Ringing in a New Phase

Audrey Perera Spring 2024 UNT Ring Award recipient

Audrey Perera (’24) is proof that you don’t always need a lot of time to make the most of it. The future forensic scientist transferred to the University of North Texas as she entered her junior year, having completed two years of coursework at Collin Community College. Now, as she prepares to say goodbye to UNT and take the next steps in life, she’ll have a little gold reminder of UNT on her left hand ring finger to carry along.

Perera, a McKinney, Texas native who just completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, was selected as the UNT Ring Award recipient earlier this year and was presented with the time honored accessory during the UNT Ring Ceremony and Eagle Ring Dive earlier in May.

“When I found out I won, I cried,” she says. “I was super excited and kind of overwhelmed in the moment — but a good overwhelming sense. I felt so lucky and proud.”

Every semester, a student is selected to receive a UNT ring free of charge, following an application and interview process with the UNT Alumni Association. At the ceremony, the student is presented with their ring and addresses the crowd of hundreds.

While a family member or loved one generally presents the ring to the award recipient, this year’s ceremony had something else in store. Perera says her family is spread out and wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony, so she worked with the UNT Alumni Association to come up with an alternative. Ultimately, UNT President Neal Smatresk, who is stepping down from the position after more than 10 years in August, was selected to do the honors.

“They just said, ‘Well, the president could give it to you,’ and I knew this was going to be his last semester, so in that moment I knew it would be really special,” Perera says.

And special it was — a moment of warm sun as she dipped her new class ring into the fountains in the UNT Library Mall with her friends at her sides. But leading up to her graduation and further celebration the following week, Perera is also leaving UNT with a robust bank of fun memories and valuable knowledge that will carry her forward.

Perera recalled why she chose to transfer to UNT.

“It’s a great school to study STEM, and I’m a biochemistry major, so that kind of sealed the deal for me,” Perera says. “We also have the forensic science certificate and that was a plus. And also, everyone was just so friendly and nice, it felt very welcoming.”

Perera says she leaned into her love for the sciences that began at an early age.

“I’ve always been interested in science, it was always like my favorite subject to take and I always did well in it,” she says. “Then, in high school, I took some law enforcement classes and decided that maybe forensic science was my thing, and it ended up working out really well. Now, I’m here and I’m hopefully continuing on that path.”

Outside of her coursework, Perera has been active on campus, working as a student assistant in UNT Housing for a year, and was formerly a member of the UNT forensics club. Perera has also been involved with the UNT First-Generation Success Center, which was established to better support the 41% of UNT students who are first generation.

“The First-Generation Success Center has been super helpful,” she says. “They have a lot of different events, especially for graduating seniors, like resume workshops, events for how to set up your LinkedIn page and other things like that. For me, that was particularly helpful because I don’t have anyone close who’s experienced the same thing, so it can be a little harder to figure it out.”

Perera says that making connections and fostering relationships with others at UNT helped her to feel included and increased her engagement on campus.

“Friends are so important to have, especially when you guys are going through similar journeys,” Perera says. “Even if you’re not the same major, you’re still experiencing college life for the first time and all sorts of first experiences at the same time.”

Already deep in the woods of her job search, Perera is ready to take on the next phase of life.

“I want to stay in the North Texas area, so there are only so many departments that hire for the job I want here,” she says. “So, I just keep a positive attitude, and remember that I have connections and a network from UNT, so I’m not in this alone.”