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2017 Awards of Excellence recognize campus, community contributions

The University of Washington community came together to recognize and honor faculty, staff, students and alumni for their outstanding contributions at the Awards of Excellence ceremony in Meany Hall on Thursday, June 8, 2017.

The following is based on remarks made by President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Baldasty at the 47th annual event.

Norman Rice-fsiThe Honorable Norman Rice, Evans School and Department of Communication, Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus
Since 1938, the University and the Alumni Association have presented an award to a former UW student whose work has attained national or international prominence. The Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus award, which means “alumnus worthy of the highest praise,” is the highest honor bestowed by the University on a graduate.

This year’s award goes to the Honorable Norman Rice.

His more than 40 years in public service have been marked by extraordinary leadership, lasting accomplishments and a deep dedication to the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications in 1972 and a Master of Public Administration from the Evans School two years later.

Although he began his career as a journalist, he quickly found his calling as a public servant, serving on the Seattle City Council for three terms. On the council, he was a champion of diversity, growth, crime prevention and human rights, negotiating the passage of the Women and Minority Business Enterprise ordinance and the elimination of city investments in firms doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa.

Elected mayor of Seattle in 1989, he took on the problems facing the people while working to establish Seattle as a center for business, technology, social justice and effective government. He advocated for the Families & Education levy to improve public education and for support and services for residents facing homelessness. He led efforts to revitalize Seattle’s downtown, and his work on crime prevention helped drop the city’s crime rate to a 16-year low. His successes drew the national spotlight and he became the first Seattle mayor to serve as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Since leaving office, Norman has continued working to better the lives of people in the Puget Sound region. As president and CEO of the Seattle Federal Home Loan Bank, he helped increase housing and community development financing for low- and moderate- income families and neighborhoods. As president and CEO of The Seattle Foundation, he oversaw the creation of the GiveBig campaign, which has raised more than $56 million for local nonprofits and inspired tens of thousands of citizens to give back to their communities. In 2010, President Obama appointed him to the White House Council for Community Solutions to advise on the best ways to bring citizens, nonprofits, businesses and government together to meet community needs.

As a Husky, his credentials are impeccable. He supports our student athletes in every arena and, along with his wife, Regent Constance Rice, has held numerous leadership roles with the University. He currently serves on the Evans School’s Honorary Advisory Board, and previously served on the UW Foundation Board Executive Committee and as a Distinguished Visiting Practitioner at the Evans School. All this, and he still finds time to meet and mentor UW students.

Norman Rice’s instrumental achievements and career of public service are a credit to the University of Washington’s tradition of excellence and we are so proud to award him the Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus.

Peter Chiarelli-fsiGeneral Peter W. Chiarelli, U.S. Army (retired), Evans School, Distinguished Alumni Veteran Award
During his 41 years of military service and in the years since, General Chiarelli has dedicated himself to his brothers and sisters in arms. The University of Washington is very proud to count him among our alumni, having earned his Master in Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Affairs in 1980.

He has been tireless in his efforts to reduce suicide rates in the Army and to eliminate the stigma of suffering from post-traumatic stress. He has been a passionate advocate for mental health and for helping to heal the invisible wounds of war. As the CEO of One Mind for Research, an independent non-profit devoted to curing brain disorders, he is helping advance vital research in brain science and effective treatments for post-traumatic stress, as well as other brain injuries and illnesses. Throughout his career and in his current work, he has put the well-being of servicemen and women and their families first, raising awareness about the lingering effects of military service and how we can support those who wear or have worn the uniform.

Celina Gunnarson-fsiCelina Gunnarsson, Bioengineering, President’s Medalist
As a bioengineering major, Celina has described her passion for her work as “trying to forge connections between STEM and the outside world to expand what it means to be an engineer.” A student driven by innate intellectual curiosity, she pursued interests as varied as penguin evolution and Martian geology. But when she discovered the potential for solving complex problems in the field of biochemistry, she discovered her passion. Now, she’s working to connect her passion to that outside world through the avenues of social justice, diversity and storytelling. She is an ambitious and talented scholar already making her mark through research as well as on stage as a performer and plans to pursue her Ph.D. with a focus on tissue engineering and biophysics.

Narmina Sharifova-fsiNarmina Sharifova, Law, Societies and Justice, President’s Medalist
As an immigrant from Azerbaijan, Narmina has ­seized every opportunity that has come her way. At Bellevue College, she excelled academically, earning her Associate Degree with High Distinction. From there, she enrolled at the UW, majoring in Laws, Societies and Justice with a minor in Diversity. Even as she dealt with the hardship of her mother’s cancer diagnosis, she continued to thrive academically and serve her community, helping immigrants with job preparation and volunteering with UW’s American Indian Studies program. Having benefitted from the federal TRiO program as a student, she has given back as a volunteer teaching assistant for the TRiO Summer Bridge Program, offering others the same hand up that she received. On graduating, she plans to pursue a law degree as a means to help underrepresented communities have a voice.

