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Award medallion
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While the carefully planned ceremonies have all been canceled, numerous awards traditionally given in the spring have been presented via either virtual ceremonies or announced online. The recognition of the many contributions of our Carolina community is a reminder that our faculty, staff, students and alumni are devoted to creating and sustaining an environment that fosters growth, connection and inspiration. Congratulations to our many winners!


The Diversity Award, presented by the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion, recognizes significant contribution, time and effort of Carolina community members towards advancing an inclusive climate for excellence in teaching, research, public service and academic endeavor.

Alumni award:

  • Eugene Lao (’91), who now serves as General Counsel at Reltio, who was one of the founders of the Asian Students Association at UNC and has been instrumental in helping the Asian American Center Campaign Team raise funds towards the building of the Center; and
  • Angel Collie (’10), currently Assistant Director at Duke University’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Angel worked as a student at the UNC LGBTQ Center and later led LGBTQ programming initiatives as its Assistant Director.

Staff award:

  • Monica Figueroa, Music Cataloging Librarian and Interim Librarian for Inclusive Excellence in the University Libraries. Monica has used her library technical services expertise to strategize for decolonizing the presentation of information and data in research; and
  • Patricia Harris, Director of Recruitment at the School of Education, where she provides oversight for student recruitment initiatives and establishes collaborative strategies and programs designed to expand the pipeline of diverse candidates.

Faculty award:

  • Echo Meyer, Professor in the Psychiatry and Pediatrics Departments Consultation Liaison Programs, Founder and Co-Director of the Gender Wellness and Equality Clinic and Chief of Psychology in the School of Medicine. There, Echo works to ensure quality healthcare for transgender people; and
  • Joseph Megel, Artist-in-Residence, Teaching Professor in Performance Studies, and Director of UNC’s Process Series. His directorial work in the theatre and his teaching at UNC primarily focus on new performance as a vehicle for social justice.

Graduate/Professional Student award:

  • Geovani Ramirez, Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and in Women’s and Gender Studies, for his work in support of Latinx students and his exploration of multiethnic and Latinx literature; and
  • Effua E. Sosoo, Graduate Student in the Clinical Psychology Program, where she worked in diversifying the pipeline of clinical psychologists at UNC.

Undergraduate Student award:

  • Andrea Prego (’21), from Charlotte, NC, majoring in Business Administration with a Public Policy minor. Andrea has worked to promote the advancement of her local Latinx community through various leadership roles; and
  • Graeme Strickland (’20), from Greenville, NC, double majoring in Business Administration and Peace, War and Defense. Graeme’s activism has taken form through policy advocacy in UNC Young Democrats and as a leader in the Community, Equity and Inclusion Committee at Kenan-Flagler Business School

Intergroup Collaboration Award:

  • Asian American Center Campaign Team, who have successfully raised funds to create an Asian American Center on campus and bring greater visibility to Asian populations; and
  • TEAM ADVANCE, whose mission is to catalyze a culture of accessible, equitable and effective mentoring across the University.


Advocacy Awards winners


The LGBTIQA+ Advocacy Award, presented by the LGBTQ Center, recognizes contributions to or advocacy on behalf of LGBTIQA+ communities at UNC. Individuals are honored for having elevated the status of LGBIQA+-identified persons and/or allies; helped to improve campus or community policies affecting LGBTIQA+-identified persons; and/or enhanced visibility and awareness of LGBTIQA+ issues – all from an intersectional framework.

Faculty, Staff and Postdoc Award:

Dr. Brad Figler, MD, who has been the major driver in the development of a new multidisciplinary transgender health program at UNC, which provides much-needed high level, compassionate care to transgender patients. The program that he has established assists transgender patients who need gender-affirming care to navigate the complex healthcare system and to connect to the services they need.

