A Celebration of Student Success

From left: Michelle Turman, MA ’00 and Nicole Stokes Zolkos, ’03

May 31, 2023

Amidst the chaotic final day of classes for the spring semester, a group of 70 College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) students, faculty and supporters paused to celebrate.

Co-sponsored by Michelle Turman, MA ’00, and Nicole Stokes Zolkos, ’03, both donors to the college and members of the Dean’s Advisory Council, the Student Success Celebration was a chance for faculty, staff and donors to hear directly from students how their generosity supported scholarship, international travel and research experiences, including:

  • Lauren Flannery, recipient of the USF Alana Leigh Thompson Memorial Scholarship, which funded her upcoming internship with Yellowstone National Park’s Resource Management Department.
  • Jonathan Rodriguez, recipient of a Fulbright Student Research Grant, which is supporting his archeological investigation of a Maroon settlement in Dominica.
  • Lissany “Lissy” Estevez, recipient of a Benjamin Gilman Scholarship, which enabled her to complete an integrated public relations and advertising study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain.
  • Dane Clarke, who was one of 23 USF Humanities Institute Undergraduate Scholars able to participate in the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Caitlyn Coleman, whose undergraduate research earned her a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
  • Kal Demerew, recipient of the Susan Northcutt Award, which allowed him to travel to Madrid, Spain, to present his research on institutions in development at the New Institutionalism Workshop.

Interim CAS Dean Magali Michael pointed out that these speakers were just a few of the many impressive students in the college.

“We’re really proud of what you’ve all accomplished, and we have no doubt that you’ll go on to do great things,” she said.

Like many of the student speakers, event co-sponsor Turman was able to study abroad, in Florence as an undergraduate at Florida State University and in Paris during her time in graduate school at USF. She said these experiences helped give her an understanding of other cultures and empathy for other people.

“I promised myself one day that if I ever had the opportunity to, I would give back,” said Turman, who established the Turman Study Abroad Scholarship at USF for students to study in Greece and Italy.

Turman encouraged others to make a similar investment.

 “You’ve seen and heard these stories about what is possible and what you’re making possible,” she said. “You're going to be investing in some really amazing individuals.

If you would like to support study abroad opportunities for students, consider contributing to the College of Arts and Sciences Study Abroad Award Fund.

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Meet the Scholars


Lauren Flannery-min.jpg
Lauren Flannery

Lauren Flannery
Flannery is a senior environmental science and policy major and member of the Dean’s Student Leadership Society.

A student assistant for USF Education Abroad, Flannery is looking forward to serving as an intern with Yellowstone National Park’s Resource Management Department this summer, made possible by the Alana Leigh Thompson Memorial Scholarship.

“The Student Success Celebration brings together my amazing peers in the College of Arts and Sciences, the faculty and staff who have guided us along the way, and the community members whose generosity has made it all possible,” she said.





Jonathan Rodriguez
Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez
A soon-to-be triple Bull, Rodriguez, shared his captivating journey from serving as an infantryman in the U.S. Army to becoming a doctoral student and recipient of a Fulbright Student Research Grant.

One of the 10 USF students (seven from CAS) selected for Fulbright scholarships this year — a university record — Rodriguez will conduct an archeological investigation of the Maroon settlement and teach digital heritage workshops for students, interns and local participants in Dominica.

“I’m proud to say that USF has been my home for the past six years, and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the help from faculty and staff and the support of my loved ones,” he said.





Lissany Estevez
Lissany Estevez

Lissany “Lissy” Estevez
Even though she graduated in summer 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Estevez joked that she technically never left USF as she now works in the USF Office of Admissions.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Estevez participated in two study abroad programs at USF, one in Paris and another in Barcelona, the latter supported by a Benjamin Gilman Scholarship.

“A good thing about USF is that you can actually study abroad for about the same price as it is to study on campus,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to USF, the staff, my classmates, the faculty and everyone I met along the way.”

Estevez will continue her education at USF, starting the Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management master’s program in the fall.





Dane Clarke-min.jpg
Dane Clarke

Dane Clarke
Clarke, an English major who graduated magna cum laude in May, said presenting his research at the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium at Johns Hopkins University was nothing short of a life-changing experience.

“I learned about so many topics that expanded my worldview and helped me become a better scholar overall,” he said.

Clarke was struck by the kindness of donors who made this experience possible.

“I know funding like this is not constant or promised, but it’s essential,” he said. “I feel lucky to be speaking in front of all of you today. I feel lucky to be given a shot at greatness. But most of all I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to be a USF Bull.”




Caitlyn Coleman
Caitlyn Coleman

Caitlyn Coleman
Coleman first connected with USF Professor Richard Pollenz at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute STEM Academy in 2019. Coleman then matriculated into the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) and Science Education Alliance-Gene-function Exploration by a Network of Emerging Scientists (SEA-GENES) programs Pollenz oversees. In fall 2020, Coleman became Pollenz’s teacher assistant.

In both programs, Coleman identified novel bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria, and submitted four genome annotations to GenBank, the NIH genetic sequence database.

Coleman was also able to complete research experiences for undergraduates, or REUs, at Cornell University and the University of Georgia. These highly competitive programs typically receive hundreds of applicants but select just 10 scholars to conduct research on their campuses.

All of this research culminated in 12 presentations at local, national and international conferences — as well as becoming a Barry Goldwater scholar in 2022, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the U.S.

Coleman graduated in May with a degree in microbiology and plans to pursue a career in academia.

“When I chose to come here four years ago, I couldn’t imagine how much this university would mean to me by the time I reached commencement,” she said.



Kal Demerew
Kal Demerew

Kal Demerew
Demerew grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and first came to the U.S. on a full scholarship to a boarding school in Massachusetts for his final year of high school. He earned another full scholarship to the Washington University of St. Louis.

After finishing his undergraduate degree, he muddled through a few years in unfulfilling roles before discovering his passion for researching international development issues.

He arrived at the USF School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies in 2019 and has since published three of his works in peer-reviewed journals, taught classes he was deeply passionate about and served in the Policy and Fellowship Committee in the USF Graduate Council.

Thanks to the support of the Susan Northcutt Award, Demerow was able to travel to Madrid, Spain, to present his research on institutions in development at the New Institutionalism Workshop.

“I enjoyed interacting with institutionalist scholars working on different issues in development, and I came back filled with ideas about where to take my research,” he said. He credits the trip with helping him finish his dissertation.

The next step for Demerew, who graduated with his doctorate in May, is a tenure-track position at West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas.

“I feel that I’ve been able to pursue my dreams and do amazing things and none of it would have been possible without the thoughtfulness of those who are willing to support higher education,” he said.


Total Donors in FY23


FY 2022-23 Total Commitment


Endowment Assets Through FY22