UW-River Falls student, alum honored with UW System awards

November 10, 2022 - A University of Wisconsin-River Falls student and an alum were recognized today in Madison with special honors by the University of Wisconsin System.

Elementary education major Dionna Berzat, of Maplewood, Minn., was one of 13 people to receive the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award and Natalie Rodgers, of Sun Prairie, a 2022 communication studies graduate, was one of 12 recipients of the Dr. P. B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People.

Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award
In its 27th year, the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award honors faculty, staff, students, and residents for their work in fostering social justice and organizational change and advancing the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Dionna BerzatBerzat is an elementary education major with a communication studies minor and the vice president and public relations officer of the Black Student Union at UW-River Falls. Through this leadership role, she works with the other board members to put on events and seminars to provide space for students to embrace cultural awareness.

After graduation, Berzat plans to continue her work in the education system and eventually initiate her own program in schools which would teach staff how to best conduct classroom management practices as well as provide one-on-one support to the students who need it. She plans to get her master’s degree in special education as well as her ABS (Academic Behavioral Strategist) License.



Dr. P. B. Poorman Award
This year marks the 14th anniversary of the Dr. P. B. Poorman Award, given annually to people who have helped create a safer and more inclusive climate for LGBTQ+ people. The award honors the memory of UW-Whitewater faculty member Dr. Paula B. Poorman who played an instrumental role in the foundation and development of the LGBTQ+ inclusivity initiatives.

Natalie Rodgers Rodgers majored in communications studies, with a minor in women, gender and sexualities studies at UWRF. Rodgers took advantage of multiple internships and leadership positions around campus including the Student Involvement Office; the Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies Program; and the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Office.

Currently, Rodgers is a first-year graduate student at Illinois State University studying college student personnel administration. Rodgers continues to advocate for the importance of having advisers, mentors, and members of the campus community devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion work as well as creating and fostering inclusive communities.

UW System institutions submit nominations for the awards.

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