The Champions of Inclusion Awards are designed to recognize UVU students, staff, faculty, departments, and community partners who advance the core theme of Inclusive within the University. Individuals, departments, and community partners are nominated by their colleagues for championing inclusion efforts on campus and in the community. Winners of the award are invited to the Champions of Inclusion awards banquet in front of the President’s Cabinet, Board of Trustees, National Presidential Advisory Board, and UVU's Inclusion and Diversity Committee.


Karen McCandless

Community Partner Award

Karen McCandless


Community Strategies Director

Community Action (Provo)


Karen consistently works to identify and engage in-need community members and their environment. In 2015 Karen hosted a critical event for higher education representatives regarding how to support under-resources students. Her team coordinates with UVU's food pantry providing essential resources to individuals in need. Karen McCandless is a powerful advocate for students to not only find the resources they need, but also helps others be aware of the issues surrounding under-resourced students.

Karen has worked with the UVU Service Council to better understand issues related to community building and poverty through the "Bridges Out of Poverty" training modules. Her passion and dedication clearly impacted the student leaders as they refer to her training often. Karen holds numerous trainings for businesses, government leaders, and higher education institutions, increasing knowledge about individuals in need and how to best serve the. She oversees the "Circles Big View" team providing opportunities for collaboration across areas of contact for low income individuals. Karen's service to UVU students both on and off campus is often quiet and behind the scenes, but it provides an essential tool set and framework from which student success is supported.


Assistant Dean

UVU School of Business


Mikki O'Conner has reached out and made significant contributions to Latino students, female students, and first-generation students who are struggling to complete. Mikki took it upon herself to identify and recruit a group of Latino business students to participate as members of a Woodbury School Latino Student Council. Under her direction, these students serve as a recruitment branch for Latino students in high school and has encouraged them and their families to attend university and graduate. They attended over 20 Latino community events, visited 12 high schools, and then served as peer mentors to these students who then enrolled at UVU.

Mikki also took the lead in forming a group called "Woodbury Women." This group has set out to increase the number of women majoring in business. They hold multiple events each semester featuring speakers who address various aspects of careers for women in business. Attendance regularly tops 100 female students. Mikki further organized a mentoring service utilizing the skills of women who have graduated from the school of business to help other students who struggle to see themselves as successful business women. Currently over 160 female Woodbury graduates volunteer in this program.

Mikki also facilitates the success of the most at-risk students by personally consulting with every student who has failed a course more than once. Mikki pays strict attention to those students and meets with them individually to set up a plan to help them succeed. She dramatically increases their chances of graduating.


Mikki O'Conner

Staff/Administrator Award

Mikki O'Conner


Violeta Vasilevska

Faculty Champion Award

Violeta Vasilevska


Associate Professor



Violeta has created and overseen the Math Girls Rock! Program. This program is a year-long math engagement program with the goal of increasing interest in mathematics among girls in the Utah Valley area and of improving retention and completion of female mathematics students at UVU. This program has been running since 2011. She has promoted the value of a college education to high school female students by exposing them to new exciting math that is engaging and hands on. She has increased their confidence in their math abilities, mentored them, and encouraged them to consider professions which utilize math degrees. Hundreds of girls have successfully completed the program.



Multicultural Student Council


Cristobal founded a student dialogue titled Diversity Dialogues which has been growing since 2014. This year, Cristobal started a companion program titled Diversity Lectures which gives important insight which is then discussed by the student body in a safe and engaging space. There have been more than 22 dialogue sessions allowing more than 700 students to participate in conversations regarding social issues and topics.

Cristobal also championed the first National Student Leadership Diversity Convention in Utah by working closely with various departments throughout the university. The Convention was sold out in full attendance.

Cristobal also helped to establish the Multicultural Student Council and has been a liaison for the organization for the past three years. These are only a few of the significant contributions that he has made during his time at UVU. Cristobal's impact and influence has been felt throughout the university and will continue to be felt for decades to come.


Cristobal Villegas

Student Champion Award

Cristobal Villegas