SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2018) – A cheer rose from the crowd when Julia Groom stepped forward to accept her diploma in interdisciplinary social sciences from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
The 22-year-old was getting used to the accolades, though. They began moments earlier when she was recognized as Outstanding Graduate and recipient of the Golden Bull Service & Outstanding Leadership Award.
Celebrated by friends, her parents, boyfriend, her brother and brother’s girlfriend, Groom was among 180 graduates who attended USFSM’s hour-long fall graduation exercise Monday night at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. Altogether, the campus’ four colleges – Business, Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, and Science & Mathematics – conferred 245 degrees, including 24 master’s degrees.
For Groom, who graduated magna cum laude, the ceremony presented a bittersweet moment. While happy to begin a new chapter with a promising job in hand, she said she felt saddened to say farewell to a successful academic career and professors and classmates she regarded as friends.
“I’m definitely going to miss the people. There are friendships I’ve made here that I will keep forever, but I will miss seeing them every day,” said Groom, who is poised to start as outreach coordinator at DreamLarge, a local non-profit that funds socially responsible startups.
Reflecting on her time at USFSM, Groom recognized her parents, Ivan and Pam, for their guidance and support, and acknowledged a characteristic of USFSM that many graduates also cited: the regional campus’ sense of community.
“I liked that there is so much support to grow and reach your potential here,” Groom said. “People here care and they will support you every step of the way.”
Other USFSM graduates made similar assessments. Coy Carter, who graduated with an MBA, said he’ll miss USFSM’s “community feel.”
“The students, the professors and the alums, we’re all one family,” he said.
Carter graduated from USFSM in 2016 with a degree in criminology and immediately pledged to return to pursue a master’s degree in business administration.
He kept that promise. But this time around, he said, the journey was more difficult because of a busy work schedule. A real estate agent, Carter concentrated all week on his realty job, attended business classes on Saturdays and gave home showings on Sundays.
“I have to thank my mom (Kimberly Coney) and grandmother (Jackie Swain) for all of their support,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their constant encouragement. I also want to thank
(Wagner Realty President) David Eckel, who also gave me a lot of encouragement and support.”
Tori Stark, who graduated with a degree in English Literature, credited family and friends for their help. She also thanked Assistant Professor Dr. Timothy Turner, one of her instructors, for inspiring her.
“It’s a small campus with awesome professors who care about how you’re doing, and the friends I’ve made here, I’ll have them forever.”
The 22-year-old plans to enroll in the School of Education to pursue a master’s in English education. She said she wants to teach middle school or high school English.
Like Groom, Sharon French, who graduated magna cum laude, said graduation was a “bittersweet” moment.
“I’m so happy this day is here,” French said. “It’s been a lot of work. But I’m going to miss USFSM so much. This place is like a family community. It’s a small campus. You know your professors and they know you by name, and you develop strong friendships with your colleagues.”
French, president of the USFSM chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the honor society for education, graduated with a degree in elementary education. Prior to receiving her degree, she was hired as a teacher at Johnson-Wakeland School of International Baccalaureate in Bradenton.
Like many other graduates of USFSM’s School of Education, French had already been working as a substitute teacher prior to her graduation. Now that she has a degree, she can apply for a teaching certificate to work as a full-time elementary school teacher.
In fact, all of the School of Education’s graduates – except those who have deferred their job searches – are already working or have jobs waiting for them, said Dr. Marie Byrd, director of the School of Education.
“That shows you just how in-demand our graduates are,” she said.
USF Sarasota-Manatee’s fall 2018 graduates were recently asked what advice they would give incoming students?
“Be patient. Don’t rush it and enjoy every moment. Study hard, but don’t forget to have some fun.”
– Sharon French, elementary education
“Get involved and try your hardest in everything that you’re doing. Always try to do your best.”
– Julia Groom, interdisciplinary social sciences
Don’t give up, even when it looks like what you want is not going to happen. Keep going and don’t be hard on yourself. Be nice to yourself.
– Tori Stark, English literature
Just stick with it. I have a lot of friends who dropped out. Just don’t give up. You can do it.
– Christopher King, information technology
Work hard. And if you want to pursue a master’s degree, don’t wait. Go straight through after you get your bachelor’s. If you take time off, you may not go back.
– Coy Carter, master of business administration