Florida State University Provost and Executive Vice President Jim Clark encouraged the newest class of graduates from FSU’s Republic of Panama campus to be lifelong learners and embody success during a commencement ceremony Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the City of Knowledge Convention Center in Panama City, Panama.
Clark, who served as dean of the FSU College of Social Work from 2015-2021 prior to becoming provost, delivered the keynote speech to the FSU-Panama Class of 2023. He noted the parallels between students’ goals and ambitions and those of FSU.
“We are a university on the rise with some audacious goals, and you – our graduates – are on a similar trajectory for success in the next phase of your lives,” Clark said.
FSU-Panama awarded nine degrees during the ceremony, which was slightly smaller than the tri-annual pomp and circumstance that takes place on FSU’s main campus (3,047 students are graduating this fall).
FSU-Panama Rector Carlos Langoni presided over the ceremony, accompanied by vice rectors, members of the FSU Panama Board of Directors, and faculty members. Marcela Espinoza, valedictorian of the FSU-Panama Class of 2023, also shared remarks with graduates and guests.
Originally from Nicaragua, Espinoza commended the faculty and staff at FSU-Panama for their support along her academic journey, referring to them as the “heart of the university.”
“You have planted the seed of knowledge in each of us, and we can assure you with certainty that the seed has germinated and will continue to grow,” Espinoza said. “Armed with an excellent education and wealth of experiences, we are ready to pursue our dreams and professional aspirations.”
Many students from FSU-Panama participate in commencement ceremonies in Tallahassee as recipients of the 2+2 scholarship, which allows citizens of Latin American or Caribbean countries to complete their undergraduate studies on FSU’s main campus while paying in-state tuition.
FSU-Panama also offers five undergraduate degree programs (computer science, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, international affairs, social science and environment and society) and a master’s degree program in international affairs. A commencement ceremony is held each year in December to celebrate those graduates.
While they may have never set foot in Tallahassee, Clark reminded the graduates to reflect on the fact that they’re part of the larger FSU family.
“You’re a part of an academic community that is multinational,” he said. “People that are employing and advancing the careers of young people like yourselves understand more and more what it means to be a Florida State University graduate. You are a part of that larger family of Florida State University.”
He also encouraged graduates to tap into their creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
“Many leaders in our university are entrepreneurs,” Clark said. “It’s a spirit we bring to our work, to collaborate with others, to try and be willing to fail, but to learn from the failures to lead to success.”
With a student body representing 30 different countries, Clark noted the invaluable experiences of different cultures and backgrounds that students at FSU-Panama are exposed to.
“Draw on your experiences here to see what a beautiful thing it is to be friends with people and to be able to talk together and to support each other,” he said.
FSU first arrived in Panama in 1957 through a contractual agreement with the U.S. Armed Forces to establish an education center in the former Panama Canal Zone. FSU-Panama became a degree-granting branch of FSU in 1967 and moved to its new location in the City of Knowledge in 2009. In 2014, FSU-Panama was authorized to offer a master’s degree in international affairs.
The graduates, along with their awarded degrees, are:
Jose Vilar, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Master of Science in International Affairs
Claudio Del Balzo, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Marcela Espinoza, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Alana Mock, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Miguel Perez Martin, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Shaina Rosario, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Daniela Sanchez Vasquez, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Valentina Varela, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
Guzman Sanchez, College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science