FIU graduates reach higher, overcome setbacks



In February 2005, Robert Bozeman, Jr., was shot in the head after going to a nightclub with friends. He was left for dead and spent five days fighting for his life in a coma. After he recovered, Bozeman used his tragedy as impetus for change, and has spent the past decade advocating against gun violence throughout South Florida.

With great determination, he fought his way back into the classroom, resolute to get his bachelor’s degree. His studies in communication arts have helped him build the confidence he needs to speak in front of crowds, and develop powerful messages. His campaign against gun violence uses his personal experience to teach at-risk youth about the power of forgiveness. He has been labeled “The Anti-Violence Ambassador” by Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Board. Bozeman, 31, will graduate on Monday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Bozeman is among the more than 4,600 students who will be receiving degrees this fall at ceremonies on Sunday, Dec. 13; Monday, Dec. 14; and Tuesday, Dec. 15 at the FIU Arena on FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus, 11200 SW 8th St. in west Miami-Dade County.

He is also part of a group of standout students who will be recognized as Worlds Ahead graduates at the ceremonies. Other Worlds Ahead students include:

  • Jesus Garcia, 53, is no stranger to adversity: he survived a serious accident in 1991 that resulted in the partial loss of his right arm and a permanent injury to the left arm. In 2012 one of his twin sons suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash that affected his mobility and his ability to speak. Two years later, his wife, Melanie, battled a ravaging cancer that ultimately claimed a leg. Garcia did not let any of these setbacks deter him. A Golden Key International Honor Society member, Garcia has treated every day since his accident as a gift, choosing to focus on serving as an inspiration to others. He sought to marry his passions for teaching and creating original works for his Master of Art in Teaching degree to develop South Florida’s future artists. Garcia works as a substitute teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, but he plans to teach art full time at the high school level. Garcia will graduate on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
  • Poverty plagued the early life of Ghana native Anya Schmidt, 24. At 8, she learned to sell and extend credit in her sister’s store. It was then she first saw how hard work and education would help her overcome life’s greatest challenges. At 12, her grandmother gave her an opportunity to study in Germany where she fought against prejudice with a determined attitude, learning the language and succeeding in school. The experience transformed her into a global citizen and made FIU a perfect place for her. During her junior year, she interned at CSoft International, in Beijing, where she developed a social media marketing strategy and participated in the Hua Dan event, China’s first social enterprise, helping the children of Chinese migrant workers reach their full potential. At FIU, she served as a teaching assistant, competed on two case competition teams, and held leadership roles at the International Business Honor Society and the Student Managed Investment Fund. Upon graduation, she will begin working at J.P. Morgan in New York, where she interned this summer. Schmidt will graduate on Monday at 3 p.m.
  • Originally from Ecuador, Patricia Kayser, 25, moved to the United States with her family in 2004 right after her younger brother Christian was diagnosed with autism. Always looking for ways to communicate with her brother, Kayser was surprised when she saw how her brother reacted to live music at a family function. She realized that music was a great tool to communicate and socialize with people with special capabilities, so she took guitar lessons and started singing and writing songs. In 2013, Kayser started the nonprofit Autism & Music, which helps enhance quality of life of those with autism through music interaction. After graduation, she hopes to open a center to offer music therapy and other arts programs to people with special needs. Kayser, who participated in TEDxFIU earlier this year, will graduate on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

For more on these and other FIU Worlds Ahead graduates please click here. For a full commencement schedule, click here.

Commencement speakers will be:

  • Robert Zarco, founding partner at Zarco Einhorn Salkowski & Brito, P.A., at 3 p.m. on Monday.
  • Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

During the commencement ceremonies, the following community members will be honored with FIU medallions:

  • Michele Ciccazzo, dean emeritus for the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, will be awarded the FIU Medallion–University Service Award, at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
  • George Batchelor, decorated World War II veteran, aviation pioneer, business entrepreneur and philanthropist, will be awarded the Posthumous FIU Medallion – Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. His daughter-in-lawSandy Batchelor, will accept the medallion.

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


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