2021 exceptional graduates honored with awards

Graduates enter during the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences graduation ceremonies.
Graduates enter during the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences graduation ceremonies.

Each year we honor a handful of CA&ES undergraduate students who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in the areas of academic excellence, distinctive leadership and community or public service. Eight of these outstanding students are being honored as the academic year officially draws to a close with the 2021 June commencement.

The awards include 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.

Each student submitted a personal statement to provide insight into their journey. While each story is unique, they all reflect some common characteristics—determination and drive, a desire to be of service, and a commitment to excellence in their chosen fields. They have accomplished much and we wish them all the best as they pursue their dreams and leave a distinctive Aggie imprint on the world.

College Medal

Claire Chapman, who is graduating with a degree in global disease biology, is the 2021 recipient of the College Medal. She has excelled academically since the day she arrived at UC Davis as a Regents Scholar.

Claire Chapman
Claire Chapman

Chapman seemed destined for UC Davis. Her mother and two older brothers are Aggie alumni. Her major allowed her to pursue her twin interests in entomology and infectious diseases. At the university, she found a supportive environment and ways to give back to the community through science communication and tutoring.

She engaged quickly with several academic communities, including the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), the Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers, as well as peers, advisors and professors throughout CA&ES. Through the RSPIB program she learned about vector-borne diseases in the lab of Chris Barker at the School of Veterinary Medicine. This experience inspired her to minor in public health sciences and nurture an interest in the connection between virus transmission and climate change.

Chapman mentored students in the University Honors Program, led transfer students through orientation and volunteered in local public schools. In her tutoring efforts, she organized lesson plans and taught classes with the goal of building student confidence in science education.  She also cofounded a student organization that brought more than 700 high school students to UC Davis for a Science Olympiad competition. This past year, this invitational event shifted to an online format and hosted more than 1,000 students from across the nation.

Chapman describes herself as being more grateful than ever for what she’s gained from being a student at UC Davis—a proud woman in STEM, collaborative relationships with peers and professors, and the opportunity to pass along her passion for science to the community. She will be attending UC San Diego to pursue a Ph.D. in biological sciences.

Mary Regan Meyer Award

Radhika Marwaha, who is graduating with a degree in global disease biology, is a 2021 recipient of the Mary Regan Meyer Award. She is committed to highlighting systemic oppression on community well-being and addressing displacement and violence in communities of color.

Radhika Marwaha
Radhika Marwaha

By working with underserved communities, she developed an understanding of how public health intersects with religion, language, gender, disability, race and caste identities. In her freshman year, she worked with Project RISHI (Rural India Social and Health Improvement) in rural India to implement a public health project.

The experience also gave her insight into how the 2,500 year-old caste system affects access to resources, occupation, health and well-being. Realizing that similar identity-based dynamics were shaping conversations on campus, she joined with other Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian students to create a media platform called Other Collective to raise awareness about issues in their communities.

As part of the Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative, she served underinsured Sikh immigrants, many of whom were survivors of the 1984 Sikh genocide in India and struggled with social isolation and post-traumatic stress.

In her junior year as a research assistant at the Migration and Health Center, she highlighted the need for a quantitative and culturally relevant tool for domestic violence victims in Arab and Afghan refugee communities in Northern California.

In her senior year, Marwaha became involved in a movement to make college campuses more inclusive for caste-oppressed South Asian students. She authored an Associated Students resolution to make caste a protected identity, worked to implement a survey on caste dynamics at UC Davis, and led a seminar on caste-based oppression in South Asia.

Marwaha aspires to dedicate her career to racial and caste equity, particularly among queer, black and Dalit groups. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in anthropology.

Mary Regan Meyer Award

Kelsee Tran, who is graduating with a degree in animal science, is a 2021 recipient of the Mary Regan Meyer Award. She has her sights set on becoming a veterinarian.

Kelsee Tran
Kelsee Tran

Tran joined the sorority Sigma Alpha when she came to UC Davis and quickly found her niche, participating in many fellowship, leadership and service events like the college’s annual Field Day. She was the chapter delegate to the sorority’s national conclave event in 2020, and has also served as treasurer, secretary and second vice president.

