FIU graduates: ready to make their mark

This fall approximately 4,130 graduates will receive their degrees from FIU. Many of them have already made their mark by persevering through challenging times, finding inspiration in adversity, and launching stellar careers.

“This fall our students have proven once again that nothing gets in the way of their educational goals and dreams,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, who will preside over a total of seven ceremonies over three days. “I’m proud to call them Panthers and wish them well on their new journeys as alumni.”


Commencement ceremonies will take place Sunday, Dec. 15; Monday, Dec. 16; and Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 at the U.S. Century Bank Arena, located at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus in west Miami-Dade County.

Fall’s outstanding graduates include:

Richard Kaufman who grew up in the 1970s during the “dark ages” of disability awareness. He was placed in special education classes at the start of elementary school. Determined to prove others wrong, he graduated from high school in 1985 and earned his Associate of Art degree in 1999. In 2009, he began his journey at FIU. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in mental health counseling and wants to dedicate his career to helping others. On Monday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. Kaufman will receive a bachelor’s degree in sociology/anthropology with a minor in religious studies.

• As a boy growing up in India, Rakesh Guduru dreamed of one day becoming a scientist. After receiving his master’s degree in biomedical engineering from FIU, Guduru studied with Professor Sakhrat Khizroev whose research focuses on biotechnology, applying engineering to medicine. Their hard work paid off resulting with research breakthroughs in novel ways to deliver drugs using nanotechnology to treat such diseases as ovarian cancer, HIV-AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy. After graduation, Guduru will continue to work as a post-doctoral researcher. He is graduating on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. with a Ph.D., electrical engineering and immunology.

• Senegal-born Mame Marguerite Tall has lived on three continents, speaks “nearly five” languages and has been awarded the title of Global Change-maker for her international volunteerism. She serves as the U.S. representative to the National Association of Albinos of Senegal; was the only international student selected for the Miami-Dade County Executive Internship Program in spring 2013; and was the only undergraduate intern this summer at AFIG Funds working among MBA students from Ivy League universities. On Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 10 a.m., she will receive her bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Paul McCall was FIU’s starting quarterback 2007 to 2009. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while on an athletic scholarship. For the last three years he has been on a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship while pursuing his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. He also interned at the Air Force Research Lab and Dahlgren Naval Base. His research focuses on the signal analysis of space debris in low-Earth orbit, allowing him to pursue a career in the aerospace industry. He recently accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Defense. McCall will graduate with a Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering on Tuesday, December 17 at 3 p.m.

Kauffman, Guduru, Tall and McCall are four of a group of students who were nominated by their professors and mentors to receive Worlds Ahead Recognition for their relentless efforts to get ahead and stand out, many of them despite hardships.

On Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Miami-Dade County Commissioner for District 11 Juan Carlos Zapata will serve as the commencement speaker.

During the ceremonies, the university will honor:
Univision anchor Pamela Silva Conde with the FIU Medallion – Outstanding Alumna on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m

Hoteliers and philanthropists Deborah Plutzik Briggs & Jonathan Plutzik, owners of The Betsy-South Beach, with the FIU Medallion– Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Lawyer H. T. Smith, founder of the College of Law’s Trial Advocacy Program, with the FIU Medallion –Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award on Monday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m.

Physicist and chemist Carl Stocker, advisory board member of the School of Integrated Science and Humanity, with the FIU Medallion–Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award on Monday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m.

President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami T. Willard “Tal” Fair with the FIU Medallion–Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award, both on Monday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

• University community members Ruth Hamilton and Gordon Hopkins will also be recognized with the FIU Medallion-University Service—Hamilton on Monday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m., and Hopkins on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.

For more details about FIU’s fall commencement, please visit

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