Zahra Aalabdulrasul

Bio: Zahra Aalabdulrasul is a senior graduating this spring with a BBA in Entrepreneurial Management and certificates in Event Planning and Leadership. In her time at UI, Zahra has been central to diversity programming in the Tippie College of Business in her multiple roles as a BizEdge mentee, mentor, and student program coordinator, Black in Business program assistant, and DEI ambassador. She has also shown her dedication to DEI initiatives on a campus-wide scale through job titles like Center Programming Assistant at the Afro House and leadership roles on the Dean of Students Advisory Board and Latinx Panel Series Planning Committee. Throughout her college experience, Zahra has dedicated significant time and energy to advocating for Black and Brown students and building a web of connection and support. Moving forward, Zahra intends to utilize her numerous strengths to work with big brands in a social, creative environment.

Gratitudes: First and foremost, I am incredibly humbled and honored to be receiving the esteemed Diversity Catalyst Award. Thank you to the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the 2020-2021 Diversity Catalyst Awards Selection Committee for creating this award and selecting me as this year’s recipient. I am overjoyed to accept this recognition, and I feel the utmost pride knowing that I am doing work worth recognizing. I have an unbridled passion for supporting, uplift, and create an environment where underrepresented students are allowed to thrive the way they are meant to. It has been so fulfilling to dedicate these past four years of my academic career to do this work. I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize mentors like Gabriela Rivera, Dr. Ken Brown, and Dr. Maria Bruno for showing me and my projects constant support throughout my time at the University of Iowa. These are extraordinary individuals who, time and time again, demonstrate their commitment to DEI initiatives. If it were not for them and the support they give, I would not have accomplished the DEI work that this prestigious award recognizes. Thank you to every individual who has advocated for underrepresented students on campus; continue to change our community's needs.

Monique Galpin

Monique Antoinette Galpin

Bio: Monique Galpin is the Administrative Services Coordinator for the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) and Community Outreach in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Carver College of Medicine. SHPEP is a pipeline program for undergraduate underrepresented students pursuing medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or public health. In addition to this initiative, she co-facilitates discussions on Implicit Bias, Fair Hiring, and Responding Effectively to Mistreatment/Upstander Training. She maintains the Campus and Community Events calendar within the DEI office, highlighting programming that centers marginalized voices and inclusive representation. She has been with the University of Iowa since 2011 and has staffed the UI Health Care Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Week committee since 2012. She has also been part of the UI African American Council (AAC) family since 2014, serving as past president. Additionally, Monique is a member of the Black Women’s Maternal Health Collective and Stead Family Children’s Hospital Sickle Cell Symposium planning committee. 

Gratitudes: I am honored to receive this award alongside fellow Hawkeyes, who I appreciate and value. I am thankful to have collaborated with so many talented individuals in my nearly 10 years at the university. Still, I am especially grateful for those I have worked with this past year. A year that saw heightened urgency for DEI work- the health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic in Black & Indigenous communities, toxic rhetoric and hate crimes against Asian communities, and continued violence against Black lives. I am thankful for colleagues who persisted, who did this work last summer even as their hearts were breaking, who were innovative in their work last fall as their work was being challenged- often while navigating their own personal losses and the difficulties of balancing work and home life. I want to thank my CCOM DEI colleagues, especially Dr. Denise Martinez, for her leadership and guidance, Dr. David Moser for his compassion and insight, and Dr. Nicole Del Castillo and Janet Niebuhr for their dedication and drive. Many thanks to Shamika Harris, Shalisa Gladney, SHPEP scholars past and present, my husband Jason, son Ellis and the future he represents. 

Jessica Padilla

Jessica Padilla Solis (She/Her/Ella)

Women's Resource & Action Center Program Coordinator for Iowa N.E.W. Leadership Institute & UI Womxn of Colour Network Program

Bio: Jessica Padilla was born and raised in Muscatine, Iowa. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents who instilled the importance of their language and culture. As a Hawkeye alum, Padilla received a BA in International Studies (Latin American Emphasis) and B.A. in Spanish while also earning the Critical Cultural Competence Certificate in 2014. After discovering the field of Student Affairs and her involvement with the NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program, she decided to pursue graduate school at Iowa State University, where she received her Master's in Education in Student Affairs and certificate in Education for Social Justice in 2016. 

Her work at the Women's Resource & Action Center as Program Coordinator involves implementing, coordinating, and assessing educational programs through critical feminist analysis.  Additionally, she oversees the program development and operations of Iowa (N.E.W) National Education for Women's Leadership Program, a program that she participated in as an undergraduate student in 2013. In the Fall of 2017, she spearheaded the launch of the UIowa Womxn of Colour Network (WOCN) Programming Series and Lunch Meet-ups. These programs intend to create space for dialogue, support, and empowerment among students, faculty, and staff.

Jessica’s work is grounded and driven by her dedication to social justice and equity. She works with and for the advancement of minoritized groups, women empowerment, civic engagement, advocacy, and support for students.  In her free time, she likes to travel to her parent’s home state Michoacán, MX, immerse herself in Latinx culture through dancing and spending time with her chosen family of friends. 

