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Class of 2023 at Spring Commencement

2023 Spring Commencement a Success

May 9, 2023

For the 139th time in the illustrious history of Florida Southern College, students clad in cap and gown strolled across a stage, flipped their tassels from right to left, and officially graduated from the College.

Destiny Kimbrough '23
Destiny Kimbrough '23 (right) celebrates the occasion with a friend.

The Class of 2023 was no different, in a ceremony held on Saturday, May 6, inside the George Jenkins Arena at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Mr. John K. Adams ’92 was the keynote speaker, while Katharine Wall addressed her fellow graduates.

“I’ve been working towards this for so long,” said John Christovich from Jacksonville Beach, who graduated in just three years with a degree in Communications. “The more work I put in, the more involved I was … the more I seemed to get out of this place. I can’t believe that it’s over.”

In all, nearly 500 graduates strolled across the stage to accept their hard-earned degrees from FSC President Anne B. Kerr. The undergraduate students led the way, followed by the master’s students, with the doctorate students closing the run of show. More than 200 undergraduate students earned honors, while 22 honor societies recognized almost 225 members.

Destiny Kimbrough of Tampa, Fla., had a different view.

“It feels like a fevered dream,” said the first generation college student, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology. “It hasn’t really kicked in for me yet. I’m really excited and I’ve just been trying to soak in the moment.”

Student Award Recipients

Lauren Austin Describing Yemanja and Her Osprey
Hailee Schalwig '23, the recipient of the
President's Medal

During the ceremony, several students were recognized with special awards for their superior performance in the classroom and on campus.

The President’s Medal was awarded to Hailee Schalwig, who has achieved academic excellence and exemplified the values of Florida Southern College at the highest level. An outstanding student, she was recently selected for one of the most competitive and prestigious national academic awards, the Fulbright Scholarship.

Schalwig earned degrees in both Environmental Studies and Marine Biology, with minors in English and Communications. She is a top-performing Honors student and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Her passion for education, our global future, and conservation, combined with her study of Mandarin qualifies her as an outstanding Fulbright Scholar to Taiwan. During her time at FSC, she was a teaching assistant and peer mentor, conducted research at the SharkLab in Bimini, The Bahamas and interned as a biologist and educator at Circle B Bar Reserve.

Nathalie Moreno '23 Honor Walk Recipient
Nathalie Moreno '23, the 2023 Honor Walk Recipient

Each spring, a graduating senior is selected for the Honor Walk, which is the College’s highest student award recognizing notable achievements in academics, leadership, and student involvement. Previously announced, the 2023 Honor Walk recipient, in Nathalie Moreno from Union, N.J.

Moreno majored in both English and Communications and graduated with Honors. She was the co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Southern; was instrumental in founding the Hispanic and Latinx Student Coalition (HLSC); and served as the founding vice-president of membership for CHAARG (Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls).

Carter Webb '23
Carter Webb '23, recipient of the Bishop
Robert E. Fannin Faith and Leadership Award

Her academic and scholarly achievements include national conference presentations and journal publications. Moreno is the recipient of the prestigious Gilman Scholarship, an award that will take her to Tokyo to study Japanese culture.

The Bishop Robert E. Fannin Faith and Leadership Award was introduced as a new award, and was presented to Carter Webb, from Orlando, Fla. The 96th Student Government Association (SGA) president, Webb earned his BS in Accounting. During his time at Florida Southern, he has served as the Vice President of Finance for SGA, a Resident Advisor, a Southern Select Leader, was on the teaching team for Beyond campus ministry, and was actively involved in intramurals.

Faculty Award Recipients

Florida Southern’s accomplished faculty were also recognized during the ceremony.

Dr. Shameka Shelby, recipeint of the Ben and Janice
Wade Outstanding Teaching Award

The Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teaching Award, recognizing outstanding performance by a teaching faculty member, was awarded to Associate Professor of Chemistry and the Dr. John A. Leighty Endowed Chair in Chemistry, Dr. Shameka Shelby.

Dr. Shelby joined the Florida Southern College Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physics as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 2015, receiving tenure and a promotion to Associate Professor in 2021.

