Grads Say Bon Voyage

By Annie Breen Posted Wed, 05/15/2019 - 09:00

This week, over 2,000 newly minted graduates will receive their diplomas in St. Ignatius Church. Below, four student commencement speakers reflect on their time at USF and give insider tips to incoming Dons.

Samantha Phelan

BA Communication Studies, College of Arts and Sciences

Samantha PhelanSamantha Phelan ’19 wasn’t sure she’d be able to go to college at all, let alone to a university across the country from her hometown of River Forest, Illinois. Diagnosed at 15 with a rare blood disease, the only cure for which was a perfectly matched bone marrow transplant, Phelan spent high school in and out of the hospital, receiving IV infusions every two weeks. One of her five siblings was discovered to be a perfect bone marrow match, and Phelan underwent chemotherapy and radiation prior to the transplant, and was quarantined for almost four months in strict isolation after the surgery in order to rebuild her immune system. After that, nothing could stop her. She enrolled at her mother’s alma mater and became a Don, and is graduating this spring as the valedictorian for the College of Arts and Sciences. She’s also the recipient of the Father Flynn Award as the graduating senior who has maintained the highest average for scholarship throughout the entire undergraduate curriculum at USF.

What's your favorite USF memory?
My favorite USF memory is from when the campus participated in “Franken-Reads,” an international celebration of the 200th year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. USF students and faculty read the novel, cover to cover, on Halloween. I participated with several other communication studies students by reading a portion of the book. This was a phenomenal way for the university to celebrate such a revolutionary piece of literature. One of our core values here at USF is learning as a humanizing, social activity rather than as a competitive exercise, and this celebration exemplified how academic rigor and community engagement go hand in hand.

What are your plans after graduation?
I am pursuing jobs where I can use my communication skills to improve health care organizations, and so improve the lives of the individuals who benefit from them. I hope to get a master’s of public health degree and work toward making health care and healthy living a better experience for everyone.

How do you want to change the world from here?
I want to focus on how health care organizations can better serve their clients. Specifically, I want to help create a more user-friendly delivery of health care to those who currently have difficulty navigating the system. From the experience of navigating my own health, I recognize the challenges and barriers that can prevent individuals from receiving adequate coverage or access to the tools they need to live their best, healthiest lives. Everyone’s needs are different, but everyone wants to feel like they are taken care of when it comes to their health.

What's your best advice to incoming USF students?
Try new things and be truly and honestly yourself. USF has so much to offer, so take advantage of every opportunity. Get to know your professors, attend campus events, and explore the city. Specifically, I’d advise using the Career Services Center early on — it’s so crucial to have a polished resume on hand!

Dalton Bradbury

JD, School of Law

Dalton BradburyDalton Bradbury JD ’19 has been around the justice system his entire life. His father worked in various positions for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation before being named the chief deputy warden of Pelican Bay State Prison in 2015. Because of his exposure to the corrections side of the criminal justice system, Bradbury acknowledges that his decision to join the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office might seem odd at first glance. But he says that he had a chance to see criminal offenders as human beings instead of statistics, and he wants to join USF’s mission of social justice and ensure that his clients receive quality representation when they have their day in court.

What's your favorite USF memory?
My favorite memory at USF happened the day after the 2016 presidential election, because of how our class responded. While students were shocked, confused, angry, and upset, we all rallied around one another for support through a tough time. In an odd way, that very divisive day brought our class together interpersonally and with the common understanding that we, as the next generation of lawyers, had to do something about what we perceived was wrong with our political system. I believe that the mutual support I saw that day within our class is unique to the USF School of Law experience.

What are your plans after graduation?
After taking the California Bar Exam in July, I’ll be working as a post-bar law clerk at the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office. I have always been a firm believer that our justice system is only as good as how we treat the most oppressed and marginalized in our society. Working as a public defender allows me to protect the rights of indigent communities and fight for a more just criminal justice system.

How do you want to change the world from here?
While I want to begin my career working as a public defender, my long-term goal is to become a judge or work in the political arena to ensure that our society is as fair, just, and egalitarian as possible. We need more individuals in all branches of our government who understand that the pursuit of a more perfect society is not just an ideal, but a responsibility that we all share. 

What's your best advice to incoming USF students?
One piece of advice that I received in law school is when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, instead of fretting about it, just get started on the work. In the time you waste on your anxieties and worries, you could have made some headway. The secret to success in law school, as with most things in life, is work.

