COPH grad receives 2 top USF awards, graduates in 3 years with perfect 4.0

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When Andrea Prospect graduated the USF College of Public Health (COPH) with her BSPH on August 3, she walked away with more than a diploma.

Because of her outstanding dedication to the university and her coursework, Prospect was honored with two prestigious USF Alumni Association awards: the King O’Neal Scholar Award, which is presented every semester to graduating seniors earning a 4.0 grade point average, and the USF Outstanding Graduate Award for summer 2019, which recognizes a graduate who “demonstrates exceptional leadership, school spirit, academic excellence, community involvement and a love for the university,” according to the alumni association’s website.

“All of this truly does not feel real,” said Prospect, who noted that up until the time she toured USF while in high school, she was an “average” student. “My drive accelerated upon realizing my capacity to make a difference. It was hard work and stressful at times, but I simply loved what I was learning. I put in countless hours to earn a 4.0, but more importantly, I really learned the material and am excited to apply it after graduation.”

Prospect says she was motivated to finish her undergraduate work in 3.5 years (or less, as it turned out!) because her older brother, whom she had always looked up to, graduated a semester early.

Andrea Prospect, middle, gives instructions on using and cleaning a water filter during a recent mission trip to El Salvador. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Prospect)

“I started by taking 17 or 18 credits for a couple semesters to make it happen, and it was tough, but it actually became motivating to continue challenging myself,” Prospect said. “Managing a rigorous course load alongside work, internships (she completed five in all) and volunteering required some sacrifice, but I loved everything I was involved in, so it was always worth it. I chose to seek opportunities and say ‘yes’ as often as possible. Each semester, I found myself taking on more and more, which was another opportunity to refine my organizational and time-management skills. This mentality allowed me to achieve an even earlier graduation date and I am grateful to be in this position.”

Prospect says she’s always been “mission-driven,” which explains her attraction to public health.

“Actually,” she said, “one of the nicknames my family has given me is ‘the Department of Justice,’ because I become fixated on anything seemingly unjust. Vulnerable groups, particularly those with mental and behavioral health disorders and families with lower socioeconomic status, are often not allowed a voice. Having worked with Operation Smile, the Special Olympics, foster care and other organizations representing vulnerable groups, my passion to be a voice and advocate for them affirmed my place in the public health arena.”

Prospect flashes the Bulls hand sign atop Mt. Fuji during a COPH study abroad program to Japan. (Photo courtesy of Prospect)

While her academic achievements certainly give her bragging rights, Prospect says it’s the personal growth she experienced while at USF and the COPH that makes her most proud.

“The Andrea who came to USF three years ago is very different from the Andrea of today,” said Prospect, who is currently mulling over a few job offers stemming from her undergrad internships before continuing with her public health education. “Exposure to a competitive and passionate classroom, in addition to internships and volunteer experiences, allowed me to grow into a well-rounded public health professional. This diversity of learning experiences helped me develop a strong foundation from which I will continue to grow.”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health