Posted on Apr 29, 2019

Nursing Student to Receive USF’s Outstanding Graduate Award

Nursing Student to Receive USF’s Outstanding Graduate Award

As a nursing student, he is graduating with honors, and has helped lead the Nursing Students’ Association.

As a member of the Herd of Thunder marching band, he literally drums up school spirit with a steady cadence.

And as a member of the USF Ambassadors, he is the face of student life and what it means to be a Bull at the University of South Florida.

Roberto Velasco will add another accolade to his growing list of achievements this week when he receives the Outstanding Graduate Award — one of USF’s highest university-wide honors presented to students at commencement.

The coveted award, administered by the USF Alumni Association, is given to a graduating baccalaureate degree candidate who exemplifies leadership, academic excellence, community volunteerism, and school spirit.

He will receive the recognition during the USF Health commencement ceremony on May 2.

Roberto Velasco received the Outstanding Graduate Award at the 2019 Spring USF Health commencement ceremony.

Velasco, who graduated from Palm Harbor University High School, beat out nearly 60 applicants. Each spring, one student from each of USF’s three campuses is chosen for the award. This year, the selection committee whittled the USF Tampa nominees down to 12 contenders and then picked five finalists for in-person interviews.

Velasco said he was shocked, but grateful, when he learned he had won.

“I was in disbelief, honestly. I went into it to see what the experience would be like. I had never expected it and I still don’t,” he said.

But a look at his accomplishments in the three years he’s been at USF shows how he has embodied the award’s criteria and why two mentors wrote effusive letters of recommendation.

Matthew McCutchen, USF’s director of bands, offered a glowing testament to Velasco’s character, commitment, musicianship, and school spirit. He said he has taught at USF for 10 years and cannot think of a single student he’s taught who would be more deserving.

Roberto Velasco was a member of the Herd of Thunder marching band drumline.

“Roberto is an excellent musician and a well-rounded student. He is thoughtful, curious, intelligent, diligent, mature and personable — a young man of great character,” he wrote.

McCutchen noted he was impressed Velasco found time to participate in the Herd of Thunder drumline while keeping his numerous other leadership and academic commitments, especially during the past two years when the course work for nursing students is most challenging.

“He was always prepared, always reliable, and always positive. He is noticeably dedicated to the ideals of serving his peers and giving freely of his time and talents to make everybody feel welcome and valued,” McCutchen wrote.

Velasco said he has felt a sense of pride at USF ever since stepping onto the field for the Herd of Thunder marching band drumline auditions — a month before taking his first college class.

The early on-campus arrival gave him a chance to meet new people who quickly became mentors and who opened his eyes to “what was possible.” He also received several academic scholarships from the alumni association. As a result, Velasco said he felt an obligation to give back to the university, and his commitment to service took root.

Velasco’s varied student leadership roles include serving as the Director of Standards for the USF Ambassadors, as well as being a member of the College of Nursing Student Council and the USF Health Executive Leadership Board.

Roberto Velasco, vice president of the Nursing Students’ Association, talks to new nursing students during the Week of Welcome in Fall 2018.

He is also a member of the Order of the Golden Brahman, a student relations officer for the USF Tradition Keepers, and serves as a Green and Gold guide for the Office of Admissions.

This past year, he directed research and development operations within the USF Student Government’s executive branch.

College of Nursing Dean Victoria L. Rich, who recommended Velasco for the award, said his list of academic achievements, leadership positions, and service to USF make him an ideal candidate.

Aside from his noteworthy accomplishments, Velasco exudes the essence of school pride and the Bulls spirit.

“As a nurse professional for over 35 years, rarely have I encountered such a stellar, dedicated young undergraduate student, not only in nursing, but in all health care professions,” she wrote.

Throughout his collegiate career, Velasco said his mantra became “one thing at a time.”

Roberto Velasco, far left, served as vice president of the Nursing Students’ Association.

“I did my best to focus on nothing more than school spirit and cadences while practicing with the Herd of Thunder. I chose to never bring homework to clinical rotations and to never open my laptop to look at emails while at a student organization’s meeting,” he wrote in his application essay.

“Some days required me to bring more than one outfit to my car in the morning, or to double-check which name tag I was wearing on any given day, but I finally began to feel that I was doing what I loved, and that is why I came to USF.”

On Thursday, he leaves as an outstanding graduate.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing