UW-Madison celebrates Outstanding Women of Color

2015 Outstanding Women of Color
2015 UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color from left,
Earlise Ward, Esmeralda Rodriguez, , Lori Kido Lopez, Heather Johnson, Emilie Songolo, Joselyn Diaz-Valdes and  M. Adams.

Seven UW-Madison Women Honored as 2015 Outstanding Women of Color  

The seven winners of the 2015-16 University of Wisconsin-Madison Outstanding Women of Color awards exemplify being deeply rooted in both the campus and the Madison community through their work toward social justice, service, research and community building. These women were honored at the annual celebratory reception on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

The selection committee also has nominated Associate Professor Earlise Ward and Assistant Professor Heather Johnson, M.D. to receive the UW System 20th Annual Outstanding Women of Color in Education Awards. This is the eighth annual UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color awards, which supplements the UW System Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award. The UW System awards reception will be held on Friday, Oct. 9, on the UW-Madison campus and will correspond with the Board of Regents meeting.

“In 1994, UW System’s inspired leadership began an annual program of awards to women of color for outstanding service in higher education,” said Ruby Paredes, associate vice provost in the Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer.  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. For the past several years, one or two of these honorees have been nominated to also receive the UW System’s Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award.

“Building on System’s wonderful tradition, we at UW-Madison will mark this important anniversary with a fall reception in honor of seven women for their excellence of service and exceptional contributions to campus, local, national and global communities. We note with pleasure that this will be the 8th annual campus-wide celebration of Outstanding Women of Color on the UW- Madison campus.”

The growing campus-wide awareness of the annual honor focusing on women and their achievements is gratifying, Paredes added.

“We are not honoring these women simply for being women of color. These are women in higher education and the community who deserve to be recognized for their outstanding work, tremendous leadership, and personal contributions to our society. That’s the purpose of the award.” Paredes said.

As is the celebration’s tradition, a 2014 honoree  served as Mistress of Ceremony for this year’s event. Lillian Tong, who is Faculty Associate at the Center for Biology Education; Director of the University Educators Programs and Services; Director of Faculty/Staff Programs and was honored last year by both the Madison campus and UW-System, led this year’s event.

Lillian Tong promotes efforts of access and inclusion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison because she believes in it. As she puts it, “The reward is internal.”

When she was honored as one of the university’s Outstanding Women of Color in 2014, it showed that the university noticed and valued the passionate work that sometimes seemed like an addition to her “real job.”

“Receiving the award meant more to me than I thought it would,” says Tong, faculty associate at the Institute for Biology Education, who was also honored by the UW System. “I felt that I wanted to do more now. There is a sense of responsibility that came with the award, along with the validation.”

“People of color all have an added burden of leadership because there are so few of us, comparatively,” says Tong. “Whether we want to or not, there is an extra visibility and significance to what we do, whether good or bad. Students of color see role models and look to us to help them navigate.”

This year’s UW-Madison campus honorees include:

  • Earlise Ward, Associate Professor, School of Nursing; Faculty, Health Equity Leadership Institute (HELI), Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, School of Medicine & Public Health;
  • Heather Johnson, MD, MS, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, School of Medicine & Public Health;
  • Esmeralda Rodriguez, PhD Candidate, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, School of Education;
  • Emilie Songolo, Senior Academic Librarian at Memorial Library;
  • Lori Kido Lopez, Assistant Professor of Media & Cultural Studies, Department of Communication Arts, College of Letters & Science;
  • M. Adams, Co-Executive Director of Freedom, Inc.; and
  • Joselyn Diaz-Valdes, Senior Advisor, Office of Student Financial Aid

More about this year’s awardees:

Earlise Ward-Final Dr. Earlise Ward is committed to health equity in both her scholarship and practice. Her innovative interventions involve changing the approach to service delivery, the nature of therapeutic relationships and the components of treatment itself to accommodate cultural beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of diverse patients. Her two initial pilot studies led to $1.8 million in funding from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparity (NIMHD). She is now expanding her program to more broadly explore how cultural differences influence the experience and effectiveness of depression treatment.

Dr. Ward also has contributed to transformation within UW-Madison and in the community. As a School of Nursing Graduate Programs Committee member, she helped to re-envision the Ph.D. program and as part of the School of Nursing Psychiatric-Mental Faculty Workgroup, and helped to create a new certificate in advanced psychiatric mental health nursing. She has applied her expertise in health disparities and multicultural competence to develop strategies and guidelines to improve diversity among students and faculty, as well as meet the academic needs of all students, and frequently speaks at local churches and community organizations on health and wellness topics.