She was a research intern at the California National Primate Research Center and worked with rhesus and capuchin monkeys. She is passionate about veterinary care and volunteered at three student-run veterinary clinics: the Knights Landing One Health Clinic, the Mercer Clinic for Pets of the Homeless in Sacramento, and the Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness Clinic. 

Tran was part of Pre-vet Students Supporting Diversity, a club that promotes diversity in the veterinary field. She helped with skills workshops, led student field trips, hosted mentorship events and volunteered at a pet show fundraiser.

She also had an internship at the UC Davis Goat Barn, an experience she thoroughly enjoyed. In her sophomore year, she began working with Nigerian Dwarf Goats at Crees Brothers Farm and continues to do so. There she has learned herd management skills like cleaning pens, socializing kids, and hoof trimming.

In her junior year, she worked as a peer advisor in the animal science advising center, helping fellow students with academic planning, managing social media accounts, helping launch a summer webinar series, and creating videos to educate students about on-campus resources.

Her involvement with the animal science department has cultivated professional skills like public speaking, time management, outreach and teamwork that she will need in the next phase of her career at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Charles Hess Community Service Award

Audin Leung, who is graduating with a degree in community and regional development, is a 2021 recipient of the Charles Hess Community Service Award. She came to UC Davis on an athletic scholarship and quickly branched out into other areas.

Audin Leung
Audin Leung

She became involved with the UC Davis chapter of IGNITE, a national nonprofit working to develop political leadership in young women. Leung facilitated workshops, panels, and discussions and worked to diversify the membership, write newsletters and recruit mentors for state and local events. She also helped bring together a coalition of women-serving student organizations on campus.

Leung got involved politically through the Davis College Democrats to fight for equity at the local and state level. The group lobbied the Davis City Council for affordable student housing and brought other student issues to local representatives. She also served as Northern California chair of the women’s caucus at the 2018 California Young Democrats convention.

Being involved in political groups inspired Leung to cofound Free the Period California, a student coalition to address the lack of menstrual healthcare. She and her friends saw that many students struggled to find menstruation products during the school day, which resulted in missed classes and work, financial burdens and negative health impacts. The effort eventually grew into a successful campaign to get free products in UC Davis campus restrooms. The campaign has since expanded statewide to other public schools, colleges and universities.

She credits much of her strength from living at the Tri-Cooperatives, a cluster of houses on campus that promotes sustainability and living in a community of social justice-minded students. Through an internship at the California Department of Education and a summer teaching underserved youth, she has explored careers in teaching and education policy. Leung’s ambition is to find a profession where she can continue to serve her community.

Charles Hess Community Service Award

Sergio Maravilla, who is graduating with a degree in community and regional development and another in anthropology, is a 2021 recipient of the Charles Hess Community Service Award. He is a first-generation college student who seeks to elevate others from historically underrepresented groups.

Sergio Maravilla
Sergio Maravilla

Maravilla grew up in a low-income, working class household in Modesto, something that helped shape his trajectory in life. When he started college, he began to learn about economic inequalities and systemic oppression and started building a vocabulary for what he experienced in his youth. Because of the education he received at UC Davis and the people he met along the way, his perspective began to shift. He sees himself now as a creative and inspirational leader who has become an advocate for all who don’t feel seen or heard.

He is particularly proud of starting two Latinx student organizations at UC Davis. The first is the Chicanx Latinx Collegiate Association. It provides professional development workshops, guest speaker events, and community socials. The group earned the Inspirational Aggie Award after just two years. The other group is the Latinx Leadership Council, which connects about 10 Latinx student organizations and affiliates at monthly meetings. In its second year, the council was invited to a dinner with Chancellor May and other university leaders to highlight accomplishments and community concerns.

His involvement with these groups led to other opportunities, such as the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Advisory Board, the Hispanic Serving Institution Task Force at UC Davis, and input into the hiring process for senior UC Davis leadership posts like the vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

After graduation Maravilla will join UC Berkeley’s Destination College Advising Corps as a college advisor fellow, where he will continue to assist low-income and first-generation high school students as they begin their journey into higher education.

Dean’s Circle Award

Elizabeth Anderson, who is graduating with a degree in animal science, is a 2021 recipient of the Dean’s Circle Award. Her goal is to become a large animal veterinarian.

