USF Sarasota-Manatee celebrates Fall 2019 commencement as nearly 250 receive degrees

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USF Sarasota-Manatee celebrates Fall 2019 Commencement as nearly 250 receive degrees
PALMETTO, Fla. (Dec. 17, 2019) – The crowd roared as Bashar Roumia stepped forward Monday night to accept his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
The 22-year-old, who emigrated from Syria with his family, heard the cheers earlier in the evening as well, when he was named Outstanding Graduate for scholarly achievement and dedication to USFSM.
Celebrated by friends and family, Roumia was among 160 graduates who attended the ceremony at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.
USF President Steven C. Currall, PhD, presided over the 90-minute commencement, his first at USFSM since being named president on July 1. As the ceremony got underway, he was warmly greeted by USFSM Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD.
“To our graduates: Take a moment to recognize the magnitude of what this ceremony means,” Currall said. “Today, you join a community of scholars, a community that spans every continent of the world. This weekend alone, our 5,000 new USF graduates represent 49 states, 98 nations and an innumerable range of experiences, backgrounds and perspectives.”
Altogether, USF Sarasota-Manatee’s four colleges – Business, Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and Science & Mathematics – conferred 245 degrees, including 20 master’s degrees, for the Fall 2019 term.
“This is an exceptional moment in my life, and it’s not that I did this all on my own, but I stand on the shoulders of my family, who have been with me every step of the way,” said Roumia, who plans to pursue a medical degree and attended the ceremony with his mother and several other family members. “I’m so honored to be here.”
Other graduates offered similar sentiments.
“I feel that this is an honor and privilege,” said Jennifer Serafino, who was named winner of the Golden Bull Service and Outstanding Leadership Award. “It’s amazing and it’s a huge blessing. The fact that I am the first in my family to graduate, and to win the Golden Bull Award, it just means so much to me.”
Serafino earned a degree in Professional and Technical Communications. She had mixed emotions about leaving USFSM.
“It’s bittersweet, it’s exciting and it’s nerve-wracking all at the same time. I’m excited to be graduating, but nervous knowing that I’m stepping into an adult role and starting a new chapter in my life,” she said.
She said she plans to work for a year and then pursue a graduate degree.
Also excited to graduate was Susannah Paige Morrison, who earned a degree in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a concentration in government and global affairs.
“It’s surreal,” she said. “It almost feels like it hasn’t hit me yet. I’ve had so many opportunities because of this university, it will be hard to leave it. The staff and faculty have been so caring. They really want you to do well.”
Morrison, 20, was recently offered a position at Congressman Vern Buchanan’s district office in Sarasota.
In addition to being named outstanding graduate, Roumia was one of three winners of the King O’Neal Scholar Award, a special honor for students who earn a 4.0 GPA throughout their college career. The other recipients of this prestigious award were Isabella Hetherington and Madison Touchton.
Touchton, a 21-year-old English major, said she wants to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature.
“I don’t think it’s quite set in yet that I’m graduating,” she said. “I have so much I want to say to my parents. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, not just for their practical support, but for reminding me that I am capable of succeeding in whatever I set out to achieve.”
Also recognized was Jay Michaels, PhD, who was named Outstanding Professor.
Phillip Wagner, PhD, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs and core curriculum coordinator, served as ceremony reader. USF Sarasota-Manatee Faculty Senate President Michael Gillespie, PhD, carried the University Mace.
Jay Riley, director of business outreach and engagement, served as processional announcer and Celeste Ouwendijk-Thom, an undergraduate USF music education major, performed the National Anthem and USF Alma Mater.
For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit


About USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM)
USF Sarasota-Manatee is a branch campus of the University of South Florida system, offering the prestige of a nationally ranked research university with the convenience of a hometown location, including classes in Manatee and Sarasota counties, Venice and online. USFSM is ideal for those interested in pursuing a baccalaureate or master’s degree, professional certification, or continuing education credit in a small, personal setting with distinguished faculty and a dynamic curriculum of more than 40 academic programs. Website:
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