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Pacific's Champions of Diversity and Inclusion

May 30, 2017

In keeping with Pacific's commitment to promoting a welcoming, diverse and inclusive learning and working environment, this past year President Pamela Eibeck called upon the Diversity Leadership Team (DLT) to identify successful ongoing diversity efforts across all three campuses. In order to support and acknowledge this work that creates and enriches a diverse and inclusive community at Pacific, the DLT initiated the Champions of Diversity and Inclusion Awards.

Nominations were received this spring from across the university singling out faculty, staff and students who have gone above and beyond their role to work as proponents of diversity and inclusion. Awards were presented at several existing awards ceremonies and recognition events ensuring that diversity work is seen as an integral part of the function of the university. The inaugural class of Champions of Diversity for the 2016-17 academic year represent faculty, staff and students from across the university.


Raquel AldanaRaquel Aldana - Raquel Aldana, professor of law, associate dean for faculty scholarship and director of the Inter-American Program, has played a significant leadership role in advancing diversity and inclusion, both at McGeorge and university-wide, through innovative programs in law and university-wide statements and workshops on topics, including: race in policing, rights of agricultural workers and immigrant rights, among others. An executive training on Immigration Rights and Resources was one of the most recent, held as a result of recent legislative shifts following the presidential election. Aldana founded the law school's Inter-American program, which offers bilingual and bicultural education to U.S. and Guatemalan students in Guatemala. She has written about human rights issues in books and scholarly articles and has been the face of the law school community in addressing the current environment facing undocumented persons, educating our community, appearing in the media and teaching in Know Your Rights programs. In addition, Aldana was a key resource for planning and developing Pacific's new website for DACA, DREAMer, and undocumented students. As an integral core team member and partner, she provided top quality, thoughtful and timely information and feedback throughout the site-development process.      

Sylvia La RosaSylvia La Rosa '17 
- Sylvia La Rosa has been a remarkable light at McGeorge, according to her nominees. She is president of the Latino/a Law Student Association (LLSA) and actively participated in diversity efforts sponsored by the JD admissions/diversity initiatives office and the Diversity Affairs Committee. LLSA hosted at least 11 events this past year and La Rosa worked on every single event, including but not limited to holding a Safe Space conversation at a local coffee shop for students on the Sacramento Campus who wanted to discuss issues, concerns or questions about immigration, understanding their rights and other topics. She also was actively involved in the school's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. La Rosa worked on the 1st Annual LLSA Networking Mixer, which was open to all students. Nominees described her as a consistent cheerleader for events that focus on diversity and inclusion.      

San Francisco Campus

Jennifer VillaltaJennifer Villalta '17 — Jennifer Villalta is a Latina, first-generation college student who graduates this spring and will be entering a pediatric residency at UCLA. She founded the Dugoni School's first SNDA (Student National Dental Association) Chapter for minority students and this year served as president. In addition to her success in the clinic, she has participated in numerous diversity-related programming. Villalta has been at the forefront of new ideas for current and future dental students, as well as for underserved communities.

Juan Ramirez receives Champion of Diversity awardJuan Ramirez '19 — Juan Ramirez is a Hispanic first-year dental student. Weeks into the rigor of dental school, Ramirez took the initiative and leadership role of identifying the need for cross-cultural communication, specifically Spanish, in the dental clinic. As a result, he developed and is the founder of the dental school's first ever "El Dentista" Spanish club. Since its inception, Ramirez has coordinated monthly Spanish-language lessons (conversational and dental/health terminology phrases) for faculty, staff and students, which have been an overwhelming success. He has also taken an active role in the Dugoni School's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, as well as its first Student National Dental Association (SNDA) chapter, an organization for minority dental students.      


Shani Boyd '17 — Shani Boyd, majoring in International Affairs and Commerce, is described by nominators as someone with the "wonderful ability to leverage her leadership positions to advocate for students to always have a voice at the decision-making table with university administrators." She routinely reaches out to her peers via in-person meetings and social media to understand their needs and concerns. As someone who has experienced racial and gender discrimination, she has chosen to use that experience and understanding as fuel to take action. When she saw a lack of representation of women of color in student government, she ran for office and eventually became the president pro-tempore. In that role, she pushed for the ASuop Senate to make itself more accessible by expanding its engagement effort with students and being more intentional in using inclusive language in its legislation and efforts to recruit more diverse students to run for senate positions.    

Taylor-Rose Cline '17 — Taylor-Rose Cline, an English and Sociology double major, has been working for two years to study and improve the inclusion of transgender students on the Stockton Campus. Her study began as a group project in her Sex and Gender course, in which she examined the scope of gender inclusive bathrooms on campus. When she realized the existing map of gender-inclusive bathrooms was out of date, she decided to focus her senior sociology project on updating the map for the university. She canvased the campus to find gender-inclusive bathrooms; consulted with faculty, staff and students on the bathroom issue; and created an accessible online map people can use to locate gender-inclusive bathrooms.    

