University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Grad Offered a Tuition Free Master’s Degree

Dr. Jane Rose and Shawna Machado

SARASOTA (November 9, 2012) – The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee announced at its signature scholarship fundraising event, Brunch 2012, that it has surprised a deserving graduate, Shawna Machado, 41, with a scholarship to fulfill her dream of attaining a master’s degree In Social Work. The surprise announcement was made while Machado was a guest at a taping of NBC’s Steve Harvey show November 1, in Chicago, Ill.

Dr. Jane Rose, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at USF Sarasota-Manatee, and Rocky D. Bull, USF mascot, made a special appearance during the taping to inform Machado of the opportunity to attain her master’s degree tuition-free, thanks to a partnership between USFSM and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The cost of the degree is approximately $30,000.

Machado’s story is exceptional. After earning her AA degree from a for-profit, online university and incurring $50,000 of student loan debt, Machado enrolled at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in 2010 to finish her undergraduate degree in Psychology. She first lost her job as a medical assistant, then her apartment, and unbeknownst to her professors, was forced to live out of her car for two years. She managed to maintain an overall 3.5 grade point average despite having nowhere to study or sleep, often showering in the ladies locker room on campus. Machado’s community service while at USFSM earned her the distinction of Most Outstanding Graduate in spring 2012, and she will be awarded the Florida Commission on the Status of Women’s Florida Achievement Award on November 15th in Tallahassee, Fla. She is being recognized for her volunteer work while at USFSM as a member of Social Justice Initiative and the Sarasota School of Social Justice, where she focused on solutions for abused, neglected and homeless children. Machado currently works for the Safe Children Coalition in Sarasota, Fla.

Machado’s inspirational story of overcoming family abuse, unemployment and homelessness to excel in her studies and become an advocate for victimized children caught the attention of the producers of the Steve Harvey show. After learning of her dream to earn a master’s degree in Social Work, USF Sarasota-Manatee and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County partnered to offer Machado a full scholarship to fulfill her goals. Severe financial hardship will not be the impediment to her ability to help abused and neglected children as a credentialed social worker. “We are so delighted to be able to help such an amazing woman change her life,” said Dr. Arthur Guilford, chancellor of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. “We know that Shawna will continue to impact the lives of others and are so proud to make it possible for her to attain her higher education goals.”

Machado was completely surprised by her scholarship award. “Not only did I get the scholarship, but to have it delivered by Dr. Dean Rose meant I had a connection to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee on a personal level,” she said. “The university also made sure that Rocky D. Bull was able to be there to cheer me on, just as he always does. Coming from someone who has experienced nowhere to turn, knowing the people of the university cared enough to present the gift in person meant I was back to some type of normalcy in life. The only way I can ever repay the gratitude I feel is to strive to achieve my best to help others and to thrive in a full life.”

The public announcement of Machado’s scholarship was made at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s signature scholarship fundraising event, Brunch 2012, held on the campus Sunday November 4. Machado was present when Regional Chancellor Dr. Guilford praised her determination and dedication to community service in front of more than 900 guests, including 140 corporate and individual donors, community leaders, volunteers, faculty, staff, students and friends.

Machado’s surprise episode of Steve Harvey will air at 5 p.m. on the CW44 in the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday, November 13. USFSM will hold a community “Watch Party” on Wednesday, November 14 at noon in the Selby Auditorium. The public is invited to celebrate along with Machado, and food and refreshments will be served. She will be available for one-on-one interviews at that time.

To RSVP for the “Watch Party,” please contact Ruth Lando, Director of Communications and Marketing, at