Two ME Students Win Diversity Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Awards

ME undergraduates Ann Nguyen and Asha Suvarna won awards for their DEI-focused contributions to advocacy, volunteer work, and engagement at the inaugural CSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Showcase.

The awards were presented at a recognition event held on March 30, 2022, highlighting the many contributions of individuals who actively create a positive and more equitable environment at CSE, the University, and in the Twin Cities.


Ann Nguyen headshot

Ann Nguyen — First Generation Undergraduate STEM Student of the Year Award
This award recognizes an outstanding undergraduate student whose parents/guardians do not hold a college degree.

Ann is a teaching assistant, mentor, and community builder who finds connections with like-identified students and offers support for fellow CSE students. Ann is recognized for welcoming new students, and providing personal attention to all students and thoughtfulness to their role in the classroom.

CSE Assistant Director of Outreach Kelsi Klaers' nomination statement: "Ann Nguyen was my CSE1001 teaching assistant this fall. Having spent her own first year online amidst a pandemic, she was motivated to mentor and build community among our class. Ann did so by greeting everyone by name early in the semester, writing individual comments on most assignments, and thoughtfully responding to student questions/concerns that arose during and between class meetings. Moreover, she vulnerably shared from her own experiences. In addition to this leadership, Ann is enthusiastic about her work with her research and cultural affinity groups. Of course, she is also excelling academically with a 3.4 GPA (3.0 technical GPA too!)."

Ann's response: "As cheesy as it sounds, I truly am honored to receive this award. I value diversity and inclusion, so I'm grateful for all the opportunities I've had to make a positive impact."

Asha Suvarna

Asha Suvarna — STEM Role Model of the Year Award
This award recognizes an undergraduate student who has served in either an official or unofficial capacity as a mentor, role model, or guide to the University of Minnesota community.

Asha is recognized for their involvement is a wide variety of campus activities and spending their free time to make CSE a better place. Asha is active on their department's DEI committee generating new ideas, planning, and encouraging others to participate. Asha's nominator recognized them as a role model for many department undergraduates.

ME Professor Al Aksan's nomination statement: "Asha has emerged as a thought leader and a champion to increase inclusion and diversity in our department. She has volunteered her time, generated brilliant ideas, tirelessly participated in and organized activities, making her a role model for others. She is very much deserving the recognition and the award she received. Thank you, Asha, for your leadership.”

Asha's response: "This award is so important in acknowledging the intersectionality between STEM and DEI matters because it often isn't in this field, and it also honors the work that's been done as well as the work that will continue."


Congratulations are also in order for two ME undergrads, Linnae Johansson and Pauly Soulia, who were finalists for awards. 

Linnae Johansson

Linnae Johansson— Undergraduate DEI Achievement Award
This award recognizes an undergraduate student who has a specific achievement they would like to highlight related to diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.

CSE Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion Dan Garrison's nomination statement: "Linnae has worked in DEI within CSE for almost three years. She has been indispensable in getting long-lasting DEI programming off the ground including: a monthly CSE DEI Newsletter, BIPOC Voices in STEM speaker series, a new CSE DEI Website, and this very program, and now: the DEI Leadership Showcase. Linnae has impressed many people by being a friendly and reliable face who has been able to navigate her own intersectional identities within STEM in order to improve the climate within CSE. All of this, on top of her other responsibilities as an out of state student navigating a global pandemic."

Linnae's response: "This award means so much to me, as I firmly believe in the importance of recognizing the students and student groups who put in great amounts of time and dedication into improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the College of Science and Engineering. A more diverse and inclusive college stands to benefit everyone, and overall create a stronger and more equitable community of scientists and engineers."

Photo of Pauly Soulia

Pauly Soulia — CSE Engagement Award
This award recognizes a CSE undergraduate student who has consistently engaged with DEI efforts in pursuit of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive climate within the College of Science and Engineering.

American Indian Studies Department Advisor Charissa Blue's nomination statement: "Pauly has been involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) since 2019 and is currently serving as the President. Pauly participates in the AISES conferences and leadership summits as well as other AISES events. One of these events was the Science Fusion event at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where AISES members connected with American Indian youth and led STEM activities with them. Pauly has been instrumental in connecting with new potential AISES members, networking, and addressing potential collaborations and general logistics related to the student org. In addition to AISES, Pauly is also involved with the American Indian Student Cultural Center (AISCC) and is featured in COIN's (Circle of Indigenous Nations) land acknowledgement video which is shown across the university at many events, workshops, and conferences."

Pauly's response: "When my peers and I decided to revive the AISES chapter here at UMN-TC our main goal was to increase the representation of Indigenous students in STEM fields. Personally, I was appalled to find out that less than 1% of the CSE student body is made up of Indigenous students. This is especially concerning if you consider that the university sits on occupied Dakota territory and is located inside one of the largest urban Indigenous hubs in the US, the Twin Cities. Receiving this award brings hope to my heart that the university is beginning to consider this problem seriously, and I am excited to see what next steps can be taken to further the AISES @ UMN mission."