theory and cryptography won national recognition in the 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and inspired him to co-found USF CodeBreakHERS, a STEM program for disadvantaged high school girls. In 2020, Blackwell became USF’s first Knight-Hennessy Scholar, an internationally competitive fellowship funding graduate study at Stanford. After graduation, Blackwell intends to pursue a doctorate in computer science.
Jonathan M. DeVries, BS Biology, USF St. Petersburg
Jonathan DeVries arrived at USFSP as a home-schooled student. He devoted himself to academics and to becoming a leader on and off campus. With the ultimate goal of becoming a physician, he regularly served as a volunteer at Bayfront Health and at the Celebrate Recovery 12-Step Program. And, in keeping with his desire to help others, served on mission trips to Kenya and Japan and joined the USFSP Student Success Center as a physics and chemistry tutor. In 2018, he became a research intern for the Summer Program for the Advancement of Research Knowledge, a highly competitive program for undergraduates at Moffitt Cancer Center. He later joined Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as a research assistant working on pediatric gastroenterology. DeVries also served as president of the Phi-Chi Pre-Medical Fraternity at USFSP. Graduating with a 4.0 GPA, he plans to continue his medical research at Johns Hopkins while applying to medical school.
Kayla Collins, BA Criminology, USF Sarasota-Manatee
A first-generation college student, Collins dreamed of being a role model for her cousins and future nieces and nephews. When she arrived at USFSM, she looked for ways to ease her transition from inner-city St. Louis to small-town Florida. She applied to become a USF Ambassador, a demanding student leadership development program that offers members many opportunities to connect with their peers, alumni and community. To further immerse herself in campus life, Collins went to work at the Office of Admissions, where she became a founding member and leader of the Campus Experience Guide Team. She also joined Student Government, where she was elected vice president. While working three jobs and holding leadership positions in extracurricular groups including the Adventure Club and the Yoga Club, Collins conducted research at the local prison and maintained a 3.9 GPA. She plans to complete her master’s degree in 2021.
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 353,000 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.