Student Spotlights

Learn about a few of the students in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and why they chose USFSM as their school of choice.

Alex Masella, ’17
Professional & Technical Communication

Alex Masella admits to some hesitation when he considered Professional & Technical Communication as his major: “I was a little intimidated by the some of the courses. I mean, who wants to take Advanced Technical Writing?”

But that anxiousness faded when he learned that the program’s courses are structured to allow students to progress at a comfortable pace under the direction of attentive, knowledgeable instructors.

That formula helped Alex in and out of the classroom. In addition to excelling at his studies, he’s been able to apply what he’s learned to his current job while still aiming to launch a new career as a media/communications director.

“What I love about the PTC major is the flexibility it gives me to pursue my passions and the freedom I have to be creative and use my strengths to achieve my best work,” he said. “It’s empowering, and gives me incredible motivation to work on large projects.”


Alina Evans, ’18
Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

Like many young people entering college, Alina Evans couldn’t decide on an academic discipline – so many appealed to her – so the USF Sarasota-Manatee student did what made sense to her: She enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences program.

By pursuing more than one discipline, Alina has been able to satisfy her intellectual curiosity while exploring different career options. After an internship through USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Career Services Office, she settled on one career in particular: She wants to be an attorney.

“I was given the opportunity to intern at the State Attorney’s Office as an undergraduate student and through this experience I was able to understand what attorneys do on a daily basis,” she said. “I now know that that is the career for me.”

The ISS program has also enabled Evans to take courses that could help as she transitions into law school, including classes in politics, government and criminology.

“Overall I believe the resources at USFSM have prepared me for life after graduation better than I could have ever hoped for,” she said.


Alison Atha, ’18
Elementary Education

It could be said Alison Atha was born to teach. After all, her mother is a teacher and ever since Alison was a young girl in East Tennessee, she knew she wanted to do the same.

“I love children and how they think and perceive life,” she said. “They are little eager sponges ready to absorb the world around them.”

So after spending time researching USF Sarasota-Manatee’s School of Education and consulting with relatives who graduated from the campus, Alison resolved to register for the school’s Elementary Education program.

Since then, she hasn’t looked back.

“Not only have I grown as a future educator, but also as a person,” she says. “This program has taught me to open my mind to new ideas, cultures and technologies all around us.”


Andrew Becht, ’17
Criminology

When he thought over his college choices, Andrew Becht knew he wanted a complete education, but he also wanted to stay local and hold down his tuition costs.

At USF Sarasota-Manatee, he’s been able to attain each of those goals – all while enjoying a productive campus life.

Since arriving at USFSM, Andrew has made the most of his time, serving as Student Body President and immersing himself in the campus’ many extracurricular activities, from movie nights to trips to sporting events to USF Day at the Capitol, where students travel to Tallahassee to meet lawmakers.

He also appreciates the campus’ personalized approach to education. USFSM students enjoy a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which allows for thorough classroom discussions.

“I’ve been in classes with as few as five students,” he said. “Having a class that small has allowed my professors to engage in conversations and debate with students.

“My most rewarding classes have been ones where the professor could challenge my ideas one-on-one in the classroom,” he said. “The level of attention my professors gave me could not be found at any other state institution.”


Arelys Gomez, ’18
Elementary Education

Arelys Gomez spoke little English when she moved from Puerto Rico at age 5.

“I struggled at first, but amazing teachers helped me succeed academically,” she said.

Inspired, she resolved at a young age to become a teacher herself. Now as a young adult, she’s striving to make that dream a reality at USFSM’s School of Education.

With the right blend of challenging coursework and dedicated instructors, Arelys is growing into a confident and inspiring teacher in her own right.

Frequent internships put her into public school classrooms to hone her skills, while at USFSM she’s learning the latest strategies and technologies to succeed in her career.

“When I began my education training at USF, I was completely blown away by the instructors,” she said. “Each one has demonstrated such a passion for teaching that it’s contagious. I feel exceedingly prepared as a future educator. I could not have asked for a better experience.”


Chloe Conboy, ’17
Professional & Technical Communication

Chloe Conboy says the instructors in USFSM’s Professional & Technical Communication program made all the difference in her educational career.

“I have never had professors who are so passionate about teaching students,” she says. “They provide vital information and share with you their knowledgeable work experiences. I am truly grateful to have professors who are motivating and help me achieve academic success.”

Chloe’s lessons – often within a small classroom setting – are sharpening her communication skills while helping her to consider new and different perspectives.

Meanwhile, outside the classroom, she’s been able to enjoy an internship at ABC7 News in Sarasota to also further her education.

“If you want to enhance your skills and learn in a small-class environment to allow for personalized attention, this is the major for you,” she said.


Geborah Joseph-Smith, ’17
Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

Geborah Joseph-Smith was looking for an affordable, local college program when she landed at USF Sarasota-Manatee. But since arriving here, she’s found so much more.

