CCSL recognizes 5 outstanding UIC community members

The Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos (CCSL) established the CCSL Recognition Awards to acknowledge the incredibly hardworking and committed individuals who serve the Latinx community.

Up to five recipients are awarded annually among the following UIC populations: faculty, academic professionals, civil service employees, graduate students, and undergraduate students. The candidate pool was competitive, and we want to thank all the nominators this academic year. There were several exemplary candidates, and the individuals above were identified as leaders who are actively involved with Latinx issues at the university and are role models/mentors to members of the Latinx community.

Join us in congratulating the 2019-2020 academic school year awardees for CCSL Recognition Awards:

  • Marta Ayala – Civil Service Awardee
  • Mitzi Ramos – Academic Professional Awardee
  • Evelyn Figueroa – Faculty Awardee
  • Rosa De La Torre – Graduate Student Awardee
  • Erick Vaquero – Undergraduate Student Awardee

We are inspired by their commitment to the Latinx community. We encourage you to take a moment and read the remarkable contributions they have made at UIC and in their community.

Dr. Evelyn Figueroa – Faculty Awardee
UIC-COM Professor of Clinical Family Medicine; Program Director, UIC Family Medicine Residency; Director, Pilsen Social Health Initiative; Director, Pilsen Food Pantry

Dr. Evelyn Figueroa is a UIC Professor, UIC Family Medicine Residency Program Director, the Director of the Pilsen Food Pantry, and the Executive Director of the Pilsen Social Health Initiative. In 1999, Dr. Figueroa earned her medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and subsequently completed her residency training in Family Medicine at Lutheran General Hospital. In 2007, Dr. Figueroa completed the UIC Scholars for Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellowship. She is board certified in family medicine and focuses her primary care practice in vulnerable populations work, such as reproductive justice, LGBTQIA* health, substance use disorders, maternity care, and the care of children.

Dr. Figueroa spent her early career focusing on women’s health and maternity care, but presently devotes substantial energy to social determinants of health work, education, and activism. She does this through the direction and coordination of service learning programs in homelessness and food justice in addition to leading bias in healthcare educational sessions for her department. Dr. Figueroa believes that health equity cannot be achieved unless the impacts of racism, heterosexism, sexism, poverty, violence, and unequal social opportunities are addressed for patients. For her social justice teaching and advocacy, Dr. Figueroa has been honored with multiple awards, such as the 2012 Illinois Academy of Family Physicians Teacher of the Year, the 2014 UIC-COM Rising Star in Family Medicine Award, the 2015 Urban Health Program Social Justice Award, the 2017 Health and Medicine Research Policy Group Medicine Award, the 2019 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine President’s Award, and the 2020 UIC-COM Gold Humanism Faculty Award.

Dr. Figueroa founded and directs the UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry, serves as volunteer medical director for the Pacific Garden Mission homeless shelter medical clinic, and was recently inducted as a fellow into the Institute of Medicine-Chicago. In addition, Dr. Figueroa is the Executive Director of the Pilsen Social Health Initiative, a non-profit organization that conducts anti-poverty work. The Foundation supported a 2017-18 medical social brigade in remote southwest Puerto Rico and, in January 2018, founded the Pilsen Food Pantry. The Pantry services a large undocumented immigrant population and distributed over 500,000 pounds of food and household items last year. The Pantry expanded into literacy activism with the Pilsen Little Free Library in 2019. Lastly Dr. Figueroa’s nonprofit supported the creation of Chicago’s first homeless shelter based emergency COVID quarantine unit for 150 people at the Pacific Garden Mission, Chicago’s largest homeless shelter.


Dr. Mitzi Ramos – Academic Professional Awardee
English Academic Skills Specialist, Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services (LARES)

Dr. Mitzi Ramos has been a member of the LARES family for over two decades. One of the things that drew her to the program was its advocacy on behalf of Latino students. Not only is it a mission driven program, but it is a program that gives its staff an opportunity to develop initiatives aimed at addressing the unique needs of Latino students.

Throughout her tenure at LARES, Dr. Ramos has not only developed programming aimed at addressing the academic needs of Latino students, but she has also created initiatives designed to foster agents of change. To ensure the academic success of Latino students, she teaches supplemental writing courses, serves as the program’s writing tutor, and runs a series of seminars aimed at helping students develop the academic skills needed to succeed. To foster agents of change, she initiated a research course where students create original Latino-focused studies to present at professional conferences, in addition to spearheading the LARES Summer Institute where she teaches incoming Latino freshmen the importance of leadership development and civic engagement.

Those who are familiar with her work ethic understands that Dr. Ramos does the work that she does because she is deeply committed to student’s academic success. Her commitment to the LARES program remains strong and she looks forward to continuing to create programming aimed at helping Latino students achieve their career objectives and emerge as agents of change for the Latino community. Her mantra is: Unidos todo es posible!

