FIU Business celebrates 2020 and 2021 graduates at in-person commencement ceremonies.

FIU Business celebrates 2020 and 2021 graduates at in-person commencement ceremonies.

FIU Business celebrates 2020 and 2021 graduates at in-person commencement ceremonies.

Marking graduation with its first in-person commencement ceremonies since December 2019, FIU Business students joined their FIU peers to celebrate their achievements.

The six ceremonies welcomed both 2021 graduates and those who graduated in 2020 through virtual ceremonies. They were held Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25 at Riccardo Silva Stadium on FIU’s main campus, and followed COVID-19 safety guidelines including a strict capacity limit of 1,000 graduates per ceremony.

Students had the opportunity to individually walk and hear their names called at the outdoor ceremonies. Florida Lieutenant Governor and FIU alumna Jeanette Nuñez spoke at the Saturday evening ceremony, and FIU Business professors Donald Roomes, S. Christopher Ellis and Louis Melbourne performed the National Anthem and the FIU Alma Mater.

Graduates honored for “Real Triumphs.”

Five members of the FIU Business graduating class were recognized as Real Triumphs graduates, honored for overcoming great obstacles to achieve success.

Corey A. Hancock, MBA  

Corey A. Hancock proudly represents the United States as a foreign service officer by following his calling to help build better lives and communities around the world. After undergraduate and graduate studies at Florida Atlantic University, he joined the Peace Corps, working in a small village in Bolivia to help orphans learn workforce skills and improve production of a cooperative of women weavers.

He then began a career with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), starting with a post in Peru. In Kazakhstan, he advocated for the rights of the disabled. In Côte d’Ivoire, he worked to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS. In Pakistan, he managed nearly $1.6 billion in bilateral U.S. foreign assistance. During that time, seeking to add financial management skills to his portfolio, Hancock enrolled in the FIU MBA program, finishing his coursework in spite of a ruptured Achilles tendon that forced him to evacuate to Singapore for surgery.

He is now pursuing a PhD at France’s ESCP University where he will look at corporate social responsibility and how it is implemented around the world.

Caldwell Harris, BBA, International Business and Marketing 

With high expectations from her Liberian-born father and Detroit native mother, Caldwell Harris chose the highly-ranked international business program at FIU with great anticipation.

Yet she started her freshman year with a heavy heart. Her younger brother died by suicide a month before she arrived in Miami. Depression and anxiety marked much of her first year. Yet through it all, she looked to her brother’s memory to achieve the big goals they once created together.

By her sophomore year, Caldwell made a turnaround at FIU. That year, she was hired as marketing assistant at the Frost Art Museum. When she wasn’t in class, studying or working, she was focused on her true passion, fashion.

Yet a second tragedy awaited Harris. During summer 2019, her dad’s health began to decline, and he passed away that December. Although she struggled emotionally, Harris’ resilience helped her cope with the loss of her mentor and champion. By the spring ’20 semester, she earned an intern position at New York Fashion Week, and was also hired as assistant brand strategist at the luxury, black-owned footwear label, Keeyahri.

After graduating with a double major in international business and marketing, Harris will begin a digital marketing and branding internship with the global luxury footwear brand Stuart Weitzman (NYC).

Christopher La Forte, MBA

As an enlisted infantry Marine stationed in Kings Bay, Georgia, Christopher La Forte took note of the respect shown to the college-educated officers, and vowed to one day earn his college degree. Today, having turned his admiration into action, La Forte has overcome numerous obstacles to earn not one but two degrees as he prepares to enter the professional ranks.

After four grueling years in the military, La Forte earned a bachelor’s degree from FIU, Magna Cum Laude. He didn’t stop there. La Forte immediately began working on his MBA, laying tile and delivering Amazon boxes to make ends meet.

But, again, he faced a hurdle, developing excruciating pain in his shoulder that was eventually diagnosed as Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, a rare neurological condition. As a Marine not accustomed to showing emotion, La Forte would cry in pain while studying. But he powered through and began to improve with physical therapy.

Now set to begin a new job as an assistant manager at Sherwin Williams, La Forte recently married fellow grad Maria Pereira, a Deloitte CPA. He credits his Colombian mother, who came from nothing to achieve business success, for attaining his goals.

Tivia Rouland, MBA

Determination and helping high school and college students excel are at the center of Tivia Rouland’s personal and professional life.

While working as an aid in the Miami-Dade County Commission, she established partnerships with local businesses to offer guidance and hands-on experience for local students. In 2017, Rouland founded Unknown 365, a non-profit organization that helps schools in Miami-Dade County obtain scholarship money for their students.

Last November, she joined the Miami-Dade Aviation Department’s minority affairs commission, working with small businesses to identify opportunities and contracts at Miami International Airport.

One of the MBA lessons that stuck with her, Rouland explained, is the need to distinguish yourself from other businesses. “I can apply it with aviation, with my non-profit,” she said. “How can we do different things if we have to do the same thing?”

Moving forward, Rouland plans to keep expanding Unknown 365, adding more outreach initiatives. Also on her radar is one day, possibly running for public office in South Florida.

Elizabeth Shipman, MBA

Elizabeth Shipman developed a passion for organ donation and transplants nearly a decade ago. She joined the Miami Transplant Institute, part of Jackson Health System, five years ago and has been manager of the placement and preservation department for the last two.

A South Florida native, Shipman enrolled in the Healthcare MBA program in 2020, focused on enhancing her strength in business operations and strategic planning, both key to expanding her skillset and opening new opportunities in the field of organ donation.

Shipman says she’s been able to incorporate the program into her day-to-day work, applying what she was learning into the real world. Strategic management and quantitative analysis courses have been particularly helpful, and organizational behavior instruction has opened her mind as to how people behave.

In June, Shipman will move to Las Vegas to join the non-profit Nevada Donor Network. As director of the organization, she will be responsible for coordinating, recovering and allocating donated organs, working with both families involved in the process.

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