Four University Women Honored as 2012 Outstanding Women of Color

 This year’s honorees include University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Tonya Lynn Brito, Associate Professor of Surgery Jacquelynn Dawn Arbuckle, Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions Graduate Fellow Rohany Nayan, and Associate Dean for External Relations in the School of Education Dawn Bryant Crim.  Register for the reception today.

 The four winners of the 2011-2012 University of Wisconsin-Madison Outstanding Women of Color awards are deeply rooted in both the campus and the Madison community in their work toward social justice, service, research and community building. This year’s honorees include University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Tonya Lynn Brito, Associate Professor of Surgery Jacquelynn Dawn Arbuckle, Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions Graduate Fellow Rohany Nayan, and Associate Dean for External Relations in the School of Education Dawn Bryant Crim.

The selection committee also nominated Brito and Arbuckle for the UW System 17th Annual Outstanding Women of Color in Education Awards.  The traditional reception to honor the recipients will be on  Monday, Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge of the Pyle Center.

The fifth annual UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color awards supplement the UW System Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award, which is in its 17th year. While the system-wide recognition process once allowed the UW System schools to select several recipients, it now only allows one nominee per school.  In order to recognize UW-Madison’s multitude of accomplished women of color, the Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer created an internal award to include more honorees.

 “Each year the committee is delighted to find women of color who are doing tremendous work on the campus and in the community,” says Ruby Paredes, assistant vice provost for diversity and climate. “But the work and commitment we are honoring is not defined simply by their being women of color. The candidate selected for the title ‘Outstanding Woman of Color in Education’ truly merits the designation among all women in education.”

Tonya Brito

Tonya Brito is a University of Wisconsin Law School Professor who joined the Law School faculty in 1997, fully embodies the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea through her contributions to social justice, community service scholarly research and writing on issues of race and poverty.  It was her longstanding and unwavering interest in advocating on behalf of disadvantaged communities that initially led her to law school, where she immediately became involved with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a student run non-profit legal services organization that provides free representation in civil matters to low-income clients in the Boston area.  During her second and third years of law school, she continued this community service commitment while simultaneously serving as student editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

 In Wisconsin, she also has been devoted to social justice and community service through family law and three non-profit agencies; The Center for Family Policy and Practice, WORT 89.9 FM and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, serving as state and national policy advocate for families with respect to welfare programs, fatherhood initiatives and child support.   Brito also has been the on-air host for “A Public Affair” at WORT 89.9 since 2007, bringing a unique slate of voices to listeners on legal topics and gender, race and class-based issues of social justice.  She is particularly dedicated to issues of health, economic security, safety and education,  and has provided pro bono advocacy for families before the United States Supreme Court .

She has helped lead the organization through many changes, both internal and external,” said the Counsel’s Executive Director Ken Taylor. “Her steady hand and sharp analysis has helped immeasurably through the years as WCCF has attempted to navigate quite turbulent waters. “

Within the Law School, Brito has worked to reform fundamental curriculum and foster an inclusive and supportive environment for diversity in the Wisconsin Law School, serving on an astounding half dozen working committees.   Her commitment to mentoring is deeply personal, wrote Osamudia James, who is now an associate professor of law at the University of Miami. 

“Personally, she welcomed me into her home, treating me as an equal and a colleague, and candidly addressing questions and concerns I had about academic life and the unique obstacles that women of color encounter as they manage their professional and personal obligations,” James said. “Although I left UW in 2008 to accept a tenure-track position at another institution, Professor Brito continues to mentor me from afar as my career progresses —  a gift I do not take lightly, understanding as I do, the lack of mentoring that women of color I academia often face.” 

Rohany Nayan

 Rohany Nayan,  who is particularly dedicated to forging long-term understanding, acceptance and relationships among Jews, Christians and Muslims,  is heralded for her work as a Morgridge Graduate Fellow at the Lubar Institute, according to  Lubar Institute Director Charles Cohen.  Also a newly–hooded UW Doctor of Philosophy, Nayan combines broad linguistic skills with exposure to cultures across the globe and is a highly effective mediator and engaging educator.

 “She brings the skills of s multi-cultural interlocutor to her work,” Cohen added. “She is extremely sensitive to cultural difference, the result, no doubt, of her having lived for significant amounts of time on Southeast Asia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.  Moreover, she possesses what I can only call a transcendent effervescence that puts anyone with whom she comes into contact at ease. AS the Director of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights- U.S. Foundation put it, ‘her smile lights up a room’.”