Marta Ayala – Civil Service Awardee
Community Affairs Specialist with the College of Liberal Arts and Science Latin American and Latino Studies program.

Born in Mexico City, Marta describes Chicago her home away from home. She received her B.A. from DePaul University School for New Learning in Community Engagement. Her passion beyond connecting, and building community is supporting the arts, and our community here at UIC and beyond. She loves to say that her community and arts involvement came with the Chicanos. She is LALS Community Affairs Specialist II, which serves as a community liaison for faculty, students and staff, as events coordinator, and as the organizer for the MA and majors community research internships. Marta came to UIC as a community organizer to coordinate the lectures in the community; which turned out to be a great success for the program for its role in community engagement throughout the city of Chicago. She organizes all of the events that LALS hosts and she attends as many events as possible beyond the confines of UIC. As a result she is a walking ambassador, indeed, the face of UIC, as she moves around all of Chicago’s communities. Her nominators describe her as the pulse and a vital connector to the varying community organizations. She has organized hundreds of events some highlights of events she has coordinated that have served as a platform for UIC to engage with our surrounding communities are: Marcha! Latino Chicago and the Immigrant Rights Movement a book presentation series of events held throughout the city of Chicago, and to an overflowing community of scholars, activists, students and leaders at UIC’s Richard J. Daley Library. The Mexicans in Chicago all day conference she organized with UIC faculty honoring the legacy of Louise Año Nuevo Kerr. She was also the key organizer for the15th Year Anniversary celebration of U of I Press Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest Authors Series bringing outstanding Latino authors to UIC from various universities, as well as, building a bridge with U of I Press and UIC with current local Spanish language authors, poets, and playwrights with their book of essays Palabras Migrantes, published by el beiSMan, 2018.

Last but not least she a continuous builder of support on behalf of students both undergraduate and graduate, with the interdisciplinary departments, with the Office of Diversity cultural centers, and with UIC’s different colleges   She is an ex-officio member of the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos, an ambassador member for the Latino Cultural Center, a staff support for the UPRS (Union for Puerto Rican Students), LPODER (Latino Planning Organization for Development, Education, and Representation Madrina, and staff support for LGSA (Latinx Graduates Student Association). She is a lifelong learner, the plant nurturer at LALS; who also describes herself as a connecter and because of her community knowledge has found her home away from home here too at UIC.

Rosa A. De La Torre – Graduate Student
College of Medicine, Resident student

Rosa De La Torre is a 4th year medical student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago whose passion and commitment to the Latinx community has driven her to pursue a career in Family Medicine to address social and health inequities affecting the Latinx community. As a first-generation Latina in rural Illinois, Rosa served as her parents’ interpreter in countless scenarios in which she had the responsibility to represent and advocate for her family and herself at a young age. Realizing the need of culturally competent bilingual healthcare professionals, Rosa became involved in the Latinx community serving as a Spanish interpreter throughout college and continued her role as a medical interpreter at Community Health throughout medical school. Rosa has also been involved in various community-based research projects focused on educating and empowering Latina women in obtaining breast cancer screenings and training Latinx cosmetology students in Pilsen to identify signs of intimate partner violence in their clients. She is an active member of UIC’s Latino Medical Student Association and has served as a mentor for minority high school and undergraduate students through her involvement with the Hispanic Center of Excellence. Aside from mentoring and empowering students to pursue a career in medicine, Rosa is an advocate for her patients, acknowledging their social needs and screening for social determinants of health in the clinic, as well as addressing food insecurity, period poverty and childhood literacy through her collaboration with The Pilsen Food Pantry. Rosa’s strong commitment to her community and passion for providing care to underserved, Latinx communities is evident and continually motivates her to become an advocate and work towards finding solutions to health inequities and disparities affecting underserved minority communities.

Erick Vaquero – Undergraduate Student
College of Engineering

Erick Vaquero first established his roots with the UIC Latinx community as an intern at the UIC Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural center where he worked for two years, first as an intern, and then as a Student Educator. Erick would later become Co-Founder and President of the Latinx Organization for Growth in Computing and Academics (LOGICA) at UIC. The mission of LOGICA is to increase the participation and success of students from Latinx and underrepresented communities pursuing careers in the field of computing and computer science. In September 2019, Erick was invited to the ACM Richard Tapia Conference in San Diego to present on the importance and impact of student organizations on the success of underrepresented students in computing. Erick is currently working on a grant proposal to the UIC Student Success Innovation Fund for expanding and strengthening LOGICA’s peer mentorship program. Today, Erick is also working on research alongside Dr. Renata Revelo on the analysis of integrated engineering identity development in undergraduate students. This research has practical implications for academic and professional support programs for low-income engineering students and programs that aim to support engineering identity development. The results from this in-progress study was selected to be presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education Conference.

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