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‘Cultivating an Atmosphere of Inclusiveness’ Chancellor Presents Diversity and Community Awards

By Dateline Staff on February 16, 2018 in University

“At UC Davis, we acknowledge and honor exemplary faculty, staff, students and community members who help to cultivate an atmosphere of inclusiveness. They speak to the heart of what makes our campus and region a great place to work, teach, learn, play and live.”

This is part of what Gary S. May had to say Feb. 6 in presenting the 2018 Chancellor’s Achievement Awards for Diversity and Community to eight individuals — in the categories of Academic Senate, Academic Federation, undergraduate, graduate student, postdoctoral, staff, special recognition and community — and three departments.

The awards ceremony took place in the early evening at the Chancellor’s Residence. “This event is a perfect way to cap my workday,” May said. “The spirit of these awards speaks to me deeply on a personal and professional level” — as a college student who remembers well the feeling of being the only person of color in the lecture halls and laboratories, and as an engineering professor and dean working hard to change that, especially for students from ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the STEM fields.

“UC Davis’ strong commitment to diversity is one of the key reasons I wanted to come here,” May said. “I wanted to be part of a community that deliberately recruits, retains, embraces and celebrates people with backgrounds, gender identities and skill sets that are underrepresented in higher education. I wanted to be part of a community that honors the promoters of socio-economic mobility who we are celebrating today.”

Here are the 2018 award recipients, with comments about them condensed from nomination forms and remarks from the awards ceremony, delivered by Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor, Office of Campus Community Relations. You can read more about the awardees here.

Individual award recipients

Academic Senate: Natalia Deeb-Sossa

Natalia Deeb-Sossa mugshotAssociate professor of Chicano/a studies, recognized for her socially and politically engaged scholarship, community outreach and contributions to marginalized communities. For example, she founded the Knights Landing Bridge Program, now known as the UC Davis Chicana/o Bridge Program to reflect that UC Davis students provide “bridge” tutoring not only in Knights Landing but in other rural communities, as well. “As a professor, she is highly regarded by her students who often highlight her willingness to support them beyond traditional teaching duties.”

Academic Federation: Jorge Garcia

Jorge Garcia mugshotClinical professor of internal medicine; and interim associate director, Office of Student and Resident Diversity. “His efforts have helped to ensure that UC Davis welcomes diversity with open arms. ... Although he is an accomplished physician he has never forgotten the awkwardness and isolation he felt in embarking on a career in medicine, and then in academic medicine. This is why Dr. Garcia relishes his position as a role model and inspirational coach for underrepresented students in medicine.”

Undergraduate: Samantha Chiang

Samantha Chiang mugshotShe is a fourth-year, English major and Asian American studies minor, and a former ASUCD senator (2016-17). “Her passion for assisting marginalized and underrepresented communities is a reflection of her deep desire to create a more equitable and inclusive campus environment.” She is the founding director of the UC Davis Mental Health Initiative, which runs the annual mental health conference and awareness month, and has also worked in the areas of disability rights and cultural competency training. She worked with Student Health and Counseling Services to create translated insurance documents in Mandarin and Spanish.

Graduate Student: Hung Doan

Hung Doan mugshotThis plant pathology student believes that service is at the heart of scholarship. He mentors undergraduates from underrepresented groups, and he works to alleviate food insecurity within the UC Davis student community (especially among underrepresented students) and in the surrounding community. Since 2011, he has worked as coordinator and head cook for the student-run soup kitchen HELP, which stands for Help and Education Leading to the Prevention of Poverty.

Postdoctoral: Lauren Libero

Lauren Libero mugshotShe studies at the MIND Institute, where she is the volunteer co-leader of a social skills program for autistic adults and family members, and a support group leader. One of those groups, for family members of people on the autism spectrum, was on the verge of shutting down, due to a staff retirement, until Ribero advocated to keep it going with her as the lead staff member. She started a support group for women on the autism spectrum, and mentors children and young adults in theater and improvisation to enhance their communication skills.

