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Honoring the people who brought us to new heights

By Dave Jones on July 7, 2014 in University News

UC Davis soars in many ways:

• In diversity and the Principles of Community.

• In electronic accessibility, and understanding its relationship to diversity.

• In inclusion, by fostering an environment where, for example, a blind student can excel in chemistry.

• In the recruitment, hiring and retention of employees with disabilities.

• In leadership in the campus community and the surrounding community, as exemplified by Police Chief Emeritus Calvin E. Handy.

• And in how we address people by their preferred names.

Each year, at the Soaring to New Heights celebration, we honor faculty and staff from the Davis and Sacramento campuses, and our friends in the wider community, for their soaring achievements.

Soaring to New Heights is a midday event, with entertainment and an international buffet. This year’s celebration, the 24th annual, was held May 15 in Freeborn Hall.

Diversity and Principles of Community Achievement Recognition Awards

With his retirement near, after 34 years with UC, Rick Hill received the Eleanor Fontes-Fulton Award for career achievement in promoting diversity and inclusivity, named after the retired director of the Office for Diversity, Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity.

“Rick Hill had the vision to understand the relationship between electronic accessibility and diversity long before it was popular or mandated,” his award proclamation reads.

Hill is retiring from Strategic Communications, where he is the administrator for the campus’s Web content management system.

“Through his work on CMS, Rick has changed the way that Web pages are created/updated for hundreds of UC Davis sites. The result has been a significant improvement in our campus websites. The accessible CMS templates created by Rick and made available to the campus community have served as models for other UC campuses.”

Nan Senzaki, a psychologist with Student Health and Counseling Services, received the Deanna Falge Award — named after a retired affirmative action compliance officer — for ongoing contributions (five years or more) toward the furthering of UC Davis affirmative action-equal opportunity and diversity objectives.

Besides her work with Counseling and Psychological Services, she has contributed to Student Judicial Affairs and the Student Crisis Response Team, as well as systemwide committees on diversity. She met with representatives from the UC Office of the President to help UCOP and UC Davis understand the issues that confront students of color.

“Moreover, she has been a great support to all underrepresented students, especially Asian and Pacific Island students and staff.

“Her work exemplifies the importance of broadening one’s perspective, gaining an appreciation for differences, opening the door for opportunities for all students, and taking action to build a more inclusive campus community.”

Other individual awards went to:

• Katherine Gardner, physician, who while serving as chief resident of family medicine took on the duties of volunteer medical director for the transgender hormnone clinic, and continues in that role today even while working full time in the UC Davis Medical Group.

• Mercedes Piedra-Sullivan, outreach and recruitment coordinator, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing — excellence in part by enhancing its diversity — Mercedes coordinates the School of Nursing’s Memoranda of Understanding, which links the school to yearlong and now several yearlong relationships with such highly regarding community organizations, such as Sacramento Food and Family Services, Mutual Housing (Sacramento), Yolo Hospice, First Five, Amador County, and the Center for Community Health and Well-Being.

Dean Tantillo, professor of chemistry — He received a faculty citation for going above and beyond to foster diversity and inclusion in the classroom as well as in the UC Davis community.

He has mentored many students — able and differently abled. The latter category includes a blind undergraduate who had a passion for chemistry but did not think he could ever pursue the field in graduate school (he’s now a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Tantillo’s group), and, for the last 18 months, a deaf student who is being assisted by Tantillo and graduate students.

In addition, Tantillo mentored two Ph.D. candidates of Latin ethnicity — one that is underrepresented in the sciences — to the successful completion of their degrees.

“Professor Tantillo not only fosters diversity and inclusion at UC Davis, he exemplifies the Principles of Community by building inclusive environments in the larger community so all students can reach their full potential.”

A team award was given to the employees and administrators who devised and shepherded the Preferred Name Service, which launched in March. See Dateline story.

The service provides for preferred names on ID cards, class rosters, grade reports and library interactions — an option that benefits, for example, students who choose names to reflect their gender identities, and international students who may choose different names for convenience and as part of their acculturation to UC Davis.

In collaboration with the campus Police Department, the policy also instructs officers to interact with people using their preferred names and with respect for gender self-identity and expression. 

The award recipients: Alex Alfieri, Sheri Atkinson, Matt Carmichael, Ali Marie Cordone, Brad Harding, Amy Kautzman, Elias Lopez, Barbara Noble, Blaise Redder, Derek Sisneros, Dale Snapp, Molly Theodossy and Mikael Villalobos.

Disability Awareness Awards

Recognizing supervisors and managers for their response to disability issues in the workplace. Fredna Karneges, manager of Disability Management Services, made the presentations:

• Carlos Garcia, chief administrative officer, Hart Interdisciplinary Programs — “He always responds quickly and appropriately to resolve disability issues in the workplace and ensures every detail is taken care of. His compassion and caring sense of humor embodies the Principles of Community and he is a pleasure to work with and to partner with on these sometimes complex issues.”

• Bridget Levich, nurse administrator, Chronic Disease Management, UC Davis Health System — She “understands and benefits from the talents of our employees with disabilities. Bridget has been able to assist nurses who would have assumed — due to limitations realized by illness or injury — that they could no longer work in their chosen occupation.”

• Donna Olsson, executive assistant to the dean, College of Biological Sciences — “She has consistently figured out innovative and creative solutions and is thoughtful in her approach. She has gone well above and beyond in her efforts to ensure equal access to employment and is genuinely committed to doing what is best for the university and for her employees.”

Darlene Riel, animal resource manager, Gourley Clinical Teaching Facility (for all teaching with live animals in the School of Veterinary Medicine) — “The very nature of the work at the Gourley center makes it challenging to provide accommodations. Darlene truly understands the need for accommodation and recognizes the creative solutions available to assist employees in returning or remaining at work.”

Remedios Sarabia, principal supervisor (night), Custodial Services — “He never hesitates to collaborate with Disability Management Services on return-to-work issues, and he has taken the time to learn and understand the interactive process, how to obtain and understand medical information, carefully reviews medical functional limitations and restrictions, and implements temporary and permanent accommodations for both work related and nonindustrial injuries and medical conditions.”

• A team award for disability awareness went to Danny Vorasaph, manager, and Tim Phillips, administrative supervisor, Environmental Services — Honored for their collaborative effort in working proactively with Vocational Rehabilitation Services at the health system.

“If an employee is able to come to work, Vorasaph is able to find some work for them. … He strives to identify the aspects of the employee’s job that are unaffected by disability which then allows him to focus on how to modify those aspects which are impacted.”

Phillips has been instrumental in reducing absences created by injury and illness, as well as reframing how many of the tasks are to be addressed by those employees in need of an accommodation.

Calvin E. Handy Leadership Awards

The award is named after the police chief emeritus, who in 2005 received the first such award. 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.

This year Handy announced two awards, both to UC Davis alumni:

• Jeff Reisig ’91, Yolo County district attorney, “who embodies the true spirit of community and has been a champion  for victims rights both at UC Davis and in the greater Yolo County area where many UC Davis community members reside.”

• Sandy Holman ’87, director of the Davis-based Culture C.O.-O.P. (it stands for caring, optimistic, open-minded people. “Sandy has earned significant recognition as an accomplished and dedicated leader whose tireless work on diversity and cultural education is an asset for the city of Davis and our regional communities,” Handy said.

Soaring appreciation

Planning committee: Adi Damaina, Kristina Do-Vu, Vickie Gomez, Seema Mani, Rachel Messer, Erin Peltzman, Mary Ellen Rivera, Rita Suriyani and Jennifer Wade

Awards chair: Jennie Konsella-Norene

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,