Celebration of Community Engagement

2019 Awardees

Two men posing in front of a "I love UCI" background

5 women posing with Peter with Anteater and doing the Zot hand gesture

Two women posing with their certificates

UCI Engage Great Partner Awards

Alumni Great Partner Awards

Victor Cisneros graduated from the School of Medicine and is a current medical resident in the emergency medicine department at UCIMC. Widely known for his caring, positive and friendly nature as well as exceptional work ethic, Dr. Cisneros developed a research study that screens ER patients to determine if they are food secure. If food insecurity is determined, they are enrolled in a pilot program that provides them with a referral list of local services, a Target gift card for food purchases and a follow-up check in at 3 and 6 weeks following enrollment. This project is partnered with ‘Waste Not OC Coalition’, a local nonprofit that awarded him a $5,000 grant.

Judge Maria Hernandez has collaborated with UCI on the ‘Crossroads Study’ which was a large scale project to understand the impact of diversion on youth in the juvenile justice system. She helped raise $400K in funding to support the research, implemented change within the system by applying the findings and developing a program for parents to help them navigate the juvenile justice system. She continues to collaborate on research and translate the findings to bring positive change to the system.

Tony Ortiz, an alumnus of the school of Social Sciences, has been steadfast in his commitment to the UCI community and Latino alumni and students in particular. He was a driving force in the establishment and chartering of the UCI Latino Alumni Chapter where he is the current president. He is tireless in his efforts to engage Latino alumni and current students in a variety of events and programs. He has also been proactive in engaging UCI student interns at the research institute where he leads teams of clinical researchers advancing safe and effective therapeutics to market.

Furhan Zubairi, an alumnus graduated from the School of Biological Sciences in 2005, went on to become a scholar of Islamic Faith after studying at numerous universities around the globe. He partnered with the Institute of Knowledge, a non-profit organization whose vision is to inspire students in achieving excellence in both dimensions of knowledge; traditional religious and contemporary academic sciences and returned to UCI to become the chaplain for the Muslim students on our campus. He offers the students academic support and practical encouragement while providing spiritual guidance that supports emotional growth and well-being. He is passionate about mentoring these students and this partnership has had a profound impact on our Muslim students.

Faculty Great Partner Awards

Lisa Gibbs is a professor of family medicine, chief of the division of geriatric medicine and gerontology, medical director for the UCI Senior Health Center, director of the OC Elder Abuse Forensic Center, and UCI Health’s Accountable Care Organization. She was nominated for this award with strong support by her colleagues and community partners. Dr. Gibbs is an outstanding teacher and strong advocate for the seniors in our community. She has taken on numerous leadership roles within UCI and the community to promote, improve and expand the health needs of our elderly and has taken a particular interest in those that are at risk for abuse and neglect.  She has published articles, teaches seminars and serves on a number of committees to bring awareness to the issues surrounding our elderly community. She teaches geriatric medicine to fellow primary care providers of underserved populations and coordinates research projects to study elder abuse and to develop interventions for primary care. One of her community partners wrote in their letter of support, “Dr. Gibbs personifies the spirit of community collaboration and partnership. She takes her passion for community education and medical service beyond the classroom and clinic at every turn.” 

Jane Page was nominated for this award for her community work particularly in service to underserved populations. She uses theater to translate real life issues onto the stage and to provide a forum for community discussion. Professor Page encourages all her students to create and participate in at least one community collaborative theatre piece and these pieces have been incredibly well received by both the community and the students. 

Graduate Student Great Partner Awards

Dallas Augustine is a graduate student from the department of Criminology, Law, and Society, and has displayed a never-ending energy and commitment for the underserved in our community. Augustine began as a volunteer with the Orange County Needle Exchange Program, a non-profit program grounded in harm reduction. She is now their CEO, having utilized her academic training and experience to expand services to include wound care training while increasing the number of clients they serve. She has developed many partnerships across the community to garner support, train interns, and create pathways to offer a comprehensive support system all this while working on her graduate studies!

Mark Baldwin’s work for the blind and low vision members of our community has been inclusive of community partners from the beginning. He works closely with them to actively engage in conversations to understand issues and develop solutions. Not only does Mark actively engage with community partners but he is active in the campus community as well; advising undergraduate and master’s students. Mark developed technology that enabled a blind paddler to compete in a race without anyone else in his boat, an achievement never done before.

Kimberly Duong is from the department of Civil Engineering whose research focuses on water conservation programs. Duong has been actively engaged with the Irvine Ranch Water District working with them to improve the efficiency of and quantitatively assess their water conservation programs.  This interaction has led to a number of other community partnerships and will inform water policy reform across the region. Kimberly is also an active contributor to STEM outreach in K-12 schools in Orange County and also at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

Donald Tan is a medical student who has been a strong advocate for those community members who do not have health insurance and are in need of access to specialty care. Donald facilitated a partnership between UCI and AccessOC, a local non-profit that facilitates pro bono surgery for the medically underserved in our community by connecting them with surgeons who volunteer their time. Donald’s efforts have connected his fellow medical students to this partnership and in turn, they have also volunteered with this group to work with the community in need and gained experience and a compassionate understanding of this marginalized population.

