The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s 2020 Awards recognizes the leadership and service of its finest faculty, staff and students committed to enhancing the university’s mission of excellence.
In a message to the 2020 honorees, UH President David Lassner said, “Words like ‘catastrophic’ and ‘devastating’ are used frequently when describing the pandemic and its impact. But words like ‘amazing,’ ‘committed,’ ‘resilient,’ ‘collaborative,’ ‘innovative’ and ‘compassionate’ are what I use frequently to describe what our faculty, staff and students have accomplished during this crisis.”
“We all have been challenged in this semester like no other, and the future is far from clear. But with your stellar work advancing UH Mānoa every day, I know that we will make it through these trying times stronger and wiser,” he added.
Read President Lassner’s message on the UH Mānoa Awards website.
2020 Mānoa Awards winners
Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching
The Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching is awarded by the Board of Regents as tribute to faculty members who exhibit an extraordinary level of subject mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness and creativity and personal values that benefit students.
Alexander Mawyer, associate professor, School of Pacific and Asian Studies
Mawyer is described as having a sweeping, intellectual grasp on biocultural diversity that melds science, history, anthropology and linguistics. (more)
Alison Nugent, associate professor, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
In Nugent’s classes, students speak of gaining “a sense of community and collaborative learning, instead of competition.” (more)
Grieg Steward, professor, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Steward’s approach towards the presentation of material is a form of theatre that bridges the distance between himself and students. (more)
Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research
The Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research is awarded by the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents in recognition of scholarly contributions that expand the boundaries of knowledge and enrich the lives of students and the community.
Qing Li, professor, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
Li’s research addresses fundamental issues in agricultural chemistry and has greatly advanced understanding of the field. (more)
Mari Yoshihara, professor and chair, Department of American Studies
Yoshihara examines the politics of cultural encounters between the United States and East Asia. (more)
The Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
The Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for a faculty and a graduate assistant recognizes dedication and demonstrated excellence as teachers of undergraduate students. It was established as a memorial to the late Frances Davis, who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and UH Mānoa for 19 years.
Jason Higa, assistant professor, John A. Burns School of Medicine
Higa augments the lecture and magnifies prerequisite knowledge through strategies of analogy, physical engagement and incorporation of local and Hawaiian terminology. (more)
Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Graduate Teaching Assistants
Sabrina Diemert, PhD candidate, College of Engineering
Diemert’s teaching approach involves the use of active learning techniques, a deep enthusiasm for core concepts and connections to real-life applications and research. (more)
Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Service to the Community
The Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service recognizes a UH Mānoa faculty member for playing a socially significant role by applying intellectual leadership and academic expertise to the improvement of the community. The award was established as a memorial to longtime UH Mānoa College of Education Professor Robert Clopton and first awarded in 1977.
Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, professor, William S. Richardson School of Law
MacKenzie leaves a legacy to Hawaiʻi as a creative force and expert in the distinct area of Native Hawaiian law by illuminating culture as a living embodiment of how Maoli (native Hawaiian) culture provides the very foundation for Hawaiʻi law. (more)
Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching
The Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching recognizes UH Mānoa faculty members who have made significant contributions to teaching and student learning.
Katie Drager, associate professor, College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature
Drager’s pedagogy is grounded in a constructivist method of guiding students towards command of their own learning and a research-based method. (more)
Anna Feuerstein, associate professor, College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature
Feuerstein provides students with a deep awareness of literary traditions while analyzing cultural productions—novels, films, paintings—within their social, historical and political contexts. (more)
Karla Sierralta, assistant professor, School of Architecture
Sierralta’s studio teaching frequently expands into community projects, providing her students with opportunities to contribute to their communities. (more)
Amber Wright, assistant professor, Department of Biology
Wright is committed to building quantitative literacy and fostering student engagement by creating relevance to real-world situations and to life in the Hawaiian Islands. (more)
Presidential Award for Outstanding Service
The Presidential Award for Outstanding Service honors a UH Mānoa staff member who demonstrates outstanding work performance, service and leadership.
