The University of North Florida will honor students with outstanding records of volunteerism and caring spirits, when it hands out more than 1,850 degrees Friday, April 27, during spring commencement at the UNF Arena, Building 34, on campus.
Senior Sara-Marie Saliba, who will graduate from the Brooks College of Health with a Bachelor of Science in nursing, will be recognized as the recipient of the Senior Service Award, while Ayshka Elise Rodriguez-Velez, who will be graduating with a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering, 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.
Saliba, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon, believes that a nursing career will provide her the opportunity to greatly impact individuals and the community. She has been an instrumental member of the Student Nurses Association, serving as volunteer chair and first vice president. She also revived the Red Cross Ospreys Club on campus in association with the American Red Cross, functioning as the club’s vice president.
Because Saliba wants to drive change and promote health, she has participated in the UNF Environmental Center’s “Garbage on the Green” project. This initiative educates students, faculty and staff about ways to reduce campus trash through recycling and litter-prevention practices.
A Jacksonville native who lives on the Southside, Saliba has exemplified the University’s commitment to community service through her seven-year volunteer involvement with St. Maron Catholic Church and Holy Family Catholic Church. She has volunteered at Mayo Clinic’s optical shop and emergency department, in addiation to tutoring Sulzbacher Center students twice weekly over the last two years as well as mentoring other adolescents in the community. Rodriguez-Velez, a Southside resident, plans to pursue a career in biomedical application and devices that will help serve the world community. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate careers at UNF, she has been a member and an officer of the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
Rodriguez-Velez has invested her time outside of class by volunteering for programs such as the SHPE Jr. program at Ribault High School and Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day. These initiatives that promote STEM awareness and offer hands-on activities, give children from underrepresented households opportunities to see the world beyond their backyards. As a Hispanic female engineer, Rodriguez-Velez hopes to inspire other young women and Hispanics to pursue their dreams, no matter what they may be.
The ceremony for the Brooks College of Health and the College of Education and Human Services will take place at 9 a.m., followed by a 12:30 p.m. ceremony for the Coggin College of Business and 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.)
The ceremony for the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction and the final ceremony for COAS (anthropology, communication, criminal justice, political science, public administration, psychology, social work and sociology) will take place at 4 p.m.
The University expects to award a total of 1,545 bachelor’s degrees, 242 master’s degrees and 71 doctorates this term. Including the spring 2018 graduates, UNF has issued a total of 75,501 bachelor’s degrees, 18,883 master’s degrees and 602 doctorates since first opening its doors in 1972.