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FIU graduates redefine excellence through groundbreaking scholarship

FIU graduates redefine excellence through groundbreaking scholarship

April 24, 2024 at 3:18pm

This spring, FIU will celebrate the accomplishments of almost 6,000 students during 10 commencement ceremonies April 28 – May 2. Among the graduates are remarkable individuals laying the groundwork for future breakthroughs through reimagined approaches, steadfast commitment and innovative research.

“Our graduates are unstoppable, breaking barriers and reaching new heights,” said FIU President Kenneth A. Jessell. “Utilizing their innovative excellence to make impactful contributions to their communities, they make Panthers everywhere proud.”

Graduates include a biologist whose research utilizing computers and mathematical models is redefining scientists' approach to biomedical challenges, an international relations specialist whose activism raises awareness of the intricate bond between sustainability and underserved communities, and a dietitian whose research could reinvent how nutrition is integrated into the classroom experience.

“As graduates of Florida International University, you are part of the prestigious alumni of the State University System of Florida, the number one higher education system in the nation,” said Ray Rodrigues, Chancellor of the State University System of Florida. “You have gained the education and experiences needed for the journey that lies before you. I encourage you to embrace the challenges, learn from the failures and celebrate the successes.”

Outstanding Graduates include:

  • Isabella Milanes, 21, is dedicated in her mission to advance research and understand Parkinson's disease. Milanes’ research focuses on studying the different kinds of proteins related to Parkinson’s disease. Her research explores how computer programs can be used to determine which isolated parts of a virus to target for treatment. Milanes also uses computer models to better understand how memory works. She is an FIU Honors College student and currently serves as vice president of the FIU Undergraduate Research Society and served as co-organizer of FIU’s inaugural research exposition. She received first-place awards at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) 2023 and the MARC U* STAR Research Symposium 2023. Milanes will continue her research at Yale University where she will pursue her Ph.D. in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program. Milanes graduates with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education on Sunday, April 28 at 11 a.m.
  • Stephanie Uviovo, 21, is an advocate for sustainable development and improving the lives of those in disadvantaged communities. Inspired by her upbringing in Nigeria where she witnessed the stark realities of poverty and injustice, Uviovo works with the office of U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, through RESULTS, to support legislation that promotes better health, education, nutrition, and housing for impoverished communities both nationally and globally. Notably, she works to combat food waste and provide services for under-served communities through her project to cultivate resilient communities as part of the Peace Corps Prep program. As president of the Society for Sustainable Souls, Uviovo championed campaigns advocating for the right to clean water for Floridians and fossil fuel non-proliferation. Her collaborations with Lotus House and partnership with Sachamama have empowered students for climate leadership and equipped them to tackle clothing waste. As a scholar of international relations, Uviovo authored an article on the rampant oil pollution in Nigeria and co-authored a forthcoming chapter on the foreign policies of African States for the Encyclopedia of African Politics. Her commitment to public service and excellence in foreign affairs has been recognized by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, under whom she interned. Uviovo graduates with a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs on Monday, April 29 at 3 p.m.
  • Nicole Vitale, 35, is spearheading efforts to integrate comprehensive nutrition education into Montessori curriculums. As a Registered Dietitian and former Montessori teacher, Nicole saw the need for structured nutrition concepts in Montessori education. Throughout her graduate studies, Vitale created and tested nutrition lesson plans for Montessori classrooms, then subsequently developed a nationwide nutrition training program for Montessori teachers, reaching 95 teachers across 24 states. She has presented findings from her research at state and national Montessori conferences championing the importance of nutrition education. Vitale recently applied for a STEM Education Individual Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation which was recommended for funding. Vitale will receive a Ph.D. in dietetics and nutrition from the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work on Wednesday, May 1 at 10 a.m.

David Grutman, owner of Groot Hospitality and globally renowned innovator and entrepreneur in the hospitality field, will speak during the 4 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, April28 when he will receive a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa from FIU. A native of Florida, Grutman has played a significant role in transforming Miami into a contemporary hotspot. He has opened numerous venues, including the famed nightclub LIV at Fontainebleau and various successful restaurants like Gekkō, Casadonna, Swan, The Key Club, Papi Steak, Strawberry Moon, and Komodo—one of the top-grossing independent restaurants in the United States. Grutman has expanded his ventures beyond Miami, establishing Komodo in Dallas and opening several establishments at Fontainebleau Las Vegas including Komodo, Papi Steak, LIV, and the new LIV Beach. In addition to his entrepreneurial successes, Grutman teaches one of the university's most popular courses at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, "The David Grutman Experience: The Class." This seminar explores insights into the crossroads of entrepreneurship and hospitality featuring visits by Drake, Bad Bunny, Serena Williams, David & Victoria Beckham, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, John Summit and countless others since the class' inception.

FIU Board of Trustees Chair Rogelio Tovar will speak at the 4 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, April 28 and the 3 p.m. ceremony on Thursday, May 2.

All commencement ceremonies will be held at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, located at FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus at 11200 SW 8th St., Miami, 33199.

Video clips and photos for media use will be uploaded to this folder, which will be updated periodically during graduation days with new images and videos.