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Inside UNF — November 9, 2022

Veterans Day celebrations on campus

By Byron E. Jones
Armed Forces holding the American flag and saluting with President LimayemOn Tuesday, Nov. 8, the MVRC held its annual Veterans Day Tribute ceremony in Veterans Plaza honoring military-connected students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members who have served or are still serving in the military. Attendees were treated to a performance by the Navy Band Southeast and the UNF ROTC provided the Color Guard. President Moez Limayem shared remarks as well as keynote speaker Dr. Valerie Morrison, who was named the Faculty/Staff Veteran of the Year at UNF. Morrison serves at the Director of Student Health Services. She retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain after 30 years of service, having worked in a number of leadership positions including Chief Nursing Officer at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
For the 2022 fall semester, the MVRC boasts the largest enrollment in its history — 1,670 military-connected students. In addition to military students, this number also includes spouses and dependents of veterans and active duty personnel. As part of the week's events, the MVRC displayed a flag for each military-connected student on The Green.
U.S. flags on display in a fieldEstablished on UNF’s campus in 2009, the MVRC assists students with their Veteran Affairs (VA) educational benefits and provides resources for personal and professional development. The Center serves as a hub for veterans, active duty military and military-connected students where they receive free printing services, job assistance, networking opportunities, counseling support and more.
“It’s a place where veterans can come and get a free cup of coffee, study and have a place they can go between classes,” says Bob Buehn, the Center’s director. Buehn, a 30-year veteran who served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, knows the challenges veterans face adjusting to civilian life. Since becoming the MVRC’s director five years ago, he’s seen the enrollment grow and enjoys the impact the Center has on the lives of its members.
“It’s great to be a part of a veteran’s transition from their time in uniform to academics to getting a degree that leads them to a new career,” Buehn said.
Learn more about the MVRC.

Message from the President

In case you missed it, read the message from President Moez Limayem, shared on Nov. 8 marking his 100th day at UNF. 

"It is hard to believe that today marks my 100th day as president of the University of North Florida!

It is a meaningful milestone for me, and every day I feel more connected and excited about the future of this University. I started my UNF journey along with more than 3,000 new freshmen who were beginning their academic journey here as well, and I can’t think of better inspiration for a new university president!

The opportunity to talk regularly with faculty and staff continues to be so beneficial to me as I learn about our challenges and opportunities, but also the incredible work that you do every day. We had great dialogue at our recent staff meeting, and I also enjoyed the employee social hour, the Professional Development Forum last month, our coffees with faculty and other great events. During lunches with students, I have loved learning about their experiences and plans for the future. Since joining UNF in August, I’ve also had the pleasure to connect individually with more than 100 community and business leaders, elected officials and donors, all who play an important role in the success of our University.

Work is underway and we are making progress on my top priorities for the year: implementing strategies to enhance student success, building on our strong connections in the community, elevating our reputation and the UNF brand, ensuring we have strong leaders to guide the University, securing additional funding, making UNF an incredible place for our faculty and staff to work and succeed, and developing a strategic plan for UNF’s future.

Our Strategic Planning process is beginning now and provides us with a valuable opportunity to review the hard work of so many who worked on this in the past and to strategize our priorities as an institution. We are an incredibly nimble and efficient university! You all work hard to help our students succeed, and I will continue to support you in this most noble endeavor.

Again, it is such a profound honor for me to lead this University. Please know that I will work as hard as I can to elevate UNF and support our students, faculty and staff. I recognize the deep responsibility that I have, and I am so grateful to each of you for walking with me on this journey. Thank you again for all that you do."

Save the Date: Convocation 2022

Music performing at UNF's Convocation ceremonyAfter being postponed due to Hurricane Ian, the 2022 UNF Annual Fall Convocation will now be held Friday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m. in the Lazzara Performance Hall, Fine Arts Building.
This 51st Annual Convocation will celebrate our Distinguished Professor, Michele Moore, as well as other faculty and staff award winners. It will also be an opportunity to hear remarks from President Limayem. A list of award winners from Convocation. No registration is required to attend Convocation.

The Annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation Breakfast will also be held Friday, Nov. 18 from 7 - 9:30 a.m. in the Osprey Café. If you wish to attend, please register today and bring your e-ticket as your confirmation for your free breakfast.

UNF and Swisher provide help to underrepresented entrepreneurs

2022 Swisher Growth Cohort Pitch Competition winnersThree entrepreneurs were recently awarded a total of $10,000 as part of the Swisher Growth Cohort for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs hosted by University of North Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) in partnership with Swisher International.
The free eight-week program was designed for businesses operating for three to seven years or that have a minimum annual income of $20,000.
As part of a pitch competition, the top six companies competed for funding to support the development of their business endeavors. The top three winners received $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.
The 2022 Swisher Growth Cohort Pitch Competition winners include: 
  • First place: Felicia Wright with Mygani LLC – a lifestyle accessory brand that creates inspirational products for women and girls of color.
  • Second place: Dr. Monica Hardy with E’fek-tiv Enterprise, LLC – a professional consulting and writing service.
  • Third place: Taylor Thigpen with Plantkingusa – an online horticulture business and local nursery located in Clay County.
Learn more about the CEI.

North Florida Athletics unveils completed CSI Companies Court

The new CSI Companies Court in the UNF Arena is complete, and this week, volleyball and women's basketball held its first games on the new floor. Men's basketball plays its home opener against SC State on Nov. 19. Watch a video reveal of the new court!

UNF mens basketball team practice UNF volleyball player at practice UNF womens basketball team practice

UNF volleyball star overcomes illness and injury

By Byron E. Jones
Mahalia White is a competitor. “I’m competitive in all aspects of life,” says White.

UNF volleyball player smiling on the courtThe UNF graduate student and volleyball standout persevered through a cancer diagnosis in late 2017 and an ACL injury in 2021 to find her way back to the court and the classroom.

Today, the Canoga Park, California native is flourishing on the First Coast as a member of UNF’s volleyball team after a successful career at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). The six-foot outside hitter currently leads the team in kills (355 and counting) and recently earned ASUN Player of the Week honors on Oct. 24. Not bad for her first season wearing blue and gray!

Discovering volleyball
Growing up in Los Angeles, White cites Kobe Bryant and Serena Williams as her sports heroes. While she was always involved in sports as a child, she received her introduction to volleyball during her freshman year of high school after the athletic director encouraged her to try out for the team due to her height. According to White, “It was love at first spike.” She made the team and was playing varsity by the end of the season. Her successful high school career included many achievements. She was named twice to the All-Los Angeles City Section and was an all-area honoree.

Cancer diagnosis and ACL injury
As a freshman at UC Davis in 2017, White thrived on the court earning Best West Conference Freshman of the Week honors six times and eventually earned a starting spot on the team. Throughout the season, she began experiencing night sweats and lingering back pain that seemed to get worse. She decided to fight her way through it but decided to get an MRI after the season. One day after her 19th birthday, she received her MRI results and the diagnosis was cancer, later identified as stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Just hearing the word 'cancer,' I was taken aback,” said White. “I did not expect that to be the case out of all the things that could have been possible.”

She recounts calling her mother but was too emotional to speak, so her doctor gave her mother the news. White credits her mother, family and the UC Davis community for their unwavering support through five rounds of treatment. While she says there were tough moments, she was always able to lean on her mother who also overcame her own battle with cancer.

“I had the most support I think I could have possibly gotten,” said White. “There was no point in time where I felt like I was battling it alone.”

