Sara Belligoni, Doctor of Philosophy in Security Studies.
Fierce is the word I will use to describe the extent of this journey called Ph. D.
Fierce is how I had to be when facing and overcoming all challenges during my doctoral program.
Fierce is how I look in this picture, knowing that before my name, now, there is “Dr.”
Fierce is how I feel about my future and the doors this doctoral degree has opened for me.
I would have never achieved my dream without some people whom I want to name and thank here. My mom, my hero, and my number one fan. My advisor Dr. Barbara S. Kinsey who always showed compassion and support. My “EM” committee member Dr. Claire Connolly Knox who made me the emergency management person I am. My supervisor at RISES Dr. Kelly Stevens whom I owe to be the researcher I am today. To my family goes a special thank you for supporting me despite an ocean separating us. To all my friends, Davide, Kubra, Federico, Andrea, Paolo, Erika, Jesus, Emiliano, Sara, Karen, Maira, Nancy, Ulises, Victoria, Jean, Andres, Craig, Fabrizio, Anthony, Estefani, go my deepest gratitude for being there during high and low times. To each of you, my dear Ph. D. folks, and my cohort especially, a special thanks for having dealt with this Iron Lady (cit. Gus) while never making me feel “the only woman in the room” even when it was the case. To the people who did not believe in me, thank you: I have learned from you who I do not want to become but especially one of the most important lessons, that of being a kind human being before an outstanding professional. You cannot be the latter without the first.
I cannot find better words than those I used in my Dissertation manuscript acknowledgments to thank the “person” who allowed me to be here today:
“To the Younger Me: Thanks for having not given up, for having held tight to our dreams, for having spoken up, for having dried our tears and kept going. Thanks for having kept the standards high, for having left everything and start from scratch again, and for having bounced back anything or anyone endearing our path. I know it has been hard sometimes. I know I’ve often asked a lot. I know you’ve felt lonely at times. But I promise it will be worth it, and I will honor our sacrifices for a better future. Thanks for being the warrior I needed. We wouldn’t be here without you.”
Last but not least, thank you University of Central Florida for being the place where I achieved the biggest of my dreams. You have been my home for over four years, the place where I felt safe and encouraged to be the best version of myself every day. Once a Knight, Forever a Knight, right? So, Go Knights, Charge On!