Female engineering graduates break barriers, change lives


FIU will hold 10 commencement ceremonies from April 28, 2019 – May 1, 2019 to celebrate the achievements of more than 5,000 students who are earning degrees this spring. For the first time ever, FIU is recognizing nine Worlds Ahead female graduates in engineering who are at the cutting edge of their fields.

The nine graduates of the FIU College of Engineering & Computing will be recognized on Wednesday, May 1 at 10 a.m. at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center on FIU’s MMC Campus, 11200 SW 8th St. in west Miami-Dade County.

“These women come from different walks of life, but they share a passion for their fields and for changing lives that serves as an inspiration to others,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg.

Among the accomplishments of the engineering standouts:

  • Giselle Valdes conducted genetic engineering research and was accepted to graduate programs at Harvard and MIT – all while caring for a grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease and a mother with multiple sclerosis.
  • Alexandria Segovia is the first FIU student to earn an Internet of Things (IoT) degree.
  • Sheila Alemany researched how to more accurately predict hurricane trajectories using artificial intelligence.
  • Cesia Bulnes is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who has been hired by Microsoft.
  • Gabriela Gutierrez Duran will work at Boeing as a flight test engineer after graduation.
  • Claudia Ramirez-Mederos assisted in developing a three-axis shake table to study the effects of earthquakes on structures.
  • Rossana Zotti designed a hospital patient transfer system that allows one nurse to move a patient from one bed to another, regardless of the patient’s weight.
  • Angela Hogan re-established a university chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that helps communities meet their basic human needs.
  • Ariana Bueno interned for Lockheed Martin, conducted optics and laser related research as an intern for Boeing and plans to become an astronaut.

FIU will also recognize other Worlds Ahead Graduates who have excelled academically, persevered despite obstacles, and made a difference:

  • A brain tumor left Myesha Lyles blind. She overcame homelessness and other challenges, while continuing to chase one of her passions – dance. Lyles will graduate on Monday, April 29 at 3 p.m. with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.
  • Joseph Burns spent his childhood going to doctor’s visits for a heart condition. Burns will earn his medical degree from the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine on Monday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. and will come full circle – pursuing a career as a pediatric cardiologist.
  • Guethshina Altena, lost her mother in the 2010 catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti. Her family moved to the U.S. and Altena excelled in high school, enrolling at FIU at the age of 16. She shares her survival story during commemorations of the earthquake each year. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from the College of Communication, Artchitecture + The Arts on Wednesday, May 1 at 3 p.m.

Joseph “Pepe” Badia, president of Badía Spices, will receive an honorary degree in public service on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 3 p.m. The ceremonies also will feature the following commencement speakers:

  • Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, Sunday, April 28 at 10 a.m.
  • Neil Dern, former Wall Street executive-turned-artist, Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m.
  • Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III, of the City of Miami Gardens, Sunday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Dr. John A. Rock, founding dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Monday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Connie Silver, artist and philanthropist dedicated to fighting inequality, Wednesday May 1 at 3 p.m.