Six students will be honored with achievement medals during the University of Arizona's 144th commencement ceremony for undergraduate students on Saturday, May 14 at 9 a.m. in McKale Memorial Center.
The Freeman, Robie and Nugent medals recognize well-rounded individuals whose contributions through co-curricular and community activities and leadership have had a positive impact on the University and surrounding community.
Honors students Mona Eskandari and Sarah Edwards have earned Nugent medals; Elizabeth Marchionne and Matthew Randle have earned Robie medals; and honors students Emily Fritze and Megan Shekleton have earned Freeman medals.
Robert Logan Nugent Medals
Eskandari is the fourth person in her family to graduate from the UA. She plans to graduate Summa Cum Laude and will receive a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with honors and a minor in Near Eastern studies.
She has been selected as the Outstanding Senior for mechanical engineering and for the College of Engineering.
As a mentor to the Girl Scouts at the Design and Robotics camp, she taught girls how to solder and work mechanical gears as they created robots. As an Engineering Ambassador at the UA, Eskandari is involved in outreach, seeking to inspire students as young as grade school to foster a love of learning. She also worked as communications chair for the annual Women's Leadership Conference helping UA students learn about the workplace experience.
She has been involved in student organizations since being voted an officer for the Society of Women Engineers when still a senior in high school. She also served as a research intern in the agriculture and biosystems engineering department.
Additionally, Eskandari has demonstrated leadership skills as the mechanical lead on her Interdisciplinary Senior Design Team contributing to the novel creation of a gem classifier, a device capable of uniquely identifying precious stones. As vice president of the Muslim Students Association, she served the community of Tucson and the University as she united students in an effort to raise money for the less fortunate.
Eskandari's exemplary academic record and involvement at the UA has earned her numerous scholarships and honors, among which are the Arizona President's Award for Excellence scholarship, the National Society of Women Engineers Scholarship, the Alpha Omega Epsilon National Foundation Engineering and Technical Science scholarship, the Arizona Power Authority scholarship and the College of Engineering Award for Highest Academic Distinction. She also is a three-time recipient of the UA Honors College William and Marguerite Hesketh Memorial Scholarship.
In addition to performing research funded by the National Science Foundation and presenting her findings at national and annual conferences, Eskandari was nationally selected to work for IBM as a research intern in San Jose, Calif. this past summer.
Eskandari has earned acceptance to continue graduate studies in engineering at MIT and Stanford. Her energy and strength is drawn from her foundational Islamic faith and the adage, a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the entire staircase."
She would like to thank her parents, Dr. Abdollah and Monir Eskandari, and her siblings for their perpetual support and prayers.
Edwards will graduate with honors with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biophysics and in molecular and cell biology. She has also gained honors as the Outstanding Senior in the department of chemistry and biochemistry.
In her freshman year, Edwards joined the lab of Dr. Tsu-Shuen Tsao, where she worked toward the goal of understanding cellular changes that occur in Type 2 diabetes. She earned admission into the Undergraduate Biology Research Program, known as UBRP, which supported her research throughout her undergraduate career. During her last semester at the UA, Edwards worked with both the Tsao lab and with the lab of Dr. Indraneel Ghosh. Ghosh's lab focuses on the development biosensors.
In addition to research at the UA campus, Edwards pursued summer internships at the National Institutes of Health and at the Scripps Research Institute. She also traveled to Prague as a Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open student to carry out a research project at the Czech Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Edward's passion for science and learning extends outside of the lab through her participation in science outreach. Throughout her college career, Sarah designed and led science activities for the general public. She served as a BIO5 Bio Link outreach fellow and has worked with outreach projects through UBRP, BIO5 and the chemistry and biochemistry department.
Her outreach and encouragement of science also extends to her peers. She co-founded and co-organized the Biological, Engineering and Chemistry Undergraduate Research Conference, a Southwest regional conference for undergraduates to share their research in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry and bioengineering. She also helped develop the peer mentor program in the department of chemistry and biochemistry to provide a support network for incoming freshmen. Additionally, she serves as an ambassador to both the chemistry and biochemistry department and to UBRP.
