UA senior Anita Jones said she was honored and a little surprised to learn she was part of a small group of students being recognized by the university with achievement awards during its 155th commencement on Friday night, May 10.
Jones, who is graduating with a bachelor’s of applied science degree in human studies, was named this year’s Provost Award recipient and joins six other graduating students to be recognized for their varied accomplishments.
“When I was told I was nominated I instantly felt scared; it’s a very prestigious award,” said Jones, an Army veteran who used the GI Bill to go to school and spends time now helping other vets. Jones said she doesn’t like to bring attention to herself: “I am usually the one chilling in the corner.”
After being nominated, Jones said she had to write an essay about what she had done to contribute to the UA, and interview before a five-person panel. She didn’t think she would be selected for the award — “I thought ‘at least I got nominated.’”
The Provost Award is given annually to an eligible Arizona community college transfer student for his or her “commitment to academic studies, contributions to the UA community and scholastic ability, citizenship and leadership.”
Jones said she is excited to join her fellow awardees at commencement ceremonies at UA Stadium, where 4,500 students are expected to attend along with about 40,000 guests.
The 6,700 degrees being conferred this year are up slightly from last year, when 5,900 degrees were conferred, according to the UA. The number of graduating students is about the same as last year.
Jones is the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree. She received her associate’s degree in social work from Cochise College before transferring to the UA South campus in Sierra Vista to complete her bachelor’s. She has an adult son who attends college in Alabama and he is “super excited” his mother is graduating.
Jones said she plans to eventually pursue a master’s degree and would eventually like to use her training and military background to help veterans. She served about 20 years in the Army, joining right after she graduated from high school with honors in California. She served around the world during her Army career, primarily working in the culinary services.
In Sierra Vista where she lives, Jones serves as chairwoman for the local chapter of Women Warriors, a group that helps female veterans dealing with military related issues. Jones, who was deployed by the Army twice to Afghanistan, suffered a traumatic brain injury on her second deployment and retired shortly afterward.
Her advice to fellow military veterans and students planning their next steps in life is fairly simple: “Take it one step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself and never be afraid to ask for help.”
The six other UA graduates being recognized with achievement awards are:
Robert Logan Nugent Award
Tala Shahin, who is graduating summa cum laude from the Honors College with dual degrees in physiology and Arabic.
Alexa Nguyen, who will graduate summa cum laude from the Honors College with a degree in molecular and cellular biology, with minors in economics and religious studies.
Robie Gold Medal Awards
Francy D. Luna Diaz, who will graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor’s of arts in political science and a bachelor’s of arts in law.
Bryn Deana Sharp, who will graduate summa cum laude from the Honors College with a bachelor’s of arts in Spanish and Latin American studies and a minor in Portuguese.
Merrill P. Freeman Medals
Katrina M. Konopka, who will graduate from the Honors College with a bachelor’s of science in chemistry.
Yezan Hassan, a quadruple major honors student graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s of science in neuroscience and cognitive science, and molecular and cellular biology; a bachelor’s of science in physiology; and a bachelor’s of arts in Arabic, with a minor in biochemistry.