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Once a Maverick, Always a Maverick: August 2022 Commencement Stories | News

There are many ways someone can show their Maverick Spirit.

For the students who make up the August 2022 graduating class, it has meant navigating financial barriers, persevering through COVID-19, stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and achieving their long-desired academic dreams.

With nearly 600 students about ready to join the Maverick alumni network of more than 120,000, we wanted to put a spotlight on two of the hundreds of Mavericks who are crossing the stage and beginning the next chapter in their life’s journey.

We know that everyone graduating this month will continue to dream daringly about what’s possible with a little Maverick thinking because once a Maverick, always a Maverick.

Arissa Bavari, Master of Science in Health and Kinesiology

Hometown: Frederick, Maryland
Campus Activities/Recognitions: UNO Maverick Maniacs, Public Health Student Association

Earning her undergraduate degree in exercise science in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arissa Bavari turned a sense of uncertainty into a strength by continuing her education at UNO. In doing so, she ended up joining the Office of Health Security as one of their student employees and helped hundreds of students, faculty, and staff overcome their own uncertainties.

As Arissa puts it: “That office taught me patience and empathy and I made life-long friends with the other graduate students.”

It’s an experience she is currently putting to good use as the Urban Youth and Schools Program Manager for Special Olympics Nebraska and will serve her well as she pursues a career in health.

More From Arissa:

What do you love most about UNO?

I love how close knit the campus is, both literally and figuratively. I appreciate how the campus is integrated into the city, which provided me with a lot of opportunities. I also love how the Health and Kinesiology building was pretty much a big family. I had classes with all different types of disciplines within the college.

What does it mean to you to be earning your degree from UNO?

I graduated in the middle of the pandemic and a year early. Two years later and endless drafts later, I can finally say that earning my master’s degree means a lot. I proved to myself that I have the drive to put in the work and good things take time (and endless drafts).

What advice do you have for other UNO students?

First, get to know your professors. They have taught me not only how to be a good student, but work-life balance, life tips, gardening, etc… Second, don’t say no; by saying yes and keeping an open mind, you learn so much more. Third, get involved. Try out one club for a semester and if you do not like it, you can say you’ve tried something and move on. Lastly, get your first drafts out of the way. Honestly, your first draft is not going to be amazing; that’s why it’s called a draft. Get your ideas down on paper and then edit away!

Justin Rodriguez, Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity

justin rodriquez

Hometown: Omaha, NE
Campus Activities/Recognitions: Nullify, Regents Scholarship

Coming to UNO from Papillion La-Vista High School, Justin Rodriquez credits the campus community with being welcoming and supportive – allowing him to meet new people and get personalized support from his academic advisors. He says it was because of the accessibility of his advisors that he was able to plan the next steps of his academic journey, which, in turn, has led him to a position as a project engineer at Union Pacific – something he will continue pursuing as he looks to take the next step in his professional journey right here in Omaha.

“I plan to apply what I learned during my college career in my professional career,” he says. “Building up my knowledge and experience of the cybersecurity field further.”

More From Justin:

What is your favorite UNO memory?

One of my favorite memories at UNO was probably at the start of school during my freshman year. I was pretty nervous and ended up going to the student fair involvement with some friends. It was an awesome experience, there were a lot of people to meet, clubs to become familiar with, and lots of free food. For us, that was a big ice breaker with the college overall.

What does it mean to you to be earning your degree from UNO?

To me, earning my degree marks the start of the next chapter in my life. But it also represents the culmination of a lot of hard work and countless hours of studying. It also acts as a reminder of all the people, opportunities, and memories that I acquired throughout my educational career that helped me achieve it.

What do you love the most about UNO?

I would say the one thing I love most about UNO is the community. It’s a great place to meet new people and there are countless events and organizations to help you feel more welcome. There’s something for everyone.

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