FIU will celebrate the graduation of thousands of students in three outdoor ceremonies Aug. 4-6, 2021, including graduates who will be recognized as Real Triumphs Graduates for their achievements in the classroom and in their fields.
“The class of 2021 has excelled through dramatic challenges. Our soon-to-be FIU alumni rolled up their sleeves and put in the work to earn their degree and contribute meaningfully to their communities and beyond,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We are so proud of them.”
More than 5,500 students will graduate – a summer record. Commencement ceremonies will be held at 7 p.m., Aug. 4 - 6 at FIU Stadium on FIU’s MMC campus. The first classes of the business administration and cognitive neuroscience doctoral programs will cross the stage on Friday evening.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will be the commencement speaker at the Wednesday, Aug. 4 ceremony.
Real Triumphs Graduates this summer include:
- Kazue Orikasa Lopez, who transferred to FIU from Miami Dade College with a full-tuition scholarship, works to invent new materials to transform cardiovascular care and help NASA function better in aerospace. With the National Science Foundation Nanosystems Engineering Research Center Cellular Metamaterials project, she helped develop new ways to create artificial human cells to repair the heart. Orikasa Lopez landed a NASA internship, where she worked on developing advanced materials for aerospace applications and is a co-inventor on a patent related to that research. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree and hopes to one day play a role in spacecraft development. Orikasa Lopez will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical and materials engineering from the College of Engineering and Computing on Wednesday, Aug. 4.
- Inspired by his mother’s work as a doctor providing primary care to a remote, underserved community in Cuba, Alvaro Abreu began his higher education journey at Miami Dade College and transferred to FIU to earn a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in natural and applied sciences from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. He worked in the admissions department of Westchester General Hospital’s emergency room through the COVID-19 pandemic and contributed to a hospital-led study that lessened the inflammatory damage the coronavirus causes to a person’s lungs. He also assisted in an effort to use machine learning to train a hand-held scanner that could one day detect and diagnose skin cancer quickly. After commencement, Alvaro will apply to medical schools and will return to Westchester General Hospital to work on the clinical informatics team. Abreu will graduate on Thursday, Aug. 5.
- Christian Sanchez, a Cuban immigrant and first-generation college student, studies new ways to mitigate mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and Zika. As a part of the Advanced Research and Creativity in Honors (ARCH) in the FIU Honors College, Sanchez found that older mosquito eggs are more susceptible to insecticides. He also founded the Undergraduate Mentorship Match Program (UMMP) for premedical students to receive guidance from upperclassmen who have already been through the undergraduate journey. Next, Sanchez plans to continue his research at FIU and is applying to medical school with the hope of conducting research that could save lives. Sanchez will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in natural and applied sciences from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education on Thursday, Aug. 5.
- Katherine Bottenhorn is part of the first graduating cohort of FIU’s cognitive neuroscience doctoral program, a part of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education that explores the neurobiological basis of cognitive behavior and functioning. At FIU, she worked as a research assistant for the National Institutes of Health-funded Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study — the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. As the first in her family to earn a Ph.D. – which she credits to strong women colleagues and mentors – Bottenhorn used what she learned in her research to investigate how changes in the brains of premenopausal women are related to hormones, sleep, stress and exercise. Bottenhorn will graduate on Friday, Aug. 6.
- For Tameka Hannon, pursuing a Master of Business Administration from the FIU College of Business online while balancing a busy life with children allowed her to earn a promotion and higher salary at the Sarasota County School District, where she has worked for nine years. She says that adversity was the driving force behind her success. At a young age, she faced traumatic childhood events that left her feeling abandoned. She was pregnant at the age of 17 and today is raising five boys. Through her busy life, she continues to give back to the community. She and her husband, former NFL player Chris Hannon, who also earned his MBA from FIU in 2017, created the Team Hannon Foundation, a non-profit organization that strives to create opportunities for success in the community. As part of her work with Women of the NFL, Hannon has spoken to women who have been abused, urging them to believe in themselves and work for their goals. Hannon will graduate on Friday, Aug. 6.