Through her academic achievements, leadership and involvement with outreach at the UA, Sarah has been honored with the Galileo Circle Scholarship, Michael A. Wells Research Scholarship, Pillars of Excellence Award, Van de Verde Undergraduate Research Scholarship in Science and Robert and Lesley Goldfarb Excellence in Science Scholarship.
After graduation, Edwards will pursue a doctorate in molecular biology at Stanford.
Edwards thanks her research advisors Tsu-Shuen Tsao and Neel Ghosh, UBRP director Carol Bender, and biochemistry program coordinator Olivia Mendoza.
Robie Gold Medals
Marchionne plans to graduate Magna Cum Laude with honors from the UA College of Medicine with a Bachelor of Science degree in physiology.
Marchionne has been active in research as part of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program in the muscle metabolism and diabetes laboratory of Dr. Erik Henriksen in the department of physiology at the UA College of Medicine.
She has conducted research on the relationship between high blood pressure, or hypertension, with obesity and type 2 diabetes. For her honors thesis, she worked with a pharmaceutical drug currently prescribed for hypertension to test whether it would also be beneficial to curb the ill effects of diabetes. Her research has led her to multiple poster presentations and publications in scientific journals.
For a summer, Marchionne travelled to Chennai, India, with a non-profit organization, the International Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS. In India, she taught an HIV prevention and awareness curriculum in high schools, universities, slums, villages and clinics. She also worked with a local orphanage for children infected or affected by HIV, helping to increase living conditions, morale and the organization's public outreach.
Marchionne participated in the clinical rotation internship, a competitive semester-long internship offered by the pre-health advisors at the UA. As part of this program, she shadowed local physicians around the Tucson area and at University Medical Center, experiencing medicine practiced in a variety of settings. This internship allowed her to obtain mentor relationships and explore options within her future career.
Marchionne has volunteered her time to local Tucson organizations, including Tucson Community Food Bank and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. She also has volunteered at Tucson Medical Center, working at the labor and delivery desk assisting patients and visitors.
In addition, she has worked to advance the learning of her peers by preceptoring. She has preceptored an anatomy and physiology II classes supervised by Dr. Claudia Stanescu, and Introduction to Classical Art and Archaeology led by Regents Professor David Soren. Her preceptorships allowed her to obtain valuable communication skills by holding review sessions, office hours and assisting in classroom activities.
Upon graduation, Marchionne will continue her interest in research through a summer internship at the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas. She will attend medical school in the fall.
She would like to thank her parents, Tullio and Jane, and brother, Giulio, for their never-ending support.
Randle will be graduating from the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in family studies and human development. During his time at the UA, Randle has been instrumental in changing the student veterans' perspective of higher education.
Randle's involvement in the Veterans' Education and Transition Services, or VETS, Initiative has been instrumental in the success of the programs, services and policies that have made the UA a national leader in veteran education and synonymous with what a veteran-friendly campus should look like.
Randle served as the VETS Office student director and president of the UA chapter of the Student Veterans of America. As student director, he implemented groundbreaking policies such as priority registration for GI Bill beneficiaries that maximize its effectiveness for veterans and their dependents attending college.
He also was responsible for expanding the VETS office; the center went from a 200 square-foot room in Old Main to a 1,400 square-foot resource facility in the Student Union Memorial Center – expanding four times under his tenure. The results of his hard work enhanced a 25 visitor per week office to a center that serves more than 140 visitors daily and is staffed by eight VA work-study student veterans.
He currently sits on several boards and councils including the Board of Directors for the national Student Veterans of America, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Veteran Advisory Council and the State of Arizona Governor's Council on Veterans' Affairs.
Randle's leadership also fostered an environment of involvement. The club holds the 2010 title of Club of the Year by ASUA and Chapter of the Year by the national Student Veterans of America club, a distinction given to a single campus in a competition of more than 320 schools in the U.S. He pioneered more than 40 community service projects, implemented the first-ever student veteran, co-ed intramural athletic team and hosted several social events to bring the student veteran community closer.