Gaylene Altman-fsiGaylene Altman, Associate Professor, Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Informatics, School of Nursing, Distinguished Teaching Award
Gaylene Altman teaches knowledge of the head and knowledge of the heart. Her teaching combines vast medical information with compassion and social consciousness as well as a commitment to putting others ahead of self. Her students become dedicated nursing professionals and leaders who touch lives as clinicians, administrators, policy makers and educators. Throughout her 30 years as a UW faculty member, Gaylene has created classroom environments in which she fosters active participation among her students. As a student once told her “You are a legend among students. Everyone wants you for their clinical instructor.”

Arbella Bet-Shlimon-fsiArbella Bet-Shlimon, Assistant Professor, History, Distinguished Teaching Award
Araballa Bet-Shlimon makes her large classes seem small. Lectures are conversations with questions and brainstorming.  She addresses students by name. She asks them about their most rewarding educational experience, and she uses their answers to best work with their learning styles. Classroom conversations carry over into office hours, email exchanges and beyond the end of the course. In just a few years, Arbella has established herself, in the words of her department chair, as “one of the premier instructors in a department that cares deeply about undergraduate and graduate teaching.”

Alan Boss-fsiAlan Boss, Assistant Professor, School of Business, UW Bothell, Distinguished Teaching Award
One student notes that he has taken courses from faculty with different teaching styles, but nothing matched his experience with Alan Boss. From the way he assessed students’ learning, to his method for showing students how course content is relevant to their lives, Alan and his teaching leave an indelible mark. “Before I had Alan as a professor, I just wanted to learn to receive my degree,” the student writes, “but with Alan’s exceptional teaching methods, I was able to extend the course material and apply it to my own life.”

Steve Calandrillo


Steve Calandrillo, Jeffrey & Susan Brotman Professor, School of Law, Distinguished Teaching Award
Steve’s success as a teacher begins with his mastery of his subjects contract law, and law and economics and his fluency in issues of social justice and cultural competency. As his dean notes, he “adeptly blends theory, doctrine and practice to make sure his students are well-prepared in all dimensions and that they can integrate their learning to be effective professionals.” His teaching extends beyond the classroom as he mentors and advises students. He writes letters of recommendation and refers students for jobs. “Teaching students,” Steve says, “is about how we can help them achieve their dreams.”

Divya McMillin-fsiDr. Divya McMillin, Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Tacoma, Distinguished Teaching Award
Divya McMillin’s class, as one student writes, “catapulted me to a new level of intellectual development.” Students value her ability to integrate real-world case studies and community experience. Outside of the classroom, Divya has secured funding for undergraduate research. She has supported capstone projects in the Global Honors program and facilitated internships, as well as worked with students on theses and independent studies. Above all, she prepares her students for a global society. One of her students observes that Divya “pushed me to think beyond myself and to strive for global citizenship in an increasingly globalized world.”

Inma Raneda-Cuartero-fsiInma Raneda-Cuartero, Senior Lecturer, Spanish and Portuguese Studies, Distinguished Teaching Award
To excel as a teacher, one must be an avid leaner. That’s what Inma Raneda does. To expand her knowledge and pedagogical skills, she attends conferences, workshops and meetings. She presents papers, gives talks and participates in symposia. She also learns about her students by listening to them and observing how they learn  and adapts her teaching accordingly. She takes assessment seriously and uses it to evaluate her work. And she demonstrates to her students how assessment can help them track, reflect, improve and advance their own learning. Her approach earns high praise, as one student notes: “Inma always manages to cater her teaching to each student’s level.”

Kristi Straus-fsiKristi Straus, Lecturer, Program on the Environment, College of the Environment, Distinguished Teaching Award
After several years of teaching, Kristi Straus realized that a riveting lecture may keep students on the edge of their seats, but it doesn’t always mean they are learning. Five years ago, she changed her approach. She has incorporated service learning into her introductory courses. She spends less time lecturing and more time working with groups. She uses clickers to encourage discussions. She urges students to take charge of their own learning. “My philosophy,” she says, “is to approach my students as individuals capable of more than they think possible.”

Jody Early-fsiDr. Jody Early, Associate Professor, School of Nursing & Health Studies, UW Bothell, Distinguished Teaching Award for Innovation with Technology
Jody Early deeply understands the role of technology in advancing education. She believes that digital technologies can foster transformational learning and enrich the ways in which students can access and connect with not only course content, but with communities and each other. Through digital photography, digital storytelling, fieldwork and closed social media platforms, her students collaborate with students in Palestine to examine issues that impact the health of women and girls in their communities. As her nomination reads, “her teaching represents the rare nexus of innovation, integration and culture change in service to student learning.”

