The University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus is recognizing the distinct accomplishments of nearly 550 spring graduates during a virtual commencement ceremony that will be available for viewing beginning on Saturday, May 9.
This is the first time in the university’s history that commencement ceremonies will be held online to celebrate graduates who are unable to participate in traditional, in-person ceremonies due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Commencement is a wonderful time for students to celebrate the accomplishments of the past while launching the next phase of their life’s journey,” said Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of the USF St. Petersburg campus. “We are extremely proud of our graduates for their determination and perseverance. While we are not able to hold the traditional face-to-face event right now, this does not diminish that students, and those who support them, overcame obstacles and made sacrifices to receive what less than eight percent of the world’s population has: a college degree.”
The virtual ceremony will contain many elements that traditionally occur during an in-person ceremony, including remarks from USF President Steven Currall, Tadlock and the student body president, as well as the conferring of degrees and the names of each individual graduate on screen. The Outstanding Graduate Award winner and graduates who earned a 4.0 GPA will also be recognized during the ceremony.
The USF St. Petersburg campus has also collaborated with supporters from throughout the region on finding creative ways to celebrate graduate’s recent accomplishments. On the evenings of May 9 and 10, the iconic Sunshine Skyway bridge and Tropicana Field will be lit in green and gold, USF’s school colors. The city of St. Petersburg also donated space on six digital billboards on I-275 from Gandy Boulevard to 54th Ave. S. The billboards will carry the message “We’re with you in spirit. Congratulations to the Class of 2020,” from May 1 to May 10.
USF will be expanding the number of in-person summer commencement ceremonies, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 6-9, to provide spring graduates an opportunity to participate. Summer commencement plans are contingent upon ongoing guidance from federal, state and local government and public health officials regarding large gatherings.
The spring 2020 ceremony will mark the 68th commencement celebration at the USF St. Petersburg campus.
Student Stories for Media Consideration
Jonathan DeVries, bachelor’s degree in biology. The global coronavirus pandemic crystallized for Jonathan deVries why he wants to pursue a career in medicine: to solve problems and help people. deVries took advantage of Tampa Bay’s status as a healthcare hotbed to work at a number of premier institutions during his time at USF St. Petersburg. As a first-year student, he began volunteering in the surgical recovery room at Bayfront Health, which he continued to do throughout his college experience. The following year, deVries interned at Moffitt Cancer Center researching novel therapies for bone-metastatic prostate cancer. Starting in his junior year, he worked at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as a clinical research assistant conducting labs and research on pediatric gastroenterology that he continues today. deVries is currently applying to medical schools across the nation, with plans to start in the Fall of 2021.
King O’Neal Scholars
Erin Dean, bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Dean loves to build relationships with and teach students. Her hope is to inspire the next generation to strive for excellence and growth in their talents and abilities. Upon graduation, her desire is to work in the Pinellas County School District as an exceptional student education teacher.
Ainsley Sorenson, bachelor’s degree in psychology. A St. Petersburg native, she is a former professional ballerina, YoungArts Foundation Finalist prizewinner and international ballet competition silver medalist. In 2019, Sorenson worked as a research assistant to Professor Jennifer O’Brien on the “Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Cognitive Training” study and conducted memory screenings within the community. That same year, she acquired her CNA license and served as a medical volunteer in Costa Rica. Sorenson currently works as a medical assistant at a dermatology practice in St. Petersburg and is applying for physician assistant schools.