Remarkable Women of UC Riverside

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Celebrating 55 Faculty, Staff, and Alumnae

France A. Cordova

First Latina Chancellor in the UC system and first woman to hold the position of NASA Chief Scientist. Former UC Riverside Chancellor France A. Córdova was sworn in on March 31, 2014 as the 14th director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Cordova was chancellor at UC Riverside from 2002 to 2007. She left UCR to become president of Purdue University, where she served from 2007 to 2012. She served as chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution and as a member of the National Science Board, where she chaired the Committee on Strategy and Budget.

(Susan) Elizabeth George '70

Elizabeth George is an American writer of mystery novels set in Great Britain. She is best known for a series of novels featuring Inspector Thomas Lynley, twenty in number as of 2018. She was a student of English, having received a teaching certificate from the University of California, Riverside. She received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Cal State University Fullerton in 2004 and was awarded an honorary master’s in fine arts from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts in 2010. She also established the Elizabeth George Foundation in 1997.

Katherine Hansen

Katherine Hansen joined UCR Health with over twenty-five years of healthcare experience, bringing great enthusiasm and dedication to the newest University of California community-based healthcare system serving the Inland Empire. She received her Masters of Health Administration and Gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Ms. Hansen is responsible for enterprise-wide clinical practice operations, strategic expansion, marketing and outreach, performance analytics, and project management. Under Ms. Hansen’s leadership, UCR Health continues to deliver strategic success by creating a healthy culture focused on its mission core and values, serving the underserved.

Sue Johnson ’62

Ms. Johnson has been involved with UCR and the University of California for over 20 years. She has served on the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees since June 1977. Ms. Johnson was also a founding member of the now-defunct College of Natural and Agricultural Science’s Science Circle at UCR. She served a one-year, ex-officio term on the University of California, Board of Regents from 1988 to 1989. In September 1990, former Governor George Deukmejian appointed her to a 12-year term on the board (1990 to 2002). Ms. Johnson served as the chair of the UC Board of Regents from 2000 to 2002 and focused on monitoring the quality of UC education. After her term ended, she received the University’s highest honor, the Chancellor's Medal. Ms. Johnson received the UCR Trustee’s Award for Extraordinary Service in 2004.

Marigold Linton

Marigold Linton was awarded UCR’s Distinguished Alumni Award, as she is the first Native American from a California reservation to attend college. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the newly-established University of California, Riverside, Linton earned her Master’s degree from the University of Iowa and later her Ph.D. from UCLA. In 1969, Linton helped to establish the National Indian Education Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for Native American voices in education from Native educators and leaders to parents and students. Linton is also one of the founding members of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), an organization dedicated to supporting underrepresented minorities to excel in science-based careers.

Tina Nova

After Tina Nova earned her doctorate at UCR, Nova started multiple biotechnology firms in San Diego county. Thus, she became a leader for biotechnicians everywhere and especially at UCR. Today she is the president and CEO of Molecular Stethoscope based in San Diego.

Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley, a distinguished professor of creative writing, is the author of numerous novels, including “A Thousand Acres,” which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. Smiley received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has served as lead judge for the prestigious Mann Booker International Prize.

Kathryn Uhrich

Kathryn Uhrich is Dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Professor in Chemistry. As dean, she oversees a research and teaching enterprise comprising nearly 1000 faculty, staff and researchers, as well as more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students in 13 academic departments. Uhrich’s scholarly and entrepreneurial achievements are highlighted by her election as Fellow of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Controlled Release Society, and the National Academy of Inventors.

Ameae Walker

Ameae Walker is Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biomedical Sciences

Juliet Beni ‘08, M.S. ‘10, Ph.D. ‘12

Juliet Beni is daughter of UCR engineering professors Gerardo Beni and Susan Hackwood, she is the youngest person ever to graduate with a Ph.D. from UC Riverside since graduate programs began on the campus. Juliet focused on psychology at UCR, working through her undergraduate assignments and moving on to graduate work that included time as an instructor of a large health psychology class. Beni continues as a student in UCR’s Haider program in Biomedical Sciences, and she hopes that her next diploma will be an M.D. from UCLA.

Sabrina Cervantes '09

Cervantes served as a District Director for a member of the California State Assembly, and the Director of the California Voter Project. She also worked in the private sector alongside various community organizations to enhance the local economy, broaden access to quality education, and improve access to governmental services. Cervantes is a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the California Legislative Women's Caucus, and the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. She is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy; and the Assembly Select Committee on Veteran Employment and Education. Cervantes is also a member of the Assembly committees on Banking & Finance; Communications & Conveyance; and Public Employees & Retirement.

