UC Davis held its 29th annual Soaring to New Heights last week, honoring staff and faculty who, as stated by Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Rahim Reed, “represent our highest aspirations, dreams and desires to leave this world better than we found it.”
They are the recipients of this year’s Diversity and Principles of Community Awards, Disability Awareness Awards, and the Calvin Handy Leadership Award.
“Through their service they have changed the campus and surrounding communities for the better,” said Reed, head of the Office of Campus Community Relations and interim lead of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
More than 700 people gathered in The Pavilion for Soaring to New Heights, organized by the Staff Diversity Administrative Advisory Committee, or SDAAC. The event comprised a resource fair, luncheon, entertainment and awards presentations.
Ken Burtis, faculty advisor to the chancellor and provost, gave the keynote address. “The entertainment and luncheon we are all enjoying, and the many cultures and backgrounds represented in this hall today, wonderfully convey the richness that a diversity of cultures and life experiences has brought to UC Davis.”
“We can proudly say that our entire campus now shares the aspirational goal of a fully inclusive UC Davis — one that envisions full access to opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds.”
This goal, he said, is a “shaping force” of the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Vision, and the Strategic Plan.
“Chancellor May, Provost Hexter and I, along with many other campus leaders and faculty, believe UC Davis can become one of the top five public universities in the country. This high stature is unthinkable without brilliant teaching and research; it is equally unthinkable if we do not lead the way in diversity and inclusion.”
Here are the honorees:
Diversity and Principles of Community Awards
●︎ Bernadette Abucayan, program coordinator, Retiree Center, Sacramento campus — Honored for her work with the School of Medicine’s volunteer-run food pantry, serving students in need; and UC Davis Health’s No One Dies Alone program, in which she extends her care and compassion to terminally ill patients.
●︎ Joshua Hori, accessible technology analyst, Student Disability Center — He is committed to providing tools and researching new technologies that can help disabled people in their studies and work. He has chaired the Disability Administrative Advisory Committee for three years. He received the Deanna Falge Award, named after a retiree who worked as an affirmative action compliance officer in recognition of her dedication to diversity and inclusion in the campus community.
●︎ A team award honored a partnership between the UC Davis Health Vice Chancellor’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council and Sacramento’s Gender Health Center, a community clinic focused on providing therapy and counseling for the gender variant community.
The council members: Edward Callahan, Annie Caruso, Chao-Yin Chen, Wetona Eidson-Ton, Shea Hazarian, Adrienne Lawson, Joleen Lonigan, Scott Macdonald, Megan Ober, Swati Rao, Nicola Smith, Paul David Terry and Hendry Ton.
The award also recognized Alex Filippelli, Ben Hudson and Keyko Torres of the Gender Health Center.
Under Dr. Rao’s direction, the Vice Chancellor’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council established a walk-in hormone clinic at the Gender Health Center. In the past year, 250 new patients began hormone treatment at the clinic, bringing the total number served to 1,000. These patients come from Sacramento and 25 other counties in Northern California, as well as from Nevada and Oregon.
Other achievements over the years: UC Davis Health’s Transgender Care Policy, Transgender Training, LGBTQ+ 101 Training, and the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity information to the electronic health records system (patients are invited to submit this information voluntarily).
In addition, the council leads UC Davis Health’s response to a 100-question national benchmarking tool that has resulted in UC Davis Medical Center’s designation as a Leader in LGBTQ Health Care Equality for eight years running.
Disability Awareness Awards
Five of this year’s individual awards went to supervisors for their responsiveness to employees’ needs for accommodations. Here are the honorees, with comments from nomination materials:
●︎ Heather Houston, clinical quality, data and outcomes, Heart and Vascular Services, UC Davis Health — “Heather is very diligent about looking for ways to problem-solve challenging accommodation issues, and she always demonstrates a positive, caring attitude with respect to “doing the right thing” when it comes to providing effective reasonable accommodations.”
●︎ Katica Got, circulation department, UC Davis Library — “Katica works closely with Disability Management Services to manage the interactive process and to make reasonable accommodation. Her persistence in following law and policy and to explore potential accommodation is remarkable. She has gone above and beyond the norm in partnering with Disability Management Services to accommodate her staff.”
●︎ Deidra “Dee” Madderra, chief administrative officer, Department of Plant Sciences — “What makes Dee such a great Disability Management Services partner is her willingness to reach out early and often when faced with issues that require the interactive process and reasonable accommodation. Dee has faced some very difficult and complex situations and is always guided by law, policy and heart.”
●︎ Caitlyn McCarthy, advising center manager, Yellow Cluster (Social Sciences) — “She has continually supported requests for accommodations in order to provide a safe and productive work environment for her staff … and has approved using departmental funding for various accommodations, including the Mobility Assistance Shuttle and Jump bikes for her staff to attend meetings and trainings.”
●︎ Rekha Sylvain, budget and financial analyst, Student Affairs Divisional Resources — “She is very thorough with contacting the appropriate parties and working through the interactive process and reasonable accommodation process. … She has had some challenging scenarios over the last year and has handled them, with the help of HR and campus partners, professionally and appropriately, all while showing kindness to her staff.”
Diversity Awareness Awards: Individual
●︎ Hamid Fonooni, specialist with Occupational Health Services, earned an individual award for being “a wonderful resource” to Financial Aid and Scholarships. “Whenever there is an ergonomic concern or issue, he is always happy to assist and make recommendations. He provides ergonomic evaluations for those who request it. He also suggests different tools and techniques to help staff with any ergonomic accommodation. Staff are consistently impressed by the level customer service and care that Hamid provides.”
●︎ Dana Morford, Centralized Services, UC Davis Health, received an individual award for her extensive work the last year on two important programs: the Centralized Leave of Absence Unit and the Transitional Return to Work pilot (allowing employees on temporary light-duty restriction to work in other departments while transitioning back to regular work duties). As a result of her commitment and stewardship, the program is continuing and has been a positive change for temporarily disabled employees at UC Davis Health.
Disability Awareness Awards: Team
●︎ The Transitional Return to Work pilot also figured in an award for three employees of the Comprehensive Cancer Center in recognition of their proactive support of the program. The honorees: Marcie Ellis, community health program supervisor; Silvia Molina, community education specialist; and Tammy Welden, analyst supervisor. “The Cancer Center team has provided huge relief for our long-term placements, including pregnancies and often hard-to-place staff. Disability Management Services can always count on anyone on their team for quick and helpful responses.”
●︎ Kristina Leach and Gerald Searles, supervisors at Distribution and Materiel Management, UC Davis Health, earned a team award for going above and beyond on disability management cases. “Kristina and Gerald have a way of managing the reasonable accommodation schedules to allow employees to work within their modifications while still being productive, and adding value to our daily responsibilities and requirements. Our modified-duty employees are able to work while recovering, so it is a win-win for all, the employee, our department and the health system.”
Calvin Handy Leadership Award
Named after and first given to campus Police Chief Emeritus Calvin E. Handy, who presented this year’s award to Clement Stokes, director of Emergency Management and Mission Continuity.
In his three years on the job, Stokes has strengthened the program through structural refinement, relationship building, gap analysis and incident coordination — all of which directly improves the resilience of the campus as a whole and the individual safety of our community members.
Stokes created UC Davis’ first Community Emergency Response Team, expanding the campus’s “on-the-ground” pool of available resources. He also created the Emergency Management group that brings together first-response leaders from UC Davis, the city of Davis and Yolo County on a quarterly basis to identify issues, strengthen coordination and plan for future events.