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May 17, 2008
By Jill Stockton
Jennifer Miceli of Reno, Nev., received the University of Nevada, Reno's Herz Gold Medal today, May 17, during Spring 2008 Commencement ceremonies on the historic University Quadrangle. Miceli has completed her undergraduate academic career with a degree in health ecology and a cumulative grade-point average of 4.0.
The Herz Gold Medal, the University’s oldest and most prestigious award, is presented each commencement ceremony to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average. This gift was established in 1910 by brothers Richard, Carl and Otto Herz when the institution was only 36 years old.
Miceli, the 2008 Senior Scholar for the College of Health and Human Sciences, is originally from California. She came to Nevada during her senior year of high school by way of Tennessee. She was homeschooled that year.
"I can not believe that my college career is coming to an end,” Miceli said. “It feels like I started at the University just yesterday. After being homeschooled, I was anxious to experience what college would be like. After taking my first chemistry class with Dr. Baglin I thought, Oh, wow, I am really going to like this!”
Miceli has been homeschooled since the second grade.
“Many people associated with public education nervously doubted my ability to thrive in a social academic environment,” Miceli said. “Because of this I was determined to be the best learner I could be throughout my college career, not only to get the most from my education and meet my own standards, but to show others that a homeschooled girl could hold her own.”
After starting coursework at the University, Miceli struggled to identify a major that was the right fit for her.
“It has taken me a little longer to graduate,” the 22-year-old said. “I started as a nutrition major and then switched to health ecology, journalism, and then back to health ecology. I struggled to find a program that was the right fit for me.
“When I was studying journalism, I was required to take an economics principles class with Federico Guerrero in the College of Business,” Miceli said. “I assumed that Federico was going to react the same way as other professors I had taken class with had. That is, look at me completely confused when I told them I was studying journalism and health ecology and then tell me that normally people are not good at both science and writing, implying that I was destined to fail in one of the areas.
“After hearing that I was studying both science and writing, Federico encouraged me to experiment with the different majors, consider the pros and cons, listen to my heart and then make a decision,” Miceli said.
After heeding Guerrero’s advice, she set her sights on a degree in health ecology.
“An open, curious mind always has trouble making choices,” said Guerrero, Miceli’s Senior Scholar mentor. “If you look around and see the stereotype of the absent-minded professor, especially in the sciences, and think about the professor that agonizes over choosing the color of a scientific marker for a research project, that is how I perceived Jennifer to have felt at that time.
“She is talented and skilled in a wide array of subject areas,” Guerrero said. “Having to choose one was difficult for her. I was pleased she turned to me for guidance.”
Miceli is a member of several honor societies at the University, including Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key and Delta Epsilon Iota.
She plans to remain in Reno after graduation to pursue a career in fitness training. Miceli is also considering pursuit of a graduate degree in exercise physiology or an applied program in fitness promotion. Additionally, she regularly plans and organizes events for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in February.
“I am certain that Jennifer will be a smashing success,” Guerrero said. “She has incredible character and knows what it takes to succeed. She also is extremely intelligent and mature. When you combine those traits with her sharpness, good sense of humor and her social skills, I think she will be unstoppable.
“I am hoping she will become a great leader of her generation in the state,” he added.