The Interdisciplinary Social Sciences student says USFSM has helped unlock her passion for social justice and “paying it forward,” so that someday she will devote her life to benefitting her community.

That could be as a teacher, social worker or as a community organizer. For now, before she pursues graduate school, Geborah says she’s enjoying her time at USFSM.

“Above all, I want to be a resource to my community,” she says. “I can envision myself changing education policies, teaching in a classroom, initiating or directing programs at the YMCA, or helping less-fortunate citizens improve their social and economic standing.”

Being that agent of change starts with impassioned, knowledgeable instructors, she says.

“My professors are well-practiced, highly skilled and humble,” Geborah says. “Their excellence drives me to want to pursue my master’s degree. I am highly considering obtaining a Master of Social Work with a concentration in community development, mostly because I believe that helping communities to live well and grow is one way to help individuals have a better life also.”


Leah Holst, ’17
History

Leah Holst wasn’t alone when she hesitated at declaring a major – many other students express similar uncertainty – but instead of being overwhelmed she followed her heart and recalled an art history class early in her academic career.

Soon, she would declare history as her major and take comfort knowing she chose the right path.

Studying history “allows me to better understand how society has reached the point where it is today and appreciate what life was like for my ancestors and past generations,” she said.

Meanwhile, USFSM’s small class sizes and dedicated professors have helped her stay engaged in her studies. So much so that the honors student now aims to pursue a graduate degree in museum or library sciences once she graduates from USFSM.

By working at a museum or local history center she’ll be able to help others learn about history, she said. “From politics to the arts, one can gain so much knowledge of so many areas by studying history.”


Leah Meldman, ’17
English

An aspiring attorney and lover of literature, Leah Meldman had no trouble choosing English as her major.

“I know the excellent communication skills I’ve learned in my degree studies will be applicable throughout law school and beyond,” she said.

Moving to Sarasota from New Jersey, she found a writing job at an e-commerce business and joined USFSM’s English Society to connect with fellow students. “It doesn’t hurt that the campus is absolutely stunning and I get to learn in such a beautiful environment,” she added.

But what she most cherishes about USFSM are the relationships she formed with peers and professors. Collaborating with fellow students and instructors alike in a small classroom setting has enriched her learning experience, she said.

“One of the highlights of my time at USFSM was my participation in a directed study with Dr. Timothy Turner,” she said. “I was able to assist him with research for two semesters as part of a small group of students. This opportunity allowed me to further develop skills as a leader and thinker.

“USFSM provides a wonderful environment for budding professionals to develop the skills necessary to be successful in all future endeavors,” she said.


Loretta Walmsley, ’19
Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

Loretta Walmsley came to USF Sarasota-Manatee after having already entered the workplace, and like many other non-traditional students she wanted to make a career change.

So after talking with an advisor at the USF campus in Tampa, she found herself registering for USFSM’s Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (ISS) program.

The ISS program allows students to choose from a variety of courses that align with their educational and career goals.

In Loretta’s case, she found the program’s social science courses a perfect fit with her goal to become a social worker. In addition, they could help as she considers her next academic objective: earning a master’s degree in social work.

Not only is Loretta passionate about social work, but she holds an abiding interest in gerontology and addiction recovery.

At USFSM, Loretta is gaining the knowledge and insight to help her achieve both her academic and career goals.


Matthew Mitchell, ’17
Professional & Technical Communication

Matthew Mitchell admits he’s not “your typical college student.”

Married with four children, the 32-year-old says that between family life and his coaching and officiating duties, he’s often pressed for time, which is why he was grateful to enroll in USFSM’s Professional & Technical Communication program.

Most of the courses are online, which allows for flexibility, and most of his instructors hold doctoral degrees so he knows he’s getting the best education possible.

Matthew is aiming to work in the front office of a college or professional sports program, but he also feels pulled toward broadcasting and sports journalism. However his career ends up, he says he’s grateful he made the decision three years ago to leave his manufacturing job to attend college full time.

“While it wasn’t the easiest thing to do financially, especially while raising a family, I got it done,” he said.

“I urge anyone who is questioning whether to enroll in the PTC program at USFSM, to take a leap of faith and just do it. If you put in the effort, you may be extraordinarily rewarded within just a few short years,” he said.


Morgan O’Brien, ’17
English

Enrolling at USF Sarasota-Manatee right out of high school in 2013, Morgan O’Brien was eager to get a jump on college.

But as a member of USFSM’s inaugural freshman class, she had other priorities in mind as well when she registered, like staying local and finding a comfortable campus setting to grow academically.

USFSM, with its low student-to-faculty ratio (13:1), turned out to be exactly what she was looking for.

“The small class sizes allow for more conversation among students and professors, resulting in a better learning environment,” she said. “I feel as though my voice is heard in and out of school because of these small class sizes.”

Also helpful, she says, are the challenging coursework and quality instruction.

“Every professor I’ve had since beginning my major in English has challenged me to think about things from a different perspective,” Morgan said. “The coursework is exciting and there are always opportunities to study subjects in depth.”