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UC staff who inspired in 2023

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We asked UC staff to share your biggest accomplishments from 2023 and you came through! Congratulations to all our colleagues who met and exceeded their personal and professional goals this year — your efforts, dedication and passion make UC an amazing place to work.

Please take a moment to explore your colleagues’ stories, below, as inspiration for what we may achieve in the new year.

Serving California communities

Jennifer Wilkens, Director of Special Projects and Executive Assistant to the Dean, Samueli School of Engineering, UC Irvine, and Project Manager, teamMADE

In 2023, I was the project manager for the Samueli School of Engineering’s entry to the first-ever Orange County Sustainability Decathlon, which involved designing, engineering and building a sustainable and resilient house to be judged by subject-matter experts in 10 categories. teamMADE (Team Modular, Affordable Dwellings for the Environment) was a partnership between UC Irvine and Orange Coast College, which combined both school’s strengths in architecture and engineering to build the house of the future.

“More than 100 students worked on the house, culminating in a resounding success. We placed second overall, surpassing 13 other teams and ranking high in important categories like Engineering and Construction, Market Potential, Energy Efficiency, and Sustainability and Resilience. Our team was highly diverse, with 80% women and representing students in 12 majors. We built our luminOCity house to compete in the decathlon but also to be donated to a local nonprofit. It will house four to eight young men who are overcoming trauma from incarceration, substance abuse and homelessness. It was great to see our team succeed, give students a chance to bond over working hard together, and be rewarded with a moment in the spotlight!”

Jennifer Wilkins (front row, center) and teamMADE participants in front of the award-winning luminOCity house
Jennifer Wilkins (front row, center) and teamMADE participants in front of the award-winning luminOCity house.

Patricia Realo Anderson, Assistant Director, UCI Center for Educational Partnerships, UC Irvine

In conjunction with my professional organization, the Western Association of College and University Business Officers (aka WACUBO), of which UC Irvine is an institutional member, I helped raise more than $10,800 for Casa Blanca Community School on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Bapchule, Arizona.

Patricia R. Anderson, at mic, presents a ceremonial check to Casa Blanca Community School 
Patricia R. Anderson, at mic, presents a ceremonial check to Casa Blanca Community School on behalf of the Western Association of College & University Business Officers.

Carole Meyer-Rieth, Research Administrator, Developing Belief Network, UC Riverside and Trustee, Youssef and Kamel Mawardi Fund

“I am the research administrator for the Developing Belief Network, a grant privately funded by the John Templeton Fund, at UC Riverside. I am proud of my role in supporting this ground-breaking global research network as well as assisting Dr. Rebekah Richert in the administration of the grant.

“Privately, my father, Lawrence Meyer, and I serve as trustees for the Youssef and Kamel Mawardi Fund, and have done so since 2012. As of Dec. 12, 2023, the Mawardi Fund has distributed $2,924,279 to charity. Mawardi grants have impacted communities throughout California served by nonprofits, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Blind Children’s Center of Los Angeles, Olive Crest, Five Acres, Path of Life, Reaching New Heights, Streetlights, Neighborhood Music School, Aspires West, UniteLA and Inspire Life Skills. Mawardi grants have also made an impact internationally on communities served by nonprofits such as Whole Child International and Go Philanthropic.

“I am very proud to support the work of our partners who generously, expertly and directly serve people locally, nationally and internationally; they make a tremendous impact on the lives of children, families, veterans and many others in need. We will soon reach the milestone of granting $3 million, and I am grateful and delighted to have been a part of that process.” 

Neighborhood Music School 
The Neighborhood Music School is one of several charities supported by the Youssef and Kamel Mawardi Fund, of which UC Riverside staff member Carole Meyer-Rieth is a trustee.

Achieving personal milestones

Guadalupe Cruz Fernandez, Director, PATHS Scholars Program, UC San Diego

“I was admitted to and graduated from the UC Women’s Initiative for Professional Development Program! I am so grateful to have been part of such a transformative experience.” 

Guadalupe Cruz Fernandez
Guadalupe Cruz Fernandez graduated from the UC Women’s Initiative for Professional Development program! 

