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Outstanding Student Awards Celebrate the Cream of the Crop

June 15, 2018

Verenize Arceo of Winton has represented UC Merced at the state Capitol, but her most recent achievement is closer to home.

The history major is among the 20 graduates in the Class of 2018 honored as Outstanding Students, an award bestowed by each school and presented at a scholars reception hosted by their respective deans. To be considered, students must be eligible to graduate, have a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher and demonstrate leadership qualities and interest in research, community and campus engagement.

Arceo, who was nominated by her history professors, participated in the 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Institute hosted by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC). She was also a UROC-H scholar funded by the Andrew Mellon Grant for research in the humanities, and she worked with the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning’s SATAL Program. In the spring, Arceo was invited to Sacramento to showcase her work in uncovering a missing part of Merced County’s history – a Chinese community that was among its earliest settlers but is absent from history books.

Being named an Outstanding Student within the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, though, is even more meaningful.

“It was a great feeling to know that the faculty recognized and respected the work and effort that I was putting in and out of the classroom,” she said. “Their support gave me the confidence to believe that I could involve myself in activities that not only reinforced my research interests but allowed me to share what I was learning with others.”

Other honorees in SSHA are:

  • Katrina B. Argamosa, Global Arts Studies
  • Natalie Frost, Management and Business Econ
  • Simerpreet Kaur, Psychology
  • Monica Perales, English major

School of Engineering

One of the School of Engineering’s Outstanding Student honorees was Commencement student speaker Eliezar Vigdorchik of Redwood City. The mechanical engineering major worked in both the Thermal and Electrochemical Energy Lab (TEEL) the Mechatronics, Embedded Systems and Automation (MESA) lab. He spent a year in the Society of Automotive Engineers and was a tutor in the Math Center.

In addressing his fellow graduates at the combined ceremony for the Schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Vigdorchik spoke of embracing the discomfort that comes from being surrounded by people constantly pushing for new ideas and change.

“Every day we deal with stress, failure and setbacks but we persevere,” he said. “We progress by fighting, be it to pass the class, to finish that app, or submit that paper; we deliberately put ourselves into uncomfortable situations. We beat ourselves down. And out of the rubble, we emerge as better individuals.”

Other engineering award winners are:

  • Mathew Nakaki, Bioengineering
  • Avery Berchek, Computer Science and Engineering
  • Armando Montanez, Computer Science and Engineering
  • Morgan Cooney, Environmental Engineering
  • Lawrence Anderson, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Zhi Lu, Mechanical Engineering

School of Natural Sciences

How many bio majors can boast viral recipes featured on Buzzfeed and Yahoo Food? Merced Julia Alvarez is proud of her unique UC Merced journey. The Merced native started as a business major with a small business selling baked goods – the recipes of which were shared widely online – before switching majors to biology. She’s looking forward to staying on at UC Merced, working with Professor Kirk Jensen in the Quantitative and Systems Biology graduate group.

Other honorees from Natural Sciences are:

  • Josue Ramirez Bonilla, Applied Mathematics
  • Luis Davila, Earth System Sciences
  • Pablo Juarez, Biological Sciences
  • Michael Spaeth, Biological Sciences
  • Sandeep Sanghera, Chemical Sciences
  • Kenny Veliz, Biological Sciences
  • De Zhen Zhou, Physics

The Class of 2018’s Outstanding Student Award winners were mentioned by name in the Spring Commencement program, in addition to the recognition they received from their deans and faculty members.