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Award recipients Arnav N. Prasad (left) and Bianca Mers
The University of Delaware Alumni Association (UDAA) announced the 2020 recipients of the Emalea Pusey Warner and Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Outstanding Senior Awards, honoring two of the most high-achieving seniors in the Class of 2020: Bianca Mers and Arnav N. Prasad. The names of the recipients will be inscribed on a wall in the new Alumni Circle, which honors recipients of the senior awards as well as alumni volunteers and leaders who have made significant impacts at the University.
The Warner and Taylor Awards annually celebrate an outstanding woman and man, respectively, of the senior class. Recipients demonstrate leadership, academic success and community service. Students must also have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or better at the end of the first semester of his or her senior year.
Bianca Mers is an honors international relations major with minors in organizational and community leadership, public policy and Spanish. She is involved in community service through the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega; as president of the student organization Strong #likeagirl at UD, for which she serves as a mentor for young girls at an after-school program at Springer Middle School in Wilmington; and through her internship with REACH Riverside, a non-profit that is revitalizing the historically underserved Riverside neighborhood in northeast Wilmington.
“As someone who believes in the value of differences, community engagement has been a central part of my college involvement because it has helped me to connect with and better appreciate other people and their experiences,” Mers said. “My passion for building better communities has also motivated me to improve the quality of life for students at UD.”
Through her role as sustainability chair of the UD chapter of the United Nations Association, a student organization she co-founded, Mers encourages students to actively participate in global efforts for change. And as co-president of the Delaware Diplomats, Mers works to increase awareness of and decrease financial barriers to studying abroad for traditionally underrepresented groups.
“We better prepared students to study abroad through increasing their intercultural communication skills by building relationships with international groups on campus such as the English Language Institute,” Mers said. “My on-campus involvement allowed me to actualize my commitment to creating positive change, which has influenced my academic path as well.”
Mers, who said she is a first-generation, low-income student, is participating in the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which supports students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Through the Program, Mers has been able to conduct undergraduate field research abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which helped direct her path to graduate school. She looks forward to pursuing a master’s degree in city and regional planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the hopes that she’ll eventually be able to create more environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive communities through better planning practices and policies.
“While I take great pride in my ambition and my own efforts, I know the experiences I’ve had are as much a product of the people before me who have worked tirelessly to create these opportunities,” Mers said. “My community at UD has challenged, guided, and inspired me to become the person I am now: confident, motivated, proud, and above all, grateful.”
Arnav N. Prasad is an Honors student with a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics. In addition to his demonstrated ability to problem-solve and think analytically, Prasad has held numerous leadership roles, served as a mentor and has continuously looked for ways to give back to UD and the larger STEM community.
Prasad has served as a teaching assistant for the Mechanical Engineering Design Studio since his sophomore year, instructing peers in using rapid manufacturing technologies that are used extensively in the industry. As a junior, he was selected as an undergraduate TA for two mechanical engineering core courses. He also is president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) at UD, for which he provides peers with unique opportunities to develop their professional and technical skills and has led UD’s chapter to two different ASME national robotics competitions.
He also offers his time to volunteer in several capacities both on and off campus. On campus, Prasad participates in many Admissions events, such as Decision Days and Blue and Gold Days, to share his experience as a student at UD with prospective students and their families. As Eugene duPont Distinguished Scholar, he has volunteered each year to plan and coordinate the competition weekend for the next class of Scholars, composed of over 90 high school students.
“UD has played an invaluable role in shaping me as a young professional, and I am proud to pay it forward,” Prasad said.
Outside the UD campus community, Prasad spends 15 hours each week mentoring a FIRST Robotics team based in Wilmington. Many of the groups he mentors are from underrepresented populations.
“My own participation on this team during high school played a vital role in my decision to pursue a mechanical engineering degree,” he said. “Now, as a team mentor, I am able to ignite in my students the same passion I have for knowledge while inspiring them to face challenges with an open mind.”
Prasad is pursuing graduate courses at UD through the 4+1 Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering/Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program.
“As my [undergraduate] time at UD comes to a close, I reflect gratefully on the skills and experiences I have acquired and look enthusiastically to future opportunities to implement all that I have learned. Thank you, UD.”
Article by Megan Maccherone; photos courtesy of Arnav N. Prasad and Bianca Mers
May 8, 2020
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