Graduate Sarah Smith, who was part of the original freshman class in 2013.

USF Sarasota-Manatee holds 65th commencement

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 10, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 10, 2016) – Sarah Smith said she’ll miss USF Sarasota-Manatee’s inspiring atmosphere.

The Spring 2016 graduate, among a handful from the original freshman class in 2013, was set to graduate after only three years at USFSM after first taking college classes as a 15-year-old.

Awaiting the procession into the Bradenton Area Convention Center on Monday night, the business marketing major reflected on her time at USF Sarasota-Manatee, saying she would miss being surrounded by students, faculty and staff, “who are educated people and want to do more with their lives.

“It was inspiring to me,” said Smith, who intends to pursue a master’s degree as a physician’s assistant at USF in Tampa.

Others poised to graduate Monday at USFSM’s 65th Commencement made similar observations, saying they would miss friends and faculty members, programs, clubs and the camaraderie from shared experiences, even the beautiful campus setting.

The graduation, which saw close to 300 receive diplomas in a two-hour ceremony presided over by USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft and USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone, was an occasion for smiles, laughter and tears.

The Spring Class of 2016.

The Spring Class of 2016.

Rachel Olsen, who graduated with a BS in business administration, called it “a bittersweet moment” interwoven with laughter and heartfelt farewells.

Olsen spent the past year and a half working in the Information Commons area, which allowed for periods of study during downtime. But the experience also had her mingling daily with staff, faculty and fellow students, making it all the more difficult to say goodbye to them on Monday.

“I’m really going to miss the relationships I formed there,” she said.

Coy Carter, 21, graduating with a degree in criminology, said he plans to seek an MBA after taking a year off. He said he will miss the camaraderie of the Ambassador program. Ambassadors represent USFSM at functions on and off campus.

“I made a lot of friends through the Ambassadors,” he said. “I hope we stay in touch.”

Lauren Henry, USFSM’s Spring 2016 Outstanding Graduate and one of only four King O’Neal Scholars, was also an Ambassador. She likewise plans to return to school, saying she will pursue an MBA at Liberty University in the fall.

She said one of the most meaningful moments of her time at USFSM occurred two months ago when she and fellow business students advised a small company about inventory tracking issues and marketing.

“It was a good experience for team building and also as a real-world experience working with a company,” she said.

Stewart Carrier, this year’s winner of the Golden Bull Service and Outstanding Leadership Award, said he would miss the friendships formed during his time in Student Government. The history major and former SG attorney general was accepted into the prestigious Gallatin School at New York University. He’ll start classes in the fall.

Kaitlyn Parsons, 23, said her experience at USF Sarasota-Manatee prepared her to tackle a long-held personal goal to help troubled young people turn their lives around.

Parsons works as a clerk at the Sarasota County Court Clerk’s Office. Equipped with a master’s degree in criminal justice administration, she said, she hopes to someday launch a non-profit company to help incarcerated young people transition into society after their release.

“It would be a re-entry program to show them what they can do or where to go,” she said. “These young people need to know that they can turn their lives around and that there’s hope for them.”

Parsons was one of 35 to receive a master’s degree. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree at USFSM.

Other notable people at Monday’s graduation ceremony include: Outstanding Professor Award winner Dr. Jean Kabongo, Regional Chancellor Award for Leadership and Service winner state Sen. Nancy Detert and King O’Neal Scholars Brendan Bennett, Amanda Burns and Kallie Minnick. The King O’Neal Scholar Award is given out to students who achieve a perfect 4.0 GPA. Outstanding Graduate Lauren Henry was a King O’Neal Scholar as well.

Graduate Amanda Burns, one of four King O'Neal Scholars, shares an emotional moment.

Graduate Amanda Burns, one of four King O’Neal Scholars, shares an emotional moment.

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