Jared Stewart-fsiJared Stewart, Graduate Student, Political Science, Excellence in Teaching Award
Jared Stewart has continuously been recognized by faculty, graduate student colleagues and undergraduates as a dedicated mentor. His classes are engaging and lively, as he incorporates active learning strategies and debates between students through innovative course and curriculum design. He consistently encourages his students to progress both academically and professionally. He inspires other graduate student instructors and assists faculty in developing new strategies and practices to keep students engaged.

Brianna Yamasaki-fsiBrianna Yamasaki, Graduate Instructor and Teaching Assistant, Psychology, Excellence in Teaching Award
Brianna Yamasaki knows how to connect with her students. She recognizes that each is different and has individual learning styles. As a result, she has incorporated different modalities for students to grasp particularly challenging concepts. She works to ensure lessons are organized, accessible and understandable. In addition, she gives students the opportunity to apply course material to real situations by touring numerous labs on campus. Through these hands-on opportunities, her students gain deeper knowledge of the subject matter and its application in the field.

Rick Gleason-fsiRichard Gleason, Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Distinguished Contributions to Lifelong Learning Award
Richard Gleason has advocated for lifelong learning throughout his career. The breadth of his work, longevity of his programs, and the impact for non-traditional audiences stands out. As a teacher, mentor and occupational health advocate, he has inspired health and safety professionals, supervisors, students, academics and workplace practitioners to improve health and safety conditions on the job. He has developed curriculum for the Pacific Northwest Occupational Safety and Health Education Center, where he also has been an instructor for more than 20 years. And, he has developed safety and health certificates for employees in a variety of industries.

Michael Gelb-fsiMichael Gelb, Professor and Boris and Barbara L. Weinstein Endowed Chair in Chemistry; Adjunct Professor, Biochemistry, University Faculty Lecture Award
Michael Gelb’s diversity of work and his evolution as a scientist is nothing short of unique. In the 1980s, his discovery of protein prenylation led to the development of new drugs to treat cancer. Over the last 20 years, he has been a world leader in the study of a class of enzymes that play critical roles in inflammatory diseases including asthma and arthritis. He also pioneered a landmark screening program that detects rare, but devastating, diseases in newborns. His colleagues treasure his collaborative style and his marvelous sense of humor.

Michael McCann-fsiMichael McCann, Professor, Political Science, Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award
Throughout his 34 years of service to the UW, Michael McCann has raised the bar for graduate diversity and mentorship. He is a tireless graduate student advocate and institution-builder, making graduate diversity, training, mentorship and funding core missions in the many leadership positions he has held. As one mentee writes, “I am a working class, formerly undocumented woman of color. Academia for people like me can be a jarring, unfulfilling and isolating experience. Michael has played a pivotal role in helping me navigate this new terrain and build community. He has radically altered the role and impact that a faculty member can have on a student and the broader community.”

Washington MESA group-fsiWashington MESA Team, Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, Distinguished Staff Award:

  • Lucy Casale, Senior Program Director
  • James Dorsey, Executive Director
  • Phyllis Harvey-Buschel, Director of K-12 Programs
  • Ku’ulani Seto, Executive Assistant

Over this team’s collective 75 years of experience in leading MESA locally and across the country, they have opened doors for thousands of students, helping to advance the mission of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and ensuring access and academic success for diverse students. Their deeply-held values extend to their support for one another, which is one reason they’ve been selected to receive this award as a group: teamwork is their guiding principle. Together, they are making a difference for underrepresented minority students in STEM and strengthening our whole community in doing so.

Saeid Rastegar, Regulated Materials Manager, Facilities Services, Distinguished Staff AwardSaeid Rastegar-fsi
Saeid exemplifies the phrase “above and beyond” in his work removing and abating biohazards, making our campus work spaces safe from harmful materials. His innovative thinking has resulted in enormous financial savings and his adaptive, collaborative approach make him an outstanding service provider. He values diverse perspectives and demonstrates how bringing a wide array of ideas to the table can lead to better results. On top of all these stellar qualities, when water was flooding a hallway in the Health Sciences Building, Saeid promptly lay across the hall to form a human dam in order to save the lower floors from damage!

Susan Reynolds-fsiSusan Reynolds, Social Worker, Social Work and Coordinated Care, UW Medical Center, Distinguished Staff Award
Her colleagues describe Susan as “helpful, available, with great ideas about ways to serve our patients.” From making sure an immigrant newly-arrived from West Africa got the resources she needed to help her children be healthy, to working patiently with hard-to-treat patients and patients dealing with homelessness, Susan’s approach to social work is to treat each client as an individual with unique needs and deserving of the highest standards of service. She has sought out special training to sharpen her own skills and still finds time to mentor the next generation of social work students.

