Dyer was selected the recipient of the honorable mention award, or second place, in the highly competitive service award category of the Citation for Excellence program, for his service to the Bohart Museum, Department of Entomology and Nematology, and the public. He was nominated by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart, and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (See Bug Squad blog)
Berks received a Staff Assembly scholarship to work toward her master's degree in cybersecurity at National University. A member of the Phoenix Cluster Information Technology (IT) team since December 2018, she recently accepted a promotion to join the Campus Information and Educational Technology (IET) Security Operations Center. Her last day with the Phoenix Cluster IT team was Sept. 2.
The annual Staff Assembly Award presentation took place Monday, Sept. 12 in the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall of the Walter J. Buehler Alumni Center. Awards presented included citations of excellence, a faculty and staff partnership award, and staff and staff dependent scholarships. (See list of award winners)
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May congratulated the recipients.
In his remarks, Chancellor May told the crowd: "This is truly an exciting time for UC Davis. I hope you heard that we were ranked #2 nationally among public universities in Washington Monthly's 2022 Guide and Rankings. On top of that, UC Davis retained its No. 4 public university ranking in America's Top College List 2022 by Forbes. In some places UC Davis is the top, such as No. 1 for sustainabilty. UC Davis is also ranked No. 1 in the nation for diversity, inclusiveness and internationalization. And, we recently set a university record by attracting more than $1 billion in annual research awards. Fewer than 20 universities in the country can claim this."
"I could go on," the chancellor continued, "but the fact of the matter is that we are doing great work at UC Davis, and each of you are a part of this effort. I know how important your expertise, experience and institutional memory are to advancing the university's success. It's sometimes difficult to appreciate how our individual contributions make a difference in the 'big picture.' But every day, the work of staff are critical to our university projects, our operations and our campus environment."
The chancellor pointed out: "These behind-the-scene efforts are what keep UC Davis humming and in tune with our mission of excellence in teaching, research and public service. They are a big part of what your university and Staff Assembly recognizes and thanks you for today. The individuals and teams we honor this afternoon have gone 'above and beyond' all expectations to make UC Davis a more enjoyable, creative, inclusive and invigorating place to work.
He added: "I am proud of all UC Davis staff, but the individuals and teams we honor this afternoon have gone above and beyond in contributing to the university's success. Thank you so much for your outstanding contributions to UC Davis. Our university is a better place today because of your accomplishments, because of your hard work and because of your inspiring dedication to excellence."
In all, the UC Davis Staff Assembly awarded individual honors in five categories for its Citation of Excellence program: innovation, mentorship, service, supervision, and teaching, as well as a team award and a faculty and staff partnership award. The Staff Assembly also awarded scholarships to campus and UC Davis Health staff and staff dependents.
Jennifer Jackson, chair of the UC Davis Staff Assembly, and Jana Avila, chair of the UC Davis Health Staff Assembly, welcomed the crowd. Jackson serves as the Academic Program analyst in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Dean's Office, and works with undergraduate student data for the college. Avila is the Affiliate Network manager.
In the highly competitive “service award” category of the UC Davis Staff Assembly's annual 2022 Citations of Excellence program, Dyer received the second-place honor or honorable mention. The university employs some 17,000 academic and administrative staff.
Dyer, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (2018) from UC Davis, began volunteering at the Bohart Museum in 2015, advanced to a paid internship in 2016, and then in 2018, accepted his current position as the lab assistant.
Dyer overcame three obstacles: a challenging childhood, a marriage that didn't work, and the loss of his home and hometown in the 2018 raging inferno in Paradise known as “The Camp Fire.” He successfully struggled from #ParadiseStrong to #DyerStrong.
“Ninety-five percent of the town is gone,” Paradise council member Michael Zuccolillo told the San Francisco Chronicle in a news story published Nov. 10, 2018. “The remaining 5 percent of buildings are barely standing. I felt like I was living in a bad dream. It was unrecognizable. I had to keep asking, ‘Where are we?' All the landmarks are gone. Block by block, nothing. Anybody who had a house in Paradise probably doesn't anymore.”
