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During the first of four in-person commencement ceremonies at Florida A&M University (FAMU), President Larry Robinson announced that the historically Black college and university (HBCU) had spent more than $16 million to cover fees, tuition, and unpaid student account balances for 2020-2021.

“Over the last year and a half, the university provided over $16 million in student support and debt relief as a result of the federal Cares Act,” Robinson said in his remarks at the July 31 ceremony.

More than 480 summer 2021 graduates and 1,060 2020 graduates registered to participate in the ceremonies held at the Al Lawson Jr. Gymnasium and Multipurpose Center, July 30 to August 1.

Among them was Nemmi Cole, a FAMU graduate who overcame personal and family struggles to earn a doctorate in civil engineering.

According to FAMUForward, the official news source for Florida A&M University, Cole received her doctorate in civil engineering with a concentration in environmental engineering from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

“Earning a Ph.D. was never a part of my plan,” Cole told FAMU. She also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from FAMU.

When her faculty adviser, Clayton J. Clark II, a professor in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, mentioned grad school, she didn’t have the confidence.

Still, in 2014, Cole began work on her dissertation. That year, she won a Gubernatorial Fellowship to work on environmental affairs with other graduate students at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

At the end of that fellowship, Cole was selected from a Florida university cohort for a Federal Affairs Fellowship in Washington. She spent a year working on Capitol Hill, focusing on environmental issues on behalf of Florida.

Cole’s dissertation is “A Cross-Sectional Population-Based Investigation: Analyzing the Association of Water Quality and Socioeconomic Variabilities in the State of Florida.”

She plans to take all she has learned about water, education, and perseverance to a classroom because she wants to teach; perhaps she will become a professor, an environmental consultant, or a post-doctoral student to help others reach their full potential.

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