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Four individuals and one student organization were honored with the 2022 President’s Diversity Champion Award during a ceremony at the UAB Alumni House March 3.

The annual award, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, recognizes employees, students and organizations that have helped create a more culturally diverse, inclusive university community through their achievements. Nominations are solicited from the UAB community for all categories, and awards are given in several categories for projects or activities that best reflect the implementation of unit and/or campus diversity goals. 

The 2022 recipients are Kristina Visscher, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology and co-director of the Civitan International Neuroimaging Laboratory; Zana Pascoe, regional undergraduate admissions counselor; Sachin Budhathoki, a biomedical engineering doctoral student; Micah Williams, a senior majoring in English and philosophy; and the National Optometric Student Association.

Kristina Visscher

Kristina Visscher

Visscher’s research focuses on the plasticity of brain networks in adulthood. Her lab uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine how brain activity and connections change with experience, specifically after experience with vision loss, and in older adults.

Visscher works to improve outreach for neuroscience to the local community, bringing diverse speakers and volunteers to the community to help broaden public perception of who can be a scientist. As a member of UAB’s Research Civitan Club, she spearheaded the SCI café seminar series with the McWane Science Center, which holds monthly seminars to educate the lay public about ongoing research in all domains of science.

For more than 10 years, she has been the faculty organizer of UAB’s Brain Awareness Week, in which graduate and undergraduate students do hands-on activities with community members to teach about the brain and brain health. She also is active with UAB’s Roadmap Scholars program to enhance engagement and retention of underrepresented graduate trainees in neuroscience and won their outstanding research mentor award in 2021.

Zana Pascoe

Zana Pascoe

Pascoe earned her bachelor’s in biology at the University of Kansas and a Master of Education degree in college student personnel services. With support from her leadership and colleagues, she created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee within the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Scholarships and Campus Visits to help meet the needs of prospective UAB students in underserved communities.

Pascoe and the DEI Committee have created projects that eliminate barriers for prospective students and current students, including awarding scholarships to the underrepresented students recognized by the College Board National Recognition Programs, eliminating financial strains to these students while recognizing them for their merit. The committee also created a new, inclusive dress code policy that eliminated gender norms, allowing employees to be comfortable while expressing themselves in their own way. In her free time, Pascoe is involved in community service projects and outreach programs in the North Texas area.

Sachin Budhathoki

Sachin Budhathoki

Born in the Himalayan country of Nepal, Budhathoki came to UAB in 2018 to pursue his doctorate in biomedical engineering.

He works in the Tissue and Organ Chip Laboratory under Palaniappan Sethu, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering. He also works in the UAB Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as the tech transfer research fellow, where he helps transfer UAB discoveries and inventions from bench to bedside.

Involved in various student organizations, Budhathoki serves as senator in the Graduate Student Government and chairs the Professional Development and Leadership Committee. He was awarded the UAB GSG Travel Grant in 2020 and Professional Development and Travel Award in 2021. Also in 2021, he was the recipient of the Blazer Way Award, designed to highlight members of the UAB community who exemplify the tenets of the UAB Creed: honor and integrity, scholarship, service, innovation and diversity.

Micah Williams

Micah Williams

During his undergraduate career, Williams has promoted representation and the power of voicing one’s own narrative in both his activities and his studies. He is a member of several organizations dedicated to diversity, inclusion and service, including the Eta Lambda chapter of Tau Beta Sigma, the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, the McNair Scholars Program, and UAB’s Student Advisory Board for the 2021-2022 year.

Williams also is involved in the Student Multicultural and Diversity Programs Office as a mentor in the Blazer Male Excellence Network, or BMEN, a mentorship program created to aid in the retention and representation of Black male freshmen at UAB. Recently, he received certification to teach student diversity workshops as a diversity peer educator. Williams also researches topics in African American literature, specifically protest literature, gender politics in Black women’s writing and the ethics of representation in media. After graduating in spring 2022, he plans to pursue a doctorate in English literature in hopes that he can further promote diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education.

National Optometric Student Association

National Optometric Student Association

In 1979, the National Optometric Association sought to establish a student organization to promote service among optometry students and carry forward its mission of advancing the visual health of minority populations. In addition to fulfilling this core mission, NOA incorporated the goals of furthering the professional development of its student members and increasing the diversity in the profession of optometry by enhancing the recruitment and retention of minority students.

UAB NOSA now includes more than 50 members, with every ethnicity in the school represented. They participate in many health and career fairs, monthly vision screenings, diverse optometry initiatives, pre-optometry club activities and more. NOSA is an annual contributor to the Gift of Sight Program and strives to make a difference at UAB and in the community.

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