The recipients of the 24th annual Utah State University Diversity Awards have been named. The recipients for the 2017-18 school year are Cresencio López, Lesther Papa, Jessica Roueche, Raymond Veon, Lizette Cruz Villegas and the community organization The Family Place. The awards recognize individuals and/or organizations on campus and in communities served by USU who have made significant contributions to affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity.
Raymond E. Veon
Through his extraordinary efforts with the Utah State University Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Access Initiative in the Caine College of the Arts, Raymond E. Veon is changing the lives of children with disabilities throughout Cache Valley and beyond. Veon came to USU to launch the Arts Access Initiative that centers on providing access to the arts for children with a wide range of disabilities. He also serves as assistant dean of arts education.
In working with USU students, Veon consistently, explicitly and publicly models methods of inquiry based on intellectual curiosity and the active, empathetic understanding of diverse individuals, communities, cultures and world-views. He actively seeks out and brings visiting artists/scholars of diverse backgrounds to work with Caine College of the Arts faculty, students and the local community, including those whose ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and world-view are underrepresented. In all of his programming and teaching, Veon introduces non-majority imagery, culturally based artistic practices and aesthetic viewpoints and takes advantage of teachable moments to challenge majority assumptions.
The Arts Access Initiative enhances community relations across a broad range of diverse groups and populations. Through his community outreach programs, Veon finds ways to bring people together of different backgrounds by providing opportunities for typically developing students to work side-by-side with students with disabilities.
Crescencio López is an assistant professor in the USU Languages, Philosophy and Communication Studies department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, who is dedicated to making intercultural connections between his students and the broader Logan community while promoting the values of inclusion and diversity in everything he does.
In the classroom, López provides a variety of opportunities for his students to engage with the Cache Valley Latino community by reading stories in Spanish to Latino children at the Logan Public Library and Bear River Charter School. In his culture classes, students are asked to interview Latinos living in Cache Valley in order to develop personal connections of the subject matter. His course also includes a service component where free translation services are offered to non-profit organizations and public offices in Cache County.
As an innovator and inspirer, López created the USU Latinx Creative Society in 2015 in order to teach undergraduate Latinx students to embrace their cultural heritage through literary and media art such as poetry, short story, documentary and filmmaking. At USU, he has served as an advisor and mentor to the USU Spanish Club, the USU Latinx Student Union and Aggie Dreamers United. López serves as a key member of Logan City Public Library where, because of his involvement, the library started a Spanish children’s story hour, created a Latino Advisory Committee and purchased more Spanish language children’s books. He was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of a series of driver’s education classes particularly for the Latino and refugee communities in Cache Valley.
As a transaction specialist at Utah State University Eastern-Blanding, Jessica Roueche has effectively served in an unofficial capacity as a study abroad liaison to the regional campuses where she works tirelessly to support non-traditional students during their journey to study abroad. Her work in this area has greatly diversified study abroad participation among persons typically underrepresented in this area, as well with students from USU’s regional campuses.
Roueche helps oversee all aspects of the study abroad process. Because she believes in the value of the experience, she has helped students with the extensive paperwork of the application process, assisted with fundraising, sought out grants and scholarships to help cover expenses and organized pre-departure preparation. In the 2016-17 school year, Roueche initiated and organized the first ever Study Abroad Fair at the USU Eastern-Price campus.
In addition to her unofficial study abroad role, Roueche strengthens a diverse community through her mentorship of the Cultural Ambassador Performance program that performs traditional Native American, Latin and Polynesian dances. She also volunteers with the Global Community Leadership club on USU’s regional campuses where she will lead the study abroad Cambodia program in summer 2018.
Psychology doctoral student Lesther Papa embodies and promotes diversity every day that he spends at Utah State University. Both his upbringing in Hawaii with immigrant, plantation-working parents and his time at graduate school at USU bring a perspective to his work in a series of anti-racist focus groups. Issues discussed during the focus groups include increasing the number of underrepresented faculty, adding resources for students with diverse backgrounds and raising awareness on issues related to the lack of diversity on the USU campus.
Papa is actively involved with many activities and organizations at USU. For USU’s Access and Diversity program, “How to be an Anti-Racist,” he helped write the script, recruit students and took a key role in the performance that raised more than $500 for Puerto Rico hurricane relief. Papa also serves the community where he has recruited students, developed programming and acted as leader to a group of multicultural university students on visits to Thomas Edison Charter School to help young students learn about culture. He plays a key role in USU’s Polynesian Student Union where he attends all club events and executive meetings, offering his wisdom and experience to the undergraduate students in office.
Soaking up all the university community has to offer, Papa can often be found in the Multicultural Student Lounge in the Taggart Student Center helping students with homework, serving as a mentor for others and encouraging them to be grateful for their differences. Whenever tours of high school students come through, Papa tells his story and gives hope to those with similar backgrounds.
Lizette Cruz Villegas
A well-known figure within the Latino community of Cache Valley, Lizette Cruz Villegas embraces diversity, service, inclusion and teamwork. She desires to see the local Latino community flourish and there are, perhaps, few Latinos in Cache Valley who have not been impacted by her public involvement.
Villegas is an ambitious community organizer who promotes diversity through the multiple community efforts in which she is involved. She has assisted the Northern Utah Hispanic Health Coalition with its health fair in what has become a central source of information for the Hispanic community and other ethnic minorities. She created and manages a Facebook Page, La Pulguita, intended to inform the Latino community about what is happening in Cache Valley as well as with other important national and international issues facing the community. At the Logan Public Library, Villegas has become an influential member of the Latino Library Council where she has organized multiple events for Hispanic families. Villegas also assists with the USU Extension bilingual program Food Sense that offers cooking and finance classes, and works with USU’s Sound Beginnings, a nonprofit organization that provides services to children with hearing loss.
As the community organizer for The Family Place, Villegas has planned family and community friendly Latin American festivities to promote family unity and cultural pride. Known for her gifts of bringing people together regardless of their cultural background, she organizes events where people may share their cultural heritage through food, folk, art, music and language all with the goal of furthering the local Latino community.
The Family Place
The Family Place is a true model of an organization that promotes diversity, accepts and celebrates individual differences and makes it a priority to build and enhance relationships with diverse people and cultures. The organization believes that every family needs support and the services they provide are designed to benefit community members while ensuring that diverse populations are comfortable using their services.
The Family Place opened in Hyrum in 2014 with a focus of providing services to diverse groups, particularly the Latino community. The organization offers parenting classes in Spanish and holds many events for the Latino community including Day of the Dead celebrations, Zumba classes, dances and informative gatherings on topics such as immigration. The Family Place employs many Spanish speakers, has a phone extension for Spanish speakers, posts job openings in English and Spanish and employs a Spanish-speaking receptionist. For clients who speak other languages the organization works with translation technology to ensure all families are able to receive support.
Regular training is provided to The Family Place employees in order to create an environment that respects and accommodates the cultural diversity of the Cache Valley community. Many services are offered including a child abuse shelter, Kid’s Place emergency child care, Kid’s Place therapeutic child center, therapy, trauma interventions and educational classes. The organization also offers free child care for those attending English-learning or citizen classes at the English Language Center of Cache County. The Family Place also works with refugees from Burma and Somalia, taking particular care to learn about their cultural differences, history and customs in order to make sure they are well respected and comfortable while receiving services from the organization.
Contact: Stacy Sturgeon, 435-797-1266, firstname.lastname@example.org