Love of Science. Dyer today credits his “love of science” with helping him overcome life's hardships. “And now in return, he inspires others to love science,” wrote his three nominators Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey described him as “bright, gifted and personable. It doesn't matter what needs to be done in the museum, curation, insect identification, live colony care, computer or software issues, and working with student volunteers, he takes care of it. It is so rare to find someone who can do some of these tasks so well, much less all of them like he can.”
Another faculty member added this to the nomination packet: “(Brennen) is what I would generally characterize as a servant leader, defined by a philosophy and practice that aims to enrich the lives of the people. He works to build a better organization, and create a more caring environment for everyone. He is an exceptionally hard worker who is always available to assist students, staff, volunteers alike.”
An alumnus: “(Brennen) is incredible. He is intelligent, meticulous and proactive, and goes above and beyond to assist peers and colleagues. For example, when I was finishing my PhD thesis, I needed photos of insect specimens to add to my last chapter, but I had neither the time nor the skills to utilize our modern microscope to photograph specimens. He generously offered to help, and did so perfectly and quickly. If he hadn't been so reliable and proactive, I wouldn't have been able to finish my PhD in time.”
Accolades. Other comments from faculty and colleagues:
- “Frankly, we do not know what we would do without him. He is that exemplary. He is always kind, courteous, respectful, reliable, flexible, and eager to help with any project. When you ask for a favor or task from him, you can count on it being done promptly and correctly.”
- “(Brennen) steps up to difficult tasks, such as taking the lead in a landmark, three-year, federally funded project of surveying and databasing insects from three counties in the Sacramento River Delta (to date, 700 species, including 30 new species). He does it all, from organizing collections, coordinating field trips, and training interns, to helping graduate students, faculty and peers with equipment, including the GIGAmacro system and freeze freeze dryer; and assisting them with their projects and publications, such as imaging holotypes and photographing specimens for their publications. With BioQuip closed and supplies scarce, he even designs collecting equipment!”
- “He also serves as the unofficial IT specialist. (Brennen), who learned to dismantle and resassemble computers as a child, troubleshoots the office computers and printers, and assists with the website.
- “He volunteers to drive hundreds of miles to bring back collections, donations or other materials. He eagerly supports UC Davis Picnic Day, (Bohart) open houses, and UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. He engages with visitors, showing them displays, answering their questions, and encouraging them to ask more!”
- “(Brennen) strongly supports diversity, equity and inclusion. When a colleague's developmentally disabled aunt arrived for a tour, he noticed her limitless enthusiasm and curiosity for insects, so he headed to the Arboretum to bring back a male Valley carpenter bee (a blond, green-eyed bee known as a ‘teddy bear bee') and let the aunt hold it (note that ‘boy bees don't sting') before releasing it. Her joy, glee and excitement were as unforgettable as (Brennen's) kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.”
- “(Brennen) has been an anchor to the museum, especially these last COVID years. We are a small team who tries to do big things. (Brennen) is the glue that holds everything together and gets the job done. He supports all aspects of the (workplace) from research to outreach and education. He is tireless and very deserving of recognition. He is not someone who likes to step into the limelight, but is definitely behind the scenes making everything happen smoothly. He is also just a caring and kind co-worker and sensitive to inclusivity and equity.”
In summary, the nominators wrote that (Brennen) “epitomizes the excellence of our UC Davis workforce.”
Dyer said he is humbled and honored to be singled out for the award.
The judging criteria in the service award category included
- Provides exemplary services to students, staff, faculty and/or general campus
- Makes notable contributions to the department and/or campus
- Creates and maintains high morale
- Embodies the Principles of Community
In all, the UC Davis Staff Assembly awarded individual honors in five categories: innovation, mentorship, service, supervision, and teaching, as well as a team award and a faculty and staff partnership award. The judges also awarded scholarships to staff and staff dependents. (See award winners)
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of eight million insects. It also maintains a live “petting zoo” (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
UC Davis biology lab manager Ivana Li, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2013, is the recipient of a major UC Davis Staff Assembly award for her contributions to the campus community.
Li won the Staff Assembly's Citation for Excellence Individual Award, Service Category. She will receive a cash award of $1500 for the “efforts and positivity” she brings to the community, said spokesperson Darolyn Striley.
The Staff Assembly traditionally hosts an awards ceremony in the fall, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic precautions, it is likely to be postponed, Striley said.
A trio nominated Li for the honor: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, Bohart Museum of Entomology; supervisor Pat Randolph, academic coordinator, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Also contributing to the nomination were Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology; and forensic entomologist/faculty member Robert Kimsey, who advises the UC Davis Entomology Club. Li is a past president of the club.
The award is confidential, with names, gender and identification removed from the nomination form.
"Our nominee is exemplary as a scientist, artist and chef, going above and beyond the job description,” the nominators wrote. “As a teaching lab coordinator of the largest biology course at UC Davis, (Li) coordinates up to 1300 students and meets the unexpected challenges in ingenious, ‘can-do' and innovative ways. For example, when the lab desperately needed a large mosquito culture, (Li) contacted area vector control agencies, collected the mosquitoes, and delivered them to the lab."
“Without her tenacity in locating materials, that lab would have been a failure for that quarter,” supervisor Pat Randolph, said.
The trio wrote that Li "exemplifies the kind of leader and community organizer that UC Davis seeks to produce. As one professor (forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey) said: (Li) “is the ideal person for teaching and teaching support, intensely curious, very independent, and highly imaginative. (Li) is thus highly motivated and original in problem-solving. (Li) is the ideal collaborator, very cooperative, consistently cheerful, dependable, stable and delightful to work with.”
As a scientist and artist, Li is always willing to share her time and talents to fulfill the UC Davis mission of public service, the trio noted. For some 20 years, she has eagerly volunteered at the annual UC Picnic Day, both as an undergraduate student and as an employee. She coordinates department exhibits and displays. She also "interacts enthusiastically" with the public, even engaging in creative face-painting.
Li “organized the Invertebrate Collection and display for the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, an annual science-based day formed nine years ago that draws 4000 people to our campus. This involved wrangling faculty to participate, developing a kid-friendly shell identification game to give them an idea how scientists go about identifying animals.” She “passionately draws people into science and serves as a role model with a welcoming, 'I'm-glad-to-be-here' smile and a genuine 'let's talk-science' friendly approach.”
This year Ivana Li designed the t-shirt that the volunteers wore. It featured a double-decker bus with the “passengers” as organisms showcased in the 13 museums or collection.
On the nomination form, Lynn Kimsey and Tabatha Yang noted that Li creates “amazing dioramas in the hallway of the Lab Sciences Building” and created the “incredible dioramas in the hallway of Briggs Hall.” She developed and created exhibits, t-shirts, and other informational materials for the Bohart Museum.
In addition, Li has served as an instructor at a summer bio boot camp for youngsters and agreed to be the chef for a professor's summer boot camp for graduate and undergraduate students. She also cooks for a scientific society at its annual meeting.
As a senior majoring in entomology in 2013, Li won the "UC Davis Outstanding Senior in Entomology" from the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, and the department's “Outstanding Senior Award.”
In conclusion, Li "continues to exhibit a strong sense of community and humanity,” her nominators wrote, and her “high productivity, engagement, inclusion, generosity and kind personality make for a combination that makes us all proud.”
Li grew up in Monterey Park, near east Los Angeles where she learned to love insects. Professor Sharon Lawler of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who nominated her for the outstanding senior award, related that “Ivana Li exemplifies the kind of leader, community organizer and entomology that our department seeks to produce. "She has especially excelled in her entomology courses and in leadership. Ivana Li is a true entomology and UC Davis success story.”