Graduation 2017

Hodges University’s 28th Commencement Ceremony


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Graduation is a day of celebration. It is the culmination of hard work, discipline, sacrifice and dedication, and as each graduate walks across the stage, there is no doubt a sense of accomplishment will be seen on their faces. This year’s graduates will join an esteemed group of alumni who are serving in the Southwest Florida community in a variety of ways. It is going to be a wonderful day, and we hope you will join us Sunday, June 11 at 4:00 p.m. at Germain Arena.

Commencement Speaker

Mayela Rosales
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Media Vista Group Multi-Platform Hispanic Media Corporation

As a female entrepreneur in Southwest Florida, Mayela Rosales has built a Hispanic media empire over the last 15 years. As co-founder of Media Vista Group, LLC, she and Orlando Rosales have created a company that includes ownership of Univision affiliates (three in Southwest Florida, one in Kansas City and one in Minnesota) and produces D’Latinos, a local television program highlighting leaders and programs throughout the community. In addition, the company provides a free, monthly, Spanish language magazine and interactive website (www.dlatinos.com).

Mayela Rosales

Mayela Rosales

A native of Venezuela, Rosales grew up with a clear understanding of the importance of an education. With the encouragement of her parents, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Zulia (Universidad del Zulia) in 1993. Believing in the important role journalists play in their communities, Rosales said, “I think we can make a difference in the communities we live in. As journalists, we have the power of not only freedom of speech, but also, we have the power to influence in a positive way. When you come across useful information, you are changing the lives of others.”

Deciding to move from Venezuela to Naples, Florida, in 1996, Rosales always knew better opportunities were awaiting her in the United States. After spending a few years learning how to run a business as an assistant to the owner of a computer store, she began to survey her surroundings, recognizing the lack of attention given to the Hispanic community.

“When I first arrived in Southwest Florida, the Hispanic community was neglected. Many were farm and labor workers. I said, ‘the only way I can do something for the Hispanic market is to do something of high quality that is free,’” she explained.

The Rosales’ passion for the community led them to create Media Vista Group, LLC in their garage in 2002. “Our passion for what we do is what drove us to accomplish our goals,” said Rosales. “However, we had to work very hard because not only were we trying to grow our business, but we were trying to gain a reputation, credibility and image.” Since 2002, the company has grown from a small weekly television program to a nationally recognized media player in the Hispanic market.

As a well-known figure in the industry, Rosales understands and accepts the responsibility that comes with being a female entrepreneur, saying, “It’s not only the professional or business aspect to it, but it is about giving back to the community.”

Her involvement with nonprofit organizations throughout the community includes serving as a board member of the American Heart Association, Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Youth Haven, Inc. In addition, she is an advisory board member for the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

In addition to her professional work and volunteer commitments, Rosales is committed to earning her leadership management certification from Cornell University, which she hopes to complete in July 2017. “You never know what life is going to present to you. When you have another tool, like another certificate, another career, you have something else to help you prepare for the future,” she explained.

As a result of her professional work throughout the Hispanic and nonprofit communities, Hodges University has selected Rosales to serve as the commencement speaker for its ceremony on June 11.

“It is a great honor and responsibility to be in front of the graduates and tell them they are taking the next step to a new path. They have accomplished a milestone; however, it doesn’t stop there. Now they must face other goals and challenges. While they must look ahead, they must also look to their sides, which include their families and communities,” she said.

Student Speaker

Paul Cummins
Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies

Growing up in Somerset, Kentucky, Paul Cummins knew college would be an added expense his parents could not afford. Watching his parents try to pay for the schooling of his three older siblings, he said, “I didn’t want to burden them any further.” Deciding to follow a similar path to his father, who was a Vietnam veteran, he enlisted in the United States Air Force after graduating high school.

Paul Cummins and Former President George W. Bush

Paul Cummins and Former President, George W. Bush

“The Air Force provided me with many opportunities I would have never received,” he said. Completing his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, he became a security specialist and eventually transferred to Little Rock Air Force Base in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“In spring 1985, I took my first college class at Arkansas State University in Beebe. I didn’t do very well in that class. I got a ‘C,’ so I pulled away from that and have been chasing my degree ever since,” he said.

Training as a security police officer while in the military, Cummins traveled to Germany and Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines on temporary duty. “Those are opportunities a lot of people don’t get, and I learned that a lot of life is about timing and having the ability to say ‘yes;’ to acknowledge when an opportunity is there and take it. Don’t let fear dictate your life.”

