Families and friends gathered in the Sun Dome to watch graduating students, who
waited in black caps and gowns to receive their degrees. If the commencement ceremonies seemed more crowded than usual this semester, it was for a reason.
USF awarded a record number of 5,244 degrees this commencement period, 300 more than the previous record of more than 4,900, which was set spring 2008.
“I am so glad to see students graduate — that is what we’re all about,” said USF President Judy Genshaft. “The best ceremony we have all year round is graduation. So, we hope to see more and more graduate in a timely way.”
The increase in graduates is a result of USF’s effort to become a more appealing university, said Provost Ralph Wilcox. USF’s student population ranks ninth in the country and third largest in the state.
“We are faced by more and more demand and students want to gain enrollment into the University,” Wilcox said. “We are limited through state resources that are provided, but I think what you are seeing is that we are realizing our potential as the ninth largest university in the country.”
USF graduates said they noticed a heightened interest from prospective students while they studied at the University.
Ivana Djokovic who received her degree in international studies, said the increase of students is an indicator of how much USF has grown.
“I believe USF has an advantage in the fact that it has a very diverse student body which allows its students to pursue a myriad of different activities,” she said. “And it gives everyone in the community a chance to learn new things aside from the day-to- day classes universities offer.”
With other state universities not far from the area, the distinction of competition and popularity among the colleges has seemed to narrow, said 19-year-old Yasir Abunamous, the youngest graduate of this commencement period, who received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I’ve noticed that USF has always kind of been in the shadows in the face of UF and Miami,” Abunamous said. “I think (USF) has put in a lot of effort, because they are a younger school. I’ve noticed they’ve been investing a lot in their students and meeting their students’ needs.”
In the midst of budget cuts that have affected USF and other state universities’ programs, Wilcox said the University’s academics and extracurricular activities have increasingly become reasons students apply to USF.
“We are one of the top three research universities in the state. Students recognize that and parents recognize that there’s something special about getting a degree from USF,” Wilcox said. “We’re getting more and more of them and we’re focusing, as the president said we’re focusing, more and more on individual progress.”
It is uncertain whether USF’s increase of graduates will continue, but it may be the beginning of a trend.
“We’re getting better and better and better, and it is so exciting to see this University in such an upward trajectory,” Genshaft said. “Students are finishing their degrees. They seem more connected to the University.”