Dear campus community,
An annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month begins this year on September 15 and ends on October 15. This celebration not only engages our UCI members to celebrate Americans with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, but also recognizes a variety of achievements and initiatives that support thriving across our enterprise.
This celebration period is particularly important to recognize those Latin American countries also commemorating national anniversaries of independence during this time: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15), Mexico (September 16), and Chile (September 18). At UCI, this celebration month marks our fifth year to advance practices that support our Hispanic students, faculty, and staff through the UCI designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). To-date, UCI has marked a period of growth in its undergraduate and graduate students, with Hispanics representing 25.2% of undergraduates (7,455 undergraduates) and 13.1% of graduate students (873 graduate students).
While 2020-21 has made us all acutely aware about the differential needs and experiences required to weather the COVID-19 storm, I want to publicly recognize several individuals whose exemplary service and scholarship this year have blazed trails for Hispanic and our broader population of students and campus members. I also close by highlighting several activities that provide additional opportunities for our engagement.
Celebrating Hispanic Achievements
During 2020-21, UCI recognized Hispanic leadership and excellence that included:
Lonnie Alcaraz named the 2021 Frances Leslie DECADE Mentor Excellence Awardee. This honor is bestowed to a DECADE Mentor whose work with faculty peers and graduate students supported exemplary recruitment and retention of diverse graduate students. Professor Alcaraz, specializes in lighting design in the Department of Drama in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, and he is a founder of Brown Bag Theatre – UCI’s only Latinx-focused theatre club. During his eight years of service as a UCI DECADE Mentor, he built a feeder program with a prominent Hispanic Serving Institution, resulting in a large number of Hispanic and Latinx students enrolling in drama degree programs at UCI.
Latino Excellence and Achievement Awards (LEAD) recognized 5 campus and community members and 15 graduate students from the academic units for their contributions to inspire learning and education about Hispanic cultures.
LEAD enterprise awards were given to:
Leo Chavez, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, received the Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award. Working closely with such programs as the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies and the School of Medicine PRIME-LC Program, Distinguished Professor Chavez has focused on various aspects of the migration experience, immigration status, access to health care, and work with families. The current LEAD award recognizes his dedication to mentoring and encouraging the success of Latinx graduate students and junior faculty.
José Mayorga, MD, serves as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine and as chief medical officer at UCI Health, received the Outstanding Community Builder Award. As a board-certified family physician, Dr. Mayorga has extensive experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors providing high-quality care to the medically underserved. He leads the UCI Federal Qualified Health Centers in Santa Ana and Anaheim as their CEO and CMO, caring for 24,000 patients annually who are predominantly Latinx and monolingual Spanish.
Regina Ragan, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, received an Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award from LEAD. As an internationally-recognized scholar focused on devising new routes for manufacturing devices requiring nanoscale elements, she helps to address critical societal needs, including the design of low-cost, rapid diagnostic devices.
Héctor Tobar is an alumni of UCI and associate professor of English and Chicano/Latino studies. He received LEAD’s Outstanding Alumni Leadership Award for developing and championing UCI and the UCI Latinx community. His fiction and Pulitzer-Prize winning narratives have included recognition as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Burt Álvaro Slusher, is director of recruitment and admissions for Specialty Masters Programs at the Paul Merage School of Business and was recognized by LEAD with a Distinguished Staff Leadership Award for leading and supporting in the UCI Latinx community. Director Slusher manages the development and implementation of annual recruiting goals and provides strategic oversight for the admissions process in the Specialty Masters Programs. He also works closely with Merage students, alumni, corporate outreach, and marketing to recruit and develop pathways to inclusion for globally talented students.
The Graduate Student Excellence Awardees through LEAD are listed below with their detailed biographies are located at the OIE website (https://inclusion.uci.edu/recognition/latino-excellence-and-achievement-award/)
- Jesús Enrique López Vargas, Graduate Student Excellence Award, Claire Trevor School of the Arts
- Elena Dominguez, Excellence in Research Award, School of Biological Sciences
- Florencio Portocarrero, Leadership Award, Paul Merage School of Business
- Yenda Prado, Graduate Student Excellence Award, School of Education
- Nina Butkovich, Graduate Student Excellence Award, The Henry Samueli School of Engineering
- Carlos Colmenares Gil, Graduate Student Excellence Award, School of Humanities
- Adriana Meza Soria, Graduate Student Excellence Award, Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences
- Erik Jimenez Rodriguez, Leadership Award, School of Law
- Francisco Javier Mercado, Graduate Student Excellence Award, School of Physical Sciences
- Yasmin Barrientos Kofman, Graduate Student Excellence Award, School of Social Ecology
- Maricela Bañuelos, Graduate Student Excellence Award, School of Social Sciences
- Francisco Gutierrez Carranza, Excellence in Research and Health for the Latino Community Award, School of Medicine
- Sarah Rodrigues, Graduate Student Excellence Award, Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing
- Diana Carreño, Graduate Student Excellence Award, School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences
- Emilia Fields, Graduate student Excellence Awards, Program in Public Health
Upcoming Activities for Engagement
An additional part of honoring and recognizing important contributions comes from direct engagement in the many activities offered to learn more about Hispanic cultures. I encourage all to participate in the following selected events.
Additionally, please join us at the free and public courses offered through the Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program. Registration details and course schedules are available at: https://inclusion.uci.edu/inclusive-excellence-certificate-program/.
Please visit the Office of Inclusive Excellence to learn more about events and programs.
Take the Pledge!
Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D. (Pronouns: he/him/his)
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Director, ADVANCE Program
Professor of History