For the first time since 2019, Caltech's Center for Inclusion and Diversity (CCID) hosted its annual Celebration of Excellence in person. The awards ceremony honors members of the Caltech community who exemplify leadership in advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA).
On Thursday, May 25, community members and awardees gathered in the main lounge of the Athenaeum for an uplifting afternoon. Seven awards were presented, along with recognition for the work of club leadership in affinity groups, four graduating Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows, and CCID campus partners including the Women's Engagement Board, CCID event organizers, and the President's Diversity Council.
Below are the seven community members recognized, along with quotes their nominators shared while presenting the award.
IDEA Ally Award: Melissa Li
An IDEA Ally actively promotes and aspires to advance a culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility through intentional efforts that benefit marginalized people or communities. This award is given to individuals who exceed everyday expectations and are dedicated to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment to help create a campus where everyone has an opportunity to excel.
"[Melissa] led several programs over the years that improved the living and working conditions of every student, but in particular students who face more hardships than others because they come from underprivileged backgrounds or because of their identities." —Tobias Köehne, graduate student
IDEA Advocate Award: Claire Ralph
This award is given to individuals who promote the needs and experiences of other students, staff, or faculty to challenge systemic barriers that impede individuals from contributing their skills and talents in the classroom, workplace, or community. Such actions include raising awareness, inspiring action, advocating for an equitable campus climate, and leading efforts to dismantle structural barriers.
"[Claire] always strives to advocate on behalf of our students and to chisel away at the systemic barriers that exist. Claire is a barrier breaker." —Alice Liang, career educator and student programming manager, Career Development Center
IDEA Outreach and Education Award: David Cagan
This award is given to individuals who teach and inspire interest in inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in the community at large through learning experiences and service. This person creates change in the community both within and outside of Caltech through volunteerism, service-learning, and teaching, and the creation of pathway initiatives.
"When [David] is not publishing his research, he is advocating for historically minoritized students. He mentors undergraduates or he spends his time addressing gaps in STEM pathways. His outreach and mentorship have benefited our local community college, Pasadena City College; the WAVE Fellows program; and the GSRI [Graduate Summer Research Institute] program as well." —Maria Manzanares, associate director, Student-Faculty Programs Office
The Candace Rypisi Outstanding Mentor Award: Alexander Viloria Winnett
This award is given to individuals who are willing to share knowledge and enhance their mentee's professional and personal development. This person has provided emotional and moral support and encouragement while improving or helping facilitate access to career-related information and exposure to various professional resources. This awardee is someone who actively promotes their mentee's sense of competence, confidence, and belonging.
"Alex has been one of the most amazing mentors I've ever had. … Every single time we met, he'd always have super constructive feedback, and he always made me feel really well supported."
—Jenny Ji, undergraduate student
The Outstanding Mentee Award: Jenny Ji
This award is given to individuals who demonstrate a sincere desire to succeed as researchers and are committed to their personal development. This awardee is open and willing to learn from their mentor and receptive to guidance and counsel while working toward establishing realistic goals and demonstrating a commitment to carrying them out.
"Jenny is not only a dedicated student and a brilliant researcher, but also an inspiration and source of light to those around her." —Reid Akana, graduate student
The CCID Activist Scholar Award: Arianne Hunter
This award is given to individuals who demonstrated excellence within their discipline and research while engaging in complex social justice issues. This awardee has led or participated in advocacy campaigns centering on the experiences of minoritized identities and provided vision and leadership in forming affinity spaces and targeted support programs.
"[Ari] is holding the chemistry community accountable for its espoused beliefs of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This is needed in so many fields from amazing scientists like Ari, who have the integrity and courage to call out things and call people in. Everything that Ari does comes from a place of being unapologetically herself, raising awareness, and celebrating her communities." —Meagan Heirwegh, Research University Alliance program coordinator
The CCID Agent of Change Award: Maria Manzanares
This award is given to individuals embodying servant leadership through a demonstrated commitment to steering meaningful and lasting institutional change within the Caltech community. This person takes initiative and has the vision to translate a need into actionable steps or policy, and in the process, creates a legacy and a more inclusive campus climate.
"[Maria] is simply a keystone, an integral part of our community, a vital species in our ecosystem. She's an agent of change, working hard and diligently toward a vital, more accessible, diverse, and inclusive Caltech." —Leslie Rico, office administrator, Caltech Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach and Hixon Writing Center