Leon A. Henkin Citation 2018

The Leon Henkin Citation for Distinguished Service is awarded by the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Campus Climate (DECC) of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate.  It is given in recognition of an “exceptional commitment to the educational development of students from groups who are underrepresented in the academy.”

Leon Henkin was an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics who was a founder of the Committee on Special Scholarships in 1963, a Committee of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate whose goal was to enable students from underrepresented groups to attend and excel at the University of California, Berkeley.  Professor Henkin remained a member of this same but renamed Committee on Student Diversity and Academic Development until his death. (SDAD merged with the Status of Women and Ethnic Minorities to form the DECC in 2014).   Professor Henkin worked tirelessly throughout his career to increase equity and access to higher education, and to promote the academic, personal and professional success of Berkeley students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the academy.  He was the first recipient of this Citation from the Academic Senate, and the Citation bears his name as testimony to his distinguished service. 

The nominee for the Leon Henkin Citation shall be:

Any current or retired faculty member—or pairs/teams of faculty—Senate or non-Senate whose careers have been marked by a sustained effort to increase the academic success of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in academic disciplines.  DECC members are ineligible while serving on the committee.

Kurt Organista
Professor, School of Social Welfare

The Committee on Diversity, Equity and Campus Climate has chosen Professor Kurt Organista as the recipient of the 2017-18 Henkin award because of his life-long commitment to – and success in – mentoring Latino students and students interested in Latino social welfare issues.

Professor Organista’s work centers on physical and mental health issues among Latinos in the US. Over the past 27 years at Berkeley he has served on 21 PhD committees of Latino students or students studying Latino issues. He has advised 8 Latino/Latino-focused Honor’s Thesis students, 7 master’s thesis projects, and is an active mentor of junior colleagues both at Berkeley and nationally. His mentoring at Berkeley reaches beyond the School of Social Welfare and includes students in the School of Education, Department of Psychology and School of Public Health. Since 2014 Professor Organista has served as Special Assistant for Faculty Mentoring appointed by the Executive Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion.

In their letters written in support of Professor Organista for the Henkin award current and former students and faculty colleagues speak in glowing terms of his commitment to their success. In addition to his commitment to offering first-rate academic advice, the letters emphasize Professor Organista’s unique ability to help students and faculty from minority backgrounds find their place as scholars.

One colleague writes: “In the academy, so many of our Latino students are looking for mentors whose life experiences mirror their own experiences, individuals with whom they can connect on an intellectual level, but also on a personal-experiential level. Professor Organista is one of those rare faculty who gets to know his mentees not just as students at the University, but as people with unique motivations, challenges and complexities that drive their research and academic studies.” Graduate students in public health wrote in their award for mentoring that “Dr. Organista sees us as soon-to-be colleagues, he nurtures us to become the academic professionals that he believes we can be, and he does it with a cultural awareness that is informed by his own life experiences.”

We congratulate Professor Organista for his extraordinary contribution to the academic success of Latino students, a group which is vastly underrepresented in academia both at Berkeley and in academia more broadly.