COPH celebrates 125 graduates (and 1 orangutan) at summer 2019 graduation

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The USF College of Public Health feted 142 new public health professionals at its summer 2019 graduation ceremony, held Aug. 2 in the college’s Samuel P. Bell Auditorium.

Fifty-eight students were recognized for earning their BSPH degrees while 60 were honored for receiving master’s degrees. Seven received their doctorates.

In recognition of her 4.0 grade point average (GPA) and her outstanding service to the USF community, Andrea Prospect, who earned her BSPH, was honored with two prestigious USF Alumni Association awards: the King O’Neal Scholar Award and the USF Outstanding Graduate Award. Read more about her accomplishments here.

Andrea Prospect, third from left, is flanked by her proud family. “It’s crazy, but I don’t feel done,” said Prospect after the undergraduate pinning ceremony. “This chapter is over, but there’s so much more to come.” (Photo by Ellen Kent)

During the morning’s undergraduate “pinning” ceremony―so named because graduates receive USF pins commemorating their graduation―Dr. Donna Petersen, dean of the college, welcomed the graduates, their family and friends, faculty and staff by sharing the day’s headlines. The dean noted that the public’s health is an ever-present concern (and news topic) for the country and the world.

Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, dean of the USF College of Public Health, gives opening remarks at the undergraduate pinning ceremony Aug. 2. (Photo by Ellen Kent)

Among stories about abortion laws, climate change and wildfires was a piece about the birth of an orangutan at an Arkansas zoo. “Why does that matter?” asked Petersen. “Because everything that happens in our environment affects our health.”

One of the highlights of the morning ceremony was a speech delivered by guest speaker Shawn Zamani, who received his BSPH last year. Zamani now works as a research assistant at Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and is headed to England’s University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. He will pursue his PhD in public health.

Zamani urged the graduates to “remember the big picture. Your degree may be in your name, but it is not just for you. Put the ‘public’ in public health by dedicating yourself to this mission of improving health. Your work is not measured by how many titles or degrees you have. It is measured by how many lives you improve.”

2018 COPH alum Shawn Zamani ended his address to this summer’s 2019 BSPH graduates with an emphatic “Go Bulls!” (Photo by Kent)

Zamani’s words were echoed in the afternoon celebration where Dr. Anna Torrens Armstrong, a COPH assistant professor and this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award, told graduates that “Public health is the gift that keeps on giving. This is not the end of your journey, but the beginning,” she added. “Advocate, educate, explore and find ways to be effective. Your future starts today.”

“Today we commit ourselves to enhancing the quality of life for all … .” Doctoral graduates (pictured here) lead master-level graduates in the recitation of the college’s “Commitment to Public Health.” (Photo by Kent)

Like the undergraduates had earlier in the day, those receiving their graduate degrees gathered with their family and friends in the COPH lobby for congratulations and cake. But not before Dr. Jaime Corvin, a COPH associate professor and director who spoke at the graduate ceremony, had this to say to those in attendance: “Stand up for the vulnerable, fight for the innocent and weak and advocate for change. Let nothing stand in the way of your drive and passion, and never cease to be inspired.”

Cupcakes make graduation even sweeter! (Photo by Anna Mayor)
Vinita Sharma now shares the title “Dr.” with her husband, COPH assistant professor Miguel Reina, PhD. (Photo by Kent)
Jennifer Piriz, left, who graduated with her BSPH, is congratulated by Dean Donna Petersen. The single mom, who worked full time while going to school, says she might like to get into pharmaceutical sales before continuing her education. How did she manage it all? “It was definitely a balancing act,” said Piriz. (Photo by Kent)

Rocky and friends are ready to celebrate! (Photo by Kent)
Vijay Prajapati practiced dentistry in his native India but switched gears and earned his MPH in epidemiology from the COPH this summer. “I am a qualitative person,” he summed up. “I think I can have more of an impact on the research side.” (Photo by Caitlin Keough)
Reggiesha McClendon, who graduated with her BSPH alongside her twin sister, Raven McClendon, gets the seal of approval from her 10-month-old son, Kehnyr. (Photo by Mayor)

Related media:

Undergraduate photo gallery: Summer2019UndergradPinningCeremonyPhotoGallery

Graduate photo gallery: Summer2019COPHgraduationceremonyforgraduatestudentsPhotoGallery

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health