Making a difference within UC

Stefani Rios, Business Coordinator, ANTrepreneur Center, UC Irvine

“My biggest accomplishment has been spreading our entrepreneurial resources with more underserved communities on campus. I have helped to implement free mat Pilates and other wellness resources for students who come to our center and have been working hard to create workshops for our low-income, first-gen students that empower them to take control of their destinies. I help them understand that no matter their status or challenge, they are enough and they should never be afraid to advocate for themselves. I am also studying to become a wellness coach through the UC Irvine Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute. Using my new knowledge will help me to encourage student entrepreneurs to make personal wellness a priority.”

Stefani Rios
Stefani Rios (center, wearing jean jacket), is empowering underserved students to make personal wellness a priority.

Jill Wolters, Digital Accessibility Program Manager, IT, UCSF

“I formed a collaborative ‘dream’ team at UCSF in 2023 with a focus on training and awareness to help expand the UCSF IT Digital Accessibility program. Together we built a bite-sized learning path for creating accessible PDFs, created targeted communications, such as ‘PDFs are the Pits,’ and my favorite project, the ‘Accessibility is Me’ video showcase. ‘Accessibility is Me’ features UCSF colleagues sharing their digital accessibility awareness and favorite resources. This series is a unique insight into the digital accessibility efforts, tools and best practices that are utilized at UCSF. I encourage all colleagues to take a short break and watch an uplifting 2-to 3-minute video from our video showcase. Get inspired by others doing the same type of work and building accessibility into their jobs! For more details, read the ‘Accessibility is Me’ Video Campaign Launch.  

“Thank you to all the UCSF colleagues who participated in this effort, by serving on the ‘dream’ team and/or sharing videos: CJ Frosch, digital engagement strategist and curator, Learning and Organizational Development; Adriane Guerreiro, developer, Learning and Organizational Development; Tanya Jansen, IT communications lead, OCIO IT Communications; Kim LaPean, director, FAS Communications and Engagement; Michael Marmon, adoption and training, OCIO IT; Sasha Miller, UI/UX developer,  IT Web Services; Michele Mizejewski, user experience designer, UCSF Library; and Rich Trott, director of technology services and strategy, UCSF Library.” 

Image from the landing page of the UCSF “Accessibility is Me” video showcase 
Image from the landing page of the UCSF “Accessibility is Me” video showcase.

Albert Moolick, Fit Staff Coordinator, Recreational Sports, UC Berkeley

“The Student Recreation Center on the UC Berkeley campus has been facing the challenge of a growing student population every semester. We have limited space (less than 10K square feet of weight rooms) and equipment to serve a population of over 45,000 students. Our fitness-student staff have enforced a ‘one-out, one-in’ fire code limit for safety since about 2003. 

“This fall, we were able to establish a student leadership position on our student ‘fit staff’ team. This position pays a little more and has more responsibilities — namely keeping our areas safe and providing the best possible customer service and inclusivity for our community. The students who fill this role have an opportunity to gain leadership development skills. The program has been very successful by promoting professional development and greater support for our student staff that work in a uniquely challenging recreation center.”

UC Berkeley Recreational Sports staff 
UC Berkeley Recreational Sports established a student leadership position on the student “fit staff” team.

Cheryl Love, Arts, Humanities, Education and Public Policy Career Specialist, Student and College Engagement, Career Center, UC Riverside

“UC Riverside Basic Needs Department received an Innovation Grant in the summer of 2023 with the goal of promoting student success by developing a program that would help students learn about and take advantage of the many resources available to them through Basic Needs, the Career Center and the Financial Wellness Program.  

“We assembled a cross-divisional committee with representatives from all programs, including: Judy Crawford, director, Student Basic Needs; Denise Diaz, administrative assistant, Student Basic Needs; Vivian Gonzales, basic needs coordinator, Student Basic Needs; Carla Lopez, housing specialist, Student Basic Needs; Yazleen Alonso, program manager, Financial Wellness, Financial Aid Department; Cheryl Love, career specialist, Career Center.  

“Together, we developed a two-quarter program, Adulting 101 – IRL. This program, which will take place from  winter quarter 2024 through spring quarter 2024, is designed to provide learning opportunities for students to develop key skills to navigate basic needs resources, career readiness and financial wellness. Participating students will earn $500. I am really proud of this program and am glad that I played a part in bringing it to life!” 

Part of an advertisement for the Adulting 101 – IRL program at UC Riverside 
Part of an advertisement for the Adulting 101 – IRL program at UC Riverside.

