This weekend, thousands of FIU students will celebrate the first in-person commencement ceremonies since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These graduates include some who have used what they learned in the classrooms to make a difference during the pandemic.
“This year’s graduates exemplify perseverance. Some have been on the front lines of the pandemic response making a difference to our COVID-stricken community and all of them overcame personal challenges to stay focused on their goals,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We are thrilled to see them graduate and be able to celebrate their achievements in person again.”
The six ceremonies, scheduled for Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25 at Riccardo Silva Stadium on FIU’s main campus, will follow COVID-19 safety guidelines including a strict capacity limit of 1,000 graduates per ceremony.
One of the commencement highlights will be an address by Florida Lieutenant Governor and FIU alumna Jeanette Nuñez on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The two days of outdoor ceremonies celebrate more than 6,000 spring semester graduates. Graduates from 2020, who celebrated their graduations virtually, are also invited to participate.
Here are some Real Triumph Graduates:
- David Berthold experimented with different ways to increase the growth rate of algae for mass cultivation and has discovered and named previously unknown types and published 27 peer-reviewed journal articles. Berthold plans to continue conducting research and work to combat toxic algae blooms – a persistent problem in Florida. Berthold graduated with a Ph.D. in biological sciences from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education in Spring 2020, but will celebrate his graduation on Saturday, April 24 at 9:30 a.m.
- Patricia Garcia, 22, becomes one of the first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary engineering from the College of Engineering & Computing. This new program seeks to develop the next generation of diverse STEM leaders by focusing on a broader view of the engineering profession. Garcia is also a 2020 Millennium Fellow, 2021 NCWIT Collegiate Award finalist and “Forbes Under 30 Scholar.” She completed a mechanical engineering research internship at MIT and interned at Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI) Data Science and Information Center at UC, Berkeley. Garcia must now decide whether to take a job with Microsoft or head to graduate school after accepting the prestigious GEM Fellowship. Garcia graduates on Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m.
- Milagros Yanes was born prematurely and has lived with visual and hearing impairments since birth. Despite her disability, she embraced a new language and culture when she came to the U.S. from Cuba at 14. After earning an associate degree with honors from Miami-Dade College, she dove headfirst into her studies at FIU. An Honors College student, recipient of an FIU Global Learning Medallion, and active member of multiple honor societies with internships for Congresswoman Donna Shalala and the Consulate General of Spain under her belt, Yanes graduates Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in political science from the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs on Sunday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m.
- Forty-eight years in the making, Melinda Spitzer, 66, will celebrate her Spring 2020 graduation with a bachelor’s degree in women’s and gender studies from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education on Sunday, April 25 at 9:30 a.m. Spitzer’s collegiate life has been on a constant stop and go due to a spinal disease that would only allow her to take one class per semester. Despite the setbacks and slow progress, Spitzer's graduation opens the door to achieve her goal of working at a not-for-profit organization.
- An ICU registered nurse at Palmetto General Hospital, Carlos Vasco, 32, survived his bout with COVID-19 and learned to provide better, empathetic care to his coronavirus patients through his own experience. While on the job, Vasco noticed the trend in worsening inpatient hyperglycemia. Vasco joined a hospital committee to improve protocols and educate colleagues on the subject. This improved training has been successfully delivered to various healthcare provider groups. Vasco graduates with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences on Sunday, April 25 at 2 p.m.