University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



Videography and photography by Austin Lavoie, University Communications and Marketing

USF Sarasota-Manatee celebrates spring graduates with on-campus event

By Georgia Jackson, University Communications and Marketing

The Sarasota-Manatee campus came to life on Tuesday, April 23 as faculty, staff and university leadership joined together to celebrate the students who will graduate this weekend during USF commencement ceremonies at the Yuengling Center on the Tampa campus.

Regional Chancellor Holbrook (L) and President Law (R) pose with Rocky

Regional Chancellor Holbrook (L) and President Law (R) pose with Rocky

In a formal address in the Selby Auditorium, USF President Rhea Law, USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook, Vice Chancellor Brett Kemker and Vice President of the Alumni Association Bill McCausland, underscored the importance of staying connected and welcomed the soon to be graduates to the Alumni Association.

“USF will always be here for you,” Law said.

Following the address, attendees migrated outside to enjoy festivities, snacks and refreshments under a tent in the middle of the campus courtyard , where Rocky D. Bull was waiting to bump fists and pose for photos.

Get to know the spring graduates

Among those in attendance were Ashlie Cruz, Dylan Schmucker and Bethsagesna Thalon, three outstanding individuals who will soon make the transformation from students to alumni.

Ashlie Cruz

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Ashlie Cruz enrolled at USF Sarasota-Manatee with the goal of someday attending medical school and becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

Dylan, Beth and Ashlie

Left to right: Dylan Schmucker, Beth Thalon and Ashlie Cruz

While at USF Sarasota-Manatee, Cruz studied biology, served as the events coordinator for the Campus Activities Board and worked in the Office of Veteran Success with Carlos Moreira, director of campus engagement for veteran success and alumni affairs.

“It was an honor having Ashlie as one of my work-study students,” said Moreira. “Her professional discernment, service, humility, military experience and commitment to veterans’ affairs and the Campus Activities Board reflect the mission, vision and vitality of USF. Her future is extremely bright.”

Cruz will pursue a master’s degree in healthcare administration at USF Sarasota-Manatee before applying to medical schools.

Her advice to her fellow Bulls?

“Don’t be scared to engage in campus activities,” Cruz said. “You would be thrilled to find out just how much fun you’d have and all the cool people you’d meet.”  

Dylan Schmucker

From the moment biology major Dylan Schmucker sat down for this first class — Intro to Chemistry — at USF Sarasota-Manatee, he knew he was in the right place.

“I was nervous but excited at the same time,” Schmucker said. “It really got me excited for what was to come.”

Drawn to the tight-knit community offered by the Judy Genshaft Honors College, Schmucker enjoyed being able to connect with his fellow Bulls through “innovative and enlightening classes,” including Acquisition of Knowledge, taught by Judy Genshaft Honors College Campus Dean Cayla Lanier.

“Dr. Lanier is such an amazing and bright person,” Schmucker said. “She always has the students’ best interests in mind and seeks to support us. I could not have asked for a better Honors College leader at our campus. I appreciate her so much.”  

Cayla and Dylan

Cayla Lanier and Dylan Schmucker

It was Lanier who invited Schmucker to become a peer mentor for Honors Foundations, a new, peer-led extended onboarding program for first-year students she wanted to create.

“I knew his outgoing and inclusive personality was the right fit,” Lanier said. “Dylan is fearless and friendly, boldly charging ahead to blaze a path for others.”

Lanier was right about Schmucker being a good fit for the job, which required him to adapt a standard curriculum to meet the needs of students at USF Sarasota-Manatee and provide incoming freshman with the structured support they needed to acclimate to USF and get involved right away.  

“I was able to create my own lesson plans and educate the entire freshman class of incoming honors students about important college techniques and helpful resources,” Schmucker said.  
“He will have a lasting impact on the success of the Judy Genshaft Honors College for years to come,” Lanier said.  
Schmucker’s go-to advice?   
"Don't be afraid to try new things, get involved and do things out of your comfort zone. Let college be a time of exploration and growth and make meaningful connections with your peers.”  

Bethsagesna Thalon

Beth Thalon won’t soon forget the time she spent at USF Sarasota-Manatee — or be forgotten by those who had the pleasure of interacting with her.

A transfer student, biology major and member of the Judy Genshaft Honors College, Thalon served in student government and played an important role in helping campus leadership build momentum for the new student center and residence hall opening this fall.  

"Beth has been the true heart of student leadership in her short two years at USF,” Lanier said. “She has a bright smile for everyone who meets her and the ability to turn a passing hello into a genuine connection, conveying warmth, concern and kindness in just a few moments. It’s no wonder everyone on campus just loves her.”  

While Thalon will graduate before the new 100,000-square-foot building opens, she is proud of the work she did in support of the project and excited for the many new opportunities it will bring to the campus and its student body.  

“Here’s to the exciting journey ahead and the endless opportunities awaiting,” she said in an address to her fellow students during the campus graduation celebration on April 23.  

Beth Thalon says, "Go Bulls!"

Beth Thalon

After graduating, Thalon, who works part time as a nurse, plans to attend medical school to pursue her dream of becoming a physician. Her favorite course at USF was a healing arts class, which focused on the therapeutic methods of interacting with art for people with memory loss.  

"We explored how art benefits healthcare by helping individuals access memories, improve communication and relieve stress. We even practiced facilitating therapeutic methods, preparing to assist the James Museum's Art in Mind program for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Thalon, who hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of others through healthcare.  

Her advice to the next generation of Bulls?  

“Step out of your comfort zone. Don't just go to campus for classes; immerse yourself in the vibrant campus life. Join clubs, engage with professors and make the most of your college experience.”  

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