Each year, the UCLA Academic Senate honors one undergraduate student, one graduate student, one staff and up to four faculty members for their contributions to furthering a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus environment. 

This year, the Senate has selected four faculty members to receive the Career Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award. They honorees are: Smadar Naoz, professor of astrophysics; Vickie Mays, professor of clinical psychology; Jorge Torres, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Sarah Tolbert, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Smadar Naoz is the chair of both the physics diversity committee and the astronomy and astrophysics diversity committee. She has organized numerous workshops focused on reducing bias and improving diversity in the physics and astronomy department. Naoz also coordinated a visit from the American Physical Society Committee to discuss the status of women in physics and ways to improve the departmental climate for underrepresented minorities. She also created the New American Physics Society-UCLA Physics Bridge-Program, which is aimed at doubling the number of physics doctoral degrees awarded to underrepresented minority students.

Vickie Mays serves as the director of the UCLA Center for Bridging Research Innovation, Training and Education for Minority Health Disparities Solutions, which is known as BRITE. As director, Mays is engaged in cognitive studies of how race-based discrimination impacts cognitive processing by the brain and how the stress of race-based discrimination contributes to early mortality. She was also part of a committee that developed the UCLA Research Initiative for Diversity and Equity, which funded 17 small grants that examined social climate on campus as it related to diversity and inclusion. Mays is also being recognized for advancing the field of diversity courses even before they were supported and for working with high schools to increase the pipeline into higher education and employment opportunities in research.

Jorge Torres serves on the diversity committee for the division of physical sciences in the UCLA College. Torres’ accomplishments include recruiting, mentoring and training underrepresented minorities and disadvantages students in the sciences. Torres is being recognized for his collaboration with numerous programs that support UCLA’s mission of increasing diversity in the sciences including the California Alliance for Minority Participation, the UC Historically Black Colleges and University initiatives and the Undergraduate Research Center-Sciences. He was recently recognized at the national level for his contributions to promoting diversity and inclusion in the sciences through a 2019 Diversity in Science Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Sarah Tolbert has served as the California NanoSystems Institute Faculty Director for Education since the institute was founded 17 years ago. Tolbert teamed with Center X, the educational outreach arm of the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, to begin running free workshops for science teachers in the Los Angeles area. Tolbert also helped develop an array of nanoscience-based demonstrations designed especially for public outreach events. They range from UCLA-sponsored STEM events like “Explore Your Universe” to CNSI-sponsored ones such as “Nanoscience at the Mall.”

This year’s undergraduate, graduate and staff recipients of the diversity, equity, and inclusion awards are:

  • Alexandra Krantzler, undergraduate student, who was recognized for her role service as a diversity peer leader with the intergroup dialogue program. She has created curricula and programming to help students and staff grow in how they navigate conflict, bias and stigma through the use of dialogue.
  • Jesus Iniguez, graduate student, who was recognized for his work with the California NanoSystems Institute, where he participates in nanoscience outreach programs and provides teacher training workshops.
  • Enrique Ainsworth, executive director of the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity, who was recognized for his work in recruiting, developing, and retaining historically underrepresented engineering students during the past 30 years.