The University of South Florida will hold in-person commencement ceremonies this weekend for the first time since December 2019, as COVID-19 forced ceremonies to be held virtually in spring, summer and fall of 2020. USF President Steven Currall will preside over spring commencement ceremonies scheduled for 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Facts and figures about the spring 2021 class
Approximately 7,200 degrees will be awarded in the spring 2021 class, including 5,206 undergraduate, 1,691 master’s, 289 doctoral and 12 specialist’s degrees.
The graduates represent all 50 U.S. states and 100 nations, with 67 undergraduate students earning a perfect 4.0 GPA. The youngest graduate is a 17 year old earning bachelor’s degrees in both biomedical sciences and public health. The oldest graduate is a 69 year old earning a bachelor’s degree in history.
Student feature stories
- Saefallah Mohamed, 17, is the youngest graduate in the spring 2021 class, earning bachelor’s degrees in both biomedical sciences and public health only three years after first enrolling at USF. In fact, he’s the third member of his family to graduate from USF as the youngest in their respective classes, following his brother Ahmed in 2016 and his brother Adam in 2020. After graduation, Saefallah plans to pursue a master’s degree and eventually apply to medical school.
- Dariana Granados came to the United States from Columbia when she was 13 years old and she is the first person in her family to attend college in the U.S. Raised by her mother and grandmother, she hopes her journey will one day inspire other young, Hispanic, immigrant women to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles. Granados took advantage of the many opportunities available to her at USF that she says helped transform her life, including serving as president of the USF Accounting Society, a peer leader in USF’s Corporate Mentor Program and a chapter reporter for international honor society Beta Alpha Psi. Granados is earning a bachelor’s degree from the Muma College of Business and plans to attend New York University in the fall to pursue a graduate degree.
- After overcoming several unique challenges presented by COVID-19, the first cohort of 30 students from USF’s accelerated nursing program on the Sarasota-Manatee campus will graduate with the spring 2021 class. The program enables students with bachelor’s degrees to return to school to earn a nursing degree through an intensive 16-month instructional period. The program launched in January 2020, right before the start of the pandemic, and was forced to shift entirely online for several months. Students were eventually able to resume in-person activities in their high-tech simulation lab on campus and in clinical settings in local hospitals. Despite the unexpected hurdles, not one student left the program, which was introduced to address the shortage of nurses regionally and statewide.
The 9 a.m. ceremony will feature graduates from the colleges of Behavioral and Community Sciences, Muma College of Business, Education, Morsani College of Medicine, Nursing, Taneja College of Pharmacy and Public Health. The 6:30 p.m. ceremony will include graduates from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Patel College of Global Sustainability, Marine Science and The Arts, as well as Undergraduate Studies and Graduate Studies.
Health and safety measures
Using guidance from experts in USF Health, the ceremonies will have COVID-19 protocols in place for safety purposes. All graduates and attendees are required to wear face coverings and graduates will be seated six feet apart to accommodate for physical distancing. Each graduate will be honored individually during the ceremony by having their name called and briefly standing to be recognized.
Holding the ceremonies in a venue the size of Tropicana Field allows USF to accommodate the number of students earning a degree this spring and provide enough space for some family members to attend. Each graduate is permitted to bring two guests to their ceremony with live streaming available for those who can’t be there in person.
USF also intends to honor graduates from spring 2020, summer 2020 and fall 2020 who were unable to participate in person due to COVID-19. While this weekend’s ceremonies are limited to spring 2021 graduates, those past graduates and their families will be invited back for a more traditional commencement at a future date when COVID-19 restrictions can be reduced.