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Award Recipient Profiles 2022-2023

Congratulations to the 2022-2023 award recipients!

Kevin McCarthy

Legal Studies

Mather Good Citizen Award

Kevin McCarthy is completing his B.A. in Legal Studies at UC Berkeley. After serving 17-year sentence, McCarthy was paroled in July 2020 and entered Berkeley that fall as an Underground Scholar. Selected as a Haas Scholar in 2021, he researched the experiences and outcomes of incarcerated individuals with gang-related extended sentences. Working with Underground Scholars, McCarthy coordinated the Incarcerated Scholars Program, guiding other incarcerated students to access higher education. More recently, McCarthy served as an Underground Scholars policy fellow, helping craft and advocating for legislation to aid the state’s incarcerated population Motivated by his own prison experience, McCarthy made significant efforts to effect transformative state legislation. He helped pass SB416, the Incarcerated Students Bill of Rights, a first-of-its-kind law that requires establishing college programs in every prison and to partner with accredited education institutions. He also helped author and pass SB990, which requires the transfer of a parole to a county where the parolee has been accepted into a college, trade school, or reentry program. In support of AB2632, the Mandela Act, to limit the duration of solitary confinement, McCarthy provided expert testimony at Assembly and Senate hearings and conducted media outreach that sparked a national discussion. The bill passed the legislature but was vetoed by the governor. McCarthy has contributed to a reintroduced version (AB280) – part of his ongoing work to position California as a leader in justice and equity. 

Sai Chelluri

Molecular and Cell Biology

Undergraduate Award for Civic Engagement

Sai Chelluri is a premedical student majoring in molecular and cell biology and an ardent public health advocate. From her first semester at Berkeley, she has volunteered with the Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals (CCMP) in Oakland to provide low-income families with accessible medical, optical, and dental care. During the pandemic, she worked with people whose needs ranged from donated surgical procedures to home delivery of blood pressure medication. She has recruited and trained more than 20 student volunteers who work with patients and has also trained many community volunteers from the larger community while becoming a leader in CCMP organization and the local public health community. She has used her expertise in local health insurance providers to help hundreds of individuals enroll for coverage and obtain basic and preventative care. She also worked with the American Medical Women’s Association to conduct an awareness campaign among low-income population about resources for healthcare and basic needs. As Campus Director of the UN Millennium Fellowship, she raised funds to donate eyeglasses to low-income elementary school students. 

Steven Hensley

Berkeley Law School, J.D. Candidate

Graduate Award for Civic Engagement

Steven Hensley is a student at Berkeley Law School who strives to use personal experience to inspire hope in the community. After being incarcerated for over five years from the age of 17, Hensley was released in 2016, homeless and nearly hopeless. Despite these difficulties, he decided to persevere through any obstacle he encountered. in 2020, he co-founded a nonprofit organization that connects formerly incarcerated youth to employment and educational opportunities. As co-chair of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Fresno Chapter, he worked to prevent law enforcement from conducting illegal sweeps of homeless encampments. These efforts led to his election for a three-year term to the ACLU of Northern California Board of Directors. In 2022, Hensley received the President’s Medal from Fresno State University, the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus. At Berkeley, he has served as an ambassador for the Underground Scholars program, helping formerly incarcerated individuals register for and navigate community college. He also completed a service year in the California Justice Leaders-AmeriCorps program, developing case plans for currently and formerly incarcerated young adults.

Elizabeth Bowler

College of Environment Design

Staff Award for Civic Engagement

Elizabeth Bowler is Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Dean’s Office of the College of Environmental Design (CED). Her work focuses on the ways in which design, architecture, and city planning have impacts on community health. In 2021, she helped launch the Arcus Social Justice Corps, which provides financial assistance and community-engagement skill building to CED graduate students. Bowler has also built a job training program with Covenant House California, a nonprofit shelter for Bay Area youth overcoming homelessness. Known as Hort | Culture, the program provides paid opportunities to help run a small business selling houseplants, 3D-printed pots, and other horticultural merchandise. Youth interns residing in Covenant House shelters are able to develop tangible workplace skills, from sales and customer service to using business software and other technology, while engaging in a creative and therapeutic outlet that fosters community, joy, and healing.

San Francisco Unified School District and UC Berkeley Research Practice Partnership – i4Y (Innovations for Youth)

Campus-Community Partnership Award

For more than 20 years, UC Berkeley’s research collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has spanned diverse topics, such as science assessment, high school trajectories, nutrition services, health and social service delivery, and school transportation. In 2017, leaders at SFUSD sought to formalize these relationships through an institutional-level partnership between the district and UC Berkeley across multiple schools and disciplines. The joint research agenda builds on existing partnerships with San Francisco Peer Resources and SFUSD’s School Health Programs in service of the district’s equity and social justice goals. Recognizing and promoting community-engaged research at each institution, the partnership emphasizes interventions to support student wellness, reduce absenteeism, address homelessness, and mitigate racial bias. The effort is being supported by a William T. Grant Foundation Institutional Challenge Grant, jointly funded by The Spencer Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

UC Berkeley Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Student Group Award for Civic Engagement

Established in 2010, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a year-long program that trains student volunteers to complete and file tax returns for low- and moderate-income individuals and families in the East Bay. Students in the program spend the fall preparing for an Internal Revenue Service-sponsored VITA certification exam and learning about beneficial tax policies in relation to socioeconomic inequality. In the spring, VITA students volunteer at community tax preparation sites. In the previous tax season, over 70 volunteers helped to bring nearly $1 million in refunds to community members.