Jessica has served in various committees and roles across campus over the years. The Center for Diversity & Enrichment, TRIO Student Support Services, and the Latino Native American Cultural Center were vital to her undergraduate retention; therefore has always strived to be connected professionally to these units on campus and offer her support.  She’s been a part of the Iowa Edge Planning Committee, served as Treasurer of the Latinx Faculty/Staff Council, Co-Chair of the Latino/a Native American Alumni Alliance Board. Alum of the UI Executive Leadership Academy-Higher Education. She is an active alumnae member of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Inc. and has served as Intake Advisor for the Alpha Chapter here at the University of Iowa. In the Division of Student Life (DSL), she has served in the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Action Plan Committee. As a DSL fellow, under the Office of the Vice President of Student Life on projects related to Implementing culturally inclusive practices that reinforce the Division of Student Life values and Program Assessment.

Gratitudes:  I am extremely honored to be one of this year's recipients of the Diversity Catalyst Awards. This is an award ceremony that I remember going to as an undergraduate to witness the recognition of staff I considered to be extraordinary. It is a full-circle moment to be recognized with this honor in my short time here. This is even more significant because it's an award from my alma mater and the office I first connected to Communities of Color that allowed me to grow as a person and leader. Moreover, this award affirms my decision to pursue the field of student affairs and to come back to do work to enhance diversity and inclusion efforts. As a first-generation student and now professional, I understand the profound impact these types of programs and initiatives can have on the career and life trajectories of our often minoritized students.

Over the years, I have gained an invaluable awareness that to work in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), I do not have to work in a DEI-based department. In actuality, engaging in this work in other departments and units allows me to embed my passion and equity-minded lens to support students and colleagues. I want to dedicate this award to my parents, who sacrificed so much to obtain my education and pave the way for me to have choices they did not have. To my chosen family of friends, sorority sisters, colleagues, and especially all my various mentors who have guided and supported me through each phase of my career. Every one of you has impacted me to be the person and professional I am today. Special thanks to my award nominator Dr. Maria G. Bruno and my supervisor Linda Stewart Kroon and former student Isabella Senno for your letters of support. Without all of you, I would not be where I am today, accepting this award. Thank you all!  ¡Muchas gracias a todos!

Yolanda Spears

Yolanda D. Spears

Bio: Yolanda Spears is a Licensed Masters Level Social Worker and a graduate of the University of Iowa School of Social Work Bachelor and Master’s degree programs. As a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, she currently teaches social work master level course, Discrimination Oppression, and Diversity (DOD). Additionally, she is the Coordinator of the undergraduate Critical Cultural Competence Certificate Program. Coordinating the certificate program includes teaching the foundational course, capstone course, and advising students in the certificate program. Yolanda is passionate about teaching, mentoring, working with diverse populations, creating community partnerships, and developing programs focusing on race, social justice, cultural competence/humility, and creating spaces where marginalized voices are at the center.

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International Student Advisory Board (ISAB)

Bio: The International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) seeks to voice international student concerns and to advocate for international student needs in order to improve the international student experience and create a more inclusive campus environment for international students.

Gratitudes: Thank you to the Diversity Catalyst Planning Committee for this recognition and honor. The leadership team and members of the International Student Advisory Board are extremely pleased and grateful for this award. This past year has been extremely challenging for international students, as the pandemic and growing xenophobic and racist environment has affected their academic, professional, and personal lives rather deeply. ISAB has prioritized the advocacy for international student needs and concerns in the past year, and it is gratifying to be recognized for our efforts. We want to thank Shuhui Lin, our advisor, who has been a huge strength to the board and individual members, supporting us through different projects and endeavors. We also want to thank Russ Ganim, the dean of International Programs, Dr. Maria Bruno, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), and the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Governments who supported and worked with our advocacy efforts and projects. We want to thank our members who brought so much to the table every day with our commitment to diversity and their desire to advocate for their needs and demands. Lastly, we want to thank the international student community at the University of Iowa, students who have been taking classes from their home countries in different time zones, those who have been pushing through a difficult year without seeing their families and friends, and the diverse experiences, multi-faceted perspectives. Valuable courage they bring to the larger university community.  

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Native American Council (NAC)

Bio: The mission of the Native American Council (NAC) is to promote and improve the quality of life for Native American faculty, staff, and students at the University of Iowa. NAC goals include: addressing the diverse needs and concerns of Native Americans on campus; acting as a voice for Native faculty, staff, and students; serving as a formalized liaison between Native staff, faculty, students, and the University of Iowa community; and supporting the University of Iowa's effort towards recruitment and retention of Native faculty, staff, and students.

Gratitude: We are honored to be recognized with this award. We consider our work truly collaborative, and we are very thankful to all of our members, both past and present. When Tracy and Nicole Peterson began the land acknowledgment process several years ago, we knew that the outcome had the potential to be transformational. And, indeed, that's what it's been. We have heard appreciation from departments and offices across campus and the state of Iowa -- many of whom have now taken the initiative to create their own land acknowledgments. We are proud of the other partnerships we have worked to build, including with the Office of Admissions to ensure that we're actively working to recruit and support Native students; Strategic Communication to share our message and land acknowledgment with the broader community; the Obermann Center for sponsoring events with local Native leaders; the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to bring Native high schoolers to Iowa each summer through the Iowa First Nations Program and conduct BUILD training with faculty and staff across campus; the Centers for Diversity and Enrichment for their ongoing support of our initiatives and helping us build additional resources for our Native community. And, last but certainly not least, we must acknowledge the incredible leadership and partnership of the Native American Student Association (NASA) and the Latino Native American Cultural Center (LNACC).