He fostered philanthropic endeavors with toy, food and clothing drives as well as coordinating building teams for Habitat for Humanity, cleaning vandalized trailheads, spearheading nonprofit fundraisers and initiating volunteer efforts at a local shelter. He brought student veterans and their families together to network and create social responsibility and safety efforts through end of semester barbeques, formal dinners, poker nights, football tailgating, a spring break cruise, organized gun shoots and happy hours.
He is a Tucson native and will happily begin pursuing a Juris Doctorate at the Roger's College of Law at the UA. He thanks his friends, family members, student veterans and God for helping him though it all.
Merril P. Freeman Medals
Fritze will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in Spanish from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
While at the UA, Fritze has participated in many clubs and organizations, serving as president of Primus Freshman Honorary and holding positions in Chi Omega Fraternity, Freshman Class Council, Chain Gang Junior Honorary and Bobcats Senior Honorary.
Throughout her undergraduate experience, Fritze has worked in professional internships with Zuk Financial and in the Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Fritze has also served as a student advocate and leader in the Associated Students of the University of Arizona first as a senator, then as executive vice president, and this year as student body president. In these positions, she has been the representative voice of the 39,000 UA students and managed an office of more than 150 student directors and 20 programs for UA students.
As a student leader, Fritze has worked on transparency issues within government, promoted civic engagement through on campus debates, helped to register more than 4,500 students and created a club workshop incentive program for the 500 clubs and organizations on campus. This year, she had the privilege to speak on the international stage, addressing President Barack Obama, dignitaries, the Tucson community and nation at the "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" event.
As a director of the Arizona Students Association, she has advocated for Arizona university students, lobbying and conferring with University administration, the Arizona Board of Regents, and the state Legislature on higher education issues such as tuition, fees, financial aid and textbook reform.
Fritze has served on more than 10 administrative committees and community boards throughout campus and Tucson, including the UA Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, the Community Advisory Board for Arizona Public Media and as a delegate to Arizona Town Hall.
After graduation, she will move to Washington D.C. to join the Center for American Progress as a professional intern on the communications team. She plans to pursue a Juris Doctorate degree in the next few years.
She would like to dedicate this award to her mother and father, David and Debra, twin brother Matthew, and two sisters, Becca and Elizabeth.
Shekleton will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in marketing from the Eller College of Management. She has earned several academic awards including the Wildcat Excellence Academic Award, the Ambrose E. & Hazel R. Halstead Memorial Scholarship in Business Excellence, as well as a McCord Scholarship Finalist.
A Chi Omega Pearl Scholar, Megan has been recognized on the Honorable Mention Honor Roll. She is a member of the Eller Scholars and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She was selected as one of Eller's Top 100 Outstanding Seniors.
In April 2010, Shekleton was profiled as the Eller College of Management Student of the Month. As a professional development associate, she served as a liaison between students and faculty members, promoting and organizing events that enhanced Eller students' professional growth and development. Ranked in the top seven best internships by Bloomberg Business Week, Megan successfully completed an internship as a business analyst at Target Corp. in Minneapolis, where her research and recommendations would result in a $7 million gain to the company.
Having a global conscience, in 2008, she participated in the Eller Study Abroad Trip to India. In 2009, she completed the Eller College of Management Inaugural Global Business Cohort in Nanjing, China, serving as a Global Cohort Leader. In the spring 2010, Shekleton studied in Florence, Italy.
While excelling in academics and maintaining a 3.957 GPA, Shekleton has been active in numerous organizations. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity. As vice president of faculty and alumni relations for Delta Sigma Pi, she was responsible for promoting positive relationships between members, faculty members and alumni. She also served as vice president of community service for her Delta Sigma Pi pledge class.
She is an active member of the Chi Omega Fraternity. Overcoming a rare illness as a child, she is passionate about Chi Omega's philanthropy – the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In 2009, she helped organize a benefit concert for the organization. Through her sorority, she has also volunteered at numerous charitable organizations including Push for America, Ronald McDonald House, Ben's Bells and Casa de los Nino. She also volunteered for the American Cancer Society, Adopt-a-Family and Casa Maria Catholic Workers' House.
After graduation, Shekleton will relocate to New York City, where she has accepted a position with Macy's Inc. After completing Macy's Executive Development Training Program, she will begin her career in the fast-paced and creative retail industry as an assistant buyer.