David Broockman

Political Science

Faculty Award for Research in the Public Interest

David Broockman is Associate Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2015. Broockman’s research focuses on public opinion and political representation in the United States. Since 2016, he has published a series of papers that demonstrate the power of back-and-forth conversation to mitigate intergroup prejudice and exclusionary political attitudes. Conducted in collaboration with activist groups, the research revealed that door-to-door canvassing of strangers provided a scalable method to achieve, with lasting effect, reduced prejudice against transgender people and increased support for including them in non-discrimination laws. Broockman hypothesizes that the two-way nature of conversation was the key component, being listened to, rather than talked to, made people more open to the canvasser’s message. This two-way approach is now being deployed by a variety of nonprofit and political organizations and has helped many people understand how to have more effective conversations. 

Erin Kerrison

Social Welfare

Faculty Award for Research in the Public Interest

Erin Kerrison is Assistant Professor in UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare. She is an empirical sociolegal scholar embedded in a dynamic collective that foregrounds the necessity of public love. Her scholarship extends from a legal epidemiological framework, wherein law and legal institutions condition structural determinants of health. Through public agency partnerships, Kerrison’s research agenda investigates the impact that compounded structural disadvantage, concentrated poverty, and state supervision have on health outcomes for individuals and communities. In 2020, she worked with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors and police leadership to facilitate a comprehensive community stakeholder engagement effort to establish a safe and healthy response plan for unhoused riders, substance use, and other public health issues that do not require an armed police response. Kerrison helped analyze the input of diverse participants, leaving the Board better positioned to create an evidence-based, action-oriented road map to address health and safety for the transit system’s most vulnerable riders.

Thomas Azwell

School of Engineering / SCET

Faculty Award for Community Engaged Teaching

Thomas Azwell earned his M.A. in science education and his Ph.D. in environmental science from UC Berkeley. As a research scientist in Berkeley’s College of Engineering, Azwell directs Disaster Lab, a multifaceted program to develop and deploy innovative engineering solutions for complex environmental challenges. He has dedicated his career to attaining environmental sustainability and creating disaster-resistant communities. Azwell’s record of public service includes efforts to remediate the impacts of environmental pollution, develop technologies that help to mitigate disasters, and create a pathway to a sustainable career for underrepresented individuals. Recently he was instrumental in forming and launching FIRE Foundry (Fire, Innovation, Recruitment and Education), a workforce training and development program. In partnership with the Martin Fire Department, Cal Fire, and other agencies, FIRE Foundry strives to remove barriers that keep women and people of color from pursuing careers in fire service and build a workforce more representative of the state’s communities. Since it’s launch in 2021, the program has trained an initial cohort of 18 firefighters and recruited a second cohort of more than 30. FIRE Foundry is building new partnerships with other Bay Area fire departments.

Maria Montoya


Robert J. and Mary Catherine Birgeneau Recognition Award for Service to Undocumented Students

Maria Montoya is a first-generation, low-income, undocu-Latina. A second-year student intending to major in business administration, she carries a passion for social advocacy and aspires to give back to underserved communities in her personal life and throughout her career. Currently, she works closely with East Oakland DREAMers, a nonprofit organization that supports undocumented students in navigating post-secondary education. Since coming to UC Berkeley, Montoya has participated in the work of Navigating Cal (NavCal), the Chicanx Student Development Office (CLSD), the Chicanx Latinx Standing Committee, the Undocumented Student Program, and the Public Service Center. She continuously works to create supportive spaces for the professional development and overall success of marginalized communities, both on and off campus..

Karen Serrano

Plant and Microbial Biology

Robert J. and Mary Catherine Birgeneau Recognition Award for Service to Underrepresented Students

Karen Serrano is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate studying plant biology at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation research involves developing biotechnology to study beneficial plant-fungal relationships pertinent to biofuel production. Outside of her studies, Serrano has worked with the Latinxs and the Environment Initiative and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment to conduct research on the attitudes of migrant farmworkers about organic and conventional agriculture. She is on the board of the Graduate Association of Latinx Students, an organization that addresses the sociopolitical and cultural issues and concerns that affect the Latinx graduate and professional community at Berkeley. She also serves as the student affairs officer for the campus chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in the Science, coordinating community-building and networking events for underrepresented students pursuing careers in STEM. She also leads the peer-mentoring program From Day One, which provides an informal space for Latinx undergraduates to meet current graduate students and seek career advice.