Angel Asuncion, janitor supervisor, Building Services
A 30-year employee of the university, Asuncion conducts regular inspections and team trainings, representing building services and leading by example. (more)
James Potemra, specialist, Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology
Potemra has been instrumental in developing programs and addressing key challenges in physical oceanography data application at national and international levels. (more)
Loree Shiroma, janitor, Buildings and Grounds Management
Shiroma’s high cleaning standards are described like “pristine hospital conditions,” and she anticipates problems and initiates remedies before users notice. (more)
William “Bill” Unruh, physical plant manager, Institute for Astronomy
Unruh’s meticulous attention to facility details support IfA’s expertise, professionalism, innovation and overall success in service to the campus and the state. (more)
Dr. Amefil “Amy” Agbayani Faculty Diversity Enhancement Award
The Dr. Amefil “Amy” Agbayani Faculty Diversity Enhancement Award from the UH Mānoa Commission on Inclusion and Diversity recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to enhancing diversity. The award was established to recognize Agbayani’s lifetime commitment to diversity and social justice in Hawaiʻi. For more than 40 years, she served as the founder and director of the Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity.
Deborah Zuercher, professor, College of Education
Zuercher has established effective place-based pedagogies that honor local traditions and has made significant achievements in recruiting and graduating diverse groups of students. (more)
Peter V. Garrod Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award
Established by the UH Mānoa Graduate Division in 2005, the Peter V. Garrod Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award allows graduate students to nominate faculty for excellent mentoring, one of the foundations of outstanding graduate education.
Jairus Victor Grove, director, Hawaiʻi Research Center for Futures Studies and graduate chair, Department of Political Science
Grove currently serves on 24 dissertation committees, and is the university representative for dissertations in educational foundations, philosophy and sociology. (more)
Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research & Creative Work
The Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and Creative Work was created in 2020 by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at UH Mānoa. The award recognizes up to two tenured/tenure-track faculty mentors each academic year (one from a STEM discipline, and one from a non-STEM discipline) who have shown dedicated and sustained excellence in faculty mentoring of undergraduate students in their research and creative work endeavors.
Brittany Biggs, assistant professor, Academy for Creative Media
Biggs creates hands-on, practical mentorship projects that help students excel in their academic studies and prepare them for future careers. (more)
Pratibha Nerurkar, associate professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering
Nerurkar regards undergraduate research and mentoring as a “high impact practice in higher education” and considers it as one of the most rewarding activities of her career. (more)
Outstanding Academic Advisor and Academic Unit of the Year Award
The Council of Academic Advisors recognizes an individual or unit who, over the past two years, has demonstrated excellence and/or innovation in advising, and/or has made a significant contribution to the advising community.
Megumi Makino-Kanehiro, director, Mānoa Advising Center
Makino-Kanehiro’s passion is equity and diversity, which is evident in both her advising philosophy and in her work and service as an advisor. (more)
The Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center
Established in 2014, the center implements and manages the Kaʻieʻie Degree Pathway Program, a dual-admission, dual-enrollment partnership between the UH Community Colleges and UH Mānoa to assist with transfer of students between the campuses. (more)
Student Excellence in Research Award
The Student Excellence in Research Award is awarded by the UH Mānoa Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research in recognition of outstanding scholarly research endeavors by students while they pursue a degree at the doctoral, master’s or bachelor’s level.
Zhoujian (ZJ) Zhan, PhD candidate, Institute for Astronomy
Zhang is using his discoveries to characterize their atmospheres and demographics in order to understand the wide diversity of exoplanetary systems. (more)
Student Employee of the Year Award
The Student Employee of the Year Program was created in 1986 by the Mānoa Career Center to recognize and highlight the achievements and contributions of student employees on the UH Mānoa campus.
Lindsey Bull, student assistant, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research
Bull worked with the marine turtle biology and assessment program for more than three years and conducted research on the effects of sea turtle nest incubation temperature upon hatching success. (more)