2 Years’ Worth of ‘Soaring to New Heights’ in Diversity and More

Quick Summary

  • Virtual awards program makes up for last year’s cancellation
  • Champions of the Principles of Community among the honorees
  • Disability Awareness, Calvin Handy Leadership awards also given

UC Davis’ Soaring to New Heights program soared back to life May 26 after a one-year absence, bestowing two years’ worth of Diversity and Principles of Community Awards and Disability Awareness Awards, for 202 and 2021, and the Calvin E. Handy Leadership Award for 2021.


“This is one of our largest campus recognition events for staff,” Chancellor Gary S. May said during the virtual program. “You deserve it. You are the backbone of this institution” — a backbone that stood especially strong over the last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor “and too many others” — deaths that “urged us into action as we worked for racial and social justice.”

Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, started her keynote address with a question: “What does it mean to ‘soar to new heights?’

“Given all that we’ve been through in the past year, I know that for many, Soaring to New Heights means surviving a new normal,” she said. “The new normal may have been finding a place to work at home or being an essential worker and coming into your place of employment in the midst of a pandemic. In this, you soared.


Within the recording of the award presentations, below, you will also see three introductory videos and a musical performance on video:

Presenters: Lamia Hajani, chair of the Staff Diversity Administrative Advisory Committee, or SDAAC, 2020-21; Amy Parkhurst, SDAAC chair, 2019-20; Linda Plutino, SDAAC vice chair, 2020-21; and Fredna Karneges, director, Disability Management Services.


“Perhaps you’ve been balancing meetings while managing school for your children,” Tull said. “Or sharing Wi-Fi with family members, which made your internet even more unstable. Perhaps you’ve been managing family across generations or across miles. Or just doing a whole host of more.”

Chancellor May joined Vice Chancellor Tull in thanking the staff for persevering, for jumping in to help make improvements. “You not only endured, but you soared,” Tull said.

The chancellor added: “These times called for creativity, flexibility, commitment and resiliency. It’s these characteristics and more that our awardees have demonstrated through their service. Today, we gather to honor the contributions of staff whose commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion have exceeded the expectations of their positions.”

Diversity and Principles of Community Awards

Honoring individuals and teams who have demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering diversity and inclusiveness during the past year or more.

2 headshots
Joe Martinez, left, and Kyaw Tha Pau U.
Diversity and Principles of Community

Individual Awards 2020 and 2021

  • 2020: Leota E. Wilson (photo not available), assistant director, residential education office, Student Housing and Dining Services — She creates an inclusive environment for her colleagues, fostering a sense of community. In addition, she advocates for students of color and first-generation students by advancing awareness of issues they face in higher education and how to empower them to persist to graduation and thrive on campus.
  • 2021: Joe Martinez, student expression and campus activities coordinator, Center for Student Involvement — His commitment to diversity, inclusivity and advocacy is achieved through supporting and creating programs such as the California Student Leadership Conference and the Purpose of Power Book Club. He recently held conversations surrounding advocacy, police misconduct and the Black Lives Matter movement. helping build understanding around polarizing issues.
Diversity and Principles of Community

Faculty Citation 2020

  • Kyaw Tha Paw U, distinguished professor of atmospheric science and biometeorology, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources — Recognized as an outstanding teacher, researcher and champion of addressing diversity and inclusion in science. He prioritized mentorship and diversity during his two years as chair of the Graduate Council of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate. He also championed an annual progress report administered through Graduate Studies to promote equity among students — a project that was completed during his time as Graduate Council chair.
Diversity and Principles of Community

Team Awards 2020 and 2021

3 headshots
From left: Manuel E. Alvarez, Alexis Elston and Montré Everett.
3 headshots
From left: Kristen Mercado, Joseph Schneider and Karen M. Sewel.
  • 2020: Admission and Financial Aid Team, School of Law — Manuel Alvarez, assistant director of financial aid; Alexis Elston, diversity, equity and inclusion fellow; Montré Everett, director of financial aid; Ronnie Lewis (photo not available), assistant director of financial aid; Kristen Mercado, assistant dean of admission and financial aid; Joseph Schneider, director of admission and outreach; and Karen M. Sewell, admission operations coordinator. Honored for their work implementing multiple recruitment and yield initiatives that resulted in the most diverse entering class ever, in 2019.
2 headshots
Emily Meineke, left, and Rachel Vannette
  • 2021: Department of Entomology and Nematology’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Subcommittee — Emily Meineke, assistant professor of urban landscape entomology; and Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology. They are committed to bringing awareness, through curriculum, to the amazing work of historically excluded and underrepresented scientists in entomology and nematology. The faculty members aim to empower undergraduate and graduate students to mobilize justice and equity in their studies as a way of inviting systemic change in the field.
Diversity and Principles of Community

Deanna Falge Awards 2020 and 2021

For ongoing contributions (five years or more) toward the furthering of UC Davis affirmative action-equal opportunity and diversity objectives, named after a retired affirmative action compliance officer.

