The University of North Florida will honor two students with outstanding records of volunteerism and caring spirits, when it hands out more than 1,620 degrees Friday, April 28, during spring commencement at the UNF Arena, Building 34, on campus.
Senior Brianna Ballard, who is graduating this week with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, will be recognized as the recipient of the Senior Service Award, while, Sarah Rosen, a senior graduating with a degree in international studies, 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 students who demonstrate the spirit of caring, humanitarianism and volunteerism exemplified by Albert Ernest. Ballard will be honored during the 9 a.m. ceremony, while Rosen will be honored at the noon ceremony.
As an incoming freshman new to Jacksonville, Ballard, an Orlando native, immediately sought out volunteer opportunities as a way to become familiar with the campus and community. She began volunteering with the On-Campus Transition mentoring program, a program designed for UNF student-peers to help other students with developmental disabilities become acclimated to campus and feel a part of a community. She also participated in a Transformational Learning Opportunity study-abroad class to Peru, which opened her eyes to food insecurity and hunger present in our community, inspiring her to move forward with a major in nutrition.
Finding inspiration from her study-abroad experiences, Ballard created a food recovery program on the UNF campus and is the co-president/founder of the student-led organization, Food Fighters. The organization works with UNF Dining Services to recover and repackage food, providing meals and education to Northeast Florida Aids Network clients. The Food Fighters are not only successfully feeding the hungry and reducing food waste but are also teaching UNF students about food safety, nutrition education and leadership skills. The group’s work has also helped the University to build a bridge with local nonprofits.
Additionally, Ballard has served as the president of the UNF Healthy Osprey Club, a spin instructor at the campus Student Wellness Complex, a frequent volunteer at local gardens and food pantries as well as the St. Vincent’s Bariatrics Services Department. These opportunities have allowed her to share her passion for healthy living and inspire fellow students and others in Northeast Florida.
Rosen, a native of Boca Raton, spent a year abroad after high school volunteering in Tanzania and Costa Rica. She is the new Volunteer Services coordinator on campus, stressing to students the importance of volunteerism as well as creating hands-on opportunities. Rosen is a Refugee Friendship Volunteer with World Relief Jacksonville, assisting new immigrant families as well as volunteering with Hubbard House, Habitat for Humanity, UNF’s Interfaith Center and Model United Nations chapter.
She founded the Osprey Volunteer Club and stays active in the organization. In the summer of 2015, she biked across the Unites States with others and raised $8,000 for grants towards affordable housing. Last fall, Rosen ran in the Philadelphia Marathon, raising funds for the non-profit organization Girl Up, which supports females in developing countries.
This semester, Rosen was an Interfaith Center student assistant, where she worked advancing the mission of the Center to establish pluralism on campus, in the community and beyond through interfaith events and dialogue. She will continue her journey at Columbia University pursuing a master’s in social work, with a focus in social policy.
The ceremony for the College of Education and Human Services as well as the Brooks College of Health begins at 9 a.m. The College of Arts and Sciences (art, biology, chemistry, economics, English, fine arts, French studies, history, interdisciplinary studies, international studies, math, music, philosophy, physics, practical philosophy and applied ethics, religious studies, Spanish and statistics) and the Coggin College of Business begin at 12:30 p.m., while the ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences (anthropology, communication, criminal justice, political sciences, public administration, psychology, social work and sociology) and the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction take place at 4 p.m.
The University expects to award a total of 1,546 bachelor’s degrees, 195 master’s degrees and 56 doctorates this term. Including the spring 2017 graduates, UNF has issued a total of 72,206 bachelor’s degrees, 18,241 master’s degrees and 476 doctorates since first opening its doors in 1972.