She missed the 2018 season before returning for a stellar 2019 campaign. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season was suspended. She focused on her studies and earned her bachelor’s degree in communication. Looking to return to form in 2021, White suffered an ACL tear in her left knee during a preseason practice. She bounced back in time to compete during the beach volleyball season.
Mahalia White on volleyball court diving for a ballStarting a new chapter at UNF
Seeking a new challenge and an interesting master’s program, White entered the transfer portal in 2022. After conversations with coach Kristen Wright, head coach of UNF volleyball, and visiting the campus, White says she knew UNF would be a good fit. While continuing to excel on the court, she’s also loving her courses as she works toward earning her master’s degree in communication management.

“When I came on my visit, it was the best experience I’ve ever felt,” said White. “I just love my experience here so far, and I love how much our team has grown over the past few months. We’re on the up and up, and it’s so exciting.”

Learn more about Mahalia who recently reached 1,000 career kills, and catch the volleyball team's last home game this season Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. against Stetson University.

Campus collaboration helps "Get Out the Vote"

To assist students in exercising their voting rights, UFF-UNF, the Center for Community-Based Learning and the Intercultural Center joined together to sponsor the "Get Out the Early Vote" event on Oct. 28 at the Osprey Clubhouse. Students enjoyed a free pizza party, drinks and swag as well as free rides to the Pablo Creek Regional Library to cast their early ballots.
Mikayla Beaudrie, an associate instructor in the Department of English and a UFF-UNF senator, said the primary goal in organizing the event was to help increase voter education. "As an institute of higher education, I think it's appropriate to make the argument that we have a responsibility to help educate students about their right to vote," Beaudrie said. "This includes educating students about when to vote and where to vote, which many departments on campus are already engaged in."  Beaudrie said at least three trips were made to the library and dozens of students and staff members were helped at the event to develop plans for voting.
Another campus effort is Osprey Vote which supports civic education and engagement among students through a digital platform that provides text and app messages reminding student of registration deadlines, election dates and on-campus events. Learn more about Osprey Vote.
Students getting on a bus shuttle Students at a table writing
Early voting merchandise

Get To Know: Leshare Demps

portrait of Leshare DempsLeshare Demps is a student success coach with UNF Online and a past Presidential SPOT Award winner. She has a passion for education and has served in a multitude of educational settings. Before joining UNF Online in 2020, she served as an admissions coordinator, responsible for onboarding first-time-in-college and transfer students.

What does your job involve?
As an online student success coach, I partner with online learners to promote their success at UNF. This means having good interpersonal skills and being knowledgeable of University processes and campus resources to meet the needs of students.
How long have you worked at UNF?
January 2023 will make five years.
What do you enjoy most about working here?
I have met some great people at UNF. There are individuals I no longer work with, but we still have great relationships. I have been able to work with some great students, too. I enjoy empowering students to overcome obstacles.
How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t working?
I love to travel — domestically and internationally. I enjoy exploring the world and experiencing different cultures. I also enjoy visiting art museums and trying new restaurants.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Gainesville, Florida.
Where did you go to school?
I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree from Santa Fe College in Gainesville. I am currently enrolled in UNF's Master of Science in Management program. #SWOOP
What’s the greatest bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I have been given is: Be gentle with yourself. This advice has been applicable in my personal and professional life.
Who inspires you and why?
My family. They are my support system. I have a family filled with hardworking and passionate individuals. They constantly encourage me to follow my dreams and do my best.
What is a fun fact about you many people may not know?
I love nature. I will take any opportunity to be outdoors. One of my favorite nature experiences recently was visiting Arikok National Park in Aruba.