Staff Award: Lina Mendez

Lina Mendez mugshotAssociate director, Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success. “Through her research as well as her lived experiences and journey in support of the Chicanx and Latinx student communities, she has focused on channeling their potential in the pursuit of educational excellence, while also working to shape the institutions that serve them” — including the Center for Educational Effectiveness (as a graduate student) and the UC Davis Health Center for Reducing Health Disparities (as a post-doc).

Special Recognition: Barbara Ashby

Barbara Ashby mugshotThe manager of WorkLife and Wellness has devoted her career to program and policy development in support of women, children and families. She secured grants and other funding to assist student parents with child care expenses, and established three child care facilities serving more than 300 children. She founded the Breastfeeding Support Program, and she also was instrumental in workplace flexibility policy. More recently she collaborated with the Women’s Resources and Research Center to establish the Caregiver Support Group and Education Program.

Community Achievement: Cassandra Jennings

Cassandra Jennings mugshotPresident and chief executive officer, Greater Sacramento Urban League, who formerly worked in Sacramento city government and at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, including six years as deputy executive director. In her three years in the Urban League’s top leadership post, she has assisted UC Davis’ outreach efforts in underserved communities in Sacramento through Sacramento Area Youth Speaks, or SAYS, a UC Davis-run program that is now co-located at Urban League headquarters in Del Paso Heights.

Honorary awards

The campus introduced this category last year to recognize departments and divisions for taking the initiative to include training in diversity and inclusion as part of 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 organizations’ proactive measures in operationalizing our Principles of Community, and in striving towards a more diverse and inclusive UC Davis,” Reed said.

The newest honorees:

UC Davis Health Information Management Division, group photo
UC Davis Health Information Technology Division award recipients: From left, Stefan Toma, project manager, information technology (IT) departmental services group; Katie Holland, associate business partner, IT human resources (Holland recently joined UC Davis Health human resources, as a manager); Myrene Abot, supervisor, IT human resources; Richard Falcon, supervisor, IT client engineering; Charron Andrus, technical project manager, IT enterprise applications; and Daniel Marenco, supervisor, IT interface operations. Not pictured: John Cook, interim chief information officer.

UC Davis Health Information Technology Division — It has worked with UC Davis Health’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion the last two years to offer diversity and inclusion training to 70 IT supervisors. Management training includes “The Impact of Unconscious Bias on Workplace Teams” and “Understanding Generational Differences” to help improve communication, teamwork and employee engagement. Individual teams are encouraged to arrange their own trainings, say, with speakers from the Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program, or HDAPP. The Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will host four Diversity and Inclusion Dialogues for the IT division to assist in building a culture of lifelong learning in diversity and inclusion.

Editor's note about the photo caption and award summary above: As originally published, we gave the incorrect title of the unit being honored. It is the UC Davis Health Information Technology Division, as corrected above. We apologize for the error.

Eloy Gutierrez-CCC mugshot

School of Medicine Postbaccalaureate ProgramThis is a one-year program designed to help educationally and/or socio-economically disadvantaged students become more competitive applicants to medical school. The program partners with the Office of Campus Community Relations for sessions on unpacking oppression, microaggressions and stereotype threat, and weaves these topics into conversations about understanding diversity, and to further develop students’ critical thinking skills. The Postbaccalaureate Program participates in the Campus Community Book Project to further inform students’ understanding of equity issues and how they translate to the health care fields. Elio A. Gutierrez, program coordinator, accepted the award, which also recognized Jose A. Morfin of the Department of Nephrology.

Student Housing and Dining Services, group photo
Student Housing and Dining Services: From left, Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor, Office of Campus Community Relations; Corey Pope, assistant director; Catrina Wagner, associate director; Duane Lindsay, executive project analyst; Connie Quintero, training coordinator; Emily Galindo, associate vice chancellor, auxiliary services; and Gary S. May, chancellor.

Student Housing and Dining ServicesAll leads and managers undergo professional development training on “Understanding Diversity,” “Anti-Bullying,” Cross-Cultural Communication” and “Conflict Management,” all meant to encourage staff to live and practice the Principles of Community at work, among colleagues, and with the campus community members they serve. Student Housing and Dining Services also ensures that their student staff, especially those who work in advising capacities, are exposed to the Campus Community Book Project, integrating the chosen book as part of student staff training.

Photos by Linda Mijangos/Office of Campus Community Relations

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or