UC Merced holds memorial for grad student killed in Oakland warehouse fire

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students and faculty on the UC Merced campus came together to remember Jennifer Mendiola. She was a 35-year-old graduate student who was among the 36 people who died in the Oakland warehouse fire on December 2.

It was a small ceremony Monday morning, a moment of silence, marked with brief comments to remember the passing of a student who friends say was both studious and fun loving.

Faculty and administrators lead a group of students in observing a moment of silence for Jennifer. One of her friends, a fellow graduate student described her boundless energy.

"She was such an amazing person," Jennifer's friend said. "It's hard to pin down who she was. She'd be running a 5K on Saturday, ballroom dancing on Sunday, making travel plans on Monday.

Mendiola was a grad student in the psychology department. Marjorie Zatz, dean of the graduate school, noted Mendiola was an inspiration deep into research. She had published articles and was preparing her dissertation.

"She did everything very passionately and psychology grads are a close-knit group," Zatz said. "She was part of that group and a leader among them."

A wreath was placed outside the library, next to the wreath of a faculty member who was recently killed in a traffic accident. Charles Nies, the Vice Chancellor for student affairs says it is important for this campus to recognize these losses.

"The strength of coming together helps us here to find the strengths to deal with the tragedy that exists and so the campus has been doing this since the first death of a student back in 2007," Nies said.

Jennifer was described as both studious and free spirited, but now she's remembered because of a tragic loss.

"What I do know is that she loved all of you," her friend said.
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