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UT Grads Head Both Near and Far in Career Paths

Published: May 09, 2019

Emily Straley ’19 found a love for travel after she went on a mission trip to Peru in high school. It was her first trip abroad, and she was amazed at every turn. When she began attending The University of Tampa, she studied abroad in Costa Rica for three months, where she honed her Spanish skills and lived with a host family.

Commencement 2019 Preview
Emily Straley ’19 will head to Madrid after graduating this Saturday with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with ESOL Endorsement to teach English.

The experience fueled her desire to travel and solidified her capability of living in another country, which will serve her well when she heads to Madrid after graduating this Saturday with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with English as a Second Language (ESOL) endorsement, to teach English to students between six and 12 years old in Spain.

“The education program at UT has filled me with important knowledge and practical skills that I will take with me on this journey,” said Straley. “I have learned how important relationships are in the world of education, and I plan to create transcendent relationships with my students. I feel more than prepared to start my career.”

Straley is one of the more than 1,400 students UT will celebrate at its 148th commencement on Saturday, May 11.

Merrie Tankersley, clinical education director and lecturer in education, said the international experience in the education program is very unique.

“It’s very beneficial for our graduates to teach abroad,” said Tankersley. “They are able to exercise independence, gain confidence, acquire a new perspective of education, experience a new culture first hand, and travel and widen their horizons.”

Straley’s classmate Hilary Cox, who also graduates with a degree in elementary education, will be heading back to her hometown of Nassau to teach, a position she landed after a successful teaching assistantship she held in the Bahamas over winter break.

Cox said the most important thing she learned while attending UT was “learning how to adapt, but not losing myself in the process.”

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Soriyah Khan ’19, a criminology and criminal justice major from Trinidad, wants to work with a U.S. federal agency on investigating human trafficking.

Khan was the first participant in the six-week intern-to-hire program in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Child Protective Investigations Division, which investigates cases of child neglect, abuse and abandonment. Since February, she learned about the different forms of child maltreatment, how to write and process reports, and shadowed different departments within the division itself. As an international student, the process toward hiring is different, but the experience has enlightened a prospective career path for her.

“I’ve read real life cases, and it’s really eye opening and angering,” Khan said. “It’s an emotional job, and they have a high turnover rate which they warn us about, but once I’m driven to do something I feel like I could do. This will be difficult, but I want to do it, so I’ll make it happen.”

Commencement 2019 Preview
Soriyah Khan ’19, a criminology and criminal justice major from Trinidad, wants to work with a U.S. federal agency on investigating human trafficking.

This past year, Khan was involved in two research projects: an Honors tutorial with Assistant Professor Sorle Diih researching child sexual exploitation, and a year-long Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry research grant with Professor Kathryn Branch on how narrative identity impacts victims of crimes, which she presented at the College of Social Sciences, Mathematics and Education research fair this May.

“Human trafficking is a big problem in Trinidad, and it’s really under the radar because we’re so small,” Khan said. “To come from a place where these resources aren’t available and to see them so widely used here, it just made me want to learn more about it.”

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Lauren Twele ’19 will walk the stage on Saturday to accept her diploma in marine science-biology, with two minors in education and leadership studies. She heads to the Florida Keys later this month to begin working as a marine science instructor with the Seacamp Association in Big Pine Key, which runs residential campus for children.

“As an instructor I will be performing lectures, lab work and workshops for the students,” said Twele. “We also study the water quality, sail, scuba dive and wind surf.”

Commencement 2019 Preview
Lauren Twele ’19 will be working as a marine science instructor with the Seacamp Association in Big Pine Key, which runs residential campus for children.

Twele found a passion for educating children after interning at the Florida Aquarium in the education department and also as an education coordinator with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. In these two positions, she spoke to children about water conservation and sustainability.

“I love going in front of school groups and talking to the kids. It’s great to see them be so passionate,” said Twele. “I think youth education is really important because going forward, they’re going to be facing the world’s environmental issues.”

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Keaira Philogene ’19 graduates with a degree in cybersecurity with a minor in management information systems. In June she begins a risk consulting position with Skdoda Minotti Tampa, a business and financial advisory firm in downtown Tampa.

Commencement 2019 Preview
Keaira Philogene ’19 graduates with a degree in cybersecurity with a minor in management information systems. In June she begins a risk consulting position with Skdoda Minotti Tampa, a business and financial advisory firm in downtown Tampa.

“I will have the ability to embrace my entrepreneurial mindset in this position, while working with clients to ensure they are compliant within their industries and consult with them to assess the risk that their organizations may face,” said Philogene, adding that the learning environment at UT challenged her and helped her grow as a student into a professional.

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When Kaitlyn Gengler ’19 leaves UT, she heads to the “happiest place on earth.” Gengler, who graduates with a degree in marine science-biology, accepted a professional internship with Walt Disney World in Orlando. She will work with the marine mammal team located at The Seas in Epcot starting on June 12, working with bottlenose dolphins and manatees.

“About half of my day will be focused on animal care, including daily food prep and lots of cleaning, including scuba diving in the different habitats,” said Gengler. “The other half of my day will be focused on interacting with guests and educating them about the animals and ocean conservation.”

Commencement 2019 Preview
When Kaitlyn Gengler ’19 leaves UT, she heads to the “happiest place on earth.” Gengler, who graduates with a degree in marine science-biology, accepted a professional internship with Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Gengler said she’s excited to have the opportunity of working beside the animal trainers to observe different training sessions and research collection techniques while at Disney.

Last summer, Gengler worked with seals and sea lions as a marine mammal intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, AK. She said she this will be a new experience for her since she will learn and work with different species.

“My favorite part about working with marine mammals is the relationships you are able to form with the animals,” said Gengler. “The more time I spend in this field, the more I have realized that I also really love to share these animals’ stories with the public and inspire them to care more for the ocean and the creatures that live in it.”

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There are two separate commencement ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall. The ceremony for graduates of the Sykes College of Business and the College of Arts and Letters will take place at 9:30 a.m., and the ceremony for graduates of the College of Social Sciences, Mathematics and Education and the College of Natural and Health Sciences will follow at 2 p.m.

A live webcast of the ceremonies will be available.

There are 1,255 bachelor’s degree candidates and 160 master’s degree candidates — 1,415 in all.


Story by Sydney Rhodes '21, journalism major