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March 29, 2010

First Presidential Diversity Awards presented

photo of diversity awards

The University recently honored the first recipients of the Presidential Diversity Awards.

award winners
Above: Vivian Lewis, Joel Seligman, and the Kearns Center team: Elizabeth Daniele, Charlana Simmons, Chris Grant, Nick Valentino, Collette Kettles, Tori Matthews-Roberson, Beth Olivares, Tony Broyld, Shoshana Abramowitz, Anthony Plonczynski, Natalia Martinez, Maureen Lauder
Vivian Lewis, John Hansen, Joel Seligman
Above: Vivian Lewis, John Hansen, Joel Seligman
award winners
Above: Vivian Lewis, Joel Seligman, and the Latino Professional Alliance team: Debora McDell-Hernandez, Raquel Garcia, Jeanette Colby, Berlin Bermudez, Jessica Guzman, Shannon Colon. Not pictured: Felicia Garcia-Hartstein

The awardees are members of the Latino Professional Alliance; the David T. Kearns Center; and John Hansen, associate dean for admissions for the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

President Joel Seligman created the awards in 2009 to recognize faculty, staff, students, units, departments, or teams that “demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion through recruitment and retention efforts, teaching, research, multicultural programming, cultural competency, community outreach activities, or other initiatives.” The winners were chosen from among 14 nominees across the University.

“The most successful universities of the 21st century, and we will be among them, must welcome people throughout the globe based on their talents and without regard to their religion, nationality, race, gender, or gender identity,” says Seligman. “I am grateful to be associated with a university committed to such values and am grateful to all of those nominated for these first diversity awards for working so effectively to help us achieve them.”

Vivian Lewis, acting vice provost for faculty development and diversity and chair of the award’s selection committee, says she was impressed by the quality of the nominees. “Representing all of the schools, the staff, and the students, these nominees show the extent of commitment to diversity and inclusion at our University,” she says.

Felicia Garcia-Hartstein and Raquel Garcia are cochairs of the Latino Professional Alliance (LPA), an organization formed at the University in order to “support the growth and development of Latinos/Latinas” through “networking, mentoring, educational and professional programs, community service, multicultural events, and diversity awareness.” The alliance’s many activities were cited for having created “an opportunity for all Latino professionals to feel a much needed sense of community” on campus.

Among its initiatives is the annual Latino Cultural Fair during Hispanic Heritage Month, a tradition begun in 2007 with approximately 100 attendees and held annually since, serving more than 200 visitors in 2009.

As director, Beth Olivares has helped the Kearns Center develop the College’s pipeline programs, assisting secondary school students through to doctoral candidates. The center, named for former Xerox CEO, University trustee, and diversity visionary David T. Kearns, was created to “increase the number of low-income and historically underrepresented individuals pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and professional education.” The center manages 10 different programs, some of which are unique to the University and some of which are local examples of national programs.

The University’s Kearns Scholars are undergraduates working toward degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Since that program began in 2003, the 65 Kearns Scholars have had a 100 percent graduation rate and an 80 percent retention rate in STEM fields. And in the Department of Energy—funded Upward Bound program for Rochester City School District high school students, all the students in the program graduated and all were accepted to college. The center’s programs serve more than 300 students every year, with success rates that are among the best in the nation.

Hansen, professor of neurobiology and anatomy and associate dean for admissions at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, was honored for his more than 20 years of dedicated efforts to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation of medical school candidates from diverse backgrounds. He also has been honored nationally for his teaching and has received the Gold Medal Award of the medical school’s alumni association.

Described by a colleague as “a sensitive and respectful mentor who never ceases to inspire,” and “a positive life force in the life of every medical student arriving on this campus,” Hansen has doubled the number of students admitted from underrepresented groups, placing the school in the top 10 percent of all medical schools on that measure. Called by another colleague “a diversity leader role model,” Hansen also is credited with being keenly sensitive to the breadth of diversity, including gender identity, socioeconomic status, religion, and ethnicity.

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