Graduating engineer named Mr. Bearcat

Mechanical engineering grad honored by Sigma Sigma

For nearly a century, honorary fraternity Sigma Sigma has honored one University of Cincinnati graduate each year with the title of Mr. Bearcat. This award is given to an individual who has displayed commitment to the university through academic success, leadership in diverse settings and significant contributions to UC. 

This year's recipient is Alex van Haaren.

Van Haaren is receiving his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science from the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). Students in this college complete a five-year program in which they alternate between semesters of classroom instruction and real-world learning, working full time as a co-op in the engineering field. However, the rigors of his academic schedule did not bar him from making a campus-wide impact at UC. 

"All of van Haaren's academic success and consistent involvement is made more impressive by his continued Bearcat enthusiasm," said the Student Alumni Council, who nominated van Haaren. 

Within his five years, he has held many leadership positions including UC Student Government Executive Director of Career Services, Career Fair Coordinator, CEAS Tribunal President, undergraduate student government senator and more. Van Haaren never expected this to be his path at UC. Admittedly, he chose UC on a whim and came from a long line of engineers, so he chose to study engineering. 

"I arrived at the University of Cincinnati as an aspiring mechanical engineer with no idea of the journey I was about to embark on," said Alex van Haaren, Mr. Bearcat 2023. 

He hit the ground running at CEAS. In his first year, he became the Career Fair Coordinator for Tribunal, which acted as a catalyst for the rest of his UC journey. Leading the career fair and witnessing his peers' success motivated him to do more. 

Being selected for this award is truly an incredible feeling. To be amongst such a long history of distinguished individuals who have won Mr. Bearcat is exciting, yet humbling.

Alex van Haaren, 2023 Mr. Bearcat

Alex Van Haaren at the CEAS Expo 2023

Alex van Haaren at the 2023 CEAS EXPO. Photo/provided.

"I decided I was going to do all I could for my university and become the best leader and community servant I could be," he said. 

As the Career Fair Coordinator, van Haaren successfully coordinated and assisted with 10 biannual career fairs, hosting more than 300 companies and 3,000 students, leading to more than 500 jobs. Additionally, he created programming for international students to help them find co-ops. 

In his second year, he became a USG Senator and advocated for voter registration and the Aunt Flow free menstrual product program within the college. He mentored three students and found that mentorship was a passion of his. He took this into his third year, becoming the VP of Collegiate Affairs for CEAS Tribunal, where he collaborated with more than 60 organizations to promote inclusivity. He personally mentored 15 students. 

In his fourth year, van Haaren was the president of CEAS Tribunal and a prominent student leader in the college. Within that year, he restored the CEAS EXPO, a college-wide event to showcase the capstone projects of graduating seniors, something that had not happened since 2009. In its first year, there were 90 projects presented. In 2023, only the second year of the restored event, the numbers more than doubled with 200+ projects. 

In his fifth and final year as a Bearcat student, he dedicated his time to mentoring first-year students as part of Tribunal's internship program. His goal as a mentor was to pass on the knowledge he gained at CEAS to the incoming class. 

Van Haaren has certainly made a significant contribution to the University of Cincinnati, CEAS and the many students he mentored. 

"UC was the best choice I ever made, and I would not change it for the world," he said. 

Featured image at top: Alex van Haaren. Photo/provided. 

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