Recognizing UIC Latinx community members

The Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos established the CCSL Recognition Awards to acknowledge the incredibly hardworking and committed individuals who serve the Latinx community. Five recipients are awarded annually among the following UIC populations: faculty, academic professionals, civil service employees, graduate students and undergraduate students.

This 2021-2022 academic school year, we honor the following recipients:

  • Jocelyn Munguía Chávez – Civil Service Awardee.
  • Anya H. Cruz – Academic Professional Awardee.
  • Liza María Suárez, PhD – Faculty Awardee.
  • Michelle Annette Jaldin – Graduate Student Awardee.
  • Omar Limias Villa – Undergraduate Student Awardee.

These Latinx community members will be celebrated in the CCSL Recognition awards event, scheduled for Sept. 16,. Read and learn more of each of our awardees’ unique contributions in their biographies below.

Jocelyn Munguía Chávez – Civil Service Awardee
Chávez (they / them / theirs) is deeply involved in creating spaces that prioritize the voices and wellbeing of immigrant and Latinx community members. Before coming to UIC, Chávez was involved with the Latin@ Youth Action League in DuPage county. L@YAL was a group that sought to empower Latin youth to engage in critical thinking and community building by raising awareness and participation in activism through direct action organizing campaigns, mobilization and advocacy. Chávez took part in organizing workshops, gathering resources and planning direct actions to move forth the rights of immigrants in the U.S. In 2013 Chávez enrolled at UIC and joined the LCC team as a student educator while continuing to advocate for the rights of Immigrant communities. Chávez, along with fellow UIC students, co-founded the Fearless Undocumented Alliance, a student organization created as a support and advocacy group by and for undocumented students on campus. Jocelyn’s interests in education and mental health complemented FUA’s initiatives and they advocated for educational equity in Illinois through legislation. This advocacy resulted in passing the Illinois DREAM Act as well as the RISE Act, both of which expanded access to higher education for undocumented students in the state. The love for science and helping others led Chávez to pursue a B.A. in applied psychology at UIC in 2017. After graduating, Chávez researched and archived the accomplishments of FUA and their collaboration with the LCC for future generations, and they joined the LCC team as a staff member. Chávez is now assisting with the development of public programs, expanding the LCC ARTivism series, leading bilingual tours and dialogues and overseeing LCC interns. They are currently enrolled in the social work master’s program.

Anya H. Cruz – Academic Professional Awardee
Cruz is an experienced pre-health adviser who has shown through her work with students and staff at UIC, as well as her advocacy within and outside the university, her commitment to the Latinx community. In her role as a pre-health adviser, she regularly meets with students individually. During these appointments, Cruz connects with the students where they are at, helping them to think about their experiences in ways that highlight the strengths of their lived reality. This is especially true of our Latinx students. In addition, Cruz works to bring systemic change on behalf of the Latinx community. She is a voice to health professions organizations through involvement in NAAHP, CAAHP, and as a member of the ADEA HURM MSI Advisors Working group. Cruz, through presentations to the UIC advising community, health professions advisers, as well as written journal articles and an upcoming book chapter, actively engages in broadening perspectives of others. She calls out racism within our profession and seeks to improve the success of Latinx students in college and in seeking a future as a health care professional.

Liza María Suárez, PhD – Faculty Awardee
Suarez is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Illinois Chicago. She is the principal investigator and co-director of the Urban Youth Trauma Center and the director of the Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the UIC Psychiatry Department. Originally from Puerto Rico, she has been actively involved in services, research, training and mentoring for over 20 years, supporting underserved communities, and Latinx families in particular. She is committed to bringing evidence-based mental health resources and treatment for youth and their families, leading services, research and training initiatives to support Latinx youth in Illinois and throughout the country. Suarez is strongly committed to supporting the development of future generations of clinicians, scientists and research practitioners.
Suarez values the importance of developing partnerships with the community, as well as communicating data-driven facts and promoting evidence-based practices in research, clinical and community settings, as well as sharing key information to the public in ways that are engaging and easy to understand. With this in mind, she has spearheaded efforts to ensure that awareness materials built through the Urban Youth Trauma Center, as well as her national collaborative work within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, are available in Spanish. She has also participated in several collaborative efforts to disseminate information about the challenges experienced by Latinx youth families, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and ways to provide support.
Suarez directs the Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorders Clinic, which provides evidence-based services to urban youth and families experiencing stress, trauma and anxiety. She has always been a champion of increasing access to care for underserved populations and ensuring that services are available in Spanish for Latinx families. In collaboration with other faculty at UIC, Suarez strives to ensure that services are accessible and responsive to the needs of the ethnically, culturally, linguistically and socioeconomically diverse population served within the university, as well as the provision of high-quality services and training which can continue to attract consumers as well as students and clinical trainees.

Michelle Annette Jaldin – Graduate Student Awardee
Jaldin’s work currently focuses on physical activity in the form of dance in the older Latino population in the Chicagoland area. She also works at Rush as a graduate research assistant serving the Latinx community through the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Jaldin is a first-generation Latina PhD graduate student in the UIC Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition.
Jaldin has been involved in Latinx issues since she was an undergraduate student and also continued her work with Latinx communities during her master’s and now in her PhD program at UIC. Michelle has a paper under review named “Latino Cultural Values,” which focuses on how Latino cultural values such as Machismo and Familismo impact care on both those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and caregivers. In addition, she has worked with UsAgainstAlzheimer’s on a project called “Brain Health Messaging Landscape Assessment,” which focused on conducting a literature review and comprehensive landscape analysis of existing culturally tailored messaging targeting Latinos on issues such as brain healthy behaviors and health education related to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. In the future Jaldin aims to work and engage with the Latinx community through health promotion and interventions. Her ultimate goal is to reduce disparities in affected underserved areas.
Jaldin has mentored and currently mentors Latinx students, and has done so since her undergraduate career. She has mentored six students since her undergraduate career and currently mentors two students in the Chicago area who are exploring their options to continue their education and doing work in the Chicago Latinx communities. In addition, she works and assists in the training of Latinx undergraduate students who join our lab at UIC.

Omar Limias Villa – Undergraduate Student Awardee
Villa (He/Him/Elle) is a first-generation Xicano artivist and cultural worker from the Southwest Side of Chicago. An undergraduate student at the University of Illinois Chicago studying English with a concentration in creative writing, double minoring in Latin American and Latino studies and gender and women’s studies. Villa stems from a line of weavers, storytellers, braceros and tongues that refuse to be tamed. He finds radical joy in community organizing, transformative justice, disrupting power dynamics in higher education spaces, and sharing words that speak resistance. He has revived the student organization Mexican Students de Aztlán  and continues shaping it into a home for students like him. Villa has received national publication on “For My Not So ‘American’ Mother” issued in Somos En Escritos Latinx Literary Magazine, featured in La Raza newspaper, and awarded the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education Dr. Berta Arias Writing Award. Presented independent research on Re-Imagining the Writing Center as a Decolonial Space. Founder of student-led project Semillas de Chicomecóatl on campus, a Spanish cultural-arts literary zine opened to Chicanx/Latinx students and voices across Chicago.

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