Deborah Deas

First African-American Dean at UC Riverside and First female African-American Medical School Dean in the UC. Deborah Deas grew up on a rural farm in Adams Run, South Carolina, and has seen first-hand the challenges faced by underserved populations, including education, employment and health care. She has dedicated her life, both personally and professionally, to increasing opportunities and advocating for progress. She believes these values align perfectly with the mission of the School of Medicine.

Jeanette Henry Costo

Jeannette Henry Costo (d. 1998), Cherokee Indian, journalist, and activist in her own right, married Rupert Costo in 1954. Founding support of Native American studies and relationships with local native communities

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian speculative fiction writer and editor. She is a Professor of Creative Writing. She is the First author to receive the prestigious Sunburst Award twice. Hopkinson’s work in science fiction and fantasy, including the novels “Brown Girl in the Ring” and “Midnight Robber,” is steeped in a number of folkloric traditions and cultures — particularly Afro-Caribbean and others touched by the African diaspora — making the Jamaica-born author an ideal choice to helm “House of Whispers.”

Brenda Martinez

Brenda Martinez is an Olympic track and field athlete. She graduated from UCR in 2010 with a degree in Sociology and Law and Society. Just four years later, Martinez represented the USA in the 2014 IAAF World Championships in the Bahamas. She won the gold medal in the 800 meters. In 2015, she set a world record in the Distance Medley Relay at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix; the following year, Martinez qualified for the U.S Olympic Team.

Virginia Phillips ‘79

Virginia Phillips is the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Phillips received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Riverside, in 1979 and a Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1982. She was in private practice in Riverside, California, from 1982 to 1991. She was a Commissioner for the Riverside County Superior Court from 1991 to 1995.

Rosemary Schraer

In 1987, Rosemary Schraer became the first female chancellor in the UC system.

Prue Talbot

Prue Talbot is the Founder of the Stem Cell Center.

Sue Wessler

Sue Wessler is a Distinguished Professor of Genetics and First woman from UCR's Center for Plant Cell Biology elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Monica J. Carson

Chair, Division of Biomedical Sciences, Professor of Biomedical Sciences. S. Sue Johnson Presidential Endowed Chair

Kathryn (Kathy) Barton

Kathy Barton of UC Riverside had been selected as the 2012–14 Staff Advisor-designate to the University of California Regents. Barton works as executive director of strategic initiatives at the UCR School of Medicine. As executive director of strategic initiatives in the School of Medicine, Barton is part of the team planning the launch of UC Riverside’s medical school. Throughout her 27-year career at UCR, she has held several communications, grant-writing and government relations positions.

Denise Davis

Denise Davis is the UCR Director of the Women's Resource Center and Mayor Pro-tempore for Redlands. As an undergraduate, Denise was active in creating her own degree — Social Psychology of Gender and Multiculturalism for Social Change — through the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands. Denise taught women, gender and sexuality studies courses at the University of Redlands. She is passionate about issues pertaining to student engagement, intersectionality, feminism, the LGBTQ community, gender representation in media, women’s political participation and social justice advocacy.

Mary Ann Baker

Mary Ann Baker is one of the founding faculty members in the UCR Biomedical Sciences Program.

Leslie Hickle ’74, Ph.D. ’81

Leslie is the Biotech executive and a Certified Board Director (UCLA Anderson School of Business) and serves on advisory boards for the UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS), the UC Innovation Council and several biotech startups.

Mariam Lam

Mariam Lam is the Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer, she advises the leadership team, including the Chancellor, on all issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and sets the vision and course for positioning UCR as a national leader in reimagining diversity in higher education. She heads a wide range of initiatives and committees that address DEI, partners with campus and community stakeholders to advance UCR’s diversity mission, and represents UCR at the system, state and national levels.

Susan Hackwood

Susan Hackwood is a professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at UC Riverside, and founding Dean of the UC Riverside College of Engineering. She has been the Executive Director of CCST since 1995. Prior to moving to UC Riverside in 1990, she was a professor at UC Santa Barbara and worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories, in the Robotics Research department. She co-founded the Journal of Robotic Systems in 1984 with Gerardo Beni.

Yolanda Moses

Yolanda Moses served as an anthropology professor at UCR after receiving her doctorate in 1976. She was also Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Excellence and Diversity. As a person who grew up during civil unrest, Moses became very involved and interested in the Civil Rights Movement of the time. From 1993 to 1999, Moses became the first female to serve as the 10th President of City College of New York. After leaving her administrative position, she became president of the American Association of Higher Education.

Milagros Peña

In 2015, Milagros Peña joined UCR as the first female Dean of College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Peña’s academic research, among other topics, has explored Latina activism and the role of nongovernment organizations and faith-based communities in Mexico and the United States in social and political change.

