Six Female UCR Students to be Honored by Women’s Resource Center

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is keynote speaker at fourth annual Celebration for Women Students on March 1

Women's Resource Center 2012 Award winners

The recipients of the 2012 Celebration for Women Students awards (from left): Smruti Parichha, Quiet Monique Poluan, Angelica Bautista, Nicole De Francisco, Jordan Rohde and Breanna Harris.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — California Secretary of State Debra Bowen will be the keynote speaker and six University of California, Riverside students will receive awards for efforts in leadership and civic engagement, social justice and overcoming adversity at the fourth annual Celebration for Women Students on Thursday, March 1, 2012.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

The celebration is organized by the Women’s Resource Center, sponsored by campus and community partners and will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in room 355 of the Highlander Union Building (HUB). Admission to the event is free, but there is a $5 charge for non-permit holders to park on campus. To RSVP, please visit

Women’s Resource Center Director Adrienne Sims said that the event is part of the campus’ celebration of Women’s History Month, held every March.

“Women’s History Month is important because it showcases the impact of women, their history, and their achievements,” Sims said. “Recognizing these women extends our pursuit of excellence in diversity, it values the accomplishments of our plethora of women, it builds on their richness, it creates a stronger sense of community, and it springboards role models that are women.”

Bowen, who is in her second term as secretary of state, has long been an advocate of using the internet to create transparency in California governmental affairs, while, during her career as a state assembly member, authoring landmark consumer protection laws that help Californians maintain personal privacy. Sims said that Bowen is an ideal speaker for the event.

“She is a bonafied leader and role model,” Sims said. “She exemplifies the qualities of leadership that the Celebration for Women Students is promoting: inspiration, engagement and leadership.”

The awards will be presented to one undergraduate and one graduate student in each of the three categories. Quiet Monique Poulan and Breanna Harris will receive the Leadership and Civic Engagement Awards, Jordan Rohde and Nicole De Francisco the Social Justice Awards and Angelica Bautista and Smruti Parichha the Overcoming Adversity Awards. Each will receive a plaque at the awards ceremony.

The winners were selected from a pool of nominations by a three-person panel of judges; John Gatesy, associate professor of biology, Mona Rynders, a financial and administrative officer in the math department, and senior sociology and creative writing student Richard Zapp.

Rynders said that she was inspired by the stories of all the nominees, not only the six winners.

“It was not an easy decision,” she said. “Much discussion went into who truly deserved the awards.”

Information on the awards and the recipients

Leadership and Civic Engagement Awards

The award is presented to an undergraduate and graduate student who devotes extra-ordinary time and effort towards leadership and civic engagement activities.

Quiet Monique Poluan – Undergraduate Award

Quiet Monique Poluan

Quiet Monique Poluan

Quiet Monique Poluan, a computer engineering major in the Bourns College of Engineering, is the president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and has been responsible for organizing and participating in many outreach events to help get elementary, middle and high school students excited about engineering. She was instrumental in organizing the 2011 Bourns Engineering Day, at which more than 800 girls, aged 6-16, and participated in more than 20 hands-on activities.

“Monique’s organizational skills and passion in outreach have been well demonstrated throughout the events she has organized, and she has significantly promoted UCR to our local community as an active educator and partner,” said Bourns College of Engineering Dean Reza Abbaschian in his nomination of Poluan.


Breanna Harris – Graduate Award

Breanna Harris

Breanna Harris

In his nomination of Breanna Harris, biology Ph.D candidate Brian Gray described her as a scholar in the purest sense of the word, saying “She takes the idea of combining academics with service and assists others in reaching their full potential.”

Harris, a Ph.D. student in evolution, ecology and organismal biology, is both a talented researcher and a dedicated teacher who works diligently with her students to ensure they succeed. She has transformed her bi-weekly lab meetings into professional development seminars designed to help her team get the most out of their research experience.

Harris served as the co-coordinator of the Graduate Program’s Departmental Services and Outreach program, recruiting volunteers to help judge science fairs, give presentations and serve as mentors for K-12 students. She also participates in the fairs herself, often serving as a judge, and has also raised money to purchase prizes for winners of the elementary and junior divisions of the district science fair. She is a participant in the NASAClim, a joint program between UCR, the Riverside Unified School District and NASA to increase student knowledge and awareness of climate related issues.

Social Justice Award

The award is presented to an undergraduate and graduate student who works to create a society based on principles of equality and solidarity.

Jordan Rohde – Undergraduate Award

Jordan Rohde

Jordan Rohde

A women’s studies major, Jordan Rohde has become involved in a variety of organizations since transferring to UC Riverside. She is president of the Tau Sigma Honor Society (national transfer student honor society), a peer mentor with LGBT Resource Center, social awareness chair of Hillel, and a member of Golden Key. She also volunteers three or more days a week at the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Riverside, all while carrying a 3.948 GPA.

Rohde has recently been involved with the creation of a Middle Eastern Student Center at UCR, a safe space and resource for Middle Eastern students as well as students seeking to learn more about the region.



Nicole De Francisco – Graduate Award

Nicole De Francisco

Nicole De Francisco

A graduate student in anthropology, Nicole De Francisco has worked to create a society based on the principles of equality and solidarity by providing opportunities to currently marginalized social and ethnic groups. A first-generation college student, she serves as a long-distance mentor to high school students in her hometown of Chicago.

In her research, she collaborates with the local Kekchi Maya community in Belize to assist in her studies of the under-heard “ordinary people” of the past.

She is the president of the Student Association of Graduate Anthropologists (SAGA) and is the chair for the 32nd Annual James C. Young Colloquium, the theme of which is “Conversations Toward Community and Diversity.”


Overcoming Adversity Award

The award is presented to an undergraduate and graduate student who withstands a misfortune, setback, or debilitating circumstance.

Angelica Bautista – Undergraduate Award

Angelica Bautista

Angelica Bautista

At the age of 13, Angelica Bautista was diagnose with Systematic Erythematosus Lupus, an chronic auto-immune disease that can cause fevers, pain, rashes, swelling, kidney stones and shortness of breath. But despite these challenges, she is able to balance a robust community life as she pursues her degree in sociology and minor in women’s studies.

She has served as the treasurer of the Student Disability Union and is a member of the Latinic Societas Unitas sorority. After graduation, she intends to earn a graduate degree in social work with the goal of working with teenage girls who are disabled, especially those affected with chronic diseases.

“Angelica ultimately wants to use her own experiences overcoming the challenges she has had to counsel and guide other girls and young women who are grappling with disability and disease,” wrote Professor of Sociology Katja Guenther in her nomination of Bautista. “Tenacity is her moniker.”

Smruti Parichha – Graduate Award

Smruti Parichha

Smruti Parichha

Smruti Parichha came to UCR to pursue a graduate degree in computer science from the western region of Orissa, India. According to her nominator, graduate student Sandeep Dhall, Parichha has persevered towards her educational goals while overcoming severe economic and social restrictions.

She has paid for her graduate degree work as well as paid for treatments of her father’s chronic heart condition. While financial considerations forced her to temporarily suspend her education, she wouldn’t give up on the dream.

“She has worked particularly with those from financially challenged families at the undergraduate school in her hometown,” Dhall wrote. “But, more important, she has led women students to see ‘the sky as the limit.’ Like herself, she does not want them to be deterred from receiving a graduate education.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756

Additional Contacts

Adrienne Sims
Tel: (951) 827-3337

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