Outstanding Aztecs

Congratulations, Dr. Hala Madanat, This Year’s Distinguished Faculty Honoree

Dr. Hala MadanatEach year, the SDSU Alumni Association honors one outstanding faculty member from each of the university’s colleges and awardees are recognized at the All-University Convocation. This year’s CHHS honoree was Dr. Hala Madanat, Director and Professor in the School of Public Health Madanat was nominated by her colleagues for her contributions in teaching, research and service.

Madanat joined the faculty of SDSU in 2008 as an associate professor and Chair of the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science. She became a professor and the associate director of the school in 2015 and the director in 2016. She is a medical sociologist with strong interest in the role of culture, traditions, and western influence on health in the global setting. Her research focuses on the impact of westernization on diet and nutrition. She has been working on developing nutrition education programs that incorporate mindfulness and emphasize health and biological hunger.

In her role as director of the School of Public Health she has strengthened critical relationships with the San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services and other local partners. While participating in the school’s national reaccreditation process, she improved its data systems and updated its mission statement, resulting in high ratings and reaccreditation for a maximum term. She has initiated new international experiences for students and worked with a leading Tijuana-based university, UABC, to develop “Obesity on the Border,” a new course to be taught jointly by SDSU and UABC faculty for students at both universities. She has also launched an entirely online master’s degree program to increase students’ flexibility in achieving their degrees.

Terry Williams Honored for 20 years of service to the university

Terry WilliamsTerry Williams has been enjoying her work at SDSU for twenty years, most recently as the Resource Manager at CHHS, where she is in charge of the budget and human resources. She is a San Diego native, as were her parents, who worked in the business offices of a local hospital before coming to SDSU. She came to SDSU to get her bachelor’s degree, not as an employee. As an older student, with young children, who also needed a job, she realized that studying and working here would be advantageous. She completed her degree in public administration but never left campus. She started her SDSU career in procurement and has since worked in the biology department and the dean’s office for the College of Arts and Letters. She came to CHHS five years ago. She says the best part about working at SDSU is the people and knowing that her work makes a difference in the world. She notes that being behind the scenes suits her and she likes knowing that her work benefits others. She sees herself as “the base of the mountain”. Outside of work she enjoys reading, knitting, music and exploring California wineries.


Diane Takvorian Awarded Alumni of Distinction for Outstanding Contributions to the University

Diane Takvorian earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1974 and a master’s in social work in 1976 from SDSU. She was honored as the CHHS Alumni of Distinction this year for her work in environmental justice. She is the co-founder and executive director of the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC). Her commitment, leadership and vision have influenced public policy, municipal ordinances and state laws reducing health risks to positively affect the environment and improve the quality of life throughout the state.

Diane TakvorianTakvorian is no stranger to awards. Last March Assemblymember Todd Gloria named her the Woman of the Year for the 78th Assembly District in the California State Legislature’s annual Women of the Year ceremony that recognizes the achievements of outstanding women throughout the state. “Diane Takvorian epitomizes selfless service. Every day, Diane gets up with the purpose of empowering low-income communities to use their collective voice and demand change,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Her passion and commitment for environmental and social justice have resulted in healthier communities, cleaner air and water, and greater investment in underserved neighborhoods. She is truly a pioneer and I am proud to be able to recognize her as the 78th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year.”

Last September she was inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction. At the ceremony, Dr. Melinda Hohman, recently retired director of the School of Social Work stated, “With skill, persistence and dedication, Takvorian has followed a nontraditional path as a macro social worker to promote environmental justice in low-income communities of color in the San Diego/Tijuana region and beyond. Her goal has always been to empower communities to develop their own leaders to address common problems.”

In 2008, Takvorian received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for her “creative and inspirational leadership benefiting the people of California.” In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her to the Joint Public Advisory Committee for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. In 2016, she was appointed by then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) to serve on the California Air Resources Board where she still serves today. In 2017 she was named as a KPBS and the National Conflict Resolution Center’s Community Hero for environmental sustainability.

“Environmental justice,” Takvorian explained, is “the right of all people to live, work and play in a safe and healthy environment, and that is taken away from some people because of environmental racism and the misuse of power that puts people of color and low-income people in harm’s way at a greater rate than others.” Under Takvorian’s leadership, the EHC has turned residents of disenfranchised neighborhoods into powerful advocates for their communities. Among its early successes was securing one of the nation’s first community Right-to-Know laws to give residents information about chemicals used at businesses near their neighborhoods. EHC also participates in efforts to influence transportation policies to make them healthier for everyone. Recognizing her accomplishments, President Clinton appointed her to the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission, and President Obama asked her to serve on an advisory committee for the NAFTA Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

“While earning my BS at SDSU I got involved in civil rights and the women’s movement. I worked with local organizations serving vulnerable communities and I decided that social work would be a better fit for me than seeking an advanced degree in Psychology. I really wanted to pursue a degree that reflected my social justice values and that would give me a broad set of skills to organize and advocate for justice. Social work gave me a foundation of values, knowledge and skills that have served me well for many years.”