Heather M Johnson photo Dr. Heather M. Johnson is an incredibly talented physician, academician, and community leader whose work on hypertension in young adults is trailblazing and will have direct effects on the African-American communities—the very individuals most affected by this disease. Her educational programs train the next generation of physicians and physician assistants in the true spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

A former UW-Madison undergraduate and Chancellor’s/Power’s Knapp Scholar, she earned both her medical degree and masters of science in Population Health here. She joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in Sept. 2010.

Dr. Johnson is on the tenure-track in a field where women are significantly underrepresented, and racial and ethnic minorities are even more under-represented. When the record of her accomplishments is submitted to the Biological Sciences Tenure Committee next year, she will become the first African American woman physician to be tenured in the Department of Medicine at UW-Madison.

Before she became a cardiologist, Dr. Johnson volunteered with the Southside MEDIC clinic, a member of the Medical Students for Minority Concerns organization, and is an active health advocate and lecturer on cardiovascular disease in the community. Even as a busy clinician and researcher, Dr. Johnson continues to mentor undergraduate students, pharmacy and internal medicine trainees at all levels.

In closing, Dr. Johnson is a shining example of community advocacy, scholarly research, writing and teaching on race and indigeneity in the United States and on behalf of disadvantaged populations.

E Esmeralda Rodriguez is a committed steady force of change creating a positive rippling impact without a ruckus wherever she goes. She is a teacher, school counselor, mentor, organizer, translator, researcher, cultural advocate, youth leader, social justice and equity instructor – and because we all need balance – a musician and art juror.

She joined the Learning Communities for Institutional Change and Excellence (LCICE) team in 2014, but has been a practicing community activist since becoming a student organizer and outreach coordinator in California.

We were extremely lucky to retain Esmeralda as she pushed on to her doctoral degree in Multicultural Education with us. She is now in dissertation mode with an anticipated date for completion in 2016-2017. We know that she is already an expert on how socio-political and socio-economic factors can impact teaching, learning and curriculum development, because she actively creates learning spaces through dialogue focused on social justice, social identities, their intersectionalities and the impact of power and privilege every day in schools, community centers and with organizations throughout Dane County.

She does this not because she is required to, but because of her personal passion and commitment for social justice and the advancement of women of color and their families both on and off campus.

Lori Lopez Lori Kido Lopez, described by her nominators as “bringing immense energy, fresh thinking, passion and knowledge to everything she does,” Lori Kido Lopez is an excellent and beloved teacher, scholar-activist and an example of how quickly and thoroughly passionate dedication can impact both a campus and the community.

Lori came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012 as faculty in the Department of Communication Arts. She is an expert in the intersections of media, race and activism with an emphasis on Asian American culture.

Her passion for teaching is evident in her ability to build ethnic media studies curriculum from the ground up, supplementing traditional approaches to include the examination of our burgeoning media realities. Lori deserves special credit for the impressive attention she pays to assembling a broadly inclusive representation of races, gender identities, body types and marginalized populations in her instructional materials.

In addition to her phenomenal professorship, Lopez is an important community builder and mentor in the Department, according to her colleagues and is actively involved as faculty across campus programs, including the Hmong Studies Consortium and Asian American Studies Program.

“She has a keen interest in critical race theory and social justice for Asian Americans and people of color more generally,” wrote Assistant Professor Ian Baird. “I believe that she has already made an outstanding contribution to Hmong media studies and Asian American Studies generally… She is a rising young scholar who deserves special recognition.”

FINAL Songolo 12010787_10153538896614647_6028073041379253635_o Emilie Songolo’s passionate embrace of life and her amazing ability to share this joy with everyone she encounters makes her an Outstanding Woman of Color.

A native of Cameroon, she is known as an incredibly well-connected and very wise woman at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the community for the past 28 years. Just imagine how much a driven woman who speaks six languages can accomplish, and you have Emilie!

Songolo is the African Studies Bibliographer in Collections and Research Services at Memorial Library.

Beyond her research and work as a librarian is her love of Africa and all cultures, travel, history, education — and most importantly – people. She is the go-to woman and a linchpin of Madison’s African immigrant community. Whatever the issue, Emilie helps deal with it compassionately, carefully, discreetly and wisely.

Jane Boutelle describes Songolo in three words: Engagement, empathy and action:

“Emilie is in the center of so many groups and activities – the African community in Madison, her church, the schools, her kids’ athletics — even at our exercise boot camp at 5:30 a.m. she is the one people look to as an inspiration,” Boutelle wrote.

