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PROFILE: UC’s Outstanding Female Graduate Has Designs On Activism And Service

Jaleen Francois of West Chester is graduating Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s of science degree in graphic design. Her excellence in academics – combined with her passion in using her talent to expose the tough issues and demand change – has resulted in UC’s highest honor for a female graduate: the C-Ring Award.

Date: 6/7/2004 8:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Andrew Higley
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Jaleen Francois

Her design of a tank top fueled a UC student campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and support the services of Women Helping Women. The UC senior graphic design capstone project that inspired her book, On Prejudice, is part of a three-dimensional exhibit. And, this 23-year-old graduate is hoping you might one day see her name under the director’s credits in a film documentary – and it will likely be a platform for social change. UC graphic design graduate Jaleen Francois even designed the logo for the award in her honor. She’s UC’s 82nd recipient of the C-Ring Award to recognize the university’s exceptional female graduate.

The University of Cincinnati C-Ring Award was originated by UC athletics in 1922 to honor the “outstanding all-around senior girl,” explains Barbara Rinto, director of the UC Women’s Center. Rinto adds that as the award evolved into one of the most prestigious honors for a female UC graduate, nominations from faculty and staff members praised candidates for their academic achievements, leadership, service and advocacy for women.

Francois uses her drive and her talent to promote positive change as a diversity peer educator at UC, as a member of the student sexual assault awareness organization, Students Organized Against Rape, and by participating in UC’s Racial Awareness Program. As co-founder of “dosomethingnow,” a 2003 UC student initiative to support Women Helping Women, Francois designed the tank tops that were sold to raise money and awareness and to train volunteers who assist victims of sexual assault.

Jaleen Francois

The book that she created to support the graphic design senior capstone project, On Prejudice, is a collection of essays and photos – mostly of people in the UC community – who reveal their own personal stories of encountering prejudice. The book is one facet of an exhibit created by the senior UC graphic design class that will first go on display at UC on June 8.

“My experience at UC has been one awakening moment following another, realizing the extent to which people are connected and how far elements of community can stretch. I have a genuine passion for being involved and learning to make changes on my world,” says Francois.

She has volunteered with Junior Achievement and AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, where she was voted Outstanding Volunteer in 2001. From January-February of this year, she worked with Habitat Humanity International, constructing homes in Nicoya, Costa Rica. She was planning on spending some free time surfing in Costa Rica, but instead worked on an organic farm in the rain forest through March.

“Her personal commitment to diversity, culture and peer education within the University of Cincinnati community is evidenced in her future goal of working as a designer or filmmaker, contributing to social awareness and activism,” says Sandra McGlasson, UC associate professor for the Division of Professional Practice.  “She has expressed to me, ‘I want my work to reflect the values of diversity and conscientiousness that I’ve come to embrace, largely through my experience at the University of Cincinnati.’ I believe that her potential is endless and that she will be successful in any endeavor that she undertakes, whether it is in an academic, professional or in an advocacy area. Jaleen is a young woman of the highest caliber.”

During her high school days at Ursuline Academy in Blue Ash, Francois remained on the Honor Roll all 16 quarters. At UC, she holds a 3.7 grade point average and is a regular name on the dean’s list. She has earned real-world experience through co-ops for the Turner Duckworth brand design company in San Francisco, Louis Dreyfus/Wood Design in New York, and The Chesapeake Group in Cincinnati.

“So many of my friends from high school went to college far away from home, but I chose UC because I knew I wanted to major in graphic design, and UC has one of the best programs in the country. Plus, attending UC didn’t mean I only stayed in Cincinnati. I’ve been to San Francisco, New York and Costa Rica. I really feel I got to see a lot more of the world than if I had picked another city to go to college.

“The connections between activism and my career are solid, real and pursuable – they’re not only limited to my time at UC,” says Francois. “My recent abroad experience leaves me interested in exploring the lines between universal women’s rights and cultural differences. A potential opportunity to study art/documentary film making could lead to an even more direct connection between activism and visualization. But whatever form it may take, I am leaving the University of Cincinnati sure that the connection is sound, with a foundation I can arguably trace back to some of my earliest memories and know unwaveringly that it will drive what I do and how I see the world for the rest of my life.”



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