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UIC professor wins national diversity award and grants

Bernie Santarsiero

Bernard Santarsiero, PhD, professor in the UIC Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of research initiatives in the UIC Graduate College and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research was recently awarded a national diversity award for his work with academic leadership in diversity programming.

Santarsiero was one of the recipients of the 2024 Diamond Award from the Not Alone Foundation, which he received at a ceremony held at Morehouse College in Atlanta on January 27. Having served in multiple roles at UIC for over a decade–including seven years in the office of diversity, equity and engagement–Santarsiero was recognized in the category of Academic Leadership: Excellence in Higher Education.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to be recognized at a national level for all of the DEIA programming that we do at UIC for historically underrepresented and marginalized (URM) students, faculty and staff,” Santarsiero shared. “This award reflects the dedication, passion and support of our entire campus. We truly believe in inclusive excellence and are inspired to foster a sense of belonging for everyone in research, teaching and community engagement.”

The Not Alone Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta dedicated to the awareness and prevention of kidney disease and enhancing the quality of life of sufferers by providing educational and medical resources and financial assistance for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients and their families. The Diamond Awards provides a forum that recognizes the impact of diversity, equity, inclusion and access in the entertainment, corporate and creative industries as well as in law enforcement and higher education and contributions to society on a local, state, national or international level.

In addition to the recognition for his DEIA work at UIC, Santarsiero hopes that the Diamond Award will allow him to continue fostering connections with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in service of developing collaborations and partnerships with other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

Along with the Diamond Award, Santarsiero has also helped UIC to garner various institutional awards, including the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award and the Inclusive Excellence Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) in 2021.

In early 2024, UIC received the Institutional Excellence in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in Biomedical and Behavioral Research Prize from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) based on an application that Santarsiero wrote. The NIH DEIA award competition seeks to foster diversity and recognize ten institutions whose biomedical programs have identified gaps with respect to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) and implemented interventions to address these gaps.

Santarsiero’s proposal reviewed the history of UIC as it initially developed a strategic diversity plan over 15 years ago and how that plan has evolved, specifically highlighting the Latin@s Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science program (L@S GANAS) and the Zero Group Representation Report as two examples where data was reviewed and then changes were implemented to address DEIA gaps. His proposal also focused on URM students through L@S GANAS and URM faculty through the Bridge to Faculty (B2F) program.

“We are so grateful to Dr. Santarsiero for his numerous contributions to UIC over the years in multiple diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” said Charu Thakral, PhD, interim vice chancellor for diversity, equity and engagement. “Moreover, Bernie is a longtime colleague relentless in his efforts to ensure that UIC is recognized nationally for its leadership and commitment to promoting access, equity and inclusion for all.”

As a first-generation college student and graduate who is Latino and gay, Santarsiero has worked with a team of colleagues to establish the L@S GANAS program, the DuSable Scholars program, the B2F program, the Portal to Biomedical Research Careers Postbaccalaureate Research Education program (PBRC-PREP) and other bridge programs at UIC that support students and faculty.

Outside of UIC, he is a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) program, serves on the board of the American Veterans for Equal Rights, serves on the program committee NADOHE and was recently appointed as chair of the Gender, Equity and Diversity Committee of the International Union of Crystallography.