Jessamyn Phillips

DNP, School of Nursing and Health Professions

Jessamyn PhillipsFor Jessamyn Phillips DNP ’19, being a nurse was always the plan. After working at various hospitals, she realized that her professional interests were twofold: she wanted to be involved in boots-on-the-ground nursing as a nurse practitioner, and she wanted to have an effect on how nurses were trained by getting a master’s in public health. USF was the only university that offered a program in which she could obtain a DNP and an MPH concurrently, and once she was accepted Phillips dove into researching her passion project: preventing unintended pregnancies. Her published systematic review on the topic has since been implemented into USF’s curriculum. 

What's your favorite USF memory?
During one of my seminar courses in the fall of 2018, we had a guest speaker by the name of Dr. Scott Kellermann. Listening to Dr. Kellermann speak changed my life. He’s a family physician who, along with his wife Carol, established the Kellermann Foundation. They have done significant humanitarian work in Uganda and founded a hospital providing care to a population of over 120,000. I left his lecture feeling empowered that I could impact others with the skills I acquired at USF and through my own life experience. He impressed upon me the importance of giving back to the community and remaining present in what we do. The relationships that we establish with others are far more important than anything you achieve individually.

What are your plans after graduation?
I’ve learned to try to have a vision with goals, rather than specific plans. The day after graduation on May 18, I am due with my first child. A week after that, I turn 30. Graduation is very much a symbolic transition for me and represents significant change and the closing of a very challenging chapter of my life.

What I envision for the future is having a wonderful marriage and family with my husband. It will require balancing, but I hope to be a good mother to my daughter while also pursuing a meaningful and fulfilling career. The past five years, my husband and I have made many sacrifices in order to secure a better future, so I hope this doctoral journey leads to a better quality of life for my family.

How do you want to change the world from here?
I would like to “change the world from here” by functioning at the highest level as a family nurse practitioner, establishing long-term relationships with patients at the primary care level, and creating a healthier population with a decreasing disease burden.

What's your best advice to incoming USF students?
Trust the timing of your life. Many Americans and college students are caught up in this rat race to get ahead. From the time you enter the doors of kindergarten until you are walking across the stage as a graduate, you have to “keep up with the Joneses.” Don’t waste your time comparing your journey to someone else’s. If it takes you five years to complete a four-year program, so be it. Your college experience is more than just books and academics, or getting a degree finished so that you are able to get into the workforce. Things do work out and trust that the timing of your life will position you right where you are meant to be.

Corey Rubin

MS Organizational DevelopmentSchool of Management

Corey RubinCorey Rubin MSOD ’19 had already enjoyed great professional success when she decided to pivot her focus to organizational development (OD). In fact, her success led to that decision — so many people wanted to know how she built her fashion accessories business that she tried her hand at consulting, and it was through career coaching that she realized her path in organizational development. She coached many executives who were hugely successful at work, but almost always that success was tempered by unsatisfactory home lives. She realized that her passion was in changing the workforce to create more balance between work and home, and USF stood out to her as the school that would help her achieve her goal of changing the world by changing the workforce.

What's your favorite USF memory?
My first favorite memory was receiving my acceptance letter and realizing that my lifelong dream of going to graduate school was happening! As a student, I do have a favorite memory that I often share. Toward the beginning of the program, members of my cohort were just starting to get to know each other. We were on a lunch break during a full Saturday class and as many of us walked to the Ferry Building we discussed class, and OD, and jobs, and life, and I remember marveling at the variety of people in my class. We took our lunches back to school to sit and eat with a larger group, and the feeling of being a part of this diverse group of learners and leaders made me recognize that I had somehow landed in the right place. I remember serendipity washing over me and saying, "See? Life just works out! Now, buckle up!" 

What are your plans after graduation?
I decided to get my MSOD with the intention of pivoting from external coaching and consulting to an internal role inside a company that shares my values and believes in the things I am passionate about. I'm interviewing now for HR and OD roles where I can put my love of employee wellness and diversity, my experience in management and leadership development, and my OD studies to use with the opportunity to create a positive effect inside an organization that is truly making a difference in the world!

How do you want to change the world from here?
I'm a "change the world" kind of dreamer — that's what drew me to USF. I hope that I change individual worlds by being kind-hearted, by connecting with others in a meaningful way, and by being of service in some way each and every day. With my new MSOD in hand, I want to change the world of work. The current landscape of how we take care of and value workers is detrimental to their health and wellbeing, and ultimately harms the bottom line of any business. I want to effect change by creating OD initiatives that support both workplace wellness and business development so that everyone wins.

What's your best advice to incoming USF students?
Everything is an opportunity, and it's up to you to create value in the experience. Floating by will likely earn you a nice degree; by fully diving in you will gain lifelong connections to amazing people, a lot of knowledge and learning, and the possibility to grow further into the person you are slated to be!