Graduates use degree to climb socio-economic ladder

Many of the more than 5,500 FIU students graduating this spring will use their FIU degrees as one-way tickets to prosperity and a better life for their families. In fact, FIU ranks among the top institutions in the country for social mobility – the opportunity for graduates to climb the socio-economic ladder.

“At FIU we have a tradition of serving first-generation students who are hard-working, dedicated and determined to overcome challenges,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We pride ourselves in preparing students from diverse backgrounds to get or create jobs in the 21st century economy.”

FIU will hold 11 commencement ceremonies from April 28 – May 2 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, 11200 SW 8th Street in West Miami-Dade.

Identical twins Shonda and Shalisha Witherspoon embody the FIU story. The first in their family to earn bachelor’s degrees, they are now also the first to earn master’s degrees. Growing up in a family of six children, the Witherspoons, 27, were homeschooled and attended Miami Dade College before coming to FIU where they graduated at the top of their undergraduate engineering class in 2016. During their time at FIU, they participated in study abroad experiences in Japan, thanks to scholarships. Now with twin master’s degrees in information technology, they plan to accept job offers at IBM TJ Watson Research Center in New York. Their dream is to one day work in Japan as software engineers. They will receive their degrees at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 1.

Throughout the ceremonies, some standout students known as Worlds Ahead Graduates will be recognized. These are two of their stories:

  • As a child of migrant workers, Noemi Reyes of Immokalee, Fla., spent her summer days in the blazing heat, and her nights sleeping on cardboard vegetable boxes in small motels. The constant traveling to find work, the dependence on the weather for pay and the long hours of picking soon had her dreaming of a better life. While at FIU, Noemi joined the American Marketing Association, Sales Society, Level-Up, Tau Sigma National Honor Society, and Peace Corps Prep. She participated in sales competitions, took on marketing projects and leadership roles and volunteered at Miami-area high schools to mentor students. Reyes graduates with a sales job at the InterContinental Miami. Reyes will graduate at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 29.
  • Stevenson Chery’s decision to become a doctor was influenced by a family tragedy. His mother lost a baby after being turned away at a hospital in Haiti because the family didn’t have money to pay for her care. Chery, the first in his family to graduate from college and medical school, excelled at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He is a past president of the Student National Medical Association, a medical school ambassador, a college admissions student interviewer, and a Gold Humanism Honor Society inductee. Chery is now ready to go to work: He matched into his first choice residency program at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he will be specializing in family medicine. Chery will graduate at 3 p.m on Monday, April 30.

During the commencement ceremonies, the following community members will be honored:

  • Francisco “Frank” Gonzalez, a 1990 graduate of FIU, member of the FIU Foundation Board of Directors and principal of the audit department at Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC, will receive the Outstanding Alumnus FIU Medallion at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 29, 2018.
  • Georgia Tasker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and writer for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, will receive an honorary doctorate degree in science at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 30.
  • John Rock, founding Dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, will receive an FIU Medallion at 3 p.m. on Monday, April 30

Commencement speakers:

  • Rose Ellen Meyerhoff Greene, philanthropist, will speak at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.
  • Shaun Budnik, audit partner at KPMG LLP, will speak at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 29
  • Nelson Adams, chief of the department of obstetrics & gynecology at Jackson North Medical Center and professor, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 30
  • Moishe Mana, developer and entrepreneur, will speak at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2

For the full commencement schedule, please click here.


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