Four Students to Graduate with Distinction May 4th

The College of Behavioral and Community Sciences is proud to announce that four students will graduate with distinction in May. Eric Biel, Shannon Cornett, Shamery Fernandez, and Celia Riffel have all gone above and beyond their classwork and stand out from their peers, earning them one of the highest honors that the University of South Florida has to offer.

Eric Biel, who will be receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology with a minor in biomedical physics, worked for USF while attending Hillsborough Community College. His service activities have been extensive, ranging from his work with the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY); volunteering on his local elementary schools Parent Teacher Association (PTA), though he has no children; tutoring his fellow students in various courses; and serving as a manager for softball and travel-ball teams. During a hitting practice with his players, Biel suffered an injury that cost him his left eye. His injury did not stop him, and he graduated from Hillsborough Community College only five months later and transferred into USF, where he has not only excelled academically while working full-time, but has continued volunteering his time – including serving as a faculty advisor for the Skimboarding Club.

Shannon Cornett has also been engaged in professional development while working on her degree as a Language-Speech-Hearing major in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Cornett has been an active member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association for the last two years, and has served as an officer in the 2012-2013 school year. Cornett volunteered at the organization's annual outreach event for students who stutter, and volunteered at the National Stuttering Association's conference in St. Petersburg. She has also been an active participant in "Speech Parties" hosted by CSD that focus on children with fluency disorders. Cornett has remained active in her department and her classes, despite being diagnosed with ADD as an adult and will pursue her master's degree in speech and language pathology to help children and seek ways to help raise patients' self-efficacy.

Shamery Fernandez will be one of the first graduates with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Behavioral Healthcare from the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy. Fernandez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 12. After struggling to learn English while completing her coursework in high school, Fernandez pursued her dream of going to college. She has volunteered with her church's children's ministries and has worked with Dr. Larry Thompson on research concerning the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) and its cultural implications. Fernandez continued her coursework despite becoming a single mother and working full-time to support her family, and intends to pursue a master's degree to become a mental health counselor.

Celia Riffel, a Language-Speech-Hearing Science major in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, graduated from Hillsborough Community College before coming to USF. Riffel overcame a troubled childhood that saw her placed in foster homes and moved from family member to family member throughout her high school career. Despite her difficulties in overcoming depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of these events. Riffel received her associate's degree before coming to USF, where she excelled and participated in undergraduate research. She will present her research at the upcoming Undergraduate Research and Arts Colloquium at USF, and at the Student Association for Research and Teaching in Communication Sciences and Disorders (START-CSD) Research Symposium this year. Riffel will go on to pursue her Doctorate in Audiology.

Congratulations to all our graduates with distinction!