About the DCA's

For over twenty years, the Diversity Catalyst Awards honor faculty, staff, students, programs, departments, and student organizations who have engaged in D.E.I. initiatives during the previous academic year, promoting the development of an inclusive and diverse campus community.

The University of Iowa's commitment to a welcoming and inclusive campus is embedded in policy, practices, values, and mission. The Diversity Catalyst Award recognizes the excellence, innovative and distinctive inclusion efforts of campus constituents.

Opening remarks

Liz Tovar
Dr. Liz Tovar
Executive Officer and Associate Vice President
Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Keynote address

Valerie Garr
Valerie Garr
Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion &
 
Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction/N.E.S.T. Tutoring Program, College of Nursing
Recipient of Distinguished Catalyst Award

2022 Diversity Catalyst Award Winners

Anti-Racism Collaborative

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 College of Education

The Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC) intends to inspire and normalize conversations that deconstruct how racism operates in our organization, our community, and our society. The ARC structures invite all in the College of Education community to think and act together boldly and creatively to implement practices that are intentionally anti-racist.

To view the work of the Anit-Racism Collaborative in the College of Education, click here.

Lia Plakans

Lia Plakans
Lia Plakans

DEO Dept of Teaching and Learning; Professor Multilingual Education

Lia Plakans is a professor of Multilingual Education at the University of Iowa and the Departmental Executive Officer for the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education. She works with faculty, students and staff in teacher education and graduate studies in nine program areas. Her research focuses on language learning with particular emphasis on language assessment and literacy. The goal of her work is to improve educational opportunities for multilingual students in the U.S. and internationally.

Joyce Goins-Fernandez

Joyce Goins-Fernandez
Joyce Goins-Fernandez 

Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics- Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Joyce Goins-Fernandez, Ph.D. is a clinical assistant professor and Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. She works in the Attention and Learning Disorders Clinic in Pediatric Psychology within the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Dr. Goins-Fernandez conducts ADHD and Learning Disorder evaluations with children and adolescents. She also performs therapy with children and facilitates medical student small groups. 

Dr. Goins-Fernandez earned a B.S. in Psychology from Xavier University of Louisiana. She completed her Doctorate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Iowa. Dr. Goins-Fernandez completed a predoctoral internship at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dr. Goins-Fernandez is interested in social justice and researching issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She currently serves as the Diversity Liaison and Co-Chair of the Diversity and Social Justice Committee for the Iowa Psychological Association.  She has held this position for the past 5 years. Dr. Goins-Fernandez also serves as the Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and as president of the Black Faculty Council within the Carver College of Medicine.

Milagro Michels-Cordao

Milagro Michels-Cordao
Milagro Michels-Cordao

Graduate Student with the U of I College of Pharmacy

As a first-generation college student from a low-income immigrant household in rural Iowa, Doctor of Pharmacy student Milagro Michels-Cordao embodies the resilience it can take to even make it to college in the face of life’s adversities.

I have been wonderfully privileged to have the right roadblocks removed to stand here with you today,” Michels-Cordao told a group of hundreds of state and local leaders. “And that is a lifelong goal of mine: To help others remove their roadblocks.”

As she spoke, she wore the white coat of the pharmacist, topped by an Iowa button. Her remarks were made at a ceremony dedicated to the highly accessible new pharmacy building. Removing life obstacles for others is the very spirit of advocacy and empowerment that University of Iowa leaders who are passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) foster.

While pursuing her BS in Human Physiology at the University of Iowa, she was a Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) scholar and volunteered for Mobile Clinic. As a pharmacy student, she has gone above and beyond to advocate for DEI within her community. She has been a fellow with SHPEP for the past two years, as well as having been a founding member of the DEI Initiative Committee at the UI College of Pharmacy. She also has continued her involvement with the UI Mobile Clinic and is a COVID-19 Immunization Clinic Coordinator. She currently plans on pursuing a residency program after graduation, specializing in psychiatry to work on improving mental health within the community.

