University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus



USF St. Petersburg Fall Commencement to Honor Distinct Accomplishments of Students

group of graduating students

The Fall 2019 ceremony will mark the 67th Commencement celebration at USF St. Petersburg.

An 80-year old who returned to school to earn his degree and fulfill a promise to his parents and himself. A first-generation college student who paid his way through school while also working to help at-risk youth in the local community. And an aspiring copyright lawyer who is achieving her college degree just two years after completing high school.

They are just several of the more than 450 students whose diverse accomplishments will be celebrated during the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Fall 2019 Commencement.

“USF St Petersburg faculty and staff push students to excel, challenging them to engage their minds, heart and hands in learning as we walk with them,” said Martin Tadlock, Regional Chancellor of USF St. Petersburg. “Commencement is a wonderful event where we celebrate the paths our students have chosen, acknowledge the paths ahead and recognize that our graduates can handle any obstacles the world places in front of them.”

USF St. Petersburg will host two ceremonies on Sunday, December 15 at the Mahaffey Theater. Graduates from the Kate Tiedemann College of Business and the College of Education will walk at 1 p.m., and those graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences will walk at 5 p.m.

The Fall 2019 ceremony will mark the 67th Commencement celebration at USF St. Petersburg. During the ceremony, the university will honor Melissa Seixas with the Chancellor’s Community Leadership Award.

Seixas is vice-president of government and community relations for Duke Energy Florida. She directs the company’s efforts to strengthen relationships with municipal, community and civic organizations, as well as business leaders throughout the company’s 35 county service area.

Seixas has a strong tradition of supporting her community. She has served as a board member for many non-profit and business organizations including Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Pinellas County Urban League. She is currently the Chairwoman of the Board for the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership and recently served as an appointee to the University of South Florida Consolidation Taskforce.

Other highlights for media consideration

Oldest USFSP graduate

When Way Bandy first enrolled in college, the Soviet Union just launched Sputnik 1 and “American Bandstand” made its debut on television. Bandy dropped out to get married and raise three kids. He returned intermittently over the years but never finished. Bandy is now 80 and retired. Before he left college, he made a promise to his parents and himself that he would return one day and earn his degree. On Sunday, he will fulfill that promise, receiving his degree in General Studies.

Outstanding graduate

This award, given by the USF Alumni Association, recognizes a graduating senior who embodies leadership, school spirit, community service, character and scholarship. This year’s recipient is:

Jake Burklew, who is graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education with a dual certification in Elementary Education (K-6) and Exceptional Student Education (K-12). Burklew served as a campus leader and active community member during his time at USF St. Petersburg. Additionally, he worked with at-risk students in the local community by volunteering at schools with a history of low student academic gains. Coming from a low-income family and being a first-generation college student, Burklew worked to help pay for his education, taking jobs at Sam’s Club, Shorecrest Preparatory School and as a counselor at USF St. Petersburg’s SMART Start Summer Camp. He plans to continue this trend of hard work and dedication in his future endeavors as he steps into a new role as a first-grade teacher at Bay Vista Fundamental School.

King O’Neal Scholar

Created by the USF Alumni Association in honor of charter graduates Lucas King and Evelyn O’Neal, this award is bestowed on outstanding students who have completed their USF coursework with a 4.0 GPA. This year’s recipient is:

Sabrina Escalona is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in French from the College of Arts and Sciences. She is celebrating this significant achievement just two years after completing high school. During her time at USF St. Petersburg, Sabrina had the rewarding experience of participating in the Honors Program, where she learned how to conduct extensive research and completed an honors thesis on music copyright law and peer-to-peer sharing. She also valued and contributed to open conversations on important LGBTQ issues as a member of the Pride Club. Sabrina plans to attend Law School starting in the Fall of 2020, with a focus on copyright law in the entertainment industry.

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