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Press Release for Monday, December 7, 2009

Two UNF Students Honored for Service at Fall Commencement


Joanna Norris, Assistant Director

Department of Media Relations and Events

(904) 620-2102

The University of North Florida will honor two students with an outstanding record of volunteerism when it hands out more than 1,300 degrees Friday, Dec. 11, during fall commencement at the UNF Arena on campus.


Southside resident Zeynep Meric, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, will be recognized as the recipient of the Senior Service Award, while Victoria Elian, a senior psychology major residing in Mandarin, will be recognized as the recipient of the Albert D. Ernest Jr. Caring Award.

The UNF Alumni Association presents the Senior Service Award to a graduating senior for outstanding volunteer service to the University or community. The Caring Award recognizes a student who demonstrates the spirit of caring, humanitarianism and volunteerism exemplified by Albert D. Ernest Jr. Both awards will be presented during the 11 a.m. commencement ceremony.


Over the past four years, Zeynep Meric, a Southside resident, has become well known on campus and in the Jacksonville community. Since arriving at UNF, she has volunteered in several capacities. She served as the fundraising chair for the Robotics and Automation Society, participated as a student ambassador on the Engineering Advising Council, served as a UNF International Center greeter and was a volunteer with “Dogtober Fest,” an annual fundraiser for homeless pets.


Additionally, Meric has been an active member with the Society of Women Engineers and president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers UNF Student Chapter. During her term, she helped arrange educational meetings as well as coordinated the first UNF Robotics Competition.

She has devoted her time and energy primarily in the engineering field. Most recently, Meric arranged several educational meetings, bringing outside engineering community leaders to campus to share their real-life experiences with her peers and campus clubs. These non-classroom settings allowed students to not only gain more knowledge in the field but also gave them an opportunity to network with engineering professionals.


Meric is especially passionate about the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” program during UNF Engineering week. During this event, young girls from local middle and high schools visit the UNF Engineering Department to get a hands-on look at the engineering field. Being historically a male-dominated career, this event allows female engineering students to showcase their talents to young women in the hopes of inspiring them to also become engineers. “The feeling of helping young students, especially young females, by informing and educating them was great and very rewarding,” said Meric.


Through the Volunteer Center at UNF, Victoria Elian has worked with several groups, such as the Clara White Mission and Lutheran Social Services, but the organization closest to her heart is Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTNow). After learning that millions of children throughout the world are bought and sold, including many here in the United States, she knew that this issue had her heart.


She interned this summer at SCTNow in Durham, N.C., and, on returning to UNF this fall, worked with the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force to organize an Awareness Week. The week culminated with a community walk of 500 volunteers, most of them UNF students. Elian continues to speak to groups about this issue and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in art education and use art therapy to help rescued victims.


The ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction will be held at 11 a.m. The Brooks College of Health, Coggin College of Business and the College of Education and Human Services will hold their ceremony at 3 p.m. Both ceremonies will be held at the UNF Arena.


The University expects to award 1,058 bachelor’s degrees, 258 master’s degrees and 8 doctorates this term.