Shana Harris

Shana Harris
Shana Harris

Co-Founder Bridging the Gap in Psyience

Shana Harris, M.A., is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Science Ph.D. program (neuropsychology subtrack in Dr. Daniel Tranel’s lab) and a Lulu Merle Johnson Fellow at the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on reducing disparities in health and neuropsychological outcomes of Black patients with neurological disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, stroke, etc.) She serves as the student representative on the Psychology and Brain Science DEI committee, aiding in the development of initiatives and curricula to improve the recruitment of historically excluded groups and multicultural training within the program. She is a founder of two DEI programs, Bridging the Gap in Psyience (BGP) and Gateway to Psyience (GP), aimed at the retention of BIPOC graduate and postdoctoral students through fellowship (BGP) and the recruitment of high school students into the sciences through mentorship with graduate students (GP), within the Psychology, Neuroscience, and Counseling departments. In the community, she has chaired programs aimed at advocating for physical and mental health awareness in women and youth from minoritized backgrounds, providing support for refugee populations, and developing scholarships for Black students in Iowa matriculating to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Ariel Kershner

Ariel Kershner
Ariel Kershner

Co-Founder Bridging the Gap in Psyience

Ariel Kershner is a PhD candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow studying cognitive psychology, specifically the complex interaction between attention and memory in visual search. Outside of her research, Ariel works diligently to ensure that all students feel welcome and included in the Psychological and Brain Sciences department. Accordingly, she serves on the department’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee as a Graduate Student Member, where she contributes innovative ideas to increase diversity at UI and in psychology. She has also co-founded multiple initiatives to increase diversity within psychology and support students in her department. One initiative, Bridging the Gap in Psyience, is a student organization committed to the wellness and retention of underrepresented graduate students. Ariel has previously served as the vice president and currently serves as the president of Bridging the Gap in Psyience. Another initiative, Gateway to Psyience, is a psychology outreach program for BIPOC high school students to learn about psychological research. Ariel intends to continue to build a welcoming and inclusive environment, both at the University of Iowa and in her future lab.

Diane L. Finnerty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Legacy Award

Lan Samantha Chang

Lan Samantha Chang
Lan Samantha Chang

The Diane L. Finnerty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Legacy Award recognize members of the UI campus community who have played an integral role in creating positive institutional change related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Diane Finnerty's career at the University of Iowa spanned more than 25 years, most recently holding the position of Assistant Provost for Faculty, Office of the Provost. In her work at the University, she committed herself to being a relentless advocate to create a community and a more inclusive campus. Finnerty was a dedicated advocate, educator, and leader, who helped transform how many units and people addressed diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. Her legacy is deeply woven into UI's history and story.

Lan Samantha Chang, Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor of the Arts, Director of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and author of "The Family Chao," is this year's recipient. Chang is recognized for her extensive work with the Iowa Writer's workshop, her ability to attract extraordinary talent to visit the campus, and her continuous partnership with multiple departments (including the Women's Leadership Initiative) to establish substantial institutional transformation.

Alliant Energy & Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Achievement Awards

Iris España

Iris España
Iris España

Iris is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Management & Leadership in the Tippie College of Business with an Italian minor. She currently serves as a DEI Ambassador for the college of business and VP of Tippie Senate. As a proud member of Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc., she serves as the Marketing Chair and Cultural Affairs Chair; she is also a member of the Multicultural Greek Council executive board. This summer, Iris will intern at EY as a business consultant in the Transformation Design and Execution service line.

Nikole Molina

Nikole Molina
Nikole Molina

Nikole Molina is studying Business Analytics & Information Systems at the Tippie College of Business. She serves as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ambassador for the Tippie College of Business to advocate and create safe spaces for students of all backgrounds. Nikole is the vice president of finance for MBSA, a coordinator and mentor for the BizEdge program, and a peer leader for the Iowa Edge program. She will be interning with Best Buy’s corporate office this summer.

Iluda Ko

Iluda Ko
Iluda Ko

Iluda Ko is a junior studying Management Information Systems and Supply Chain Management at Iowa State University. He works at Ames Ford Lincoln as their main photographer and Assistant Website Manager implementing his skills in MIS. He is a one-and-a-half-generation immigrant from South Korea and actively uses his skills as a translator for business-to-business transactions that happen between Korean companies and Iowan companies.

Jacqueline Trujillo Garcia

Jacqueline Trujillo Garcia
Jacqueline Trujillo Garcia

Jacqueline Trujillo Garcia is currently a sophomore studying Finance and International Business at Iowa State University. During her time so far at Iowa State, she has been a part of several business clubs and has been heavily involved in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives at the university. She is passionate about business and helping others.

Tristen Prouse

Tristen Prouse
Tristen Prouse

Tristen Prouse is an Economics Major at the University of Northern Iowa. She is involved in Debate Team, the University Honors Program, Economics Club, various DEI initiatives, and is President of Pre-Law Club. When she is not running between classes and meetings, she enjoys reading, scuba diving, practicing calligraphy, and playing ukulele while pretending to be somewhere with nicer weather.