Nayan is director of LISAR’s Community Forum, which brings together adults from the greater Madison area to discuss and learn about each other’s traditions.  Her reputation for knowledge, tact and insight on how to improve interfaith relations has mushroomed into outreach engagements ranging from school districts  and across campuses across the state to St. Mary’s Hospital and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to churches of all denominations throughout the region. This scholarship and service is in addition to her duties as the mother of three.

 “She has advanced the cause of improving inter religious understanding both on and off campus more effectively than anyone else I know or can imagine,” Cohen said.   

Jacquelynn Arbuckle

Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor Jacquelynn Arbuckle, M.D.  is described by her nominators  as one of  UW-Madison’s  greatest success stories.  As an Ojibwe woman and member of the St. Croix Reservation, Arbuckle attended UW-Madison as a Chancellor’s Scholar and University of Wisconsin Medical School Scholar as an undergraduate. After completing her surgical residency in Massachusetts, she returned to Madison as an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery and a General Surgeon practicing at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, Meriter Hospital and the Transformation Surgery Center.

 A teacher and mentor, Arbuckle is a medical lecturer and surgical instructor and active in the Department of Surgery’s Women and Surgery club where she advises, mentors, and offers support to current and future female surgeons. She has made outstanding contributions to UW by implementing diversity initiatives at the institutional level and by serving as a mentor and role model for minorities, women, and women of color. Currently working to develop the Native American Health Office as part of the Collaborative Center for Health Equity, she continues to reach out by introducing pre-college American Indian students from Wisconsin to health professions.

 “Dr. Arbuckle understands the importance of community and family and, specifically, what it means to leave a tight-knit community on a reservation,” says surgical colleague K. Craig Kent, M.D.  “Leaving one’s native community is wrought with difficulties as it inherently alters the perception of an individual by the community. Her personal story—as a sister and mother—is woven into her professional approach. This empathy and advocacy is apparent in her treatment of patients and in her training of medical students and residents.”

 In addition to being a role model Arbuckle has led efforts to diversity at the racial and gender levels, according to Herbert Chen, MD, chairman of the Division of General Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin.

 “Women are a significant minority in the field of general surgery comprising of less than 5% of all tenured faculty in Departments of Surgery across the country,” he said. “Through Dr. Arbuckle’s efforts the number of women in our faculty and residency has grown to the point where women comprise over half of our surgical trainees in our residency programs and one-third of our faculty members in General Surgery.”

 It is believed that Dr. Jackie Arbuckle may be one of a precious few, if not the only female

American Indian General Surgeon. Needless to say, this puts her in a wholly unique opportunity to act as a valued role model and mentor to many,” Michael J. Garren, MD, Professor of Surgery, at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.  

“I can think of few other physicians who have put such personal commitment into their community, “ said Dina Marie Pitta MD Candidate.  “She is a mentor that I will continue to learn from and turn to as both my clinical and personal endeavors continue to grow.  I want to take care of patients, take care of their community, and train better and more compassionate future physicians. Dr. Arbuckle does this every day.”

Dawn Crim

Outstanding Woman of Color honoree Dawn Crim is described by one nominator as “a woman of integrity who is a wonderful role model for young women regardless of their race or ethnicity,” originally came to UW-Madison as an assistant women’s basketball coach.  She transitioned from coaching into administration for UW-System and the UW-Madison Chancellor’s Office, this year becoming Associate Dean of External Relations for the School of Education.

 “While I believe Dawn’s professional resume speaks for itself I am even more impressed with her work in the community. She has readily volunteered to serve as a speaker and workshop leader for a variety of community organizations that serve young women of color, including   co-founding the Madison Network of Black Professionals,  says School of Education Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings.

 “My respect for Dawn is, in large part, due to her unwavering commitment to advancing the agenda of women; particularly women of color, and yet has been just as committed to community building between campus and community. What is truly phenomenal about Dawn is the way she accomplishes her agenda. It is seamless and quiet without a lot of pomp and circumstance,” says nominator Annette Miller.

 “For the past 7 years, Mrs. Crim has been a reliable resource and influential role model in my personal growth and professional development,” said Valyncia Raphael. “With her genuine open door policy, our routine in- person conversations, and her timely notes to encourage or congratulate me, Mrs. Crim has kept my spirits high and enabled me to navigate the rigorous UW curriculum, discover my potential, and cope with the challenges of attending college far away from my California homestead. Now, as a second year law student and first year Ph.D. student, I owe much of my current success to the mentorship and support of Mrs. Crim.”

 For a complete list of past UW-Madison and UW System Outstanding Women of Color honorees, go to our Creating Community web site at:  under See past Spotlights: Outstanding Women of Color.

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