CA&ES graduate students win inaugural Erwin award
June 18, 2012
Outstanding graduate students in International Agricultural Development and Community Development were named the first recipients of the newly established Judy Erwin Graduate Award for Excellence. Ephrem Rukundo, a graduate student in International Agricultural Development (IAD), and Vallerye Mosquera, a graduate student in Community Development, were honored in ceremonies held at the end of the academic year.
Both received a stipend from the Judy Erwin fund, which was established by student, faculty, and staff contributions to honor graduate student advisor Judy Erwin. Erwin served as graduate program coordinator in the Department of Human and Community Development from 1984 to 2004, where the master’s programs in IAD and Community Development were housed. She built a strong relationship with students over the years, many of whom called her with numerous questions before they even arrived on the UC Davis campus. To show appreciation for Erwin’s commitment to students, alumna Mica Bennett (M.S., 2005, International Agricultural Development) spearheaded a fundraising effort to gather funds for a foundation in the name of Erwin that would help support graduate students in human and community development.
At the inaugural awards ceremony, Professor Emeritus Steve Brush of the Department of Human and Community Development—who hired Erwin when she first began working on campus—spoke of her commitment to service based on a vision for a better future and to the interdisciplinary approach to graduate education at UC Davis.
“Thank you so much for this honor,” Erwin said at the ceremony. “It was exciting to be part of a group of faculty and students who are passionate about making the world a better place.”
Graduate student Ephrem Rukundo, a native Rwandan who came to UC Davis in fall 2010, was the first recipient of the Judy Erwin Graduate Award for Excellence in the area of international agricultural development. A survivor of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Rukundo intends to return to his country after completing his studies to contribute to Rwanda’s economic recovery and growth. Rukundo will finish his master’s degree this summer and has been accepted into the UC Davis Horticulture and Agronomy doctoral program, where he will focus on postharvest challenges in bringing agricultural products to market in developing countries.
Before coming to UC Davis, Rukundo worked with Operation Smile in Rwanda, a volunteer organization that helps repair cleft palates and treats other facial deformities in children. Rukundo has also been involved with the One Acre Fund in Rwanda, a nonprofit organization that helps establish one-acre subsistence farms in sub-Saharan Africa.
Graduate student Vallerye Mosquera was the first recipient of the Judy Erwin Graduate Award for Excellence in the area of community development. Mosquera, who will graduate in summer 2012, was recognized by faculty for her service to other students in the Community Development Graduate Group. Mosquera coordinated a community development seminar and participated in student governance for the university. She also spearheaded a new research working group focused on immigration and spatial mobility that involves more than five graduate programs.
Off campus, Mosquera has volunteered at a number of regional organizations, including service as a bilingual crisis counselor for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center of Yolo County. Next year, Mosquera will attend the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where she intends to specialize in immigration law.
Robin DeRieux, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean’s Office, (530) 752-8244, firstname.lastname@example.org.