By Lydia Baskin
The University Farm Circle awarded scholarships to five outstanding UC Davis women at its Annual Tea on Oct. 10 at the Buehler Alumni & Visitors Center. The scholarships are presented annually to junior, senior and re-entry students who demonstrate high scholastic achievement, leadership, community service, high goals and volunteerism.
University Farm Circle has been awarding scholarships since 1937.
Each year, the recipients’ names are engraved on plaques and permanently displayed in the Memorial Union.
The Marion Freeborn Scholarships for Continuing Students were awarded to Melissa Gjerde and Danielle Laub and the Marion Freeborn Scholarship for Re-entry Students was awarded to Megan Watson.
The awards are named after the wife of the first chancellor and the UFC president from 1928 to 1929. Beginning in 1980, University Farm Circle awarded the Marion Freeborn Re-entry Scholarship.
This year, Rachel Caynak was awarded the Kate Fizell Founder’s Scholarship and the Kate Fizell Scholarship for Re-entry students was awarded to Neli Mihov.
Fizell arrived at the university farm school in 1909 as the dormitory matron and through her regular social gatherings of about 25 women, University Farm Circle began in 1914. UFC is the University of California’s oldest continuing support group, celebrating 100 years of service to the Davis campus community.
Caynak is majoring in pharmaceutical chemistry and minoring in mathematics. Like the other scholarship recipients, she participates in many extracurricular activities; some of them — Relay for Life, Walk and Run for Cancer and Adopt-a-Highway cleanup — are related to her having been Miss Calaveras County 2011 and remaining part of its volunteer group.
At UCD, she works as a community assistant at West Village, the new housing area west of Highway 113, tutors in math and chemistry, and is enjoying her membership in the Chemistry Club. For recreation, she plays the flute, having played at the Mondavi Center at the age of 13.
Inspired partly by her involvement in her mother’s heroic struggle against cancer, Caynak plans to attend medical school and to become a pediatric oncologist.
Gjerde is majoring in environmental policy planning and analysis. She is an active participant in, and vice president of, the community service-based professional sorority Lambda Omicron Xi, serving as its sustainability chair. She is also a member of the UCD Environmental Club.
Gjerde is an avid bird-watcher; captains an intramural volleyball team; swims, though no longer competitively; hopes to sing in the auditioned University Chorus; and plays guitar. She may attend law school and plans to work in government at the local, state or federal level doing regional planning to help protect resources and open space as well as to promote sustainable growth in California.
Laub is majoring in clinical nutrition. She serves as a resident adviser in a themed house, the Asian Pacific American house, assisting 60 freshmen in creating a community, adjusting to and succeeding at UCD. She also has served as an orientation leader for incoming freshmen during summer advising.
Laub is a member of the Residence Halls Advisory Board and volunteers through Circle K. For recreation, she loves to read, bake and hike. Continuing on her path of helping others, she intends to become a registered dietitian working either in an elementary school, creating healthy yet appealing school lunches, or internationally in the field of agricultural development.
Mihov is majoring in psychology, with a minor in neurobiology, physiology and behavior. Married and the mother of a 9-year-old daughter, she is a re-entry transfer student from Sacramento City College, the first in her family to attend college.
Being the second child in a family of nine and growing up in an Eastern European country during great social, political and economic change, Mihov became interested in thought processes and behavior, an interest she could not pursue in higher education until she emigrated to the United States.
Taking a special study psychology class at Davis has enabled her to work in a cognitive lab on campus studying language processing, and she is planning to do an honors thesis in this area and to attend graduate school to study cognitive psychology.
Watson is majoring in community and regional development. A re-entry student who has been working for 10 years with a nonprofit called Common Vision, most recently as its executive director, she has been helping to realize the group’s mission of promoting sustainability and social justice by planting and maintaining fruit trees and orchards at public schools.
Working with 200 public schools across California, observing “devastating inequalities as well as abundant opportunities for change,” inspired her to continue her studies in community development. While remaining a board member of Common Vision, Watson also works with the Cloud Forest Initiative on environmental education and remediation.
For more information on University Farm Circle membership, call 530-756-0697 or visit www.ufcdavis.org.