LAURELS: UC Davis Named ‘Veterans Employer of the Year’

Students tie yellow ribbons to trees on the Quad.
UC Davis marks Veterans Day every year with yellow ribbons on the Quad. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Jodi Nunnari: President-elect of American Society for Cell Biology
  • Foundation Plant Services’ Maher Al Rwahnih wins research award
  • Professor Ed DePeters earns national award in academic advising
  • Kevin Johnson elected a fellow of the American Bar Foundation
  • Breastfeeding Support Program recognized again for its ‘Care’

The California Employer Advisory Council has honored UC Davis as a Veterans Employer of the Year, recognizing the university’s specialized outreach and other efforts to hire and promote veterans.

Elaine Nakata, employment outreach specialist for Human Resources, accepted the award earlier this month at the Veterans Employer of the Year Awards Ceremony in Temecula. She’s based at the UC Davis Health System, but works on behalf of all of UC Davis.

The California Employer Advisory Council collaborates with the state Employment Development Department in presenting Veterans Employer of the Year Awards in three categories: large business, small business and government-public sector. This year, UC Davis was the only organization in Northern California to be recognized in the government-public sector category.

Nakata and others work with people like Michael Goirl, who moved from the Air Force to a job on the Patient Care Services Lift Team at the UC Davis Medical Center. “Elaine Nakata and the veterans outreach program provided me with one-on-one support needed to seamlessly transition from serving overseas to working at UC Davis Medical Center,” Goirl said.

He said the veterans outreach program helped him navigate the application process, from résumé writing through interview preparation. “The support they’ve provided me has been an amazing life-changing experience that I am extremely thankful for,” he said.

Nakata is credited with building strong partnerships with the Employment Development Department, allowing her and her team to assist veterans with resumes, career fairs and interviews.

The Sacramento EDD’s Ryan Perez, who nominated UC Davis, said the university has established itself as “a pillar in the community for veterans/disabled veterans programs, and has set the standard in Sacramento for supporting veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

UC Davis also is recognized for its support of National Guard and reserve personnel. While in Temecula, Nakata picked up an award from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, part of the Department of Defense, honoring UC Davis for outstanding performance and continuing support to the national defense.


The American Society for Cell Biology has elected Jodi Nunnari, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, to serve as the society’s president in 2018. She will serve as president-elect on the executive committee in 2017.


 Maher Al Rwahnih
Al Rwahnih

Maher Al Rwahnih, a project scientist with Foundation Plant Services, is the recipient of the American Phytopathological Society’s 2016 Lee M. Hutchins Award, recognizing published research on the diseases of perennial fruit plants.

Al Rwahnih’s research focuses on fruit tree, nut tree and grapevine viral diseases. He implemented next generation sequencing, or NGS, as a diagnostic tool for the entire cohort of viruses infecting individual grapevines. This technique requires relatively little time and expense to produce a comprehensive list of all pathogens present in infected vines. He was the lead author of the first publication to describe the application of NGS analysis to the complete virome of an infected grapevine.


There is a national star among us in academic advising: Ed DePeters, professor of animal science, chosen to receive an Outstanding Advising Award from the National Academic Advising Association, or NACADA. His award in the faculty advising category is due to be presented at NACADA’s annual conference in October.

 Ed DePeters

He is “a deserving recipient,” said UC Davis’ Brett McFarlane, director of Academic Advising, Undergraduate Education, who described the award as “the highest national honor in advising, recognizing significant contributions to improving academic advising on individual and institutional levels.”

DePeters has served as the master advisor for the Department of Animal Science since 2007, providing oversight of the advising function for more than 1,000 undergraduates and managing the advising for two associated majors in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. 

In a message to the university’s advising community, McFarlane said DePeters shows “a profound commitment” to students in the guiding principles that he follows as an advisor: He makes time, he listens, he’s honest (and encouraging at the same time) and he cares. Students, in turn, know him as “approachable, enthusiastic, funny and gifted.”

McFarlane said DePeters' dedication extends to his efforts to boost participation in education abroad, to foster an increase in internship and research opportunities, and to support transfer students. Further, he leads by example, encouraging his fellow faculty members in their advising.

“Congratulations to Dr. Ed DePeters for his exceptional contributions to the UC Davis advising community,” McFarlane said.


The Maize Genetics and Genomics Database recently presented its 2016 Mid-Career Maize Genetics Research Award to Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, professor of plant sciences. The award recognizes individuals who have led a research group for five to 15 years, and have an outstanding track record of discovery research in maize (or related species) genetics.

Ross-Ibarra has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of population genetics and domestication, improvement and local adaptation in maize. He has produced more than 40 publications since 2009, and is the recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2009) and DuPont Young Professor Award (2012).


Dean Kevin R. Johnson of the School of Law has been elected to the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, an honor that reflects “extraordinary leadership in the profession, service to society and commitment to the ideals of the American Bar Association.”

The foundation is an honorary organization of attorneys, judges, law faculty and legal scholars whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and to the highest principles of the legal profession. Membership is limited to 1 percent of lawyers licensed to practice in each jurisdiction.

Johnson is the Dean and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies. He is an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of immigration law and policy, refugee law and civil rights.


UC Davis’ Breastfeeding Support Program recently received its second consecutive Care Award for services provided to the Davis campus community.

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and the International Lactation Consultant Association started giving their Community-Based Care Awards two years ago, to recognize programs, services and activities that best promote, protect and support breastfeeding within individual communities.

The awards are given every two years: UC Davis received one of the first community-based awards in 2014 and now has another one. It recognizes four new projects:

  • Professional collaboration with two of the vendor-operated child care centers on the Davis campus. Goals are to provide regular, parent education and related teacher training on how to best promote and support each center’s “standards of practice” regarding the continuation of breastfeeding when mothers return to work or school.
  • An increase in the number of support groups and foundational breastfeeding classes to provide parity and equitable access to the Davis and Sacramento campuses and all UC Davis affiliates.
  • Increased collaboration between the Davis and Sacramento campuses to provide one broad, comprehensive program for the entire UC Davis community.
  • A chapter in Breastfeeding Best Practices in Higher Education, published in 2014, serving as a reference for other educational and business institutions, with the goal of meeting national public policy initiatives.

The Breastfeeding Support Program serves the Davis and Sacramento campuses. While the Davis campus has two Community-Based Care Awards, the Sacramento campus has two Hospital-Based Care Awards from the same organizations, given in 2013 and 2015.

The program provides university affiliates and their partners with lactation consultations, support group meetings, breastfeeding and infant nutrition classes, and the use of hospital-grade breast pumps at nearly 40 lactation sites on the Davis campus and 11 on the Sacramento campus.

The program is run through WorkLife and Wellness, a unit of Human Resources, and is sponsored by the Foods for Health Institute and the Women’s Resources and Research Center.


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