IRVINE, Calif. — This year, four incredible UCI Graduate students, Janielle Vidal, Sophia Metcalf, Elissa Cobian, and Herschell Valenova Dayag earned Dynamic Womxn of UCI Awards. These prestigious awards celebrate and honor womxn leaders who leverage their graduate education to make a positive difference in the world. Each student has gone above and beyond to initiate change and fight for causes they believe in.
“These four scholars are incredibly impressive, both inside the classroom and in the community,” said Gillian Hayes, Vice Provost for Graduate Education. “We’re lucky to have such great ambassadors to UCI, and I know all four of them will continue to impact the world in positive ways.”
Janielle Vidal and Sophia Metcalf received the Academic Achievement Award, which honors members of the UCI community who have contributed academic research/theory that advances knowledge, narratives, and/or pedagogy that elevates Womxn and BIWOC (Black, Indiginous, Womxn of Color) issues in their field.
Janielle is a PhD candidate in Environmental Health Sciences and deeply cares about advocating for underserved populations at UCI.
“She has repeatedly been called on to do extra-curricular racial bias training as one of a handful of Black PhDs in UCI’s Medical School. Her work has contributed to several substantial changes at UCI’s Medical School,” writes UCI’s Womxn Hub.
Janielle sincerely hopes to be an inspiration and role model for other Black women.
“I wish for others to see me (a Black woman from Jamaica) and know they can reach similar, if not better heights given the resources to do so,” said Janielle.
After graduating from UCI, Janielle hopes to use the insights from her graduate education to help agencies make critical decisions to improve human health.
Sophia, who just graduated with her MFA in Acting, co-founded UCI’s first queer theatre company, Brick Theatre, and has been actively involved in Students Mobilizing Change (SMC). She also serves as an Inclusive Excellence Ambassador for UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence.
“UCI has an impressive cadre of high achieving and community engaged leaders, and it was an honor to be nominated with them,” Sophia said.
As a teaching assistant, Sophia has continuously created a safe and collaborative learning space. Post-graduation, they plan to continue teaching and engaging in the New York City social justice community with the goal of changing students’ lives for the better.
Elissa Cobian, an MA candidate in Public Policy, received the Outstanding Social Justice Activist Award. Elissa worked tirelessly to promote CalFresh, a federally-funded nutrition assistance program that provides financial resources to people experiencing food insecurity, as a way to combat malnourishment and poverty. Elissa created tutorial videos, handouts, and guides to help break down the application process for students and eliminate any barriers. Her work has been instrumental in helping students ensure their basic needs are met.
Herschell Valenova Dayag, an MPH student in Public Health and advocate for preventative care, received the Dynamic Womxn of the Year Award, which honors individuals who have gone above and beyond to make a significant contribution to the UCI community.
“To me, this award represents the momentous hurdles I have overcome to earn my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while actively making a difference in the UCI community for over 7 years,” said Herschell. “Being bestowed with this prestigious accolade is a culmination of the first-rate education I received from UCI’s Public Health Program’s cutting-edge training, its esteemed faculty, and the guidance of my distinguished medical mentors. I am proud to be honored as a fellow UCI trailblazer alongside such inspirational womxn on our campus.”
Herschell’s experiences at UCI have fueled her continued dedication to education, research, mentoring, and community service. After graduating, she is committed to using her skills to empower others and create a healthier future.
These phenomenal students exemplify how UCI graduate students are the future leaders of the world. On behalf of the UCI Graduate Division, congratulations to all of the award recipients and thank you for your incredible work!