2 headshots
Alissa Magorian, left, and Mandy Rousseau.
  • 2020: Alissa Magorian, undergraduate advisor, Yellow Cluster Advising, College of Letters and Science — Recognized for her advocacy for underserved constituents, being a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion, and outstanding leadership through the Staff Diversity Administrative Advisory Committee, or SDAAC, the Chancellor’s Strategic Plan Steering Committee, the Lived Name and Gender Marker Tas Force, Umoja, First-Year Aggie Connections and Guardian Scholars
  • 2021: Mandy Rousseau, undergraduate advisor and graduate program coordinator, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences — Recognized for promoting diversity and equity through her work on the Anti-Racism Action Committee, creating more inclusive faculty mentoring practices and student club guidelines, and creating a diverse student pipeline in STEM through partnerships with regional community colleges.
Diversity and Principles of Community

Eleanor Fontes Fulton Awards 2020 and 2021

For career achievement in promoting diversity and inclusivity, named after the retired director of the Office for Diversity, Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity.

3 headshots
From left: Lisa Brodkey, Fredna Karneges and Rahim Reed.
  • 2020: Lisa Brodkey, director, faculty relations and development, Academic Affairs; and, formerly, director, Sexual Harassment, Education and Prevention Program, which later became the Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program, or HDAPP; and associate ombuds — Throughout her career at UC Davis, her campus roles and personal interests have focused on diversity and furthering equal opportunities for all. She was a member of the diversity train-the-trainer group throughout most of her UC Davis career, training staff members who, addition to their regular jobs, volunteer to co-facilitate staff development courses on a variety of important topics, including but not limited to: “Understanding Religious Differences in the Workplace” and “Disabilities and Accommodations.” “Her impact in each of her campus roles and within those units is long-lasting and certainly shaped how those units work and support our campus community.”
  • 2020: Fredna Karneges, director, Disability Management Services — Honored for increasing campus awareness of disability issues and creating equitable solutions throughout her career at UC Davis. Beginning in 1984, she has been a strong and influential voice for faculty and staff with disabilities or medical conditions that make working difficult. She has advocated for the disabled by obtaining increased staffing, higher visibility, and funding for programs and services designed to assist the disabled. “Because of Fredna’s advocacy and leadership, the university is well situated to recruit and retain world-class faculty and staff with disabilities and help the university meet and exceed its Affirmative Action and Diversity Goals.”
  • 2021: Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor, Office of Campus Community Relations, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — He started at UC Davis in September 2001, ensuring the university paid attention to academic and social issues affecting community, campus climate, diversity and inclusion. Under his leadership UC Davis expanded diversity education, and fostered greater equity and inclusion through campus programming that integrated the Principles of Community. He also worked to deepen the campus’s connection to community, forging relationships with community organizations and educational institutions to strengthen the K-12 pipeline for underrepresented and underserved students. Throughout his career, he has championed and supported faculty, staff and students through mentorship, serving as a keynote speaker for many campus and community engagements, and being a great cheerleader for their professional and personal accomplishments. “Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Reed is a true visionary change maker who embodies inclusive excellence.”  

Disability Awareness Awards

Honoring managers and supervisors on the Davis campus and at UC Davis Health who have demonstrated exemplary commitment and significant contributions and efforts in recruiting, hiring and retaining staff and faculty by providing effective reasonable accommodations. Recognition given jointly by Human Resources and Disability Management Services in collaboration with the Disability Issues Administrative Advisory Committee and the Office of Campus Community Relations.

Disability Awareness Awards

Davis campus 2020

3 headshots
From left: Rob Starkey, Jennifer Voight and Chris D. Adamson.
3 headshots
​ From left: Dave Johnson, Amber Ramos and Joy Hoover. ​
  • Rob Starkey, director, Academic and Staff Assistance Program — He has supported several staff members in his department in securing workplace accommodations, while also offering emotional support to the employees as they attend to their medical needs and maintain their employment.
  • Jennifer Voight, events manager, College of Biological Sciences — She goes above and beyond to provide accommodations for students, faculty and campus guests wishing to attend the college’s seminars and lectures, so that all can be actively involved in these educational programs.
  • Chris D. Adamson, senior architect, Design and Construction Management — He leads internal accessibility reviews, developing design solutions when needed. He is an aggressive advocate for the resolution of accessibility issues and the removal of physical barriers, making a significant difference on campus.
  • Team: Dave Johnson, human resources director, Student Affairs, and Amber Ramos, HR assistant, Student Health and Counseling Services — They are approachable, open to addressing barriers at the workplace, and often think of possible accommodations and solutions even prior to consulting with Disability Management Services.
  • Team: Joy Hoover, hospital administrator, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital; and David Lish (photo not available), human resources manager, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital — They have been proactive in their efforts to provide reasonable accommodations to hospital employees, recognizing the value of retaining long-term, knowledgeable staff
Disability Awareness Awards