Graduate and Professional Student Award:

Margo Faulk and Noa Nessim, who, through the funding of a Schweitzer grant, started the Gender Affirming Care Clinic at UNC’s Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC, the nation’s first student-run free clinic). Through this clinic, Noa and Margo, along with their supervising providers, offer free gender affirming care, including prescriptions for hormone therapy, primary care, and access to other outside resources. These two medical students have gone above and beyond the expectations of fourth year medical students, putting hundreds of hours into starting and operating this clinic and ensuring its continuation once they graduate and begin residency.

Undergraduate Student Award:

Graeme Strickland, who resurrected the Undergraduate Pride Club within the Kenan-Flagler Business School. One of his first acts was to put in a proposal to fly a Pride flag at the McColl building, collecting signatures from all business programs. He dealt with multiple stakeholders in a very political environment to come up with a solution that could be approved by the administration. Furthermore, he has helped the undergraduate program promote queer-focused programming and has advocated for non-gender-specific language and the use of pronouns in his classes.



Presented by the Carolina Women’s Center on behalf of the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the University Awards for the Advancement of Women recognize contributions to the advancement of women at UNC by people of all genders. Those recognized will have helped to improve or establish campus policies and practices that positively impact women; promoted and advanced the recruitment, retention and upward mobility of women at UNC; participated in, assisted with, or established professional development opportunities for women; and/or participated in, assisted with, or established academic mentoring opportunities for women.

Faculty award:

Dr. Amelia Fischer Drake, MD, FACS, has been an “unparalleled force” in elevating the status of women in medicine on campus in sustainable ways. In her more than 30 years at UNC, Amelia has steadfastly encouraged women leaders in both the medical and dental schools through institutional and departmental programming, mentoring and advocacy. As one of the first women to fill a leadership role in the School of Medicine’s Dean’s Office more than 10 years ago, she paved the way for future women leaders at the highest levels.

Staff award:

Valerie Tan, Associate Chair for Administration, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, works with female staff to develop higher level skill sets to help them advance and achieve their next career goal. She is a key promoter for female faculty and staff, recognizing in-house talent, and recommending female staff to take leadership or board member roles with campus groups. Outside of Carolina, Valerie volunteers with Cinderella’s Closet and the Compass Center for Women and Families.

Graduate/professional student or postdoctoral scholar award:

Shannon Speer, a PhD student in UNC’s Chemistry department, in Gary Pielak’s lab. Throughout her graduate studies, she has been passionate about the recruitment and promotion of women in STEM and involved with Women in Science (WinS), Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering (AM_WISE), WinSPIRE (Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences), and the Inspiring Meaningful Programs and Communication through Science (IMPACTS) program. Shannon became Director of Grant Writing and Fundraising for WinSPIRE, raising $20,000 to support underprivileged and underrepresented young women in science. This funding helped increase the diversity of the program: 40% African American and Latinx compared to 5% the year before and a 25% increase of first-generation college students. She also works closely with young women in the community through tutoring and academic consulting to help promote the next generation of women in science.

Undergraduate student award:

Anna Manocha (’22), from Cary, North Carolina, a Business Administration major and Spanish for the Business Professions minor. As Vice President of She’s the First (an international organization that provides financial and emotional support for girls that are the first int heir families to go to secondary school) she plans fundraisers to finance the education of three scholars in India and one in Guatemala. She also works to attract new members so the UNC chapter can fund the education of even more scholars worldwide. Anna is also a Buckley Public Service Scholar, volunteers at Club Nova and local homeless shelters in the Chapel Hill community and works with UNC’s From Houses to Homes Club, recently travelling to Guatemala to build a house during spring break.



2020 AIC Scholarship Award winners


Every year, the UNC American Indian Center (AIC) distributes impactful scholastic awards. The Faith Danielle Hedgepeth Scholarship Award and the Carolina Native Service Scholars Award are given to students who have demonstrated their commitment to serving the American Indian community of North Carolina. This year, the AIC was also able to offer scholastic awards to an additional two students in the form of the Student Success Award.

The Faith Danielle Hedgepeth Scholarship Award, established in 2015 to celebrate and honor the life of Faith Danielle Hedgepeth, is given to rising juniors who are interested in pursuing a health profession or similarly supportive careers serving the American Indian community. The award ($1,000) is designed to support the student’s academic endeavors and extracurricular campus and community engagement.