Nat Lee '20 — As a freshman majoring in computer science, Nat Lee '20 has already made an important difference in practicing diversity and inclusion at Pacific. He is the founder of QPOC—Queer People of Color—and has worked tirelessly in organizing a number of workshops on the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality, which are open to all members of the Pacific community regardless of their racial, gender or sexual identities. Student attendees called the workshops a profound educational experience, say his nominators. Lee has also strongly advocated for Pacific Technology to identify students according to their preferred names.    

Ethel NicdaoEthel Nicdao — Associate Professor of Sociology Ethel Nicdao highlights issues of health disparities, including those of race, class, immigration and national status, in her classes, and in particular in her her signature course, Sociology of Health and Illness. She also works with community-based organizations to develop collaborative research agendas and processes. She was a co-principal investigator of Project YES! (Youth Empowering Stockton collaborative), which trained high school students in research methods by conducting an assessment of the social and environmental barriers to health in South Stockton. Several of the high school students who were a part of Project YES are now Pacific students. Nicdao is also engaged in a community-based research project with Lao Family Community Empowerment Inc. to examine mental health within the Hmong community in the Central Valley. This is a population that is difficult to study, and Nicdao is thoughtfully and creatively making advances that will allow her to connect with, learn from, and assess mental health issues in the Hmong community.    

Qingwen DongQingwen Dong — For the past 20 years, Professor of Communication Qingwen Dong has served as a leader in the Pacific community for his work in the area of intercultural communication, diversity and inclusive practices. He has mentored countless students of all types in research projects. Dong has been a tremendous support to students studying from China, has served as a member of various diversity committees and as a champion in promoting intercultural competency. Further, Dong has assisted several departments, including the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, with language translations and strategies for supporting international students. Last year, he voluntarily participated in a year-long training on the topic of Universal Design for Instruction to help make his courses more accessible to students with disabilities. He has been a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students, many who may not have graduated without him, according to his nominators.    

Marcia HernandezMarcia Hernandez — Since coming to Pacific, Marcia Hernandez, associate dean of College of the Pacific, has committed her talent, energy and dedication to the success of Pacific students and faculty, say her nominators. She was instrumental in advocating for Pacific to become an institutional member of the National Center of Faculty Development and Diversity, particularly with respect to its role in the mentoring of female faculty of color. In her current capacity as associate dean in the College Hernandez is a role model for socially responsible leadership in the Pacific community. Her nominators say she asks the tough questions and responds to controversy with tact and diplomacy. She has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace and Social Justice Award and has been recognized as a Pacific Woman of Distinction.    

Betty Flores receives Champion of Diversity AwardBetty Flores — Betty Flores, financial reporting manager in Business and Finance, is described as gracious and caring in and a wonderful role model and mentor. Flores is a graduate of Pacific and began in her current role in 2006. She has built an excellent department with diverse staff members and student workers. Nominators say she treats her staff with kindness, understanding and fairness, shows respect for others, and has often been an advocate for her staff members when they are confronted with bias or unfairness in the workplace.    

Danny Nuss receives Champion of Diversity AwardDanny Nuss — Danny Nuss, director of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, is described as a dedicated professional who has helped hundreds of students be successful at Pacific who might otherwise have faced insurmountable obstacles. He cares deeply about his students, advocates for them, and makes them feel that Pacific is their home. Nuss works alongside faculty and staff on behalf of students to improve accessibility for students at Pacific across facilities, in the classroom, at events and on the university's website, among other areas. He is committed to helping Pacific adapt to the needs of students.    

Joel Lohr receives Champion of Diversity AwardJoel Lohr — Joel Lohr, dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, has been on the front lines advocating for inclusiveness, nominators say, and in particular for Pacific's Muslim students. He has been a great support to interfaith student clubs and made a very intentional effort to raise awareness and celebrate the intersectionality of various religious identities and the university's efforts to address issues of diversity and inclusion on all three campuses. He is actively engaged in dialogue with students, faculty and staff about how to improve the campus climate and has participated in numerous trainings, vigils, workshops and other endeavors to ensure the university remains student-centered while also being conscious of its own biases and privileges. Lohr has worked to ensure that all conversations around the improvement and/or celebration of diversity include religious and spiritual needs and concerns along with other aspects of identity.    

Colleen Smith receives Champion of Diversity AwardColleen Smith — Colleen Smith, director of the Pacific Pride Center, goes above and beyond to support students, staff and faculty of various identities and backgrounds through advocacy and service, say her nominators. Smith often makes herself available, even outside of her regular work duties, to clubs, events, and university programs, attending and participating in acknowledgment of the importance of diversity and inclusion on the Pacific campus and beyond. She advises the United Cultural Club, the Gender Umbrella Club, QPoC (Queer People of Color), the Pride Alliance, the Middle Eastern Club, and Tigers Against Disablism. She provides support to students across all individual identities, including sexual identity, cultural identity, gender and physical identities. 

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