She has several publications to her credit and has also co-authored multiple peer-reviewed articles with undergraduate students. She and some of her students have a patent pending for a combination absorbable hemostat and antibiotic. Other awards and honors that Dr. Shelby has received include: the National Society of Leadership and Success Excellence in Teaching Award; the King Chavez Parks Initiative, the Future Faculty Fellowship; the Biological Chemistry Ph.D. Graduate Student Award; the Rackham Merit Fellowship; the Guidant Foundation Award; and the Hypercube Scholar Award.

Dr. Carrie Ann Hall
Dr. Carrie Ann Hall, recipient of the John and
Eleanor Miller Distinguished Faculty Award for
Excellence in Teaching

Dr. Carrie Ann Hall earned the John and Eleanor Miller Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. The honor goes to a faculty member each year who has achieved excellence in teaching, active learning, scholarly productivity, and advising.

Dr. Hall began her career at Florida Southern College in 2016 and serves as an Associate Professor in the Ann Blanton Edwards School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Dr. Hall’s dedication to engaged learning has been particularly evident in her work with students. Exploration of case studies, student collaborations, labs, and clinical experiences are just a few of the dynamic techniques implemented in her courses. She has served as the director of Florida Southern’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which further evidences her commitment to academic excellence.

Dr. Hall is a valued member of the faculty. The passion that she brings to her students, the discipline, and the institution has been an inspiration to help others go beyond themselves and accomplish things they never thought possible. Earlier this spring, she earned acceptance into the National Academies of Practice as Distinguished Fellows in their Nursing Academy.

Dr. Silviana Falcon
Dr. Silviana Falcon, recipient of The Joe P. Ruthven
Leadership Award

The Joe P. Ruthven Leadership Award is the highest faculty recognition for outstanding leadership at the institution. The recipient of this year’s Ruthven Leadership Award is Dr. Silviana Falcon.

Dr. Falcon is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise. Dr. Falcon began her career at Florida Southern College in 2014. Since that time, she has demonstrated outstanding leadership in many areas of the institution including her service as the Faculty Senate Chair. She also serves as the distinguished Dorotha Tanner Chair in Ethics in Business and Economics. A colleague recently described her as an amazing and transformational leader.

The Omicron Delta Kappa Circle at Florida Southern College was established in 1951. The mission of ODK is to identify, honor, and develop leaders in collegiate and community life. Each year, one faculty member is recognized by ODK who represents the mission of the Circle. This year’s recipient is Dr. Susan Banks, Associate Professor of Biology, an innovative educator who engages her students through laboratory exercises, scientific experiments, and learning in and out of the classroom. Her area of research and publication is in Neuroscience. She is the lead faculty member for the biology learning community and works with multiple learning communities across the campus.

Student Speaker

Katie Wall '23
Katharine Wall, the Class of 2023 Senior Speaker

Addressing the assembly, representing the graduates, was Ms. Katharine Wall from Jacksonville, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. She had a simple message for her classmates: their core message was staring them in the face. Understanding that that graduation is simply the completion of degree requirements is different than commencement, which encourages the graduates to pack up and go and use what they have learned. Her message is a phrase heard countless times across campus: Go Mocs!

Wall stressed the importance of packing and taking with you:

            Memories – cherish them, keep them, enjoy them
            Opportunities – embrace what is coming and act on them
            Connections – your friends, professors, family, those people that made you stay
            Story – your story matters as you create your own story

Keynote Speaker

Keynote speaker Mr. John K. Adams, who graduated with a degree in accounting from Florida Southern College in 1992, currently serves as the CEO, with a spot on the Board of Directors, of Altus Fire and Safety, headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Adams stressed that hard work and education are the fundamentals that lead to a better existence. Among his advice to the graduates were the following points:

John Adams
Mr. John K, Adams, the 2023 Commencement Speaker
  • No matter your circumstance, work hard and persevere
  • There will be plenty of people who burden you with apostrophe-t’s, as in can’t, won’t, shouldn’t. They are all noise. Use them as fuel to motivate you
  • Don’t be afraid to take a chance and stretch yourself
  • Be open to change
  • Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
  • When you ask for something, present what you will give in return
  • You matter
President Anne Kerr Commencement
President Dr. Anne Kerr hands a graduating senior her diploma during Commencement on May 6, 2023.