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Pacific honors 2019 Champions of Diversity

Jan 7, 2020

University of the Pacific recognized nine students, faculty, and staff throughout 2019 for their support and commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion efforts at Pacific. The Champions of Diversity Award, established in 2017, recognizes university community members who have gone above and beyond to support diversity and inclusion at Pacific. Our commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion is also reflected in Pacific’s values.

Each year, the University Diversity Committee, which includes representatives from each campus, reviews nominations from the university community and selects recipients based on the strength of their nominations and the scope of their work. The 2019 awards were presented at various ceremonies across the three campuses. 

Sacramento Campus

Molly Stafford, assistant dean of career development and external relations at McGeorge School of Law, was recognized in November 2019, and law students  Andrew BlanAnna Lisa Thomas and  Crystal Viruet were honored in spring 2019 during ceremonies on the Sacramento Campus.

Molly Stafford consistently provides creative ideas for programming to reach all students. Her social justice background is evident in the work she does to support first-generation students, LGBTQ+ students, students of color and all students who may feel isolated or need support at McGeorge. Stafford continuously volunteers to help with diversity programming and encourages others to participate. She also was one of the first staff members to volunteer regular hours at the Center for Inclusion and Diversity and to host multiple programs there. Stafford is a skilled advocate, articulate and thoughtful, which makes her very effective when she is championing issues of diversity and inclusion. 

Andrew Blan ’19 was president of the Student Bar Association and pushed for a focus on diversity issues on the Sacramento Campus, including advocating for the creation of the Center for Inclusion and Diversity. Blan is kind, generous and thoughtful, and consistently provided support for diversity-related events, from Discover Law (providing advice and tours for underrepresented junior and high school students) to serving on panels discussing the importance of diversity in law schools. Blan is well respected, thoughtful and diligent.

Anna Lisa Thomas ’19 inspired an overall sense of belonging that led to a welcoming campus environment. She was impactful, dedicated, professional and compassionate in dealing with all people across the Sacramento Campus. Thomas promoted university core values through her character, collaboration, respect and service. Her tireless effort to make the Center for Diversity and Inclusion a place of tolerance, acceptance and respite for all campus members has been profound.

Crystal Viruet ’19 graduated as a first-generation Latina from the Central Valley who exemplified the values of the Pacific community. As a certified law student at the McGeorge Elder Health and Law Clinic, Viruet successfully represented elderly clients in various complex legal matters, including restraining orders involving severe elder abuse. Additionally, she served as a Spanish translator and interpreter for the McGeorge Immigration Clinic. Viruet also was instrumental in planning Diversity Week 2019 at McGeorge. Through her leadership as a diversity chair for the Latinx Law Student Association, she successfully planned several unique and well-attended events, such as "Managing Secondary Trauma" and a discussion on navigating law school geared toward other first-generation law students. Her commitment to her fellow students and the larger community made her a true champion of diversity and inclusion.  

San Francisco Campus

Melissa Yamanaka was presented her award in December 2019. 
Emilio Tapia (center left) and Dr. Mark Booth (center right) were both awarded a Champion of Diversity and Inclusion Award during spring 2019.

Mark Booth, associate professor at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, and dental student  Emilio Tapia were recognized during a ceremony during spring 2019. Academic Affairs Coordinator  Melissa Yamanaka was honored in December 2019. 

Mark Booth takes the time to understand others and goes above and beyond to make people feel included. In addition to his position as a group practice leader, he is a counselor and a parental figure to his students, helping them with the growing pains that occur with life. Booth does his best to make their time at Dugoni easy for students so they can focus on learning. He has won numerous teaching awards, including the Associated Student Body Award for teaching excellence, Dr. Mark Hagge Faculty Endowment and Lucien Szmyd Memorial Awards. 

Emilio Tapia ’19 demonstrated his passion and commitment to diversity and inclusion since his first year through his participation in El Dentista, the Spanish-language club, and lunch and learn presentation of his personal story during Hispanic Heritage Month. As a second-year student, Tapia was instrumental in coordinating and executing “Building Bridges,” a pre-dental event in partnership with University of California San Francisco, specifically for underserved and underrepresented communities. Tapia also ran the pre-clinical program and shared his experience with attendees from throughout the U.S, and was instrumental in establishing Dugoni’s first dental mission trips to Mexico and Guatemala.

Melissa Yamanaka has made a positive impact across many areas since starting at Dugoni, placing humanism and kindness at the center of her work and interactions with others. Her passion for creating inclusive educational experiences is evident from her support of community health programs such as the Student Community Outreach for Public Education and enthusiasm for enhancing the student experience. Yamanaka is a key member of the Dugoni Diversity and Inclusion Committee, developing and coordinating diversity-related programming for the San Francisco Campus. She most recently helped organize a panel of international dental students as part of International Education Week activities held in November.

Stockton Campus

Ronda Marr, director of procurement services, and  Annette Martinez, associate director of athletic training, were celebrated during the Fall Employee Celebration on the Stockton Campus.

Interim President Maria Pallavicini and Ronda Marr at the Fall Employee Celebration.

Ronda Marr has served Pacific for almost two decades. As part of her service, she led efforts to create and implement Pacific’s purchasing policy that standardizes our commitment to supplier diversity and reflects the critical importance of small and woman/minority-owned businesses. In 2013, Marr was part of an inaugural committee made up of various government agencies, colleges and Caltrans to establish the Stockton Regional Public Agency Consortium, which promotes ongoing efforts to train and sustain local and diverse supplier opportunities for small, minority and economically disadvantaged businesses and firms. Marr is a champion who promotes diversity and inclusion within and beyond the campus, extending Pacific’s commitment to the surrounding community.

Annette Martinez was selected to attend the NCAA Common Ground seminar, which aims to establish an inclusive environment in athletics for participants of all sexual orientations, gender identities and religious beliefs. With the knowledge gained through this seminar, she came back to campus energized to continue to make a difference in the lives of our student-athletes. She has conducted informational sessions for our coaches, staff and student-athletes to help foster a supportive environment for our LGBTQ+ student-athletes and those who teach and lead them. Martinez is committed to supporting the well-being of student-athletes and is committed to making sure that all students are given the support and respect they deserve.

The university is proud of the 2019 recipients and all that they have done to make Pacific a welcoming and supporting community.

Pacific’s diversity leadership team is accepting nominations for the 2020 Champions of Diversity from now until Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Any member of the Pacific community can submit a nomination.

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