UCF has announced the speakers for the university’s Spring 2022 in-person commencement ceremonies. The ceremonies will be held May 6-7, within the Addition Financial Arena.
The spring commencement speakers are:
- Rick Cardenas ’92, president and chief operating officer for Darden Restaurants, Inc
- Gordon Chavis, UCF’s associate vice president for Enrollment Services.
- William T. Self, the associate director of undergraduate affairs and professor of medicine within UCF’s College of Medicine, Self currently serves as the chair of the Advisory Council of Faculty Senates and is a member of the Florida Board of Governors.
- Maribeth Ehasz, UCF’s vice president emerita for Student Development and Enrollment Services.
- Joseph Harrington, former UCF trustee and former chair of the UCF Faculty Senate and a Pegasus Professor in the Planetary Science Group of the Department of Physics and UCF’s Florida Space Institute.
- Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, dean of the Burnett Honors College and a professor of public administration.
Biographical information on each commencement speaker follows
Rick Cardenas ’92 | 9 a.m. Ceremony, May 6
Rick currently serves as Darden’s president and chief operating officer. In this role, he has responsibility for all restaurant operations as well as supply chain, development, franchising & international and consumer insights.
In December, Rick was unanimously elected by Darden’s Board of Directors to serve as the company’s next chief executive officer, effective May 30, 2022.
Rick was named to his current role in January 2021. Previously, he served as Darden’s chief financial officer since March 2016. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president and chief strategy officer. He began his career with Darden as an hourly team member in 1984, before joining the restaurant support center team in 1992.
Rick graduated summa cum laude from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in finance and another in accounting. He also earned an MBA from The Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. Rick currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Tractor Supply Company, and, in 2019, he was inducted into the UCF College of Business Hall of Fame.
Gordon Chavis | 2 p.m. Ceremony, May 6
Gordon Chavis, Jr. has worked in higher education for 36 years, including holding various enrollment management leadership positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and UCF. Dr. Chavis joined UCF in 1999, and now serves as the associate vice president of Enrollment Services, with both undergraduate admissions and student financial assistance within his portfolio.
Chavis has served on and been involved with many professional organizations and committees, most notably, the College Board’s Southern Regional Council, the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC) Government Relations Advisory Committee, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s “Access and Diversity Commission,” the National Merit Scholarship Corporation Selection Committee, and the U.S. News and World Report Admissions Deans Advisory Panel. In Fall 2019, Chavis was named a member of the College Board’s Enrollment Leaders Group.
Chavis received his B.A. degree in American Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania. He worked in the field of Civil Rights law for three years after receiving his J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
William T. Self | 7 p.m. Ceremony May 6
William T. Self is a professor of medicine in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences where he also serves as the associate director of Undergraduate Affairs.
Self received his bachelor’s. in microbiology (magna cum laude) from the University of Florida, followed by his Ph.D. in microbial physiology, also at UF. He then studied under Thressa C. Stadtman at NIH as a staff fellow studying the role of selenium in microbial metabolism of purines and amino acids. Since arriving at UCF in 2003 he has continued studies of genetics and biochemistry of metalloenzymes from clostridia, especially Clostridioides difficile, but also expanded his research to include research in catalytic nanomaterials. Self has 74 publications including primary research articles, reviews and book chapters and his work has been highly cited.
Self has also been heavily involved in service to UCF, including serving as Chair for Faculty Senate for three years and as the faculty representative on the UCF Board of Trustees. Since 2020 he has served as the faculty representative on the Florida Board of Governors.
He and his wife, Marianne have raised four sons, all of which are current students across the state university system.
Maribeth Ehasz | 9 a.m. Ceremony May 7
Maribeth Ehasz is a first generation college student devoting her 46 year career in higher education to helping students succeed. She came to UCF in 1994 and served as vice president for Student Development and Enrollment Services for 16 years. Under her leadership, UCF set records for student retention and graduation eliminating achievement gaps through a range of innovative partnerships and initiatives. She retired from UCF in 2021 as vice president emerita.
Previously, she served as assistant dean of the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University and was founding director of the Office of Retention Services and Assistant Dean of the University College at the University of Toledo.
