Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Graduate Student among Chancellor’s Committee on Status of Latinos award recipients

The GC's Jodi Aguilar continues to rack up accomplishments

Note: The original article is entitled "Chancellor’s Committee on Status of Latinos awards students, employees"; we have modified it to highlight our graduate student's involvement.

The Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos gathered in May to celebrate the recipients of the annual CCSL Recognition Awards and the CCSL Hilda Lopez-Arce Scholarship.

The CCSL Recognition Awards and the $500 CCSL Hilda Lopez-Arce Scholarship are given to hardworking and committed UIC faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students who serve the Latino community. This year’s awards were competitive, and the awardees are role models and mentors in the Latino community and leaders who are actively involved with Latino issues at the university.

The 2023-24 awardees are:

David Xavier Marquez, Faculty Awardee: Professor Marquez is interim department head of kinesiology and nutrition and director of the Exercise Psychology Laboratory. He is also the leader of the Latino Core of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. His research focuses on reducing health disparities and, especially, older Latino adults and those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The Bailamos dance program he co-created is at the heart of his work. Marquez has advised more than 80 undergraduate research assistants, the vast majority of whom are Latino, and seven Latino PhD students.

Paula Melissa Hernández, Academic Professional Awardee: With over 25 years of dedicated service in higher education, Hernandez has committed herself to addressing racial and ethnic inequalities and striving to create a more inclusive, equitable environment for all. With a wealth of experience in STEM education, Hernandez is the associate director of strategic initiatives for Break Through Tech Chicago. She collaborates seamlessly with administrators, faculty, students, community partners and researchers to achieve academic and career goals. Her passion lies in researching, educating and mentoring students and lifelong learners who aspire to interdisciplinary STEM professions. Her unwavering dedication to their success is a testament to her commitment to fostering a future where everyone can succeed.

Vanesa Velázquez, Civil Service Awardee: Velázquez, assistant director for the Center for Student Involvement, advises a diverse array of student organizations, spearheads departmental marketing initiatives and coordinates campus-wide programs. As adviser to the LatinX Heritage Month student planning committee, she successfully supported programs, recruited and trained new Latino-identifying student leaders and promoted an inclusive environment for Latino students to thrive.

Jodi Aguilar, Graduate Student Awardee: Aguilar is a doctoral candidate in the literacy, language and culture program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, as well as a gender and women’s studies concentrator. Their transdisciplinary dissertation research, “Envisioning Queer Chicanx Futures in Education: Centering Testimonios de Trans, Non-Binary y Queer Chicanx Educators in Chicago,” places trans, queer and nonbinary educators of color at the center of queer and trans studies, reflecting critical conversations that challenge disciplinary constraints and hegemonic and status-quo neoliberal educational agendas. Through testimonio (storytelling) methodology and queer Chicana feminist zine-making, they analyze how the lived experiences of trans, queer and nonbinary Chicanx educators in Chicago make futuristic, cariñoso (tender care) and artivist interventions toward queering education. Their commitment to the Latino community is demonstrated through culturally relevant programming, queer/trans feminist approaches to care and intersectional spaces of joy for graduate students.

Dayane Padilla, Undergraduate Student Awardee: Padilla, a recent graduate, will be pursuing her master’s degree at UIC. She is part of the L@S GANAS Research Fellowship and conducts research on increasing physical activity among Latinos in the Chicago area. She co-founded Mujeres En Medicina, an organization to support first-generation and Latino students pursuing careers in health care in the UIC community. She also is the undergraduate volunteer coordinator and a run leader in the Mobile Migrant Health team. She provides basic health care assessments and translates for physicians and medical students in Chicago police stations for the emerging migrant population. In her role, she creates opportunities for undergraduates to support the migrant community through donation drives and by organizing packing and sorting of medical supplies. Additionally, she works as a medical assistant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Her goal is to become a physician, working with Latino and underrepresented populations to address health care disparities.

Paulina Sequeda Malave, Hilda Lopez-Arce Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient: Malave is an undergraduate student in the College of Engineering pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering with a concentration in neural engineering. Currently a junior at UIC, Malave received her associate degree in engineering science at Elgin Community College. During her time there, she discovered a passion for community service when she participated in the Phi Theta Kappa Honors in Action program and served as a co-marketing officer for the Organization of Latin American Students. Malave extends her dedication to the Latino community by volunteering to support Venezuelan migrant communities and advocating for education. Her focus on assistive technologies reflects her dream of pursuing rehabilitation engineering in graduate school and helping people, especially those in underrepresented communities.

Monica Padilla, Hilda Lopez-Arce Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient: Padilla is an undergraduate student pursuing a dual degree in biology and public health, with a minor in Chinese on the pre-medicine track in the Honors College at UIC. She founded the Chinese Club and Taekwondo Club at UIC to create spaces that celebrate cultural diversity and foster a sense of belonging. Padilla is the vice president of Mujeres in Medicina and is dedicated to empowering Latina women pursuing careers in health care. As a Chicago EYES on Cancer research assistant intern at UIC, she translated materials from English to Spanish, conducted church interventions and increased Latina diversity in a breast-cancer clinical trial by 550%. As the founder of Charla De Salud, an initiative under the American Cancer Society, Padilla develops visually captivating educational materials in Spanish on health topics such as nutrition, cancer awareness and preventive care. Padilla led inclusive group discussions and created safe spaces for health dialogues that resonate with diverse Latino communities. As an American Cancer Society Legislative Ambassador, she advocates for cancer-related policies directly impacting the Latino community.

Original article: