On Friday, February 3rd, at the Annual Climate Committee Town Hall, three department members were honored with Equity Prizes for their work within and outside of the department. This year's awardees are Rodrigo Córdova, Graduate Student, Class of 2025, Roohi Dalal, Graduate Student, Class of 2024, and Polly Strauss, Academic Program Administrator. They each have made a positive impact on the department and we thank them for their contributions.
Rodrigo is involved in so many efforts towards diversity and inclusion that it would be impossible to list them here. As one nomination put it, he is a “total standout” but we are honoring his work in mentoring, which spans a wide range. Within the department, he has worked as an undergraduate mentor over the past two years, providing a fun and low key support network to students with questions about everything from python to graduate school. He is a standout AI as well. As a member of the Climate Committee, he was the architect of the Affinity Groups, and has been a stalwart attendee of their meetings. He also works with underserved high school students through PUP, with undergraduates at Forbes College, and with the National Boy Scouts of America. He has represented the department at recruitment conferences, including NSBP and SACNAS, and he routinely does public outreach events in Puerto Rico. He also represents the University as a member of the Osage Nation at events like “Native Nation Building and Sustainability”. Rodrigo believes that working to increase access to the joys of science are his responsibility as a scientist, and he brings a passion and joy to the work that inspire all of us.
Roohi has been dedicated to all aspects of the department climate, serving on the Climate Committee for three years, as well as on the Women in STEM Leadership Council as President. She participates in AstroJustice, and she takes time to talk with people in the department when she notices that they may need a kind ear. Many of her nominators spoke to her broad impact: “She has helped lead projects like the climate committee working groups (ad hoc committees) on admissions and iconography, and organized activities open to all students wanting to better understand the means of creating more inclusive environments.” and to her dedication and passion to broadly improving the department demographics while simultaneously working to make Peyton as welcoming and inclusive as possible: “Roohi thinks and cares deeply about how to make our department more diverse and, crucially, more inclusive.”
Our Climate is really set by small acts of kindness and generosity that we all do for each other every day. Polly’s warmth and attention to detail makes our students feel cared for. From the goody bags at recruitment to the choice of cake at the thesis defense, from Milky Way candy bars at the Major’s Fair to a pick-me-up when senior thesis are due, Polly is there looking out for our students’ emotional and physical well-being. She makes us all stop and notice each other, and her dedication to the department and particularly the students, deserves an award. As one nominator put it “ I think all of us would agree that seeing Polly always brightens our day!”
Thank you, Rodrigo, Roohi, and Polly for your dedication to the department!