Spirit of La Verne Awards honor University values

Alexandra Burrel, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, presents the Spirit of La Verne Special Honor to Al Clark, professor of humanities, Tuesday in Ludwick Center Sacred Space. Clark, who is retiring this year, was one of several University of La Verne community members honored at the annual Spirit of La Verne Awards ceremony. / photo by Nareg Agopian

Sabin Gabra
Staff Writer

The Ludwick Center Sacred Space was filled with excitement and pride as the University’s community gathered to honor individuals who embody the core values of spirituality, cultural understanding, and community engagement Tuesday evening.

This year’s event was sponsored by several University offices, including the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Office of International Services and Engagement, and the Center for Multicultural Services. 

The ceremony began with a welcoming speech from University President Devorah Lieberman, who expressed her gratitude to the winners for their outstanding contributions. Following the speech, the honorees were called to the stage to receive their awards, which included certificates of recognition and personalized gifts. 

“It was such a fun emotional experience, seeing students and alums being recognized for their outstanding achievements,” Juli Salhab, freshman biology major, said.   

Throughout the ceremony, honorees expressed their gratitude for the recognition and shared their personal stories of how they became involved in their respective fields. The diverse range of honorees included students, faculty, and staff from various departments, highlighting the importance of collaboration and teamwork in achieving the University’s goals.

“The impact to form these core values is for people to come together,” University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner said. “It is like a magic formula of celebrating people who have exemplified the core values, but doing it together helps all of us.” 

One of the honorees, Zarah Victoria Vidriezca, sophomore legal studies major, was awarded with the Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellowship award.

“I feel that through my involvement on campus, mainly promoting Civic and Community Engagement,” Vidriezca said. “Gave me an opportunity to practice public speaking, even if it is only saying a few words is great practice.” 

Vidriezca is an engaged student leader who models the kind of social justice advocacy and community engagement that goes beyond service to seek long term solutions to issues that touch areas within the community. 

She said that through her work, she can only hope to positively impact others and educate people on subjects that are not often talked about but must be discussed. 

Another honoree who was noticed for their devotion on campus, Aisha Adelotan, senior biology major, was awarded the Spirit of La Verne award from the Office of Spiritual Engagement. 

“My love for community engagement and interfaith dialogue inspired me to do the work that I have done,” Adelotan said. 

Within her first year at the University, she became involved with interfaith club Common Ground. In her role as an interfaith fellow, she educated those around her about the Muslim faith, led interfaith dialogue dinners and invited people to explore their world view.

Her advice she would give others is for students to intentionally seek out events and people who can help them achieve their goals and who will help them grow as leaders. 

Throughout the ceremony and reception, the crowd was encouraged to reflect on their own personal values and how they could work to promote them in their own lives and communities. 

Looking forward, the Spirit of La Verne Recognition Ceremony serves as a powerful reminder of the work that remains to be done in promoting core values like spirituality, cultural understanding, and community engagement. 

“We must continue to educate ourselves around diversity and equity,” Wagoner. “This is about many things but it’s mostly about relationships, education, and a willingness to be part of.” 

The other honorees were Raffi Zinzalian, general manager of ULV Graphics/Collegiate Press; Johnny Chavez, purchasing lead for the purchasing and procurement department; John Bartelt, professor of educational studies; Linda Bartelt, adjunct professor of educational studies; Jamie Vargas, senior sustainability and environmental studies major; Malissa Hernandez, history and political science department manager; Elisabeth Mike Sky, graduate student in the master’s of business administration program; Brianna Douglas, senior political science major, and Cindy Vallejo, associate director of the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership.

Lieberman and Al Clark, professor of humanities, each received the Spirit of La Verne Special Honor.

Sabin Gabra can be reached at sabin.gabra@laverne.edu.

An earlier version of this story mistakenly omitted Raffi Zinzalian from the list of award recipients. The Campus Times regrets the error.

Sabin Gabra, a freshman communications major with a public relations concentration, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

Nareg Agopian is a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.


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