Jessica Walden, from the department of Earth System, initiated and firmly established an engaged research project with the OC Sanitation District monitoring coastal water quality. She has extensive experience in community engaged projects which has enhanced her ability to communicate scientific topics to people outside of academia, this is a key factor in facilitating these collaborations. Testimony to her success is that the project has expanded from the initial agreement and the relationship has brought OCSD scientists to UCI and taken UCI students off campus to OCSDs research center.

Staff Great Partner Awards

Nicole Gilbertson is the site director for the UCI History Project, a professional development initiative for teachers. Nicole works with hundreds of teachers from San Diego to Los Angeles, providing workshops and seminars to teach a new History-Social Science Framework that she has expanded to Alternative, Community and Correction Education Schools and Service programs as well. She has been steadfast in her commitment to this program and building lasting engaged relationships.

Matthew Hanson comes from Applied Innovation and was nominated for his excellent efforts to develop relationships between UCI entrepreneurs, local businesses, consultants, and city officials. Hanson aims to provide UCI students with resources to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into reality. He brings in local community members and consultants to facilitate relationship-focused solutions to the challenges our students face. This has the synergistic effect of growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem and economy in Orange County. Matt has worked closely with the Small Business Development Center to create a mutually beneficial partnerships between  UCI, local small businesses, and the federal government to move our region’s entrepreneurial community forward. 

Project Scientist Dr. Sarah Kimball is the Assistant Director for the Center for Environmental Biology and has an exceptional record initiating and maintaining engaged relationships with local community partners. She conducts engaged research and has developed a network of partnerships in the community that provide hands-on research opportunities for students in ecology and evolutionary biology. These partnerships have given students applied research experience, met the immediate needs of the community and informed resource and land-management decisions by local agencies, non-profits and community groups. Sarah has an exceptional record in the community engaged arena and our students benefit greatly from her efforts.

Dr. Jennifer Long, is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Biology. She has been instrumental in engaging numerous educational and research efforts with off campus partners. These partnerships focus on improving STEM education at all levels, translating knowledge into practice to solve environmental challenges, and creating programmatic capacity to support professional development and community engagement opportunities for UCI students and faculty. A stellar example is Project CRYSTAL which engages 5th grade students from underserved communities and their teachers to involve the students in advanced science learning and research, translate the research to inform policy, and provide teachers with professional development opportunities in solution-based ecological research and teaching.

Manuella Yassa is the Director of Outreach and Education for the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. With proficiency and enthusiasm, Manuella creates community partnerships that benefit children, parents, the local community at large, as well as UCI students and faculty. She has been the driving force behind providing free programs that combine research, scientific communication, and critical thinking in a fun, educational and brain focused environment that enhances learning and fosters enthusiasm in STEM to normally underserved populations of children. Her nominator said it best, “Rarely have I found someone with the level of passion Manuella exudes, going above and beyond to build partnerships within UCI and our community.”

Undergraduate Student Great Partner Awards

Nicole Balbuena has a passion for service and a goal to mentor low-income youth to help them develop a healthy, positive self-identity and self-awareness that will enable them to establish healthy relationships. Nicole has partnered with a number of local community organizations and developed after-school programs to educate children and teenagers on signs of abuse and how to formulate healthy relationships free from violence. She also established the “Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships Today” club on campus to bring awareness about intimate partner violence and provide workshops to educate our campus and local community on this global epidemic.

Stephen John Cruz has participated in a number diversity leadership programs on campus and over time has developed his leadership skills to engage with on and off campus communities. He has worked tirelessly to serve our students experiencing housing and food insecurity as well as mentoring first gen and low income students. His mentoring has resulted in a community of students that have flourished in advocacy and inclusivity. Outside of the campus John partners with a free clinic that serves impoverished communities to share resources and education on health and nutrition awareness.

Herschell Dayag is currently a student of Public Health with her sights set on medical school. Dayag has been involved with science and premed enrichment programs at UCI since high school. She has a strong motivation to give back to her community and has been involved in a program that works with hospital patients to improve their experience by helping the patient and their family with questions about their hospital stay and treatment plans. She has also been committed to engaging with several nonprofits serving young females from low-income areas to advocate for empowerment and to motivate them to consider STEM related courses of study for career paths. Herschell excels at her studies while remaining actively involved in  community programs.

Julie Lim is a student from the Business School who has managed to merge finance and sustainable practices. Julie Lim recognized the importance of providing students with tools for effective money management. She established the Financial Literacy Association and provides personal finance workshops for students. Given she has a passion for being environmentally and socially responsible, she has worked with a number of on-campus organizations and departments and community groups to promote sustainable practices in business. She is a champion of change garnering support to reduce food waste on campus and bring about new programs to support this movement.