After leaving the military in December 1989, Cummins moved to Southwest Florida and enlisted with the United States Army National Guard in Fort Myers in addition to joining the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) in April 1990. Throughout his 27-year career, Cummins admits his time with the LCSO has been incredible, saying, “I have done things with the sheriff’s office that 90 percent of the officers will never get to do.”

In 1991, he joined the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team, which he served as a member of for 25 years. During this time, he worked in road patrol for three years before joining a project in Dunbar and becoming a narcotics detective. Transitioning from uniformed to undercover narcotics as a sergeant, he witnessed how badly people treat each other and “how close everyone is to that lifestyle,” he said. In addition, he spent five years working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force as a task force agent.

Leaving narcotics, he transferred to firearms training for four years before being promoted to lieutenant and serving as the assistant commander in the Lehigh Acres east district for one year. During this time, he spoke with Dr. Bernardine Carter, who is the college coordinator/senior trainer with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, to discuss the idea of starting a cohort for LCSO.

Earning his associate degree in criminal justice from Edison State College (now Florida SouthWestern State College), Cummins admits he always wanted to go back to school. Meeting with Brian Hawkins, former corporate partners and alumni relations officer at Hodges, they discussed the idea to start an interdisciplinary studies (IDS) cohort because of its relevancy to the industry.

As captain of LCSO, Cummins is in charge of the college program, saying, “Since I’m in charge of the program, I thought, ‘I better get my degree.’”

Enrolling in January 2016, his experience and ability to learn from his colleagues, as well as the opportunity to strengthen his skills in areas of leadership and diversity are aspects of the program he is grateful to have received. “Hodges has been phenomenal. Professor [Gail] Sabo and Hodges gave us everything we needed,” he said.

Students welcomed Sabo into the LCSO to learn from her expertise in the areas of leadership, diversity, communication, social and political process, ethics and global issues. With each class, Cummins witnessed the camaraderie built among him and fellow students.

Graduating from the program in fall 2016, he plans to enroll in a master’s level program at Hodges once his wife graduates from nursing school in September 2017.

As a result of his dedication to the IDS program and his 27-year career with the LCSO, Hodges University selected Cummins to serve as the student speaker at the university’s graduation ceremony on June 11.

“Graduation is a culmination of a lifetime of chasing something. I feel blessed that my path was able to get to this point,” he said. While not giving away too much of what he plans to share with graduates, his goal is to remind students to plan their futures in pencil and remember, “Outside influences can sway the direction of your life.”

Retiring from the LCSO in less than three years, Cummins is excited to take the next step in his journey and use his bachelor’s and future master’s degrees to start a new path – one that will continue to make a difference in the lives of others – teaching.

Graduating Students

Carole Clark, Bachelor of Science in Management

A golf professional, Carole Clark enjoys spending her days out on the links teaching others how to play a game she has spent more than 20 years perfecting. From beginners to experts, she is confident in her abilities to help her clients improve their performance on the course.

Carole Clark and Dr. Miguel Rivera

Carole Clark and Dr. Miguel Rivera at the 2017 Sigma Beta Delta Induction Ceremony

However, as fulfilling as it is to serve as a golf/teaching professional, her aspirations included learning more about the business side of the industry with the hopes of moving into an administrative position or starting her own business. After the loss of her husband in 2015, Clark admits, “I wanted to redefine myself, and I looked at finishing what I started years ago.”

After high school, she attended Oakland Community College in Detroit, Michigan, for a brief time before moving to North Carolina. Enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, she initially thought about becoming a teacher and pursued an education degree. Realizing she possessed more of an interest in business, she switched majors; however, once she and her husband began having children, she put her educational journey on hold.

“When I was in a position to go back to school, I actually got involved in golf,” she admits. “I pursued the LPGA certification program, which was about a four-year process, and focused on teaching students how to properly teach the game of golf.” Ironically, Clark admits she didn’t always enjoy playing golf, saying, “My dad tried to get me to play when I was young, and I thought it was just a stupid game, but once I reached my 20s, I fell in love with it.”

In 1993, she entered the business as a golf professional, club professional and teacher. Throughout her career, Clark has taught numerous clients and even served as the president of her own golf facility, Outdoor Family Fun Center, for eight years. Yet, life threw a curve ball in Clark’s direction, and after losing her husband, she decided it was time to go back to school.