The Madison campus and community are blessed to have this tremendous and beautiful spirit.

Joselyn Diaz-Valdes Joselyn Diaz-Valdes 

Senior work colleagues – some with nearly 40 years in the business of higher education financial aid and student services — say Joselyn Diaz-Valdes is one of the most engaged, committed, caring, creative and energetic professional staff members they’ve ever worked with; these are important attributes in an atmosphere where our neediest students require a higher level of advocacy, exceptional ingenuity and tremendous dedication to be well served.

Diaz-Valdes seized the opportunity to provide exemplary personalized assistance to roughly 1,350 students by mastering Financial Aid’s FASTrack and BANNER programs to make their educational goals a reality. Inspired by the information and entry-level needs of her students, Joselyn ramped up her financial aid advocacy to embrace retention and graduation issues as well.

The FASTrack BANNER Outreach Workshops that Joselyn was instrumental in developing and organizing have been selected to receive an ACCESS Award from the Midwestern Association of Student Financial Aid Professionals. The award recognizes innovative ideas and programing in the area of financial literacy and financial aid outreach initiatives.

On a personal level, Joselyn is beloved by her student clients. She shines in one-on-one contact with students, and is a dynamic and informative speaker who energizes her audience, conveying a personal sense of care for individuals.

“If you intend for this award to go to someone who believes in social justice to their very core, please consider Joselyn,” wrote Yvonne Campbell, College Access Advising Director. “If you want this award to go to someone who advocates on the behalf of disadvantaged, marginalized populations day after day, please consider Joselyn. And if you want someone who not only gives back to their community, but is a pillar and an example of what it means to love thy neighbor, please consider Joselyn.”

M. Adams pic M. Adams 

You may recognize her as an outspoken opponent of injustice, a voice for victims, or a powerful workshop facilitator – however you know her, or even if you’ve just met her, M. Adams is a tireless community advocate for those who society would label “the lesser.”

An UW-Madison graduate in bacteriology and published co-author, M. Adams is the Co-Executive Director of Freedom, Inc., a non-profit organization that helps low- to no-income communities of color look at new definitions and solutions to ending violence against women, gender-non-conforming and transgender folks and children.

To this end, she has played a major role in struggles over food and housing, LGBTQ rights with a particular emphasis on the rights of queer youth of color. So it’s no surprise that M is among the founders of Young, Gifted and Black, another grass-roots coalition dedicated to bringing about social, political, cultural, and economic change by challenging the root causes of violence, poverty, racism and discrimination. Her ideology-based mission is to help a new generation of politically-minded young adults develop into effective community leaders. She has traveled around the world to learn from other important leaders and is a national leader of the Take Back the Land Movement, a predecessor to the Occupy movement.

In the words of her nominators, M. doesn’t do the work she does to win awards; she does it to build a better community for those most impacted by systems of state violence in our city, county and country.


The 2015 Selection Committee members are:

 Aaron Bird Bear, Diversity Programs, School of Education

Sharon Long, Professor of Soil Science, and representative, Committee on Women at the University

Luis Piñero, Director of the Office for Equity & Diversity & Assistant Vice Provost

Ilsa Valdez, Program Associate, M.B.A. Program, Wisconsin School of Business

Lindsey Stoddard Cameron, Secretary of the Faculty Office

Nancy Blake, Education Outreach, School of Education

Jacqueline Dewalt, Director of External Relations, Partnerships & Development, DDEEA

Carl Grant, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, School of Education

Jessica Behling, Law Student, Office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer Intern

Jacqui Scott-Papke, Research & Program Assistant, Office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer

Ruby Paredes, Convenor, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement


Honors List of UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color


20141001_OWCA_051 Angela Byars-Winston, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine & Public Health

Ruttanatip (Dang) Chonwerawong, Assistant Dean, Student Diversity Programs, School of Education

Marla Delgado-Guerrero, PhD Candidate, Department of Counseling Psychology, School of Education

Shawnika Hull, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication; Center for Demography & Ecology, Department of Population Health Sciences

Carla Pugh, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine & Public Health

Michelle Robinson, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, College of Letters & Science

Lillian Tong, Faculty Associate, Center for Biology Education; Director of the University Educators Programs and Services; Director of Faculty/Staff Programs

Eva Vivian, Associate Professor (CHS), School of Pharmacy


DSC_0458Desiree Alva, Assistant Director, Diversity Affairs Office, College of Engineering

Wilma Callaway, Assistant Director and Mentor Program Director, Center for Educational Opportunity

Karma Chávez, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Chican@ and Latin@ Studies

