UC Davis recently presented its Chancellor’s Achievement Awards for Diversity and Community, honoring six individuals and three departments.
Ken Burtis, interim provost and executive vice chancellor, presided over the Feb. 15 awards ceremony, filling in for Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, who was in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of Congress about the need for continued federal support of student financial aid, research funding and health care. The ceremony took place at the Chancellor's Residence in the late afternoon.
“I am delighted and honored to recognize members of our student body, faculty and staff whose service has strengthened and enriched our university community,” Burtis said. “One of our greatest strengths is our diversity, both demographically and intellectually. It is not window-dressing. It is not a bow to ‘political correctness.’ We are committed to diversity because it is the right thing to do and because it is integral to our academic success.
“With diversity comes a wider and more interesting range of experiences, ideas, opinions and perceptions. The greater the mix, the more likely we will make discoveries and solve problems –– the hallmarks of academic excellence.”
Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor in the Office of Campus Community Relations, introduced the award recipients and noted their “exemplary accomplishments that contribute in substantial ways to the development and well-being of our diverse and evolving community.”
The award recipients:
• Academic Senate — Lorena B. Oropeza, associate professor of history, recognized for her socially and politically engaged scholarship, community outreach and unique approach to undergraduate teaching, as well as her mentoring of graduate students. Among those students, many are the first in their families to obtain college degrees, let alone Ph.D.s., and several have said that without Oropeza’s guidance, they would not have remained in the program. “As a leading historian in the field of Chicano/Latino history, Dr. Oropeza is shaping its vibrancy through her mentoring work,” Reed said, also noting Oropeza’s instrumental role in the history department’s establishment of a doctorate in U.S. history with a specialization in Chicano/Latino history.
• Academic Federation — Koen Van Rompay of the California National Primate Research Center, whose research built the foundation for a number of antiviral drug strategies that are now widely used to prevent or treat HIV infection. He is the founder of Sahaya International, a nonprofit organization that helps underprivileged people in developing countries, in such areas as education, disability, women’s empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness, support and care. “This support not only saved the lives of many HIV-infected children in rural India but also significantly improved the life of entire communities by providing access to health, education and socioeconomic resources, that allowed the local people to build a better future for themselves and their communities.”
• Graduate Student — Marisella M. Rodriguez, who last year organized the Political Science Women’s Roundtable — a support network — to counteract a high rate of attrition among female grad students like herself in the department. The roundtable, comprising female faculty and graduate students, addresses the workplace environment that made the department less inclusive of female graduate students, particularly for those from traditionally underrepresented groups. Through her work with the Teaching Assistant Consultant Program, Rodriguez has assisted hundreds of grad students and postdocs in making their classrooms more inclusive for diverse student populations.
• Postdoctoral — Alberto Aguilera, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, recognized for his pivotal role in building bridges among nutrition, medical and social scientists to address obesity in Mexican-origin children in California’s Central Valley. At Clinica Tepati, the UC Davis Health clinic serving the Latino/Latina community, he serves as a nutrition educator for the Diabetes Interest Group, and assisted undergraduate students in developing a standard of care curriculum that is culturally and linguistically adapted for a predominantly Spanish-speaking audience. As a member and former president of the Latino/Latina Graduate Student Association, he has assisted with a mentoring program that pairs graduate students with undergraduates.
• Staff — Katherine J. Parpana, academic counselor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She has served the Asian Pacific Islander community since 2013, working with the Filipino community and other underrepresented Asian groups, including Hmong, and international students, too. “As a social justice advocate, Katherine is able to align with university initiatives as they relate to diversity, inclusion and retention,” Reed said. Parpana assisted in the creation and implementation of the professional development series “Developing Deeper Advising Relationships,” focused on student-centered holistic advising that embodies culturally sensitive, relevant and inclusive practices.
• Special Recognition — David A. Acosta, former associate vice chancellor, Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at UC Davis Health. He left the health system in December to become the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C. At UC Davis, he built an innovative pipeline program called Preparando Estudiantes Para Ser Medicos (Preparing Students to be Physicians), or Prep Medico for short. It provides scholarships, mentorship and internship opportunities, a residential program, intensive language training, volunteer service opportunities, and hands-on clinical experiences for pre-med and medical students — all meant to boost the number of Latino physicians working in Latino communities.
Department Recognition Awards
In this new category, three departments received awards for integrating diversity and inclusion into organizational and staff development. “These efforts are in support of the UC Davis Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, and it is our hope that the campus community will be inspired by these departments’ proactive measures in operationalizing our Principles of Community, and in striving toward a more diverse and inclusive UC Davis,” Reed said.
He said the initiative began with employees who had participated in the Office of Campus Community Relations’ annual Diversity Awareness Workshop. Upon completing the workshop, the employees worked with their department leaders and Campus Community Relations to organize a training series on topics including cross-cultural communication, generational differences, conflict management, implicit bias and living the Principles of Community. Over the last two years, the departments have required all employees to participate in training, which also supports each employee’s development as part of the EPAR process.
“Today, we recognize these departments, and especially the individuals within them who have led the efforts to champion diversity and inclusion education among their staff and colleagues.”
The honored departments and their personnel who took the initiative to get the training up and running:
• Accounting and Financial Services — Michael Allred, associate vice chancellor and controller; Jennifer Carmichael, manager, Distribution Services; and Rebecca Hartman, administrative assistant, Accounting Business Office
• Development and Alumni Relations — Shaun Keister, vice chancellor; Debra Coleman, business manager; and Kari Woodard, director of operations
• Shared Services Center — Sara Reed, executive director; and Megan Glide Villaseñor, assistant director, Customer Service and Strategic Initiatives