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UC's Mr. Bearcat Says We're All Bearcats

Each year, UC honors a male senior with the title 'Mr. Bearcat.' Meet Zach Bryson.

Date: 6/9/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Lisa Ventre and Dottie Stover, photojournalists
Here come the
Here come the 'Cats!

Each year, Sigma Sigma honorary fraternity bestows the title of “Mr. Bearcat” upon a graduating man who has achieved academic success, demonstrated leadership in diverse settings and contributed to the University of Cincinnati with “Bearcat Spirit.” Meet Zach Bryson.

(He’s the one on the bottom.)

One might say that Zach, a University Honors student, was born to be a UC Bearcat. His parents and brother are all alums. Even though his family lives in the Greater Cincinnati area, Zach’s parents encouraged him to live on campus.

“From day one they stressed the importance of living here,” Zach says. He agrees that the best way to get the most out of the college experience is to be wholly part of it. “Home is where you make it,” he adds.

Zach says that his love for the University of Cincinnati began when he was young. “I was always coming down here for basketball games at the Shoe, football games at Nippert and soccer camps.”

President Zimpher congratulates Zach for being the Trim Tab winner.
President Zimpher congratulates Zach for being the 'Trim Tab' Award winner.

After graduating from Princeton High School, he knew he was Cincinnati bound. He was especially attracted to a program called “Connections,” a dual-admission program that accepts students into both biomedical engineering and the College of Medicine. Once in the program, he realized that being a doctor was “not my calling,” as Zach says. “But I still love and appreciate the analytical reasoning, the chemistry and the biology.”

Thanks to UC’s having 14 colleges offering hundreds of undergraduate degrees, Zach still had many options. He became a biochemistry major in the Chemistry Department of the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences. He will graduate with a minor in business as well — all within four years.

Prof. Halsall says Zach is
Prof. Halsall says Zach is 'comfortable with himself ... a great place to be in this uncertain world.'

“Zach is smart and hardworking,” says Brian Halsall, a professor of biochemistry. “He is comfortable with himself, which is a great place to be in this uncertain world.”

When Zach graduates, he will be stepping into a position with the Procter & Gamble Company as an associate manager of market research in Consumer Market Knowledge.

“I’ll be able to apply analytical aspects of business and interact with consumers,” Zach says. It’s clear that he’ll excel at both.

“Zach will do very well in an analytical/business setting, for he has the thoughtful analytical skills of the scientist melded with excellent person-to-person skills,” says Halsall. “He will go far.”

"He is a delightful, bright, personable and a very grounded young man,” says Deborah Lieberman, an adjunct assistant professor of organic chemistry. “He is very realistic and will do very well in whatever path he follows.”

Management guru Stephen Covey recognizes success when he sees it.
Management guru Stephen Covey recognizes success when he sees it.

“I am delighted to see he is being recognized for all his hard work at UC,” Lieberman adds.

Zach was nominated by sisters of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.

"The nomination was an honor and great surprise," Zach says. That's pretty typical for Zach, says Honors advisor Debbie Brawn. She notes that his humility is "one of the things that stands out the most about him. He is humble and has a strength of character that is rare."

Zach believes that receiving the “Mr. Bearcat” award is a reflection of his community involvement and activities outside the classroom as much as his academic success. Zach’s been speaker of the undergraduate student senate and served on numerous committees including the Faculty Advisory Council, Council on Student Affairs, University Honors Experiential Learning Planning and the Ohio Student Government Association. As an at-large senator, he authored legislation supporting increased usage of the BlackBoard Web portal. As the associate vice president of campus relations, Zach organized and planned the first-ever “Fall Ball” (now called the Bearcat Homecoming Pep Rally). He also planned the Bearcat Transportation System ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Zach was the chapter president of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the largest fraternity on campus. While on his watch, the chapter won their tenth consecutive Buchanan Cup, the highest honor bestowed upon an undergraduate chapter by Sigma Phi Epsilon Headquarters. He also participated on the University Funding Board and the Honors alternative spring break, travelling to New Orleans to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his spare time, he participated in such service events including Relay For Life, Bowl for Kids’ Sake, Boy Scout Mulch Move, fundraising for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, as well as intramural basketball, soccer and football.

Brawn appreciates Zach's leadership during the Hurricane Katrina relief work.

Zach as Homecoming King candidate.
Zach as Homecoming King candidate.

"Zach was one of the first students to sign up and was the first student I asked to take on a leadership role for the trip," she says. "During the trip, the 45 participants were divided into smaller work groups. Zach served as a leader of one of the work groups, providing a communication link between his group of peer volunteers and the AmeriCorps/National Relief Network staff members who led our work. He made sure that his group members undertook the appropriate safety precautions at all times, helped to keep everyone organized to ensure that things went smoothly, and responded to problems when needed. He also served as a motivator for his group, providing enthusiasm and encouragement throughout the day. Zach was a delight to have as a participant and leader for our alternative break trip."

Zach was invited to become a member of six on-campus honoraries — Sigma Sigma Upper Men’s Honorary, Omicron Delta Kappa, Order of Omega, Men of Metro, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Rho Chi based on leadership, service, scholarship and spirit. Zach was awarded a National Merit Corporate Scholarship; a Cincinnatus University Scholarship; a Balanced Man Scholarship; and a Sigma Phi Epsilon National Scholarship for academic achievement, leadership and citizenship. Finally, he was a top-10 finalist for the University of Cincinnati’s Homecoming King and recipient of the Greek Outstanding Achievement Award.

"Zach is an extraordinary person whom I am proud to know and am lucky to have worked with. I have great respect for Zach and have no doubt that he will have many future successes, personally, professionally and in the community," says advisor Brawn. "Zach will leave a tremendous legacy at UC and we will miss him greatly when he graduates."

After spending five minutes with Zach, anyone would feel brilliant. He can pick up any conversational thread and carry the ball — from comparing five-star chefs to last season’s running backs.

That’s part of Zach’s approach to life and the advice that he offers future Bearcats.

“The biggest key to success at UC is the same as it is in life,” he says. “Don’t be one dimensional. Embrace your academic program, of course, but develop other skills as much as you can outside the classroom.”

"Once you get into the ‘real world’ you’ll be making connections and learning how people work,” he continues, “just as you worked in academic group settings here. There are lots of options and opportunities outside of those groups.” Zach points out that often students like him in science and engineering can get too focused too early on in their studies.

Lucy says, 'Let's hear it for Mr. Bearcat, Zach Bryson!'

“The coursework is rigorous, yes, but you also need to see what else UC has to offer,” he adds. He points out that the largeness of the school offers opportunities for students of every type. “UC is a big school with a big school feel, with a diversity of talent and a diversity of people, but with a small school feeling.”

“There’s a niche for everybody here,” says Zach. “You don’t feel like a number at UC — you feel like a Bearcat!”

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