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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Six employees honored by the Asian American Staff and Alumni Association

Environmental Portrait of Mohammad Pessarakli. Photo Courtesy of UA APAC.

Environmental Portrait of Mohammad Pessarakli. Photo Courtesy of UA APAC.

The Asian American Faculty, Staff and Alumni Association announced the winners of its 2015 Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award on Oct. 21.

Faculty members C. Kent Kwoh, professor of Medicine and Medical Imaging, Mohammad Pessarakli, a professor from the School of Plant Sciences, staff members Jennifer Cubeta, the assistant program director of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program and Tharini Wijeweera, the senior academic advisor for College of Science, are all this year’s winners. In addition, Kellie Terhune Neely was awarded the Outstanding Alumni award and Bernice Gin was awarded the Outstanding Community Service award from AAFSAA.

The AAFSAA chooses the staff and faculty award winners based on their accomplishments in different areas such as contributions to their profession, research, or cultural and artistic work, according to Caryn Jung, a senior coordinator at UA Life and Work Connections. For the staff award in particular, Jung said that staff should show “a high standard of personal initiative and resourcefulness” in job performance.

“Truly, an AASFAA awardee represents excellence in their respected field as leaders regarding their professional service as well as their volunteer efforts,” Jung said.

Award winners are first nominated by others, such as supervisors, and then colleagues write letters of support for their nomination. Award winners are not always directly involved with AAFSAA programs, like in the case of Wijeweera.

Despite not being a part of any AAFSAA programs in the past, Wijeweera is looking forward to getting more involved with the AAFSAA community and feels honored to win this award.

“I am very lucky to work with such great individuals in the College of Science, and I am so thankful for all of the opportunities and experiences that I’ve had in my position,” Wijeweera wrote in an email.

This is not the first foray into AAFSAA programs for all of the winners, though. Pessarakli said that while he has not been a member of the association, he has been to the celebration dinners for the award winners a few times at the beginning of his career, which began in 1981.

The celebration dinner will take place on Nov. 7, at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. There the award winners will receive a plaque for their honor.

“This celebration is very special because it recognizes accomplished UA faculty and staff as well as outstanding student scholars, alumni and community members,” Jung said. “[The award winners will] attend the dinner celebration as AAFSAA’s esteemed guests and their accomplishments and service are highlighted in a number of campus communications.”

This will be the AAFSAA’s 26th anniversary celebration for award winners. According to Jung, the organization provides scholarship funds for UA students of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage and does volunteer work throughout the community.

“The association, through our volunteer efforts, strengthens ongoing connections between UA faculty staff and students along with alumni and community leaders that support UA and AAFSAA mission,” Jung said. “We also raise awareness of various attributions of faculty staff alumni and community member service contributions under the AASFAA umbrella.”

While AAFSAA works to continue with this awareness, the faculty the association honors work to continue their accomplishments worth awarding. For instance, Pessarakli is in the process of working on his 10th book on plant science.

“I just like to do the work like a workaholic, and I’m happy,” Pessarakli said. “When you do something, you get the result.”

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