She was recognized by the UCF Office of Diversity Initiatives with the first VIP Diversity Award and recently received the John C. and Martha Hitt Honorary Alumni Award. She was recognized by the Orlando Business Journal as one of four finalists in the Women Who Mean Business Executive of the Year Award and received the National Academic Advising Association Pacesetter Award for her career contributions to the improvement of academic advising.
She lives in Orlando with her husband, Richard Buhl, spending time on creative projects and her 14 grandchildren.
Joseph Harrington | 2 p.m. Ceremony May 7
Joseph Harrington is a Pegasus Professor in the Planetary Science Group of UCF’s Department of Physics and in the university’s Florida Space Institute (FSI). He came to UCF in 2006 as one of five founding faculty in the planetary science program, which established Ph.D. and M.S. tracks in Physics and began accepting students in 2009.
Harrington’s research group measures the properties of exoplanet atmospheres and he led the Exoplanet Target of Opportunity Program for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Additionally, he participated in the first detection of both an exoplanet’s own emitted light and the first exoplanet spectrum and led the first separate measurements of day and night, the first detection of disequilibrium chemistry, and the first detection of an atmosphere with more carbon than oxygen.
He is also a leader in the open-source movement. He ran the documentation effort for the fundamental numerical packages of the Python language, numpy and scipy, and sat on a National Academies committee that provided open-source policy options now being implemented in the NASA grant programs. He has led numerous open-source projects. Harrington earned his bachelor’s in physics and Ph.D. in planetary science, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres | 7 p.m. Ceremony May 7
Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres is dean of the Burnett Honors College and professor of public administration. Dr. Piñeres received her Ph.D. in economics from Duke University, master’s. from the University of Chicago and bachelor’s from Texas A&M University.
She joined UCF in 2018 following her role as executive vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of Faculty at Austin College in Sherman, TX. Previously, she served as dean of Undergraduate Education and professor of economics at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is a founding member of the University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers. In 2011-12 she participated in the American Council of Education Fellows Program where she was hosted by President Emeritus John Hitt and former Provost Tony Waldrop at the University of Central Florida. She is also a Jacob Javits Fellow and Fulbright Research Scholar. Her academic research focuses on economic development and political stability in developing countries and is a cross section of economics and political science.
Approximately 9,000 degrees will be conferred during UCF’s Spring 2022 Commencement. Held in the Addition Financial Arena, the spring commencement includes six separate and successive in-person ceremonies, taking place at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on May 6-7.
For each of the ceremonies, graduates will dress in official UCF regalia, participate in the Pomp and Circumstance processional, and cross the commencement stage to receive their diploma.
On Thursday, May 5, from 3-7 p.m., spring graduates will be offered a photo-video opportunity within the Addition Financial Arena. This will be a first-come, first-served occasion for graduates and their well-wishers to take photos and videos on the ceremony stage. No pre-registration is required.
Each graduate will receive five commencement tickets. All guests, including children and infants, need a ticket for admission into the Addition Financial Arena. All graduates who have filed an intent to graduate will receive commencement ceremony tickets when they pick up their regalia packet.
Guests who do not have tickets may watch the live ceremony via a simulcast viewing in the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center and the Student Union. Ceremonies will also be livestreamed on UCF’s YouTube channel.
Commencement by the Numbers
UCF has awarded more than 390,000 total degrees since classes began in 1968. On average, the university awards approximately 18,000 degrees each academic year. Currently, UCF has more than 335,500 individual alumni.
More than one-quarter of this spring’s degrees are being conferred to students majoring in the STEM fields. One out of every five of this semester’s graduates are first-generation students. Earlier this academic year, U.S. News and World Report recognized UCF as a national leader in both innovation and social mobility.
Annually, UCF graduates one of the highest numbers of minorities in the nation. Half of this semester’s degrees will be conferred to students from underrepresented communities. Hispanic students comprise more than one-quarter of all of UCF’s spring degree recipients. For the seventh consecutive year, Insight Into Diversity awarded UCF the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. Additionally, Hispanic Outlook recognized the university among the nation’s best for conferring degrees to Hispanic students.
For more details and FAQs about Spring 2022 commencement celebrations, visit ucf.edu/graduation.