Elizabeth Anderson
Elizabeth Anderson

When she arrived at UC Davis, she knew she loved people, animals and science, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She soon found out as she discovered an affinity for cows at the UC Davis Dairy. She learned to show them through the Young Cattlemen’s Little International Livestock Show.

Anderson also learned of a research trial at the dairy involving a methane-reducing feed additive, seaweed. Before this experience, she had some preconceived notions about research—boring and difficult. She credits the amazing graduate students and professors in the Kebreab and Hess labs for changing her mind.

These positive, formative experiences, and the knowledge that livestock are vital to the food supply, coupled with the potential to increase sustainability in livestock production, convinced her to pursue livestock veterinary medicine.

To gain more experience, she shadowed a dairy veterinarian on school breaks, interned and eventually was hired at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital’s livestock service. This deepened her love for the field and says, confidently, that she wants to become a rural livestock veterinarian to help improve herd health and work toward solutions that can benefit both the environment and enhance the food production system.

Since she participated in the Science Olympiad in high school, Anderson also jumped at the chance to help bring the competition to UC Davis. Organizing and supervising various events has been a rewarding way for her to give back to the science community.

Anderson is grateful to UC Davis both inside and outside the veterinary research world for providing her with invaluable problem-solving and team-building skills. She plans to attend the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine this fall and continue to pursue her dream.

Dean’s Circle Award

Yuting Fan, who is graduating with a degree in clinical nutrition, is a 2021 recipient of the Dean’s Circle Award. She developed an interest in food early in life, something that grew into a strong desire to promote health through diet.

Yuting Fan
Yuting Fan

Fan is an excellent student, making the dean’s honor list every quarter. She formed study groups with classmates, helped her peers in chemistry lab and even volunteered as a note taker for disabled students. She also tutored to practice teaching skills.

Her concentrated study in clinical nutrition expanded well beyond theoretical knowledge in nutrition sciences, including community nutrition, nutritional assessment, nutritional anthropology, metabolism and how food consumption contributes to metabolic changes.

Since the end of her freshman year, she has been doing research in the lab of Carlito Lebrilla exploring the composition of food using analytical chemistry. As a research assistant, she worked on human milk oligosaccharides with a belief that better knowledge of breast milk could lead to better infant formula to protect against pathogens.

In her junior year, Fan came up with the idea of doing research on edible insects and their potential to promote health. The pandemic kept her out of the lab, so she did a literature review on the topic for future work on edible insects. She also investigated the aroma and taste-active compounds in braised pork broth, which led to a paper accepted for publication in the proceedings of the 2020 International Conference on Agricultural and Food Science.

In addition to her clinical nutrition major, Fan minored in theater to cultivate interpersonal skills needed for more effective communication. After graduation, she wants to pursue her interest in the functions of diet in disease prevention and treatment. She will be working toward a Ph.D. in human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dean’s Circle Award

Landin Thunder Noland, who is graduating with a degree in ecological management and restoration, is a 2021 recipient of the Dean’s Circle Award. His upbringing on a small ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains instilled a lasting love of nature.

Landin Thunder Noland
Landin Thunder Noland

Noland’s father encouraged him to explore Soquel Creek and nearby redwoods and to think critically about what he discovered there. Although he was a good student in high school, his family believed they could not afford a traditional college education.

He temporarily shelved his dream of studying nature, and later moved to Portland, Oregon to care for his disabled father. He became inspired as he watched his father overcome his challenges and decided to “unbox” his dream and study the natural world, first at a local community college. Unexpectedly his father died and, although grief stricken, he became more determined than ever to pursue his education.

Five years have since passed. Noland is graduating from UC Davis, an honor student and a Regents Scholar. He has worked many jobs and also received some grants and numerous scholarships. He is graduating debt free and thinks his father would be proud to see what he’s accomplished.

Noland is committed to having a significant impact on the conservation and restoration of threatened ecosystems. He will be seeking a master’s degree in ecology to strengthen his understanding of the links between science and land management. In particular, he is focused on the effects of native species restoration on ecosystem processes, mitigation and control of invasive species, and ecological management to maintain and improve ecosystem services.

This is both an academic and a personal pursuit. He learned at his father’s passing that he is of Choctaw descent. This discovery continues to shape his goal of a more sustainable future benefiting nature and people of all cultural identities.

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