Discovering Hodges University, she was intrigued by the school’s variety of programs and the many ways students could earn their degree. With the ability to transfer 35 credits, she enrolled in Hodges’ Bachelor of Science in management program in the Johnson School of Business.

Spending much of her life in the golf industry, her familiarity with the business is what led her to choose a degree in management. In addition, the physical demand of teaching golf is not something she intends to do the rest of her life, saying, “I wanted to have the credentials to move into administrative positions, such as a general manager, head golf professional or director of golf, or start my own business as a consultant in the golf industry.”

Challenged by the idea of returning to school as an adult student, she was a bit concerned about the technological aspect used in today’s educational environment, in addition to the workload, yet, through the encouragement of her professors, especially Dr. Dolores Batitato, she pushed through.

Splitting her time between Florida and Cape Cod, Clark fulfilled her course requirements by taking classes on campus, online and through UPOWER™. “I completed 85 credit hours in 18 months, all while working full time,” she said.

Graduating in June 2017, she views it as a day of accomplishment. “I am finally finishing something I started years ago, and it has allowed me to redefine myself. I think it will also inspire my children, who are adults as well. Neither has finished their degree, so I think it can inspire them to know you’re never too old, and it’s never too late to move forward.”

Michael Calderon
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences

“My greatest achievement at Hodges was developing the intellect and discipline that is required to become successful in my future venture into medical school,” said Michael Calderon. Graduating with his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences, Calderon has used a similar philosophy toward his schooling as he used to play soccer as a child, saying, “A lot of the philosophy that I was taught about soccer emphasized the importance of developing a mature perspective toward the game. Sports professionals are successful not only because of their hard work and dedication, but also their sophisticated understanding of the game. My professors at Hodges taught me how to become a professional in the world of academia.”

Micheal Calderon and his family

Micheal Calderon with his family

Soccer played an important role in Calderon’s childhood, especially since the majority of his family plays or enjoys soccer. Moving to Florida at 4 years old, he continued to participate in the sport, which deterred his focus from education. However, after recognizing the sacrifices made by his parents to provide for him and his brother, Calderon knew he wanted to pursue higher education in hopes of giving back to his family.

“They’ve always tried to give me what they did not have, so I knew I had to build off of their sacrifices,” he said.

Looking for a place where he could grow academically and intellectually, his decision to attend Hodges was not only because of what it could offer in terms of academics, but his aunt worked at the school. Additionally, in 2008, his mother enrolled at Hodges to complete her prerequisites before attending nursing school.

In fall 2012, Calderon enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences program, saying, “I didn’t realize I wanted to go to medical school until my third semester. My mom is a registered nurse (RN-BSN), so medicine was always a field of study I considered, but I never thought I could become a physician. My academic journey at Hodges has completely changed that. I am now confidently looking forward to attending medical school in 2018.”

For the first two years in the program, Calderon worked as a waiter in downtown Naples while managing a full-time course load at Hodges. Although challenging at times, the encouragement from family and professors helped him to overcome any difficulties he faced.

“The professors at Hodges have incredible respect for their professions,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see how passionate the professors are on the subject they’re teaching.”

Professors such as Dr. Cynthia Gomez, Dr. Curtis Chapman and Dr. Megan Shoff left a lasting impression on Calderon. Their ability to “go the extra step” to assist students, as well as their ability to encourage the understanding of the material instead of memorization, encouraged Calderon to keep moving forward. “I remember Dr. Gomez encouraging me to strive to be better writer. It is great to be in an environment where others believe in you,” he said.

Successfully completing his degree program in summer 2016, Calderon spends his time working as a patient transporter at the North Naples NCH, playing soccer, and studying for the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT), which he plans to take by the end of June 2017.

Planning to attend medical school, his goal is to become an anesthesiologist or go into sports medicine. However, for now, he is looking forward to graduation and reflecting on his educational journey.

“Graduation means a lot. I feel like by finishing my bachelor’s degree, it means my parents’ sacrifice to come to this country and pursue a better future for themselves and their family is not in vain. I want to give my children the opportunities that I didn’t have growing up, just as my parents did for me. I have been incredibly blessed to achieve the success that I have had at Hodges, and I look forward to continuing that success when I attend medical school.”