The President's Diversity Awards are presented to distinguished faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and collaborative PSU teams for their outstanding accomplishments in making PSU a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable university.

The 2021 President's Diversity Awards Recipients

Distinguished Faculty Award

Hyeyoung Woo,
Professor, Sociology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Dr. Hyeyoung Woo has supported international scholars since 2011 which has created a more robust and dynamic experience at PSU by encouraging students, staff, and faculty to learn from and connect with students from diverse backgrounds around the globe. Dr. Woo’s dedication in shaping and supporting a more inclusive and equitable environment at PSU led to advocacy work to establish an AAPI Studies department, as well as  create a DEI department for Sociology. Because of her commitment to fostering culturally affirming, anti-racist spaces, Dr. Woo is a valued, and trusted mentor and dissertation advisor. She has provided invaluable insights into Korean life and experiences with her book publication, Korean Families Yesterday and Today, and is known for including and uplifting graduate students in other written works and publications. Dr. Woo’s talents for creating collaborative, inclusive spaces have not gone unnoticed by her peers or students, and it is acknowledged that she brings a much needed perspective and repertoire of skills to her department and to the CLAS. Dr. Woo is a dynamic professor who balances research, on campus advocacy and organizing, and equitable teaching in a way that makes those around her drawn to the work she has been doing at PSU for years which cultivates organic rhythms of collaboration and inclusion. Dr. Woo is an exemplary example of what it means to be invested in the work of institutionalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion. She has provided many opportunities and spaces for students and staff who identify as AAPI to be recognized and celebrated for their own achievements and skill sets, while always being available and ready to listen deeply and react with intention to make Sociology a more welcoming place for everyone.

Bernd Ferner,
Associate Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education

Dr. Ferner models the essential qualities of a compassionate, accomplished leader in teaching and mentorship. As a faculty member in the department he has demonstrated core values of advocacy, intuitiveness, and professionalism. Dr. Ferner has exhibited qualities of strategic thinking and creativity when managing unexpected transitions due to the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the rehiring of eight teachers despite a shift from in person to online teaching. His values of disrupting eurocentric teaching shine through his efforts to support courses that are rooted in concepts of anti-racism, decolonization, and are taught by BIPoC scholars. Bernd has also maintained robust support for the enrollment of international students which results in a wealth of diverse knowledge, experiences, and practices which enhance and accentuate the learning experience at PSU. His own experiences as an international student impact how his attitude of being of service is notable not only to fellow colleagues but positively influences those he mentors in developing their own empowerment. Bernd is a deeply caring, empathetic, and passionate Associate Professor who offers a unique capability to engage with many people in ways that are intentional, intuitive, and supportive.


Distinguished Staff Award

Bree Kalima,
Program Coordinator, Pacific Islander, Asian & Asian American Student Center 

Bree Kalima a President’s Fellow, and is the coordinator for the Pacific Islander, Asian & Asian American Student Center (PIAAA) and has been a valued staff member at PSU for two years. She is a member of the executive board for the Asian-American, Asian and Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group (API ERG), and has shown true leadership skills by empowering other students to be agents of change within their own communities and classrooms. Bree’s work is notable due to her vibrant motivation, energy, and dedication to promoting and fostering an inclusive campus for AAPI staff and students. Through her work as a fellow, she has focused on creating reports that emphasize the need for uplifting the AAPI community at PSU while also building allyship with other groups. Her work in the API ERG has contributed to programming rooted in anti-racism, inclusion, and has activated other staff to feel and be empowered in the practices of advocacy and community care. Bree’s skills and dedication have been noticed since she began working at PSU and she is highly regarded and appreciated by her fellow staff. The multitudes of ways that Bree has invested her time and energy has reflected on a commitment to bettering the lives of others and the environment around her - a commendable attribute that inherently further PSUs goal of becoming an institution that is representative of its diversity and fostering a safe academic experience. Bree is a student centered, social justice, and anti-racist oriented person whose values and ethics shine and brings others into the work of inclusion and equity while also supporting the celebration and well being of AAPI students and staff.

Sarah Kenney,
Administrative Services Manager, Planning, Construction & Real Estate

Sarah Kenney is an instrumental employee whose commitment to accessibility has resulted in PSU moving beyond required ADA standards in design to a model of universal accessibility which requires significantly more intention and consideration in planning. This dedication to having PSU become the most accessible campus it can be supports the institution’s goals of creating an equitable academic experience for all students as well as staff and faculty. Sarah’s advocacy for working with an accessibility consultant across multiple construction and design projects helped to create a new requirement across the university that betters the physical experience of the campus and has allowed PSU to become a better role model for other organizations that seek to expand their accessibility policies and programs. Sarah is committed to continuously seeking to improve both universal accessibility and methods of incorporating racial justice into the construction design process to reflect values and ethics of equity in the end product of completed projects to ensure a more welcoming and inclusive campus. By engaging with this work, Sarah is an active advocate and influence in the department becoming anti-racist not only in principle but in tangible product. She strives to be of service to these values in making PSU and the department a more intentional, accessible, and equitable place. 


Distinguished Undergraduate Student Award

Nya Mbock,
Communication, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Nya Mbock is a Communications Major in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. She holds many positions and is involved in various organizations at PSU. To name a few, she is the international affairs director, coordinator for the women’s resource center, a peer mentor for the UNST Program, a student ambassador, and the next student body president of PSU. In each of her positions, she has a direct impact on student success. Nya is a true advocate for students by giving them the tools to speak up for themselves when experiencing hardships. She is also working on food insecurity and houselessness in her presidential campaign to ensure equity for all students. She has a devotion to diversity and the mission of building community at Portland State University that is engrained in her presence. Her drive and commitment toward diversity and inclusion will aid in her vision of PSU as she carries out the duties as the student body president.


Distinguished Graduate Student Award

Fabiola Casas,
Executive Masters of Public Administration, College of Urban and Public Affairs

Fabiola Casas is a graduate student in the 2020-2022 cohort of the Executive Masters of Public Administration Program (EMPA) at PSU. Fabiola’s leadership has equipped the cohort to handle microaggressions in class and speak up to professors when the experiences of marginalized people are being downplayed or ignored. She has approached issues by highlighting the lack of emphasis on equity and inclusion in the curriculum. After expressing her concerns to peers and gathering their input, she contacted the chair of the program to discuss the issue and engaged in compassionate dialogue to point out the harmful messaging that was occurring. Additionally, Fabiola has centered equity in all of their classwork, often doing outside research and bringing in new perspectives for thoughtful discussions. She is recognized for the time and effort she dedicates to change and eradicating white supremacy and racism in our organizations.


Distinguished Team Award

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Students, Environmental Science & Management Department

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Students were enrolled in a seminar overseen by Melissa Haeffner, ESM 410 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the Environmental Science & Management Department. The six students in the seminar are Aneesha Gharpurey, Hal Shervey, Jasmine Beach, Jess Wesley, Kylee Church, and Lily Weil. This group aimed to create an action plan and targeted objectives to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the ESM curriculum. They achieved this by getting direct commentary from ESM students from various class-standings through evaluating critical research, sharing their lived experiences, and faculty collaboration. The team also recognizes that this is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done and hopes ESM 410 will continue as an ongoing course to attain the goals they have set.


See all President's Diversity Awards recipients ›