UC ANR Communicators 'Ace' Awards Competition

Six communicators with the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) won major awards from the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), a professional organization that supports and showcases science communication in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.

Ricardo Vela, manager of UC ANR News and Information Outreach in Spanish (NOS), won the ACE 2024 Rising Star Award, an annual award that "honors communicators, instructors and researchers who demonstrate exceptional leadership and technical skills in their communication field, to their institution, and service to ACE."

Five other UC ANR communicators won either a gold (first place), silver (second place), or a bronze (third place) award.

  • A trio from UC ANR Strategic Communications--Michael Hsu, senior public information representative; Ethan Ireland, senior videographer; and Evett Kilmartin, photographer--teamed to win a silver award for their video, “Farm-to-Corrections Project." 

  • Strategic Communications' social media strategist Doralicia Garay won a bronze  award for her entry, “Improving Lives in California” in the category, social media organic campaign. 

  • Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and author of the Bug Squad blog on the UC ANR site, won a gold award for “best feature photo."

They will receive their awards at the ACE conference, scheduled June 23-25 in Salt Lake City Utah. The theme: “Big Ideas Start Here.” 

Ricardo Vela

Ricardo Vela is a 35-year, two-time Emmy-winning broadcast journalism professional, as noted on the ACE site. As program manager of NOS, he supervises a Spanish-language expert team that disseminates news and research about agriculture, nutrition, and natural resources to Spanish-speaking communities across California.  Vela is “an advocate for Latino and other ethnic groups, promoting their contributions to society and creating for the first time, events for the UC ANR community to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Cesar Chavez Day.”

Before joining UC ANR, Vela worked as a national news correspondent for Univision and CNN in Texas and Los Angeles.  He started his journalism career at the Chicago Tribune and Univision in Chicago, Ill. While in Chicago, he collaborated with several Latino community organizations, always promoting equity and inclusion. He served as Univision's main news anchor in San Diego for 17 years and hosted a morning talk radio show,“Voces Hispanas,” for 10 years. His career includes serving as news director and anchor at Entravisión (a Univisión affiliate) in Palm Springs and as a news anchor at Telemundo in El Paso, Texas. In 2006, Hispanic Magazine listed him as among the 100 most influential Latinos in the country.

UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston appointed Vela as a founding member of the UC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to serve a three-year term. 

The ACE Rising Star Award memorializes Frank Jeter (1891-1955), a pioneering ACE member from North Carolina who made significant contributions to the communication field and to ACE.

Michael Hsu, Ethan Ireland and Evett Kilmartin

The Hsu-Ireland-Kilmartin team produced a video featuring UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) and its unique partnership with Impact Justice, ChangeLab Solutions, Spork, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDRC). Last July they launched the "Farm-to-Corrections Harvest of the Month" project, which brings fresh, specialty produce into California prisons “to improve the diets of the residents, as well as improve their overall health and well-being.”   Impact Justice is a prison reform organization, ChangeLab Solutions is a health equity nonprofit, and Spork is a regional food hub

The video, Hsu said, aims to raise awareness and build support for the project. He cited its many wins:

  • Opens major untapped market for California growers and producers (especially small farmers)
  • Demonstrates a way for CDCR to meet requirements for in-state sourcing of food
  • Provides healthier food for residents of the correctional facilities, while introducing new produce and nutrition education opportunities that can help them live better lives while they are in prison and after they return to their communities.

Hsu conducted the interviews and wrote the script; Ireland shot and edited the video; and Kilmartin contributed photos. Some images were taken in the California Department of Corrections, California State Prison, Solano (Vacaville). (See the news story, "Farm-to-Corrections' Project Provides Fresh Produce to People in Prison, Boosts California Growers.") 

Doralicia Garay

Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology was among those featured in an award-winning ACE entry by Doricia Garay.
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology was among those featured in an award-winning ACE entry by Doralicia Garay.
Doralicia Garay submitted Improving Lives in California' campaign, designed to showcase UC ANR research and those who deliver it by (1) providing compelling content, and (2) featuring UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists. The campaign targets Californians interested in agriculture, pests, environment, wildfire, water, youth development, and nutrition--with paid campaigns and organic posts on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.

"The campaign's strategic emphasis on showcasing employees within the narrative of research efforts enhances the UC ANR brand identity and positions the organization as a collaborative pioneer in innovation," Garay  wrote. "This comprehensive approach leverages the power of social media to extend reach, foster engagement, and effectively cater to our online community."

Among those featured in "Improving Lives in California:" entomologist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor of Cooperative Extension, and a member of the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. 

Kathy Keatley Garvey

Kathy Keatley Garvey, a journalist formerly with UC ANR before joining the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, submitted an image of a honey bee buzzing over a zinnia. Her entry, “Celebrating the Honey Bee," won the feature photo category, for "one image that effectively tells a story." 

"The purpose of this photo was to celebrate the honey bee by capturing an image of a pollen-packing worker bee in flight over a bright flower," wrote Garvey. Her gear: a Nikon D500 with a 105mm lens. Settings: 1/4000 of a second (to freeze the action), ISO 1000, and f-stop 6.3. She sought to showcase "the amazing color: the bright red zinnia and the orange pollen;" the bee's speed (deliberately blurring the wings); and "to emphasize that foraging honey bees are incredible workers." 

"That is one huge ball of pollen that she'll take back to her colony," Garvey wrote. Feedspot, which ranks blogs by traffic, social media followers and freshness, ranks her Bug Squad blog as the No. 4 bug blog in the world, Garvey has written the blog every night, Monday through Friday, since Aug. 6, 2008. 

Communication Professionals

ACE, headquartered in Morton Grove, Ill., describes it members as "communication faculty and professionals at public and land-grant universities throughout the United States and in similar institutions in other nations.We are communication professionals at local, state and federal agencies; corporations and nonprofit organizations; and agriculture- and natural resources-focused international research centers."

Its members include "writers, editors, graphic designers, webmasters, video producers, information technologists, photographers, administrators, researchers, faculty members and others in the communications field. We plan, prepare and disseminate research results and Extension educational materials. We distribute research-based information to scientists and technicians, and practical, problem-solving information to people who put it to work: farmers, families, foresters, food processors, ranchers, homemakers, news media, youth, marine businesses, businesses and many others."