Maintaining excellence through challenge

Three individuals and four programs have received the University of Utah’s 2020 Beacons of Excellence Awards. These annual awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding people, programs or projects who have helped make the university a Beacon of Excellence through their commitment to providing an exceptional student education. 

“These members of our community have risen admirably to the challenges of this year, maintaining stability, thinking creatively and, at times, changing how they do their jobs to meet our students where they are to continue providing an exceptional student education,” said Dan Reed, senior vice president for academic affairs.

Learn about each of the honorees below and watch their short tribute videos below.

Individual award recipients

Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
Director, Undergraduate Studies, College of Engineering

Debra Mascaro was noted for her efforts to adjust her core class—Mechanical Engineering 1010—during spring semester. The course typically includes a final project of building and programming a robot to move, which is something impossible to replicate during a global pandemic. Instead, Mascaro created a robotics simulation that allowed students to duplicate “design day” virtually.


Administrative assistant, Student Success Program

Juan Rios was nominated for going above and beyond to help students, particularly those experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness. His tenacity in finding resolutions to students’ problems and supporting students in their pursuit of a degree, paired with his ability to be a sounding board for students’ concerns are just part of what makes Rios a Beacon of Excellence.


Undergraduate career coach, Career and Professional Development Center

Megan Randall is being celebrated for her work on the Major and Career Exploration Living Learning Community, creating a “Wandering Map” at the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center in Centennial, Montana. Her development of worksheets for resume and cover-letter writing and interviewing, along with her work with Learning Abroad students is worthy of acknowledgment.


Program and project award recipients

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Student Success Center was nominated by numerous students for its holistic and comprehensive approach to student advising. In one student’s words, “I can never say enough good things about the CSBS center, or the people who work there, or adequately express my gratitude for their help in my education and career.”


The College of Fine Arts’ Fees Grants program is a student-run program for peer-reviewed grant writing, presentation and review. Twice a year, 18 college student leaders review grants submitted by their peers. Since its inception in 1999, the program has granted over $1.75 million to student-led projects.


The REFUGES Bridge program in the Center for Science & Mathematics Education is a unique after school program at the University of Utah for middle to high school students, which exposes them to higher education and areas of STEM. This program is a bridge that builds confidence, skills, and a sense of belonging needed to succeed in college as minoritized youth.


The School of Medicine's Office of Health, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion collected medical and essential supplies to be distributed to the Navajo Nation to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that families could stay home and stay safe. The supplies supported Utah Navajo Relief Program that provides weekly home deliveries and drive-up services to the elderly, immunocompromised, homes under quarantine and families in need.