Hannah Starling, a Media and Journalism major concentrating in Broadcast Journalism, of the Lumbee Tribe, from Dunn, NC. She was one of three Native students at her high school. At UNC, she has embraced the wider native community and is an active member of the Carolina Indian Circle, where she helps to create a supportive and welcoming environment. As an Orientation Leader in summer 2019, she made it her mission to meet all incoming Native students and make them feel valued at UNC. She has continued to make herself available to those first-year students to help them overcome the struggles that Native students often face when they leave their home community to attend college. Outside of Carolina, Hannah has volunteered with Friends of the Earth to raise awareness about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its potential impacts on Native land. This work has reinforced her desire to promote awareness of issues facing Indian Country. A Media and Journalism major concentrating in Broadcast Journalism, Hannah plans to use her future career to share stories of Native people with a wide audience. In particular, she wants to focus on issues like the educational gap, pay gap and the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

The Carolina Native Service Scholars Award is given to recent alumni of the UNC Summer Bridge program who have demonstrated a history of service or leadership in a North Carolina Native community. Students who receive this award ($750) commit to working on a service project at the American Indian Center.

Kyla Locklear, a rising sophomore and a proud member of the Lumbee Tribe, has been actively involved with her tribe from a young age, starting with her participation in the Lumbee Boys and Girls Club. She has served her community by volunteering at the Annual Fall Festival Fish Fry and contributing to relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew. Kyla was a representative of the Lumbee Tribe at the National AISES Conference during her senior year of high school—the only student from her school selected for this honor. As a first-year student at UNC, she served as a Student Ambassador at the UNC American Indian Center. There, she advocated for diversity at UNC and educated her fellow Tar Heels about Native American issues.

Tiana Jacobs, deeply devoted to the Lumbee Tribe, began learning about Lumbee cultural practices and history at a young age. She always participates in and volunteers for the annual “Dance of the Spring Moon” powwow in her hometown of Pembroke. Tiana is very committed community service, participating in cleaning projects with the Native American Student Association (NASA), after school childcare with the Pembroke Housing Authorities Youth ExpoGro program and hurricane relief efforts. After her graduation from UNC, Tiana plans to go into healthcare. Her dream is to have a clinic that provides her community with free basic medical services. She hopes that by doing so she will not only help make members of her community healthier, but enable others to pursue economic development for their community.

The Student Success Award ($500) is granted to students who displayed service and leadership in their home communities and is meant to support them as they share their talents with the campus community.

Elizabeth Silver, a rising junior well on her way to establishing herself as a leader in the Haliwa-Saponi community, has shown her investment in her people’s culture by regularly attending cultural classes and participating in a traditional coming of age ceremony. She has worked to raise awareness in her community about sexual harassment and assault, using her 2017 campaign for Miss Haliwa-Saponi Princess and later speaking engagements to do so. While at UNC, Elizabeth further honed her community leadership skills, working as a Community Counselor for Project Uplift in 2019, where she led group activities and forums with the goal of encouraging minority high school students to apply to college. Elizabeth has been an active member of the Carolina Indian Circle, joining their executive team as Cultural Co-Chair in 2019, and is the Vice President Elect for the 2020-2021 school year. Elizabeth plans to attend law schools and to eventually practice family law to help survivors of domestic violence.

Alyssa Clark, a rising junior from the Lumbee Tribe, aspires to be a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Since she was in high school, she has wanted to serve her community as a medical health professional and has worked hard towards that goal. Alyssa is already a Certified Nursing Assistant and puts her skills to good use. As a high school student, she volunteered and interned with local nursing homes and hospitals. In addition to her studies, she works as a nursing assistant at UNC Hospital. Alyssa plans to work in Robeson County after she finishes her education so that she can better serve the Native American population there and use her position as a nurse to change peoples’ lives for the better.


