Learn more about this year's recipients of the Dean's Award for Community Engagement! We are very proud of these students, each of whom has made unique and long-lasting contributions to the betterment of our communities. If you are interested in learning more about how you can contribute to honoring students like this, please click here:

Santina Contreras
Graduate Student
Department of Planning, Policy, and Design

Santina’s research focuses on issues at the intersection of the fields of housing, hazards, and international development. Her current work examines organizational approaches towards recovery in post-disaster Haiti. The main objectives of her research are to better understand the use of participatory approaches by organizations and to determine the influence of various participatory approaches on recovery outcomes. This increased knowledge aims to improve the work governments, non-governmental organizations, and funding agencies undertake in the post-disaster setting, which, she hopes, will contribute to improving the lives of vulnerable communities in developing countries.

 

Sheila Espinosa
Undergraduate Student
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior


Sheila enjoys being creative and helping others. Currently, she is the Vice President of Fashion Interest Group (FIG) which has provided her with the opportunity to express herself through fashion as well as help the less fortunate by working with Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sheila continues to take initiative to participate in events that have make society a better place. One example is PAWS car wash which helped raise awareness, as well as funds for sheltered animals. Lastly, Sheila has volunteered as a GEAR-UP mentor, which teaches others about the importance of higher education as well as life skills. Sheila’s ongoing hope is to impact other’s lives in a positive way.
 

 

Sally Geislar
Graduate Student
Department of Planning, Policy, and Design

As founding director of the Food Works Lab at UCI, Sally currently manages three funded projects on local food and food waste issues. Her primary research examines the role of household behavior in successful curbside organics collection programs. Sally developed this work as a NEURUS/ICURD Fellow at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands studying urban waste systems, household behavior, and waste infrastructure. Previously, she developed evidence-based behavior-change models for community groups, schools, municipalities, and workplace groups as a board member of a local non-profit, Community Sustainability USA. Her research has focused on sustainability issues including food security, environmental justice, public lands planning, and transportation policy.

 

Long Hai Hoang
Undergraduate Student
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Long has been volunteering at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center since 2013, where he assists nurses and doctors with patient questions and needs. In addition, he volunteers to assist clinical events for Vietnamese elderly to promote physical and psychological well-being as well as to promote the hospital’s image. Academically, Long is a research assistant in Wendy Goldberg’s Family Lab and Jodi Quas’ Children Development Lab. For these research labs, he translates all forms/questionnaires into Vietnamese and helps develop research procedures. Long is interested in promoting mental health awareness with the hope to reduce stigma on mental health in the Vietnamese community.

 

Kristin Kaczmarek
Graduate Student
Department of Planning, Policy, and Design

Kristin is interested in the application of planning as a tool for change in creating socially sustainable environments through consensus building and public engagement.  Through her research she utilizes urban design not only as a medium for artistic expression, but also as a direct force for positive transformation in the social sphere and the built environment. Her focus is in projects that help distressed communities by improving safety and aesthetics, while acting as a catalyst for public participation. Her research goals are to create a sense of awareness, empowerment and pride in under- represented groups by taking a holistic approach to solving social and physical design challenges through collaborative involvement.

 

 

Hye Jung Park
Undergraduate Student
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Hye Jung’s personal goal is to be a resource to students of underrepresented communities and to help students empower themselves through higher education. As a student ambassador for statewide and national student associations, she advocates for accessible and affordable education for all, regardless of socio-economic background or identity. Her research interests are in the development of social, cultural, and psychological norms and the consequences of challenging those norms on college campuses. In regards to the community, Hye Jung has volunteered in numerous ways. As president
of Alpha Gamma Sigma, Hye Jung worked with a local elementary school to create an art program to raise funds to support their theater program. Her goal was to help the students help themselves. It worked and they were able to raise enough funds to host two nights of the production Annie.

 

Marta Ramos
Undergraduate Student
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Marta is founder and president of Grains of Love Foundation, a local non-profit organization that sends care packages to individuals with serious illnesses. Her organization has sent hundreds of care packages around the world and is in the process of sponsoring a cancer center in rural Mexico. Marta’s organization creates these packages with the help Orange County middle and high school students, who are often at-risk youth. Students who volunteer for Grains of Love learn to give back and in the process increase their own self esteem . Marta also mentors recent immigrant students, to assist in their psychological adjustment. Her academic interests lie in psychology and neurobiology. She hopes to further understand what drives human behavior and how we can better the human experience.

 

 

Chris Teng
Graduate Student
Department of Planning, Policy, and Design

Before he started his studies at UCI, Chris served as a Planning Commissioner for the City of Alhambra, Adjunct Professor at the California State University at Northridge, Land Use Development Manager for two homebuilders, and in various community leadership positions. Currently, Chris volunteers at the Discovery Cube of Orange by holding community workshops on climate change and his research on sea level rise. Also, Chris is a teaching volunteer at MacArthur Elementary School in Santa Ana, supplementing existing science curriculum through a play-based learning setting focusing on climate change research. He also serves as a PPD department representative for the Discovery Science Initiative and as a science fair judge for various Orange County elementary schools.