Christena L. Schlundt

Professor Emerita Christena Lindborg Schlundt joined UC Riverside in 1953 as one of the first members of the UCR faculty. Throughout her career she was a campus leader. She began as an Acting Assistant Professor of the Department of Physical Education, which she subsequently chaired in the mid-1960s. She also served as an Associate Dean in what is now the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. In 1972, she served the first of several terms as Chair of the newly formed Program in Dance, which evolved into the present Department of Dance. She established the nation’s first Master of Arts degree program in dance history in 1982. A decade later, her vision for the first Ph.D. program in dance history and theory in the world became a reality, establishing the UCR Department of Dance as an internationally recognized center for the study of dance history and theory.

Susan Straight

Susan Straight is an American writer and award-winning author. She was a National Book Award finalist for the novel Highwire Moon in 2001. Straight is a Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, where she has taught since 1988. She received the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008. Currently she is Director of the Master of Fine Arts Program and serves on the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at the university.

Zelma Ballard

First African American woman to graduate from UC Riverside, in 1959

Loda Mae Davis

In 1953, UC Riverside’s first Dean of Women Loda Mae Davis helped to shape the future not just for Highlander women but for all UCR students. In addition to serving as an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Davis was later appointed as the Associate Dean of Students. An economic analyst, consumer rights advocate, and world traveler, Davis worked for the Works Project Administration in 1936 and other Federal entities during the Roosevelt administration. In 1940, she became a consultant to the Consumer Division of the National Council of Defense, a job which led to her becoming the head of the first field staff of the Office of Price Administration. Following World War II, she worked for the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

Phyllis Guze

Phyllis Guze, M.D., Associate Vice Chancellor, Health Affairs and Executive Dean for the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, was awarded the Dema C. Daley Founder’s award by the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine (APDIM). Dr. Guze became a founding member of the UCR School of Medicine leadership team in 2008 as acting vice chancellor of medical sciences and dean of the UCR medical school. Prior to that, Dr. Guze had been a professor of medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine since 1985. She was chair of medicine at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System from 1986-2005.

Anthea M. Hartig

Anthea M. Hartig is the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the first woman to hold the position since the museum opened in 1964. An award-winning public historian and cultural heritage expert, Hartig is dedicated to making the nation’s richly diverse history accessible and relevant. A third-generation native of Southern California, she grew up in the greater Pomona Valley. She earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in history at the University of California, Riverside, her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles and studied as an undergraduate and graduate student at the College of William and Mary.

Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami, an award-winning author, is the author of the novels Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist, and The Moor’s Account, which was a New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Great Read, and a Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year. The Moor’s Account won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Shola Lynch

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from University of Texas, Shola Lynch earned her master’s degree at UCR, where she studied Public Resource Management and American history. Her master’s thesis became an exhibit at UCR’s Museum of Photography titled “How Far Have We Come?” and featured different media representations to highlight racial stereotypes. After earning her Ph.D. at Columbia University, Lynch began her career as a filmmaker. In 2004, her first independent documentary film was released: Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed. The documentary won multiple awards including the George Foster Peabody Award. Today, Lynch is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences.

Bobbi McCracken

Bobbi McCracken is the Associate Vice Chancellor and Controller, Business and Financial Services. She is the first woman to serve in this role.

Mihri Ozkan

Mihri Ozkan is a professor in UCR’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering. Specifically, she teaches electrical and computer engineering. Her work, however, focuses on environmentally friendly technologies for the future. For example, Ozkan’s lab has produced Li-ion batteries prepared from Silly Putty, portabella mushrooms and beach sand. She also worked on a sponge-like material to absorb oil from oil spills. In 2019, Ozkan was granted admission to the National Academy of Inventors, of which she is the first female and the fifth person from UCR to join.

Gloria Romero M.A. ’80, Ph.D. ’83

Gloria Romero is a former California State Senator and the Democratic majority leader of the California State Senate from 2001 until 2008. She was the first woman to ever hold that leadership position. She taught as a professor at state universities and served as a trustee and vice president of the board of trustees of Los Angeles Community College District.

Tamica Smith Jones

Tamica Smith Jones is the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics (AD) for the University of California, Riverside. In her first year leading the Highlanders, they won the 2015 Big West Conference Championships in Women's Golf, Men's Golf, earned the program's first individual national championship in its Division I era, and had their best finish in the Big West Conference Commissioner's Cup standings. During her tenure, the Highlanders have won seven individual Big West Championships, including the 2018 Big West Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament Championship and a first-ever trip to the 2018 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament/Men’s College Cup. A leading voice on women in sports and minority coaches, Smith Jones serves on multiple NCAA working groups on these important issues. In 2017, she was named the Women Leaders in College Sports Division I Administrator of the Year, awarded the 61st Assembly District Woman of Distinction Award by California State Assembly member, Jose Medina, and recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans in Los Angeles.

Denise Verret '88

In 2020, Denise Verret became the First African American Woman to Lead a Major US Zoo. Verret is CEO and Zoo Director for the LA Zoo.