Honoring ‘Leaders and Change Agents’ for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Group of award recipients, posed, in a line
Vice Chancellor Renetta Garrison Tull, left, and Chancellor Gary S. May, right, pictured at the Chancellor’s Residence with the recipients of the 2022 Chancellor’s Achievement Awards for Diversity and Community, from left: Thu Pham, Orlando Carreón, Tiffany Johnson, Rebecca Litman and Alexandra Colón-Rodriguez. Not pictured: Maria Blanco, who was not present to receive her award.

Quick Summary

  • Chancellor’s achievement awards for 6 students, staff and faculty
  • “Making a real difference” in health care, science, law, education
  • Chancellor: The recipients exemplify the Principles of Community

UC Davis recently presented the 2022 Chancellor’s Achievement Awards for Diversity and Community, honoring an undergraduate student and a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, and three staff and faculty members.

Man at podium, speaking, with microphone in hand
Mikael Villalobos

“These are the leaders and change agents making a real difference in moving UC Davis toward a more diverse and inclusive campus community,” Mikael Villalobos, interim associate vice chancellor for campus community relations, said in his prepared remarks for the awards presentation May 3 at the Chancellor’s Residence.

Chancellor Gary S. May said in his prepared remarks: “These awards speak to me deeply on a personal and professional level as I’ve dedicated much of my career toward enhancing our diversity in higher education and in the workplace.

“The award winners we recognize today remind me of how much talent, tenacity and commitment to diversity we find all across UC Davis and our region.”

There is more work to be done, he said, adding this note of caution: “There remain opposing forces that constantly push against our efforts to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion in all we do.”

All the more reason to present the Chancellor’s Achievement Awards for Diversity and Community, to uplift and highlight those among us who, in the chancellor’s words, “do the great work of exemplifying our Principles of Community.”

He then turned the program over to Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who introduced each recipient by noting their achievements in building diversity and community. Those introductions are summarized below:

Three people, including undergraduate award recipient, posed, environmental
Undergraduate award recipient Thu Pham ’21, pictured with her guests at the awards reception: Ronald Jan, medical director of the student-run Paul Hom Asian Clinic where Pham works, and Thuy-Linh Tran, winter ’22, who also works at the clinic. “I have been working with them for a few years, and I could not have been able to do so many projects without them,” Pham said.

Undergraduate: Thu Pham ’21, Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, College of Biological Sciences — Pham has developed a strong passion for health care equity, the result of her work with the UC Davis student-run Paul Hom Asian Clinic, offering medical services to underserved and uninsured Asian populations; and an internship with the Vietnamese Cancer Awareness, Research and Education Society, or VN CARES. She helps low-income, uninsured and undocumented patients obtain free medications and medical devices used for chronic condition management, acquiring these critical resources through several major projects launched under Pham’s leadership — saving the underserved patients more than $500,000. Her  ultimate mission is to reduce health care disparities through drug development. To continue working toward that, she will attend UC San Francisco to pursue a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacogenomics, starting in September.

Rebecca Litman headshot
Rebecca Litman

Graduate Student: Rebecca “Becca” Litman of the Graduate School of Management, a health care communicator and project manager for Blue Shield of California, who is in her final year of study for an MBA with a concentration in strategy and organizational behavior — During the 2020-21 academic year, Litman served as the student representative on the GSM’s Faculty Committee on Diversity, where she prioritized projects that promote inclusion and encourage underrepresented minority, or URM, candidates to pursue their education at the GSM. She researched how to best expand the academic pipeline and spearheaded a creative proposal for deferred admission into the MBA program for UC Davis URM undergraduate seniors. And she was a leader in the GSM’s Action for Diversity initiative’s 21-Week Anti-Racism Challenge, which focused on understanding and rejecting anti-Black racism.

Alexandra Colón-Rodriguez headshot
Alexandra Colón-Rodriguez

Postdoctoral: Alexandra Colón-Rodriguez, a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior — Having experienced firsthand the limitations in research and neuroscience education in her native Puerto Rico, Colón-Rodriguez has taken the opportunity to raise awareness of the field, specifically among people like herself from historically marginalized populations. A mentor of more than 30 students in neuroscience research, she also developed the Northern California Society of Toxicology Mentoring Program and the Bridge to Neuroscience Workshop, the latter targeting the Hispanic population. She has conducted science outreach in grades K-12 and at the undergraduate level, by way of in-person and virtual workshops. And she founded the STEAM100X35 initiative, amplifying the work of Puerto Rican women in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and encouraging the next generation through outreach activities.

Maria Blanco headshot
Maria Blanco

Staff: Maria Blanco, director of the University of California’s Immigrant Legal Services Center, which operates out of the UC Davis School of Law — The center, the first of its kind in the nation, brings immigration services to nine UC campuses, including Davis, to ensure retention and graduation of first-generation students. With one foot in legal academia and the other in legal practice and policy, Blanco has been at the head of premier legal organizations striving for justice and constitutional protections for all. She was a lead lawyer in a seminal case that extended Title VII law (the federal prohibition on employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to undocumented workers in California. Thanks to Blanco’s leadership, hundreds of UC students and their family members have obtained legal immigration relief.

Four people in a line, posed, one holding certificate
Academic Federation award recipient Orlando Carreón and his father, Ruben D. Carreón, flanked by Vice Chancellor Tull and Chancellor May.

Academic Federation: Orlando Carreón, teacher educator in the School of Education — His interests include teaching and researching within a decolonial and social justice framework to disrupt how discourses of race, culture, ideology and power affect Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC, communities. Carreón has more than 15 years of experience as an educator and is currently dedicated to developing “Grow Your Own Teacher” programs whereby local communities can create pathways for students to become teachers. Within the School of Education’s credential program, he co-created and leads a mentorship program in which diversity, equity and inclusion cascade through the ranks of faculty and students who support one another as BIPOC and minorities. He has brought together faculty, student teachers and resident teachers to discuss causes and plans of action for equity and inclusion in the classroom, thus impacting a far larger audience than just faculty.

Tiffani Johnson headshot
Tiffani Johnson

Academic Senate: Tiffani Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine — She is exploring root causes of inequities in the health care and early childhood education settings, including research on racism and bias and its impact on the health and well-being of children. Johnson’s primary leadership roles are in national research and academic organizations where she has helped make diversity, equity and inclusion a strategic priority. This has included the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Addressing Bias and Discrimination, which helped lay the groundwork for the academy’s equity agenda. She has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to advancing equity among underrepresented and underserved communities through service, teaching, clinical care and research that seeks to dismantle structures of racism that impact the health of children and the success of students and trainees.

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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