Phillip G. Hubbard Award

Gada A. Al Herz, College of Law

Gada A. Al Herz
Gada A. Al Herz

The Philip G. Hubbard Human Rights Award was established in 1981 by then-President Willard Boyd in honor of Vice President Emeritus Philip G. Hubbard, a faculty representative on the first UI Human Rights Committee and the first African American tenured professor at the UI. Many of you have enjoyed activities held in Hubbard Park to the south of the Iowa Memorial Union and Hubbard Commons which are both named in his honor.

This award is given to the student(s) who has made the most outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in the preceding year, in keeping with the University’s commitment to human rights, equal opportunity, and equal access.

The 2021-2022 recipient is Gada A. Al Herz, a 3L student at the University of Iowa College of Law, pursuing a career in international law. Ms. Al Herz attended the University of Iowa during her undergraduate years and has been very active in the UI and Iowa City communities since. She is dedicated to advocating for human rights and currently sits on the advisory board of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.

Diversity Seed Grants

Creating mental health resources & professional development workshops for AAPI/Asian international graduate students & postdocs

Graduate College’s Graduate Success Center, Grad-DEI, Pan Asian Council (PAC), International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), and Graduate Student Senate (GSS)

The purpose of this effort will be to enhance cross-cultural professional development programs, build mental health resources, and create support spaces for the Asian American, Pacific Islander (AAPI), Asian International graduate student, and postdoc community at Iowa.  The effort will focus on the following areas:

  • Provide mental health, self-care, and identity support for Asian American, Pacific Islander (AAPI), Asian international graduate students, and postdocs.
  • Facilitate workshops on mental health and identify for AAPI and Asian graduate students led by content experts and current UI graduate students and postdocs
  • Create resource pages on mental health, self-care, and identity experience for AAPI and Asian international graduate students and postdocs. These pages will be created by the Graduate Success Center in collaboration with AAPI and Asian international graduate students and postdocs as student development consultants.
  • Update Engaging Across Culture workshop sessions focused on teaching in the US, graduate school culture, and job seeking to include more relevant resources and information for AAPI and Asian graduate students and postdocs
  • Represent the specific challenges and stories of AAPI and Asian international students as part of the broader diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) effort at the University of Iowa.

Department of Biology Little Free DEI Library

In alignment with The Department of Biology's strategic plan, goals set by the departmental Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, and the UI's identity as a community of readers, we will create a free lending library, stocked with general and discipline-specific books focused on issues related to DEI.

A starter set of DEI-focused books will be purchased to create a lending library embedded within the Department of Biology.  Its goal is to promote conversations about race and equity in the sciences.

Improving Service to Neurodivergent Library Patrons

This project will improve Main Library's usability and inclusiveness for neurodivergent users, particularly those with sensory issues and those on the autism spectrum.

The Main Library will help neurodivergent users address the challenges of using the library's spaces and resources by providing sensory items for checkout. This will make Main Library a more welcoming place for those users with neurodivergence, whether diagnosed or not. The project can be rolled out to other campus libraries to let neurodivergent patrons know they are welcome and valued.

Recruitment and Retention of BIPOC Teacher Education Students

In Iowa, students of color make up 25% of K-12 students, while teachers of color make up 3% of the teacher workforce (NBC - Des Moines). In alignment with the State Task Force to Diversify the Teacher Workforce in the state of Iowa, the Baker Teacher Leader Center in the University of Iowa College of Education has partnered with the Iowa City Community School District to create a pipeline to recruit and retain BIPOC students to become teachers.

The Baker Teacher Leader Center will provide Iowa City high school students with mentorship and professional development opportunities to inspire, motivate, and support their desire to become educators in the Iowa City Community School District.

Wild Bill’s Media Creation Studio

The UI School of Social Work will provide a high-quality, easily accessible media creation studio in "Wild Bill's," the learning lab of the school. This studio will enable students, staff, and faculty to produce public-facing, multimedia storytelling projects promoting social justice through social work ideals and skills, including but not limited to, Wild Bill's Cup of Social Justice Podcast.  This effort will focus on the following areas:

  • Establish a dedicated space within Wild Bill's that anyone can use to record a podcast.
  • Upgrade recording equipment to make it easier for anyone to use.
  • Improve production quality by upgrading microphones, installing a mixing board, and acquiring monitoring headphones for producers.
  • Continue to create new School of Social Work podcast episodes featuring diverse topics of social justice and guests from diverse backgrounds.
  • Increase the School's engagement with a public audience on social justice and cultural competence topics.
  • Integrate creative media projects with our curriculum, giving Social Work students a new way to learn essential concepts and demonstrate their mastery.

Relive the 2021 DCA's

2021-22 B.U.I.L.D. Certificates

See the faculty and staff who have earned their B.U.I.L.D. Certificates