Omaylis Colon Luna will begin her engineering classes in the fall at USF in Tampa.

USF Sarsota-Manatee salutes Bridge to Engineering students

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 08, 2019

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s commencement ceremony on Monday not only celebrated a new chapter in the lives of hundreds of graduates, it also marked a turning point for students in USFSM’s “Bridge to Engineering” program.

A “2+2 program,” Bridge to Engineering allows students to take the first two years of their studies at USFSM and complete their engineering coursework at USF’s College of Engineering to earn a bachelor’s degree.

So far, two students, Blake Bennice and Teddy Mullet, have completed the transition to Tampa. Starting in the fall they’ll be joined by six more students who wrapped up their general education classes last week. The program debuted in fall 2016.

“We started this program to provide greater access to engineering and it is working out just as we had planned,” said Paul Kirchman, PhD, dean of USFSM’s College of Science & Mathematics. “The coming consolidation of the USF System will make for an even smoother transition for students.”

Joining Bennice and Mullet will be Jacob Bradtmueller, Jack Brown, Dakota Lupinski, Federico Vazquez, Ryan Wright and Omaylis Colon Luna.

Colon, a chemical engineering major, said she’s looking forward to her classes in Tampa, although the move signals the end to a meaningful chapter in her life here.

“I’ll definitely miss my friends and I’ll miss the small class sizes,” said Colon, who enters the College of Engineering with a 3.78 grade point average. “That’s one of the reasons I came here, to have that connection with the professors.”

The daughter of a civil engineer, Colon said she’s always had a head for math and science so there was no question she would pursue engineering when she graduated from high school.

But she did wonder about which college to attend. She decided on USFSM after reading a news article and learning that by enrolling in the Bridge to Engineering program she could live at home in Bradenton and commute to USFSM for her general education courses.

When she enters USF in the fall, her family will have completed a move to Brandon, about a half-hour south of USF, so she’ll be able to live at home while she attends classes there, as well.

USFSM salutes Bridge to Engineering students

Blake Bennice

Bennice, who is familiar with what Colon is going through, said the main challenges will be adjusting to larger class sizes and Tampa’s morning rush hour.

Bennice began his electrical engineering studies at USF last fall, and said Colon will need to give herself plenty of time to get to class. After spending a semester off campus, Bennice said he moved to on-campus housing this past spring to shorten his travel time.

“It’s so much easier now,” he said.

Bennice said he whole-heartedly recommends the Bridge to Engineering program to other students.

“If anyone is on the fence about coming to USFSM, I would definitely give them the go-ahead. I loved it. I loved all the professors,” he said. “It gave me the material I needed to be ready here, and I liked the smaller class sizes. Transitioning to larger classes, that was one of the biggest changes.”

Colon was enthusiastic about her USFSM experience, too.

“If you like science and math, the Bridge to Engineering program is the best way to go, even starting at this campus,” she said. “The first two years are not super hard, but they’re challenging and you’ll need to focus, and on a big campus, it’s easier to be distracted. So this a good way to go, to start at USFSM.”

To learn more about the Bridge to Engineering program, visit

For more about USFSM’s many degree programs, visit

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