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2019–2020 Jefferson Award Winners

News Story

Bravo, Setters! Twelve members of the Pace Community have been selected to receive Jefferson Awards Bronze Medals for their commitment to service.

Each year, the Jefferson Awards for Public Service looks for the “unsung heroes,” the selfless people who make the world a better place through volunteering and community service efforts. The Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR) at Dyson College is pleased to announce that 12 members of the Pace University Community have been selected to receive Jefferson Awards Bronze Medals for 2019–2020.

Known as the “Nobel Prize for public service,” the Jefferson Awards were established to recognize and honor individuals whose community service efforts best exemplify dedication to enhancing the quality of life in their community. Pace became a Jefferson Awards Champion in 2008.

This year’s winners include:

Lauren Beth Birney, EdD
School of Education
Birney is an Associate Professor of STEM education in the School of Education on the New York City Campus. Establishing opportunities in STEM education for underrepresented students is an integral component of all her work, and to this end, Lauren has secured $10.4 million from the National Science Foundation for a research consortium that articulates “Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science,” an educational model based on the principle that schools and communities can and should play direct, active, and authentic roles in the ecological restoration and stewardship of the planet, especially in places where local habitats and species have been severely degraded by human development.

Karen Buckwald
Director of Human Resources Initiatives and Organizational Effectiveness
For Karen, Pace University is both her place of employment and her community. She has been actively involved in the Pace Community by volunteering regularly for Commencement; leading the Relay for Life HR teams, which have raised more than $3,000 for cancer research; and participating in University-sponsored fundraisers, including the P4K Dance Marathon, “Santa Cause,” the Susan J. Komen Foundation Walk for the Cure, and others. Buckwald has also served as treasurer of the Westchester Administrative Staff Council (WASC) and given her time to support Pace Makes a Difference Day, annual toy and food drives, Daffodil Days, and the annual WASC staff picnics. She also serves as the co-chair of the Health and Wellness Committee, where she regularly engages faculty and staff to improve their overall well-being.

Jacqueline Cassagnol
College of Health Professions
Cassagnol, a third year PhD in Nursing student in the College of Health Professions, has received numerous distinguished awards for her community service work. At Pace, she is a part of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, through which she has served in volunteer positions locally, regionally, and globally. Additionally, Jacqueline is the founder and president of Worldwide Community First Responder, Inc., which she established as a result of her experience assisting with victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, providing health education, first aid, and disaster-preparedness training. To date, her organization has educated and trained more than 350,000 community members in critical life-saving skills. In recognition of her work, Jacqueline was named “Nurse of the Year” by the March of Dimes, at its Fifth Annual gala in New York, and designated a “Rising Star” by the Rockland Economic Development Corporation, at its 13th Annual Forty Under 40 Reception.

Laurianne Gutierrez ’20
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Gutierrez is a political science student in New York City who believes that it is her civic duty to help create a more fair and just society. She has been actively engaged in various communities since high school, when she first delivered meals to individuals unable to cook for themselves with the nonprofit God’s Love We Deliver. At Pace, Laurianne has served as a mentor to elementary school children through the Read Ahead program, organized a volunteer trip to God’s Love We Deliver, and founded Pace Students Against Gun Violence. The group has collected more than 1,000 petition signatures and lobbied local elected officials, urging them to support funding gun violence research.

Natalie Hernandez ’20
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Hernandez is a digital journalism major and political science minor and wants to make a difference in the world, especially in terms of ending sexual violence. In her senior year of high school, she wrote a play about sexual assault that was featured on Broadway for one night. At Pace University, Natalie was a part of a group of students that petitioned the Student Government Association to provide funding for POWER (the Partnership of Women Empowerment and Respect). She has held several leadership positions with the organization and currently serves as president. During her sophomore year, she became a Pace Fighting Ignorance and Rape through Education (FIRE) peer educator, serving as a confidential resource for students affected by sexual violence. Through FIRE, Natalie has made numerous presentations on consent, and helped to develop "A Survivor’s Journey," an interactive event showcasing the impacts of sexual violence on survivors’ everyday lives.

Kaitlyn Houlihan ‘19
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Is a recent Pace graduate who became committed to community action in high school through volunteering at a domestic violence agency in Dutchess County, NY. She helped to sort holiday donations and supervise an ongoing children’s support group, experience which led her to a job working in a survivors of domestic violence shelter run by Safe Homes of Orange County.

Laurie Brown Kindred
Pace School of Performing Arts
Kindred is a Production Manager at the Pace School of Performing Arts and has managed and created live entertainment and special events for more than twenty years for theme parks, corporations, and nonprofits from Broadway to China. Since 2009, she has also managed Japan Day @ Central Park, a cultural event attended by more than 50,000 people annually. Currently, Laurie is lead volunteer for Jenny’s Garden, which serves West Harlem and supplies several harvests to a local soup kitchen annually. In this role, she leads dozens of volunteers and members in managing all of the gardens in Riverside Park from 135th to 145th streets, harvesting community vegetable plots, and delivering hundreds of pounds of produce to be shared with the local community’s most vulnerable citizens.

Jessica Magaldi, JD
Lubin School of Business
As a Pace faculty member, former lawyer, and native New Yorker, a spirit of public service imbues everything she does. Jessica has volunteered monthly at the New York City Small Claims Court, helping people in an overburdened legal system, and chaired a New York City Bar Association initiative working to bring mediation to low-income clients. She has also volunteered for her community board, at her children’s school, and for a support group for parents of multiple-birth children. In 2016, she co-founded Grow Amsterdam NY, a nonprofit that works to conserve, create, and empower community-managed greenspaces.

Vanessa Merton, JD
Elisabeth Haub School of Law
Merton served as Pace Law School’s Associate Dean for Clinical Education for 15 years, while creating the Access to Health Care and Prosecution of Domestic Violence Clinics. She currently directs the Immigration Justice Clinic (IJC), staffed by student attorneys authorized to practice under supervision, which provides free legal services to indigent noncitizens seeking to regularize their status, reunite with their children, and fight deportation. In 2017 the IJC assisted travelers detained at airports under the Trump Executive Orders and has spent recent spring breaks volunteering at immigrant detention centers on the southern border. Vanessa has received a multitude of awards, including the Pace Law Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the Graduating Class Award for Outstanding Law Professor, the Servant of Justice Award for advocacy for Haitian refugees, the Pace LALSA Alianza Award, the Pace Immigration Law Society Persistence Award, the Excellence in Teaching Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (the highest honor for an immigration law professor), and was named a “Lawyer Who Leads by Example” by the NY Law Journal.

Denise Santiago, PhD
Office of Multicultural Affairs
Driven by her commitment to social justice, Santiago was a leading force behind the creation of the Provisions food pantry and vegetable garden, serving faculty, staff, and students on the New York City Campus. Since inception, the garden has supplied the University and surrounding community with more than 200 pounds of produce. Denise currently manages both projects, and she is also the founder and coordinator of Pace’s now five-year partnership with the New Roots Community Farm, serving a South Bronx community marked by poverty and a high incidence of preventable diseases.

Joanne Singleton, PhD
College of Health Professions
An accomplished clinician, educator, researcher, and coach, Singleton is a fellow in the New York Academy of Medicine and National Academies of Practice, for which she was appointed vice-chair for organizational membership in 2019. Singleton is deeply engaged in studying the human-animal connection, and she created Canines Assisting in Health, a curriculum to educate future and current interprofessional healthcare providers on assistance animals and how they support individuals with visible and invisible disabilities. Since 2016, she has educated more than 3,000 individuals.

Anne Toomey, PhD
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Toomey’s dedication to promoting environmental sustainability and social responsibility is reflected in her work. At Pace, she has designed and taught four Civic Engagement and Public Values courses, partnering with more than 12 environmental nonprofit organizations. Students in these courses are required to carry out campus-based sustainability projects and volunteer with organizations such as GrowNYC and Earth Matter, through which they have had opportunities to work on issues including urban composting, and present at the 2018 State of New York Sustainability Conference. Toomey is also the creator of Science for Environmental Professionals, a series of development workshops for environmental professionals in Westchester and New York City, as well as the Pace Sustainability Initiative (PSI) faculty mentors.

For more information about the winners and the award, visit the Jefferson Awards webpage.