Student awarded for work with women of color

Posted December 8, 2022

A University of Wisconsin-River Falls student has been recognized with the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award by the UW System.

The Outstanding Women of Color Award in Education Award highlights one individual from each UW System institution based on their areas of diversity or women’s studies scholarship and activism, or in doing service to improve the status and climate for women of color.

Dionna Berzat, an elementary education major and communications studies minor from Maplewood, Minnesota, was one of 13 people to receive the award on Nov. 10 in Madison. Berzat said receiving the award “did not feel real.”

“Receiving this award is a huge honor and is very special to me,” Berzat said.

Berzat is also the vice president and the public relations officer for the Black Student Union at UWRF, which led to her receiving the award.

“One of the toughest challenges (in that position) was balancing my home life, school life, and club-related activities,” Berzat said. “Each factor takes a good amount of attention and care that you have to be willing to put effort towards.”

Berzat was nominated for the award by Professor Jennifer Willis-Rivera, chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies.

“Professor Willis-Rivera watched me take one of the hardest semesters of my career, and make the dean’s list on top of that, so (winning the award) was a great feeling,” Berzat said.

On top of that, Berzat has worked in youth facilities since she was 16 years old, gaining different experiences with all sorts of age groups.

“As long as you care about your field and intend to make a change that is beneficial, if you are staying true to yourself, things could up in your favor,” Berzat said.

Also during the Nov. 10 ceremony, Natalie Rodgers, a 2022 UWRF 2022 graduate with a degree in communications studies, was one of 12 recipients of the Dr. P. B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People. Rodgers is from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.