Tanya Jansen, IT Communications Lead, UCSF

“I worked with a cross-campus team to plan this year’s annual UC Tech conference, which was hosted by UC Berkeley and UCSF. More than 400 UC employees from all campuses attended the main event on the Berkeley campus and watch parties took place throughout the Bay Area. This multiple-day conference promotes collaboration and networking among IT professionals across the UC system. Each year, a different campus is selected to host the beloved event. It was my second time planning this incredible event since I am a former Berkeley employee and was on the planning committee ten years ago! I was able to reconnect with former colleagues and connect with new ones. It was truly a highlight of 2023!

Tanya Janse poses with colleagues at the 2023 UC Tech Conference at UC Berkeley
Tanya Jansen (third from left), poses with colleagues at the 2023 UC Tech Conference at UC Berkeley. 

 Erin Busch, Career Engagement Specialist, Engineering & Technology, UC Santa Cruz

“In the spring of 2023, I developed a new series called Campus to Career where newish alumni from UC Santa Cruz’s Baskin Engineering come back to campus for a casual and informal fireside chat-style conversation where I ask them about how they made the most of their time at UC Santa Cruz, how they transitioned from being a Baskin Engineering student to a successful professional and what a “day in the life” of their new role typically looks like. I then open the session up for audience questions and we wrap the events up with a light networking reception where students can practice this important skill in a comfortable environment. 

“This series has continued to the fall and I plan to host at least two or three per quarter for the remainder of the academic year. These events have been a great opportunity for students to learn about different career pathways, while also helping our alumni stay connected to the university and feel good about giving back. I look forward to putting these events on for many years to come — perhaps someday featuring alumni who once sat in the audience when they were students!”

 Career Engagement Specialist Erin Busch (center)
Career Engagement Specialist Erin Busch (center) hosts a Campus to Career event at UC Santa Cruz.

Hira Safdar, Assistant Director, Climate and Belonging, Office of Diversity and Outreach, UCSF

“Earlier in 2023, when I was working as an administrative operations officer in the UCSF Office of Population Health, we applied for and received a $1,000 grant from the UCSF Wellness Department. We created a charter, received approval from leadership and then created a Wellness Committee. Through the committee, we empowered staff in our department to host weekly wellness sessions, focusing on topics like meditation, stretching and gratitude; we also created a community chat in Microsoft Teams where staff could share wellness tips regularly. We invited internal and external speakers to teach staff about mindfulness and meditation practices and planned a summer social for local staff to engage and build community. Staff who participated in committee activities would be entered into drawings for wellness-related products, like fitness trackers, heated blankets, massage guns, yoga mats and mindfulness cards.”

Hira Safda with colleagues at the UCSF Wellness Committee Summer Social
Hira Safdar (far right) with colleagues at the UCSF Wellness Committee Summer Social.

Nicole Carpenter, Research Librarian for Social Sciences; Nicole Arnold, Research Librarian for Student Success and Humanities; and Carrie Cullen, Research Librarian for Physical Sciences, UC Irvine

“This year, we completed the first Affordable Course Material & Open Education Resources (OER) Initiative to help expand access and remove financial barriers for students by engaging with faculty to replace a textbook with open and library-licensed course material.”

The logo for UC Irvine’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative
The logo for UC Irvine’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative.

David Naimie, Director of External Relations, UC Irvine

“We developed and hosted a new podcast series, ‘Data Partnerships with Enrollment Management’ that’s featured in the UCI Anteater Insider Podcast. The episodes focused on supporting student progress through analytics and data partnerships across the UC Irvine campus.” Listen to an episode here.

Ella Lee and Patty Morales appear on the Anteater Insider podcast
UC Irvine student Ella Lee and Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Patty Morales appear on the Anteater Insider podcast.

Jack Kennedy, Content Marketing Specialist, Department of Pediatrics, UCSF

“The UCSF Department of Pediatrics Communications Team is excited to share a recent recruitment promotional brochure that we developed, describing the department, UCSF and the Bay Area. You can check out the brochure online here.” 

UCSF Department of Pediatrics promotional brochure
An excerpt from the UCSF Department of Pediatrics promotional brochure.

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed to this story! We appreciate your partnership and dedication to UC.

For questions, contact ucnetwork@universityofcalifornia.edu

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