UC Davis Health 2020

2 headshots
Kimberly Bleichner-Jones and Arnaldo Silva
  • Janette Manuel (photo not available), benefits analyst — She has helped countless employees with disabilities navigate complex benefit options and solve problems that inevitably occur when working with multiple systems. She always drops everything to take referrals from DMS and does all of her work with heart, compassion and drive to help others.
  • Ann Kelly-Messineo (photo not available), clinical nurse, Perioperative Services — For many years, she has been the face of information and answers for employees in her area who find themselves dealing with disabilities. She continues to be a priceless resource for those in need, helping many employees continue to work.
  • Kimberly Bleichner-Jones, executive director, hospital administration — She has been pivotal in the development of the Transitional Return to Work program (she is the executive sponsor of the pilot in Patient Care Services), whereby employees who are restricted from certain duties, due to temporary disabilities, can be assigned elsewhere to do other important work.
  • Team: Dianna Maynard (photo not available), supervisor, Adult Echocardiography Laboratory; and Arnaldo J. Silva, cardiovascular services manager, Heart and Vascular Services — They have worked closely and collaboratively with Disability Management Services for the past couple of years, consistently checking in about how an employee could be helped and being successful with their accommodation efforts.
Disability Awareness Awards

Davis campus 2021

4 headshots
From left: Nora Orozco, Alfred Chan, John Angelos and John R. Pascoe.
  • Team: Nora Orozco, chief administrative officer, and Alfred Chan, IT manager, Phoenix Cluster (departments of Entomology and Nematology, and Plant Pathology) — Orozco and Chan have been thoughtful collaborators with Disability Management Services over the years. They are truly caring managers, providing accommodations to help their employees be successful and remain employed.
  • Team: John Angelos, professor and chair, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine; and John R. Pascoe, executive associate dean and professor of surgery, Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine — They have been instrumental in ensuring valued faculty who provide great service to the university are retained in employment so that the university can continue to benefit from their wealth of experience and knowledge.
Disability Awareness Awards

UC Davis Health 2021

4 headshots
From left: Dorothea Fowler, Wanda L. Pratt, Pawan Gautam and Jonalyn Dela Cruz.
  • Dorothea Fowler, nurse manager, Orthopaedic-Trauma Unit — In assisting employees through the disability management process, she engages with available DMS resources to ask questions and identify resolutions, providing both long-term and short-term support with the ability to remain flexible depending on employees’ changing needs.
  • Wanda L. Pratt, licensed clinical social worker, supervisor II, Department of Clinical Social Services — An employee she is supporting through the disability management process has gradually increased their hours and remained a contributing employee. “Great example of a successful disability management accommodation and supporting the needs of the employee and the organization.”
  • Pawan Gautam, revenue cycle manager, Patient Billing Customer Service — He maintains excellent communication and consults with DMS for guidance when providing accommodations to employees that include assistive technology, ergonomic equipment and work schedule modifications. He thinks outside the box when assisting employees with disabilities.
  • Jonalyn Dela Cruz, clinic supervisor, Department of Otolaryngology — Recognized for being open to exploring accommodation options for her staff members with temporary limitations. She welcomed innovative possibilities, engaged in open dialogue with DMS and suggested accommodations that enabled her staff to successfully complete their essential job functions.

Calvin E. Handy Leadership Award

This award is named after the police chief emeritus who received the first such award in 2005. It recognizes individual community members, groups or organizations that, through leadership actions, make significant contributions in the area of public safety and security to the campus, medical center and-or surrounding community.

Ian Brown headshot
Ian Brown

2021: Ian Brown, assistant professor of surgery, UC Davis Health — He instituted a trauma wraparound program, a free service for UC Davis Health patients from 13 to 26 years old who were injured by violence. The program extends care of violently injured youth and young adults beyond the hospital to support long-term healing and recovery while also helping patients find hope and purpose. UC Davis Health’s nationally certified Violence Intervention Specialists, or VIS, offer relationship-based mentoring, referrals to culturally-affirming mental health services, and intensive, individualized case management to support physical, mental and emotional recovery.

Media Resources

Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556, dateline@ucdavis.edu; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932, kitaura@ucdavis.edu.

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