Two Top Scholars

A Fulbright postgraduate research grant and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellowship round out impressive list of top scholars this year.


Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (July  9, 2012) – They had to wait a little longer than the rest of University of South Florida’s top scholarship recipients for the good news, but two more outstanding students are equally overjoyed to add their names to the list. 


Demelza Hays earned a Fulbright postgraduate research grant to study in India and Samantha Stratton was named a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow.


“We are very proud of these high achieving young women,” said Linda Lucas, director of the Office of National Scholarships.  “They exemplify the qualities scholarship sponsors are looking to support. Their contributions to society will be enhanced by the experiences these opportunities will afford them.”


Hays is a senior double majoring in economics and mathematics in the College of Business.  In India she will research the impact of access to microfinance on women and their families in rural Punjab. As a sophomore, Hays was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. State Department. She used the scholarship to study the Punjabi language in India for 11 weeks and founded the USF Punjabi Club when she returned in 2011.  The Fulbright grant will cover the costs of round-trip transportation to India and maintenance for the academic year.  She has also applied for the Critical Language Enhancement Award to continue her study of Punjabi. 


A participant in the USF Emerging Leaders Institute, Hays was also selected as Member of the Year by the USF Spanish Club and served as president of Club de Espanol.  Hays is also the founder of the USF Spanish Tutoring Program.  She was selected as a member of the Bulls Business network which was developed for high-achieving freshmen and sophomores to provide an avenue for students to enjoy early admission to the Business School.  She is also a recipient of the USF 25 under 25 Award and the USF Golden Bull Award. 


Hays’ volunteer activities include service to the Seminole Heights Green Team, the USF Stampede of Service, the Hillsborough Democratic Party and she has served as an intern for Congresswoman Kathy Castor.  Hays also studied in Costa Rica for four weeks.


The co-author of a statistics text chapter soon to be published, Hays is a statistics teaching assistant and engages in undergraduate research with Assistant Professor Benedicte Apouey examining the correlation between the economic status of women and the health of their children in India. 


With a love of traveling, languages and business, Hays hopes to become a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. State Department after earning a PhD in Economics. 


Stratton will spend nine months interning in the Governor’s Office in Tallahassee. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and interning with Congressman Reid Ribble.  She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from USF in 2011. Stratton was voted Miss USF in 2011 and was included among the Top Five Most Outstanding Graduates that year.


Stratton has volunteered at Moffitt Cancer Center and the Foundation Fighting Blindness and was vice president of Delta Gamma Women’s Fraternity.  She also has been an active member of USF Student Government, USF College Republicans and the USF Catholic Student Union.  Her career goals include focusing on childhood literacy, working in USF’s Department of Children and Families until she runs for office to serve in the state legislature.


The Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program was created from the belief that the best way to ensure Florida's greatness is to actively educate and cultivate its future leaders. This non-partisan program immerses students from public and private universities in key areas of state government. During their nine-month tenure in Tallahassee, Fellows receive advance on-the-job training as well as an invaluable front-line view of the inner workings of government. As Fellows, participants fulfill roles of critical responsibility, interact closely with the state's top leaders and employ their skills and abilities in a highly rewarding environment.