MOCA Jacksonville offers visual art displays and much more

MOCA Jacksonville buildingMOCA Jacksonville is the longest continually operating visual arts organization in Jacksonville. Since opening in 1924 as the Jacksonville Fine Arts Society, it has been committed to the art, artists and ideas of its time, and is recognized as a vibrant cultural resource for Northeast Florida. MOCA joined UNF as a cultural institute in 2009, serving as a bridge from campus to downtown. It has survived the Great Depression, the Great Recession and much more. 
MOCA offers 12-14 exhibitions a year, including its famed Project Atrium Series. Its permanent collections consist of nearly 1,000 pieces of work from the mid-20th century to present day.
Admission to MOCA is free for all UNF students and employees. Recently, MOCA announced a new partnership to provide free admission to the public on Saturdays from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. sponsored by VyStar. Learn more about MOCA Jacksonville and sign up to receive MOCA's newsletter.
Information provided courtesy of Amber Sesnick, Director of Communications and Marketing, MOCA Jacksonville

Free Things to Do in November

Amy Bennion Beecham Crown of FeathersSpin: Amy Bennion Beecham and John Bennion’
Exhibition available now through Nov. 11; Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., UNF Gallery of Art (Backspace)
Spin is a collaborative project between artist Amy Bennion Beecham and author John Bennion. The novel bends and blends genres – fiction, essay and art. The Back Gallery of UNF Gallery of Art exhibits 20 of Professor Beecham’s graphite and ink drawings from this collaboration. (© Amy Bennion Beecham, Crown of Feathers, 2017, graphite, 9" x 9")

Shervone Neckles: ‘Bless this House’
Exhibition on view now through March 5; UNF Gallery at MOCA Jacksonville
Free admission for UNF employees and one guest.
The song, “Bless this House” in the voice of Mahalia Jackson filled the rooms of Shervone Neckles’ family home in Grenvill, Grenada, West Indies. Encircled by the repeated refrain in varying tones, this Gospel calls for a blessing to the walls, roof, door and windows. Learn more about the exhibition.

"Don't Blame it on ZEN: The Way of John Cage and Friends"
Exhibition on view now through May 7; MOCA Jacksonville
Free admission for UNF employees and one guest.
This interactive and multidisciplinary exhibition explores the enduring legacy of John Cage through works by Cage himself as well as artists that worked with him. A leading voice of postwar avant-garde, Cage was perhaps both the most provocative and influential American composter of the 20th century. Learn more about the exhibition.

Lawson Ensemble with their string instrumentsLawson Ensemble
Sunday, Nov. 13, 3 p.m., Recital Hall in the Fine Arts Center
Lawson Ensemble presents works by Mozart and More. Suggested donation $10.

Radical Philosophy Association 15th Biennial Conference
Wednesday, Nov. 16 – Saturday, Nov. 19, See schedule for details
This year's conference is titled "The Point is to Change It" and features keynote speakers Alfred Frankowski (Nov. 17) and Peter Frase (Nov. 19). The opening reception taking place Wednesday, Nov. 16 at the UNF Gallery of Art features music by Geexella, a video installation by UNF fine arts student Jordy Bowen and a pop-up art show by Yellow House and Moving the Margins. On Friday, Nov. 18, attendees are treated to a book panel titled "Art & Activism: Legacies of the Black Art Movements" featuring UNF faculty member Tru Leverette Hall. The conference is free to all UNF students and employees. Register today!

Osprey Cafe event flyer more details to the leftThankful at the Osprey Café
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Osprey Café
The Osprey Cafe is hosting a variety of activities centered around being thankful. Enjoy themed menus, a teaching kitchen, a photo booth, a hot chocolate bar and more. 

UNF Wind Symphony and Concert Band present: ‘From Dawn till Dusk’
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m., Lazzara Performance Hall
With guest soloist Dr. Sarah Jane Young, flute. Performing music by Marie Douglas, David Maslanka, Victoriano Valencia, Luigi Zaninelli and Steven Bryant, with Dr. Erin Bodnar, conductor. Suggested donation $10.

MOCA Movie Night: Neptune Frost (2021)
Thursday, Nov. 17, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., MOCA Jacksonville
Multi-hyphenate and multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams brings his unique dynamism to this sci-fi punk musical that’s a visually wondrous amalgamation of themes, ideas and songs that Williams has explored in his work.


