Inspiring Gator grad earns degree internationally 

From Gainesville to Rio de Janeiro, Paloma Pinto Ribeiro Coelho has taken a non-traditional path to commencement. 

A Preview staffer and UF Online ambassador, Pinto began at UF as a freshman and embraced every opportunity to be involved.

Then, midway through her sophomore year, the media production major learned devastating news. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had denied her and her family green cards. 

“I was horrified, scared, and concerned, to say the least,“ Pinto said.

Because she could no longer stay in the country, Pinto moved back to her native Brazil in December 2021, where she immigrated from in 2016.

There, she lived with her family, and finished the last half of her degree through UF Online, which crafted a customized plan for her to complete her studies internationally.

“I feel just as much a UF student as someone who takes in-person classes,” Pinto said. “There is no other program I wish I was a part of now, as UF Online has truly given me all that I need to succeed.”

A student poses next to journalism school sign.

Paloma Pinto poses next to the College of Journalism and Communications sign. 

While working to transition academically, her father unexpectedly died after complications with a heart surgery in May 2022, leaving Pinto grief-stricken and with a tough decision to make about whether to continue her education.

She decided to place all of her efforts into succeeding in his name.

“He was my hero, my best friend, and my inspiration. As imaginable, this was an impossible time for me, and school felt like the last thing I could possibly focus on,” Pinto said. 

Pinto persevered and will graduate with summa cum laude honors, earning a degree in media production, management, and technology with a specialization in media and society and a minor in sociology.

She will return to Gainesville this weekend to attend the commencement ceremony and walk the stage, proud to embrace the UF culture she feels prioritizes students’ needs and welcomes scholars from all walks of life. 

Following graduation, the 22-year-old plans to pursue a master’s degree then work a traveling job in social media marketing, using her fluency in Portuguese and Spanish. 

“To me, being a Florida Gator means being proud of who you are. It means being yourself – unapologetically so – no matter what others may think.”

Halle Burton December 15, 2023