FIU’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs held its first Graduating Veterans Recognition Ceremony in December. Surrounded by families and friends, fall graduates were honored for their academic achievements and contributions. This year, in addition to the customary red, white and blue cords, graduates received camouflage stoles to commemorate their unique distinction and service.
“As an institution of higher learning, we celebrate students achieving their goals whenever possible,” said Amanda Niguidula, interim director for the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. “However at the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, we have the unique opportunity to receive military service members on their transition to becoming college students, which allows us to recognize them not only for their accomplishments on achieving a degree at our FIU, but also to recognize their courageous dedication to service for the United States.”
The 2018 Veteran and Military Affairs awards and scholarship recipients are:
ERNEST MCFARLAND AWARD bestowed upon a veteran with the highest cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above and enrolled at the university for at least one academic year.
Special Agent (Reserve) Michelle Lux, who is in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), provides forensic science specialty support to her agency. In addition, she is an International Association for Identification certified crime scene analyst and an International Firearm Specialist Academy certified firearm specialist. During her time with the military, she directed her agency’s Crime Scene Subject Matter Expert Exchange Program, operating on multiple continents. Additionally, Lux served as an AFOSI instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. She will be graduating with a Professional Science Master’s in Forensics Science.
HARRY W. COLMERY AWARD & EDITH N. ROGERS AWARD honors both a male and female veteran who have maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above and are enrolled at the university for at least one academic year. They must either be a dual major, received two academic certificates or received a minor and a certificate. Additionally, they must be a member of at least two academic honor societies.
Senior Airman Carlos Mondesir is a first-generation, Haitian-American. Enlisting at the age of 19, Mondesir joined the ranks of the world’s greatest Air Force as a member of its Security Forces field. In technical school, he was bestowed the Teal Rope and served as a Peer Adviser for Change to combat sexual violence and harassment in the military. He’s a graduate of the Community College of the Air Force. At FIU, he’s been on the Dean’s List every semester, participated as a member of four honor societies, and he even received early admission to the graduate school at FIU. Mondesir is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s in public administration along with two academic certificates in public policy studies and national security studies.
Keishla Santiago Ortiz
Keishla Santiago Ortiz is a fellow of Purdue University’s 2018 Focus Forward Fellowship Cohort. She’s an active member of several student organizations including the Student Veterans of America and Women’s Studies Student Association. In this capacity, she has done community service and has assisted more than 3,000 student veterans. Ortiz has also volunteered with different organizations to assist the Trans/LGBTQ+ community in South Florida. Before that, she enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as an administrative specialist and was stationed with the Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1 in Okinawa, Japan, and Marine Aviation Training Support Group 22 in Corpus Christi, TX. Ortiz will be graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology and interdisciplinary studies (as a 2nd major), bachelor’s in women’s and gender Studies, and a certificate in queer studies.
WARREN ATHERTON AWARD recognizes the dependent with the highest cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above. Must be enrolled at the university for at least one academic year.
Perpetua Muthoni Emilien is married to Veteran Sergeant First Class Dimitri Emilien and together have three children. She grew up in Kenya, and after meeting her husband during one of his deployment to the Horn of Africa, moved to United States. Despite the challenges of raising young children and supporting her veteran husband, she has been able to pursue higher education and is graduating with a bachelor’s in business administration with double major in international business and finance. Emilien is a committed individual, working exceptionally hard to succeed in her classes, and has been on the Dean’s List for four consecutive semesters. She is graduating with honors.
LEADERSHIP AWARD bestowed upon a veteran with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above that has been enrolled at the university for at least one academic year. The veteran must have served in a leadership role in a university club, a non-profit or military organization, or initiated a project/event dedicated toward community service.
Victor Pulido is an exceptional Panther who has dedicated his life and military experiences to improve the lives of others. As a child, he spent three years in an orphanage in Guatemala. At age 15, Pulido arrived to the United States as an unaccompanied minor. At 18, he joined the United States Army and served as a paratrooper. Later, he served a combat tour for 13 months during Operation Iraqi Freedom and received numerous military accolades including two Army Commendation Medals. As an undergraduate, Pulido was the first student to speak directly to President Mark B. Rosenberg about the need for a program to support former foster and homeless youth on campus. That meeting led to the establishment of Fostering Panther Pride, which now serves more than 100 students who otherwise would be struggling to complete degrees on their own. He is graduating with a master’s of international business.
AMBASSADOR AWARD honors a veteran with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher that is enrolled at the university for at least one academic year. The veteran must have volunteered/interned with a government agency, international organization or charity that provided global assistance for sustainment and development.
Jimmie Wilbourn grew up in a Wills Point, Texas. His family has deep roots in all branches of the military, which played a significant role in his decision to enlist in the United States Air Force after high school. Wilbourn graduated from military training with honors and was stationed in Hawaii and South Carolina during his active duty assignments. He later transferred into the Air Force Reserves in South Carolina to pursue his academic endeavors. At FIU, Wilbourn pursued a bachelor’s of psychology and continued his educational pursuits with a Masters in Occupational Therapy.
PRIVATE CATHAY WILLIAMS AWARD recognizes a veteran who identifies themselves as a woman with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above and is enrolled at the university for at least one academic year. The veteran must have demonstrated leadership and support for women and/or veteran issues.
Marcieann “Mickey” Irizarry has a long record in inspiring others and promoting change. She enlisted into the United States Air Force where she was recognized for her academic excellence, earned below-the-zone to senior airman, was step promoted to technical sergeant, and went on three deployments and two humanitarian missions by the age of 30. Today, the FIU nursing school student is a United States Air Force retiree, cancer survivor, mother of two, board member and project manager for the Girls Vacation Fund (a non-profit organization that provides all-year-round mentorship and a summer experiential education and development program (SEED) to low-income city girls), and is also enrolled in Florida Foster Parent Training.
DON A. BALFOUR SCHOLARSHIP AWARD bestowed upon a veteran with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above and that is enrolled at the university for at least one academic year. The veteran must have received admission into FIU Graduate School.
Senior Airman Carlos R. Salazar served as an F-16 crew chief assigned to the 482 Fighter Wing, Homestead Air Force Base in Florida from 2011-2017. He joined the military because he wanted to show appreciation for the freedoms that he enjoys. Salazar attributes his discipline, leadership and the unwavering pursuit of excellence to military teachings. Since becoming an employee at FIU, Salazar continues to purse excellence through education. He has been accepted into the Chapman Graduate School for the master’s in marketing program and ultimately wants to pursue a Ph.D. in higher education.
Congratulations to the fall 2018 veteran graduates!
Within the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (VMA) is the campus advocate for Veterans, Active Duty, Reservists, eligible dependents and spouses enrolled at FIU. The department is committed to students’ successful transition from the military environment, to campus life, and ultimately to a civilian career. The VMA provides opportunities for peer-to-peer support, mentoring and social networking. For additional information on resources available to student veterans, and their dependents, please visit the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs or contact (305) 348-2838