African Continuum’s Award Recipients Carry On Campus Legacies

Quick Summary

  • Dean and faculty honorees: Helene Dillard, Milmon Harrison
  • Staff and student honorees: Sheryl Blackshire, Drew Watson
  • Annual awards are named after other UC Davis luminaries

The UC Davis African Continuum presented its 2021 awards in a remote ceremony in May, honoring a dean and an associate professor, a staff member and a student: Helene Dillard, Milmon Harrison, Sheryl Blackshire and Drew Watson.

Lori Fuller, a regional assistant director in the Early Academic Outreach Program, described the continuum, of which she is a member, as a collective of staff, faculty, students and alumni committed and dedicated to the success of the African diaspora community through recruitment and retention efforts. “With more than 40 years of service to the UC Davis community, the legacy of the continuum includes many of UC Davis’ signature events and programs such as Black Fall Welcome, Black Family Week/Day, Linda Francis Alexander Scholars, Leslie Campbell Speaker Series, and more recently, the Black Convocation,” she said.

Fuller and Raynell Hamilton, director, Transitional and Enrichment Programs and Services, Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services, organized the celebration. It included a video put together by Hamilton, honoring the award recipients. Watch the video at the top of this page.

The continuum also honored the legacies of Michele Dyke and Walter A. Robinson, for whom two of the awards are named, and Tanya Whitlow, who died in May, “a champion of student success at UC Davis for more than 25 years.”

The awards

3 headshots
Award namesakes, from left: Michele Dyke, Ralph Aldredge and Walter A. Robinson.

Michele Dyke Humanitarian Award

Named in memory of a student-turned-staff member who devoted much time to developing and strengthening campus programs offering students the opportunity to succeed academically, become campus leaders and celebrate the rich African American history. Dyke, who graduated in 1986, worked in Undergraduate Admissions, Financial Aid and the Early Academic Outreach Program, where she served as director.

The continuum presented Michele Dyke Humanitarian Awards in staff and student categories:

Sheryl Blackshire headshot
Sheryl Blackshire

• Sheryl Blackshire, associate director, California recruitment, Undergraduate Admissions — She joined Undergraduate Admissions in September 2006 and has served in varying roles, including program coordinator for the Sacramento Area Transfer Initiative and manager of the Transfer Opportunity Program. She thoroughly enjoys advising prospective high school and community college students regarding admissions policies and educational opportunities at UC Davis. She also provides in-service trainings to counselors and community-based organizations through UC-wide efforts around the state.

Drew Watson headshot
Drew Watson

• Drew Watson, spring 2021 graduate (English major) who is headed to Stanford University in the fall — From Peace Corps ambassador to mentor in several programs, she compiled an extensive record of service as an undergraduate. She began her mentoring with the BRIDGE program (Student Recruitment and Retention Center), where she dedicated her efforts to the retention of Filipino students, and also worked with First-Year Aggie Connections and the Early Academic Outreach Program. “Drew has had a phenomenal academic career and made it her goal to bring as many others as possible along with her,” said Ken Barnes, assistant director, Internship and Career Center, and manager, Community Service Resource Center. “Through her leadership, she has made a solid and lasting impact at Davis, in the Sacramento area, in Southern California and around the world.”

Ralph Aldredge Faculty Excellence Award

Named after Professor Aldredge of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, whose academic career has been marked by significant and ongoing contributions to student success, diversity and inclusion. He is a staunch advocate for ensuring the success of students from all backgrounds — especially those who are first-generation or come from ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds that remain underrepresented among practicing engineers. The Aldredge award recognizes faculty members for their contributions to African Diaspora students and for commitment to the UC Davis campus. The 2021 recipient:

Milmon Harrison headshot
Milmon Harrison

• Milmon Harrison, associate professor, Department of African American and African Studies — Said Professor Emerita Halifu Osumare: “Milmon Harrison has always been a model of the Black studies paradigm that our scholarship must affect social change in our communities. There is no place where the Black community can be affected more than by our students themselves. Professor Harrison has always put students first, mentoring them in special projects outside the classroom, while guiding them to self-discovery and recovering Black contributions in their communities. Milmon has been a superlative role model as a caring AAS faculty member.”

Walter A. Robinson Community Champion Award

Named after the late Undergraduate Admissions and Enrollment Management leader who built a more diverse student body as enrollment climbed amid the 2020 Initiative. The award recipient:

Helene Dillard headshot
Helene Dillard

• Helene Dillard, dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — Said Karen Ross, secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture: “Helene lives and breathes education. ... This is a woman whose natural curiosity has drawn her to become a scientist, an educator, a researcher, an administrator, and an internationally sought-after contributor and advisor in each of these roles. ... Her efforts have also brought focus and clarity to diversity efforts at the College of Ag and Environmental Sciences, including creative and engaging work to address barriers to incoming students who are coming to college as first-generation, low-income and underserved learners.”

People wishing more information about the UC Davis African Continuum are invited to contact Lori Fuller.

Media Resources

Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

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