2020 Massey Award Winners

One of the most prestigious distinctions for faculty and staff, the award was established in 1980 by the late C. Knox Massey (’59) of Durham to recognize “unusual, meritorious or superior contributions” by University employees. Six recipients receive a $10,000 stipend and an award citation.

Tom Bythell, University Forest Manager, Facilities Services, an arborist and University forest manager for 22 years, has championed the trees that contribute to Carolina’s heritage of beauty and dignity. His responsibilities include the landscapes on north and south campus, the ashes garden and display areas and the forest and trails in Carolina North. Though trees are his first love, he also serves as grounds liaison to capital projects and oversees pest management, grounds recycling, irrigation tracking, water conservation and snow removal. Bythell created the Tree Fund, using construction-impact fees to replace shade trees, and started the Tree Cycle Program to repurpose downed limbs and trees, including pens made on campus from the Davie Poplar.

Julie Cannefax, Student/Business Services Coordinator, curriculum in Toxicology, UNC School of Medicine, has been the hub — and heart — of Carolina’s curriculum in toxicology and environmental education since 2007. The unit’s only administrative staff member, she responds to detailed financial reports required by various granting agencies, and, as funding sources change for graduate students and post-docs, makes sure their salaries and stipends are paid on time. She manages complex lab placements, coordinates meetings and retreats, promotes seminars and — in a curriculum spread across campus and into the Research Triangle Park — serves as liaison for communication, implementation and support. During a transition of directorship for the toxicology professional science master’s degree program, Cannefax assumed additional responsibilities to work with outgoing and incoming directors.

Steve Davis, Associate Director and Research Archaeologist, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, has perfected the art of exploring the science of archaeology. With the precision of sculptors, he and his students resurrect artifacts from our past. A 1974 graduate in anthropology, Davis has been at Carolina for 37 years and is widely regarded as the preeminent archaeological expert on North Carolina’s late pre-colonial and colonial native peoples. He is author and co-author of an extensive catalog of publications. As the public face of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, he leads a hands-on field school to teach excavation and stewards millions of artifacts, thousands of photographs and hundreds of thousands of records in the North Carolina Archaeological Collection.

Joseph Jordan, Interim Vice Provost for Academic and Community Engagement, Director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, Adjunct Associate Professor of African/African American and Diaspora Studies, is a scholar of national stature with 20 years of service to the University. As director of The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, he pioneered hundreds of academic initiatives, art exhibits, lectures, film screenings, discussions and standing programs. Two of his projects attracted an international audience: the six-day festival-conference, Telling Our Stories of Home, and the 1619 Collective Memory(ies) Symposium. In the classroom, Jordan has been called “a gem of a professor.” A champion of global outreach, he created opportunities for study in Colombia, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and a fellowship for study abroad that benefits students from underrepresented communities.

Patti Wilkinson, Business Officer, Office of the Chancellor, began her Carolina career more than 35 years ago with UNC Health Care and since then has left her mark of excellence on positions in the UNC School of Government (formerly the Institute of Government), on two successful fundraising campaigns with University Development, and in collaborative support to the University Ombuds Office and the ConnectCarolina portal, among others. She joined the chancellor’s office as an executive assistant to the chief of staff and the Board of Trustees, and she now serves as business officer in the chancellor’s office. Her decades of institutional wisdom partner with an eagerness to learn and result in best practices.

Carol Womack, Housekeeper (Zone 23), Facilities Services/Housekeeping, has ensured that learning takes place in an atmosphere of cleanliness and order, for more than 14 years and with professionalism, respect, dedication and excellence. More than a housekeeper, she is keeper of 18 houses of learning — classrooms and laboratories as varied as the Hanes Art Center and the Love House and Hutchins Forum. Womack’s workload includes high-traffic, high-volume spaces filled with students, faculty and administrators, and a building that houses confidential information and must be cleaned while staff are present. Her knowledge of housekeeping functions and standards, her attention to detail and her strict adherence to regulations and procedures make her a role model for others.


Compiled by Adrianne Gibilisco, University Office for Diversity & Inclusion


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