Kay Soder-fsiKay Soder, Assistant Nurse Manager, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Harborview Medical Center, Distinguished Staff Award
Kay is that “one-of-a-kind” employee, whose dedication doesn’t stop at the end of the day or the end of the week. Described as a “kind, efficient, caring team player,” Kay is a truly great nurse, the kind of person who might use her day off to go dig up an item needed by the unit from UW Surplus or go visit a former geriatric patient in her new residence to relieve the patient’s anxiety in an unfamiliar setting. Known for acts of kindness both large and small, her empathy and meticulous care are consistently outstanding.

Cassk Thomas-fsiCassk Thomas, Custodian, Building Services, Distinguished Staff Award
Even by the exacting standards of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, Cassk has earned a reputation for achievement. He’s often the first to arrive in the morning. As a custodian, he does more than just clean the facility. He considers how his work can be the most efficient and the most conducive to productivity for the whole building vacuuming when it’s least likely to disturb other staff, replacing lightbulbs before anyone even notices they’re out. His proactive, personally-invested work ethic is visible in the excellent quality he delivers. But above all, his caring and compassion for the Midshipmen is clearly evident and his nominators emphasized his importance to their tight-knit community.

Connie Bourassa-Shaw-fsiConnie Bourassa-Shaw, Director, Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, Foster School of Business, David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Connie has been described as the rare boss who challenges those who work with her, for her, and around her in a way that elevates, inspires and produces creative solutions. She is an employee who never rests, seeking solutions for pain points and empowering those who work for her to get creative and proactive as well. She is an entrepreneur at heart and has revitalized the entrepreneurship curriculum to empower students across our campus. She is a true believer in the power of innovation to impact the world. Through her work, she has ensured that innovation here at the UW is rewarded and supported.

Greg Miller-fsiGreg Miller, Professor and Chair, Civil & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Greg has been called “visionary and effective” for his innovative leadership  from making long-needed improvements to the Civil and Environmental Engineering facilities, to a revised and revitalized hiring schedule that has resulted in a string of successful hires. A gifted administrator who can make decisions while inviting collaboration and listening to input, Greg has cultivated an atmosphere of cooperation and trust and has earned his colleagues’ friendship and respect. His leadership goes beyond CEE to the whole College of Engineering, where his work and insight is helping to guide the College’s 10-year growth plan.

Mary St Germain-fsiMary St. Germain, Head of Near East Section, International Studies, University Libraries, Distinguished Librarian Award
Mary is “the essential librarian” and indeed, her knowledge, skills and accomplishments render her indispensable to the UW Libraries and to our University. She brings encyclopedic knowledge of world languages to her work, including Arabic (in which she earned her Ph.D. here at the UW). She is undaunted by some of the most challenging work handled by the libraries, tackling the most stubborn tasks and never hesitating to take on new responsibilities, even if she has to learn a new language in one case, Hebrew   to do it. Her work and scholarship are a credit to the UW and a priceless gift to our students and scholars.

Eddie_Pasatiempo-fsiMr. Eddie Pasatiempo, Alumnus, Department of Communication, Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award
Eddie’s contributions to the UW Alumni Association and the University of Washington are truly special. He is among our most prolific ambassadors and has forged a peerless network of connections stretching across our entire alumni community. His leadership, founded on deep experience and a talent for innovation, has resulted in an alumni association that is more aligned, more vibrant and more sustainable than at any time in our institution’s history. His dedication and love has helped secure the future of the UW’s alumni community, and truly the long-term health of the UW itself.

Joy Plein-fsiJoy Plein, Professor Emeritus, School of Pharmacy, Distinguished Retiree Excellence in Community Service Award
Retirement has done nothing to slow down Joy or lessen her many contributions to the School of Pharmacy. Her part-time faculty appointment is nominally 10 percent, but her service and enthusiasm for the mission of the schools go well beyond that fraction. She continues to mentor and serve as a leader in the Plein Certificate in Geriatric Pharmacy that she and her late husband Elmer created and she remains an inspiration to the 362 students who have earned the certificate. An expert in building partnerships, she has helped forge critical relationships with community organizations and retirement communities to improve elder care and enhance training opportunities. A generous donor, supporter and leader, we are so grateful for her continued contribution to the School of Pharmacy.

Helen Buckland-fsiHelen Teresa “Trez” Buckland, Clinical Assistant Professor, Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, School of Nursing, Outstanding Public Service
Trez Buckland has maintained a full teaching schedule while amassing an admirable record of research and publication. At the same time, she has compiled an enviable record of initiating and sustaining outreach programs for those with mental illnesses. From founding support groups for people diagnosed with psychotic disorders to serving on committees and alliances that advocate for and serve those with mental illness, her public service is impressive. Her contributions have not been solely one effort in a single program, but rather a multifaceted and often simultaneous combination of sustained outreach and educational efforts that have affected individuals, their families and the general public.