Roberta Hill, Professor of English & American Indian Studies, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Li Chiao-Ping, Professor of Dance & Chair, Dance Department

Saemyi Park, PhD in Political Science

Carmen Valdez, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology


DSC_0162Jacquelynn Dawn Arbuckle, Staff General Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine & Public Health

Tonya Lynn Brito; Professor of Law, Law School

Dawn Bryant Crim, Associate Dean for External Relations, School of Education

Rohany Nayan, Ph.D., and Senior Fellow, The Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions


Leslie Bow, Professor of English and Asian American Studies, Department of English & Asian American Studies Program, College of Letters & Science

Erica Laughlin, Director, Information Technology Academy (ITA), Division of Information Technology

Cynthia Lin, Social Justice Education Specialist, Multicultural Student Center, Division of Student Life

Ana Martinez-Donate, Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine & Public Health

Nancy Marie Mithlo, Assistant (now Associate) Professor of Art History and American Indian Studies, Department of Art History & American Indian Studies Program, College of Letters & Science

Manuela Romero, Assistant Dean for Student Diversity and Academic Services, College of Engineering


Araceli Alonso, Faculty Associate & Lecturer, College of Letters & Science and School of Medicine & Public Health

Emuye Asfaw, Administrative Officer, Office of Human Resources

Diane Gooding, Professor of Psychology, College of Letters & Science; Professor of Psychiatry, School of Medicine & Public Health

Patty Loew, Associate Professor (now Professor), Life Sciences Communication, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Sandra Magaña, Associate Professor (now Professor) of Social Work and Director, Latino/Latina Chicano/Chicana Studies Program

Idella Yamben, PhD Candidate, Cellular & Molecular Biology, and Research Assistant in Anatomy, School of Medicine & Public Health


Peggy Choy, Lecturer & Sr. Outreach Specialist, Dance & Southeast Asian Studies; now Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Dance
Le Ondra Clark, PhD candidate, Department of Counseling Psychology
Sheri Williams Pannell, MFA candidate, Department of Theatre and Drama
May Lee Moua-Vue, Student Services Coordinator, International Student Services
Janice Rice, Senior Academic Librarian, Library System

2007- 08:

Jacqueline DeWalt, Director of PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence)

Laura Klunder, Residence Hall Manager, Kronshage Hall-Holt Commons; in 2008 appointed Assistant Director of Campus Programs for Leadership and Social Justice at Macalester College, Minneapolis MN

Susana Lastarria-Cornhiel, Senior Scientist, Urban and Regional Planning, College of Letters and Science & College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Mary Layoun, Professor of Comparative Literature, College of Letters and Science

Norma Saldivar, Professor of Theatre and Drama, also Chican@ and Latin@ Studies

Patricia A. Tellez-Girón, Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health

 UW System Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award:

2014:  Lillian Tong, Faculty Associate, Center for Biology Education; Director of the University Educators Programs and Services; Director of Faculty/Staff Programs; and Shawnika Hull, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication; Center for Demography & Ecology, Department of Population Health Sciences

2013:  Carmen Valdez, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, School of Education; and Roberta Hill, Professor of English & American Indian Studies, College of Letters & Science, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

2012:  Tonya Lynn Brito, Professor of Law, Law School; and Jacquelynn Dawn Arbuckle, Staff General Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine & Public Health

2010:  Leslie Bow, Professor of English & Asian American Studies; and Ana Martinez-Donate, Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences

2009:  Patty Loew, Professor, Life Science Communication, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

2008:  Janice Rice, Senior Academic Librarian in College Library

2007:  Linda Greene, Evjue Bascom Professor of Law, Law School

2006:  Alberta Gloria, Professor of Counseling Psychology, School of Education

2005:  Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, School of Education

2004:  Linda Denise Oakley, Professor, School of Nursing & Joann Pritchett, Director of Diversity, School of Pharmacy

2003:  Hazel Symonette, Senior Policy Planning Analyst

2002:  Seema Kapani, Director of Diversity Programs & Learning Communities

2001:  Ada Deer, Senior Lecturer in Social Work

2000:  Gloria Hawkins, Assistant Dean, School of Medicine & Public Health

1999:  Amy Ling, Professor & Director, Asian American Studies

1998:  Lucille Badger, Community Leader; Stanlie James, Professor, Afro-American Studies Department, and Nancy Rodriguez, Student

1997:  Linda Stitt, Program Director, Wisconsin Union

1996:  Nellie McKay, Professor, Afro-American Studies Department

1995:  Mercile Lee, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs