2021-2022 CA&ES Commencement Award Recipients
The end of the academic year is a time to celebrate students’ successes. Eight undergraduate students are being honored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) for their exceptional accomplishments in the areas of academic excellence, distinctive leadership and community service. This year, a CA&ES student will be honored as the top graduating senior at UC Davis. Amanda Portier with Department of Human Ecology is being awarded the University Medal, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate studies, outstanding community service and the promise of future scholarship and contributions to society. Below are the recipients of the CA&ES awards, including the College Medal for scholastic excellence, the Mary Regan Meyer Prize for serving humanity, the Charles Hess Community Service Award for outstanding public or community service and the Dean’s Circle Award for outstanding academics and community service.
Amanda Portier, who is graduating with a degree in community and regional development and a minor in statistics, is this year’s recipient of the University Medal. During her time at UC Davis, she was part of a research team focused on economic development programs to determine how policies can better direct investments to communities in need. She also helped launch the first college chapter of Women in Data, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing diversity in data careers. Portier first joined the Picnic Day Board of Directors her freshman year and held the role of chair this year. She’s interested in pursuing a career in urban planning and climate adaptation.
Rory Greenhalgh’s interest in science began at a young age. Artwork he created in kindergarten depicted himself as a scientist wearing a lab coat and holding colorful vials, and now he’s graduating from UC Davis with a degree in biotechnology. Greenhalgh is a Regent’s Scholar in the University Honors Program and for the past year, he’s been working in the Ronald Laboratory as an undergraduate researcher studying the role of sulfated peptide hormones in rice. He will continue his work with the lab this summer and plans to join the genetics program at the University of Wisconsin Madison in the fall.
Charles Hess Community Service Award
Leslie Nguyen Tran is graduating with a degree in clinical nutrition. Her community service includes serving as an intern at Peregrine School, a nonprofit private elementary school, where she helped create meals for K-5th grade students. She is involved with Recognizing Illnesses Very Early and Responding (RIVER), a student organization focused on providing preventive health services to the community; and the Health TEAM Lab, which provides free nutrition and physical assessments. Tran plans to join the Morrison Healthcare Dietetic Internship this fall.
Brendan Green is graduating with a degree in human development. He’s been an Aggie Ambassador since his freshman year and is a volunteer at Atria Assisted Living in Davis. Green has been an active member of the UC Davis Nursing Club, a campus organization for students interested in nursing. Green would like to attend nursing school after graduating from UC Davis with a goal to become an emergency room nurse.
Mary Regan Meyer Prize
Valerie Nyasimi, who immigrated from Kenya after high school, is graduating from UC Davis with a degree in global disease biology. She has been conducting research with the UC Davis Cook Lab with a focus on a fungal pathogen that affects chickpeas. After graduating from UC Davis, she plans to pursue master’s degrees in both physician associate studies and public health to help launch a career as a physician associate.
Yue Jin is graduating with degrees in both clinical nutrition and psychology. Her research includes studying the impact of stress physiology on children’s emotional regulation and psychopathology, and her senior thesis was focused on how artificial intelligence is being applied in relation to nutrition. She completed an internship at international nutrition company NUTRIORIA Inc. Jin has been involved with the Body Project, a student-run organization that aims to reduce body shame for female students; and the Health Team Lab, which provides free health assessments. She also co-founded the first chapter of Chinese Psychology Students Association at UC Davis, which offers resources and networking for Chinese psychology students.
Dean’s Circle award
Sarah Costanzo will graduate from UC Davis with a degree in environmental science and management and a minor in soil science. She has been involved with the Working Lands Innovation Center since her freshman year, which included a project focused on sequestering atmospheric carbon in agricultural soils. She has also served as a zero waste coordinator with UC Davis Student Housing and Dining Services to develop sustainable living practices on campus. She is president of the UC Davis Equestrian Hunter Jumper Club and serves on the UC Davis Equestrian Center Advisory Council.
Emily Manroe is earning a B.S. in human development and a B.A. in psychology, as well as a minor in education. She aspires to be an elementary school teacher. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in education during the 2023-2024 academic year. She came to UC Davis as a Regent’s Scholar and part of the University Honors Program. She worked on her senior thesis with faculty from the School of Education on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted elementary school children’s social and emotional learning. She was also a classroom intern at Willett Elementary, Patwin Elementary and North Davis Elementary, and a curricular design intern at Dixon High School.