UNF Dateline balloonsMilestones
Congratulations to the following employees with a milestone anniversary in November:
20 Years
Hans Priepke, Associate Director, Enterprise Development, Enterprise Systems
10 Years
Amy Costa, Assistant Director, Eco Adventure, Recreation and Wellness
Jacey Kelley, Associate Director, OneJax Operations, OneJax - One Youth
Katelyn Ryan, Associate Director, Parent Programming, Admissions
5 Years
Adam Brown, Associate Director, Safety Security, University Police Department
Daniel Feinberg, Associate University Librarian, Library
Logan Judd, Coordinator Administrative Services, Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Emma Reynolds, Associate Director, Transfer Student Services
Gregory Spurgeon, Locksmith, Physical Facilities
Noah Sterling, Desktop Support Engineer, Service Management
The following employees were either hired by UNF or were promoted from OPS positions recently:
Karina Anderson, Program Assistant, Small Business Development Center
Faith Bean, Library Services Specialist, Library
Brady Bogart, Assistant Coach, Baseball
Ian Bolger, Coordinator, Athletic Strategic Communications, Athletic Communications
Christian Evangelista, Coordinator, Research Programs and Services, Small Business Development Center
Kevin Jackson, Stores Receiving Supervisor, Physical Facilities
Lori Kuhn-Hancock, Coordinator, Military Veteran Programming, Military and Veterans Resource Center
Jacqueline Mariano, Office Manager, Nutrition and Dietetics
Vernon Miller, Maintenance Supervisor, Maintenance and Energy Management
Jennifer Rainer, Technical Support Specialist, IPTM 
Gregory Suki, Maintenance Mechanic, Physical Facilities
Becki Tankson, Coordinator Residence Life, Crossings
Noah Thomas, Creative Content Coordinator, Athletics
Great Job
The following employees were promoted recently:
Emily Batt, Financial Analyst, University Planning and Budget
Myron Brown, Assistant Coach, Women's Basketball
John Burdine, Associate Director, Procurement Services
Rayanna Campbell, Persistence Coordinator, Undergraduate Studies
Amy Lehnhoff, Associate Director, Finance Operations, Coggin College of Business
Marla Lewis, Director, Student Financial Aid Procurement, Financial Aid Office
April Mattedi, Coordinator, Administrative Services, Counseling Center
Courtney Monts, Coordinator, Equal Opportunity and Inclusion
Joslyn Simmons, Coordinator, Operations, Coggin College of Business
The following employees have left UNF recently:
Elton Brown, Facilities Construction Specialist, Physical Facilities
Esteban Cano, Program Assistant, Music
Bettina Elegado Cross, Office Manager, Exceptional Deaf and Interpreter Education
Sandra Gainey, Custodial Services Specialist, Physical Facilities
Kelly Anne Gomes, Coordinator, Academic Support Services, Financial Aid Office
Chanel Hamilton, Police Communications Operator, University Police Department
Shania Hernandez, Academic Advisor, First-Year Advising
Sam Kight, Academic Advisor, COAS Advising
Kaitlyn Saavedra, Associate Director, SBDC, CCB Graduate and Executive Programs
Lorin Thies, Assistant Director Development, Academic and Student Affairs
Amy Williams, Budget Specialist, Student Accessibility Services

Swoop Summary

UNF athletics home schedule details on leftNorth Florida Athletics has upgraded the lighting systems at multiple facilities on campus. UNF partnered with Graybar and NGU Sports Lighting, LLC for the upgrades. The UNF Arena, Harmon Stadium (baseball), UNF Softball Complex and UNF Tennis Complex all received lighting upgrades, taking on more energy efficient LED lighting systems. Learn more about the facility enhancements.

Here's a couple upcoming events:

Volleyball vs. Stetson (Senior Night)
Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.  |  UNF Arena  |  Free Admission
Men's Basketball vs. SC State
Saturday, Nov. 19, 5 p.m.  |  UNF Arena  |  Purchase Tickets