University of Rochester

First Presidential Diversity Awards to be Bestowed

January 22, 2010

Latino Professional Alliance, David T. Kearns Center, and Dr. John Hansen Named Inaugural Winners for their Commitment

The University of Rochester Presidential Diversity Awards were created in 2009 by President Joel Seligman to recognize faculty, staff, students, units, departments or teams that "demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion through recruitment and retention efforts, teaching, research, multi-cultural programming, cultural competency, community outreach activities, or other initiatives." The first recipients will be publicly honored at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22, as part of the University's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address in Strong Auditorium. They were chosen from among 14 nominees across campus who were nominated for the award by their colleagues. The recipients and other nominees also were honored at a luncheon with the president and other University leaders yesterday at Rush Rhees Library.

"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," said 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."

The awardees, chosen for their "exemplary contributions to the University's diversity and inclusion efforts," are: members of the Latino Professional Alliance, led by co-chairs Felicia Garcia-Hartstein and Raquel Garcia; the David T. Kearns Center whose director, Beth Olivares, will accept the award; and Dr. John Hansen, associate dean for admissions, the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

"I'm delighted at the quality of the nominees for the first Presidential Diversity Awards," said Dr. Vivian Lewis, acting deputy to the president and acting vice provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and chair of the award's selection committee. "Representing all of the schools, the staff, and the students, these nominees show the extent of commitment to diversity and inclusion at our University."

Each Presidential Diversity Award includes a $2,500 prize; individual award winners will receive half and will designate half to support the budget of a program or department of the winner's choice. Team award winners will designate the entire $2,500 prize to the program or department of the team's choice.

Garcia-Hartstein and Garcia are co-chairs 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 LPA'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.

The group also has been serving on the advisory committee for the Memorial Art Gallery's Hispanic Heritage Family Day, and helped to lead several hundred children in art activities related to Latin American culture. Also at MAG, LPA members have served as volunteers at the Clothesline Festival and as bilingual greeters for the opening party for "TRANsactions: Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art." LPA is also credited with helping to create a sense of community among campus affinity groups by helping to develop programs such as the Panel of UR Diversity Leaders and other networking activities. A regular supporter of Rochester's Puerto Rican Parade, LPA also has been a strong supporter of "Soy Unica, Soy Latina," which aims to promote confidence and cultural pride in young Latinas.

Through her leadership, 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 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." It manages 10 different programs to achieve that end, some of which are unique to the University and some of which are local examples of national programs. In all of them, the University's Kearns Center can point to remarkable successes. For example, McNair Scholar programs are funded around the country to help prepare underserved students for doctoral programs. Nationally, McNair Scholars go on to graduate school at an impressive rate of 45 percent. But Rochester McNair Scholars attend graduate school at a rate of 80 percent. 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, 100 percent of the students in the program have graduated, and 100 percent were accepted to college, with two attending the University. These and other programs serve more than 300 students every year, with success rates that are among the very best in the nation.

Olivares also is a board member of the Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM) program for minority graduate students. Her success is in part a function of what she has learned through her own research work, including studies of retention of low-income students in science majors, implications of ethnicity on grade disparities in science and mathematics, retention models for underrepresented minority students in STEM fields, and mentoring undergraduates for success in doctoral programs. One former student described himself as "eternally grateful" for the support Olivares provided as a "mentor, cheerleader, and invaluable source of support."

Dr. John 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.

A former student who is now on the Medical School faculty described Hansen as "a Master Teacher" whose "greatest gift is his ability to connect with all of his students."

"My debt to John Hansen," he wrote, "cannot be repaid."