Published: Jan. 21, 2022 By
Daniel Ramirez (left) and Joe Villanueva (right)

The MCDB department has recognized graduate students Daniel Ramirez and Joe Villanueva for their outstanding efforts to the department and campus.  Daniel Ramirez received the 2021 MCDB Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his "outstanding efforts in the service of the Department of MCDB."  Joe Villanueva received the 2021 MCDB Excellence in Diversity Award for his "outstanding efforts to promote diversity and equity in the Department."  Both awards come with a gift card and recognition on a departmental plaque.  "MCDB Executive Committee and the Equity and Justice Committee were unanimous that Daniel and Joe were highly deserving of two awards for their efforts on behalf of the department and students," MCDB chair Lee Niswander said. Ramirez and Villanueva have both served as leaders in the Colorado Diversity Initiative’s Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training (SMART) Program as well as in the CU Boulder graduate student-led STEM Routes program, which works to create an inclusive, supportive community for students in STEM.  STEM Routes received a 2020/2021 University of Colorado President's Diversity Award.

Daniel Ramirez has attended three national meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) in support of the MCDB department's student recruitment efforts.  He helped to organize STEM Routes, particularly its Uplift Research Program, which pairs undergraduates with graduate or post-graduate mentors in a CU Boulder research laboratory, and served himself as a mentor in the program.  He also participated as a mentor in CU Boulder's SMART program, which provides summer research lab experiences for high school students who aspire to a career in STEM.

Joe Villanueva served last summer as co-lead mentor for the SMART Program, organizing weekly meetings, community bonding activities, academic workshops, conference preparation sessions, and a virtual poster session for the 11 "SMARTees." He also recently served as co-lead mentor for STEM Routes.  Along with other graduate students overseeing the Uplift program, he facilitated the placement, payment, and mentoring of 31 first generation, low-income, and underserved minority student Upliftees in research labs. "These three actions (placement, payment, and mentoring) seem obvious, but are often huge barriers face by undergraduate researchers from the communities I serve," Villanueva said.  He has mentored two Upliftees himself.  Most recently, Villanueva has been in talks with CU Denver's Doctoral Students of Color in support of that organization's upcoming “Doctoral Studies Symposium 2022: Embracing the Doctoral Journey.”