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LSA Humanitarian Service Award Winners

Disability Rights

Dan Habib ’87, Political Science

Humanitarian Service: As a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker, Dan advocates for the disabled, especially in the area of educational inclusion. Inspired by his son, Samuel, who was born with cerebral palsy, Dan's films show the benefits of inclusion to students of all abilities. His Emmy-nominated film, Including Samuel, has been translated into 17 languages, Who Cares About Kelsey?, a film on children with emotional issues has garnered rave reviews, and his Tedx talk on the benefits of inclusion to students without abilities, touches the heart.   

Dan’s Mission: To include the disabled community in every aspect of life to benefit all people regardless of ability.

Click here to view Dan's acceptance video, which also contains a clip from the film Including Samuel.

Religious Freedom

Kari Johnstone ’92, Political Science

Humanitarian Service: Representing the U.S. Department of State, Kari works to combat religious intolerance around the world, overseeing human rights programs, and policy creation for religious freedom. As an expert on ethnic minority policy in post-communist Ukraine and Slovakia, Kari's special focus is on South and Central Asia. She also served as the Director for Russian and Central Asian Affairs at the White House, as an election officer in Kabul, and as a human rights officer in Tashkent.  

Kari’s Mission: To uphold the universal right of religious freedom around the world. 

Cultural Understanding

Dana Del Vecchio ’15, Middle Eastern Studies

Humanitarian Service: Our first student Humanitarian, Dana studied and worked in Kuwait, Israel, and Jordan to understand the history, culture, religious, and socio-economic diversity in the Middle East, and to address issues related to conflict, gender, education, and refugee crises. At Michigan, she established the Food Recovery Network to fight hunger in Ann Arbor, she created a program for refugee youth in Michigan, and she volunteered at Safe House to help people who experienced the trauma of domestic violence and sexual assault.   

Dana’s Mission: To understand the complex world we live in, and to establish NGOs that target refugee education.  

Defend Children

Aisa Villarosa Berg ’08, Political Science

Humanitarian Service: As a law student at Wayne State, Aisa co-founded an organization called the 3-1-3 Project to clean up neighborhoods, bring Christmas presents to the needy, and raise money to support human rights.  She also worked at the Michigan Poverty Law Center and the Children’s Law Center where she represented minors in delinquency proceedings and provided outreach to link service groups in Detroit with local youth.

Aisa’s Mission: She is devoting her career to assisting children in the juvenile justice system.

Recover Beauty After Cancer

Alexandra Boos ’89 Psychology

Humanitarian Service: As executive director and founder of the Luminous Foundation, Alexandra raises the resources needed by women fighting and recovering from breast cancer, including prostheses, post-surgical garments, wigs, and counseling. Most of these resources are not fully covered by insurance.

Alexandra’s Mission:  A full-figured model, Alexandra has made it her mission to help people feel beautiful, no matter their size, shape, or what they’ve been through. 

Stop Domestic Violence

Catherine Douglass ’65 English, Ed cert ’66

Humanitarian Service: Founder and executive director of InMotion, a non-profit organization that provides free legal and social services to low-income women in New York City. Since 1993, inMotion has helped tens of thousands of women free themselves from abusive relationships, stay in their homes, and win the financial support to which they—and their children—are legally entitled.  

Catherine’s Mission:  To end violence against women and children, and to educate others about what they can do to end domestic violence.

Relieve Human Suffering

Dr. Sheri Lee Fink ’90 Psychology

Humanitarian Service: As a reporter, writer, and physician, Sheri is interested in ethical medical care. She has served in humanitarian agencies and responded to emergencies across the globe. Of particular importance is her work as a member of the International Medical Corps which provides care in conflict and disaster zones, and with whom she brought aid to war victims in Bosnia and Iraq.  

Sheri’s Mission:  Sheri upholds the Hippocratic Oath to preserve life and do no harm, no matter the personal consequences or political views.

Capitalism with Compassion

David Michael Green ’78 General Studies, MPH ’82

Humanitarian Service:  Founder of Project Impact of Berkeley, CA, a non-profit organization dedicated to making medical technology and healthcare accessible, affordable, and financially self-sustaining. David's company focuses primarily on avoidable disabilities like sight and hearing loss. Products and services are sold at a globally affordable price, and the profits are rolled back into production and service for those in need. 

David’s Mission: To eradicate blindness and deafness.

Volunteer Your Talents

Aaron Hurst ’96 General Studies 

Humanitarian Service:  Founder of the Taproot Foundation, which engages young professionals from the for-profit world in volunteer projects for nonprofit organizations who need their expertise and talent. Taproot builds the capacity of community-based nonprofits by providing high-quality help in areas such as marketing, branding, information technology, management, and web development.  

Aaron’s Mission: To harness human capital to improve the human condition.

Don’t Fight Cancer Alone

Jon Imerman ’98 Psychology

Humanitarian Service:  Founder of Imerman Angels, a cancer support group that connects an individual who is fighting cancer with a cancer survivor for one-on-one counseling. When Jon was undergoing cancer treatments, he made a promise to himself that if he survived, he would help people who did not have the love and support of family and friends to help them fight the disease.   

Jon’s Mission: To ensure that no one fights cancer alone.

Meet People’s Basic Needs

Lori Wood Knapp ’82 English

Humanitarian Service: Founder and president of Warm Hearts Foundation, an organization dedicated to, "providing a loving hand to lift those less fortunate out of poverty and into self-sufficiency by providing clean water sources, safe shelter, nourishment, and educational opportunities." Through Lori’s work, hundreds of thousands of people in Africa have safe, reliable drinking water. She also helped build a primary and a secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Lori’s Mission: To change lives by providing drinking water, safe shelter, food, and education.

Stop Human Trafficking

Laura Jean Lederer ’75 Comparative Religions

Humanitarian Service: Founder of the Protection Project, a research institute dedicated to combating human trafficking. Laura created a database of foreign national law on involuntary servitude, slavery, and trends in human trafficking; she tracked global routes and patterns; and published the first human rights report on human trafficking. In 2008, Laura founded Global Centurion, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking by focusing on the demand side of the problem.

Laura’s Mission: To end modern-day slavery.

Feed the Homeless

John Love ’66 Psychology

Humanitarian Service: John is the executive director of Capitol Hill Community Services, an agency that serves more than 54,000 hot lunches to the homeless and poor each year at six sites in central and northeast Denver. John has grown the outreach, improved the nutritional quality of the offerings, recruited thousands of volunteers, budgeted frugally, and he makes sure each guest is treated with dignity.

John’s Mission: To feed the homeless.  He gave up a lucrative banking career for this charitable pursuit.

Stop Illegal Wildlife Smuggling

Laurel Neme ’85 Political Science, ’86 M.P.P.

Humanitarian Service: Laurel is a journalist, author, radio show host, and international consultant specializing in natural resource management, wildlife protection, and policy. Wildlife smuggling ranks just behind drugs and guns as the third largest illegal trade. Laurel has investigated cases involving the elephant ivory trade, porcupine farming, the tarantula trade, primate smuggling, the gorilla meat business, and much more. 

Laurel’s Mission: To save the planet's endangered and threatened species.

Heal Rwanda’s Wounds

Patricia Pasick ’69 English, Ed cert '69, Education and Psychology Ph.D. '85 

Humanitarian Service: Director of Narrative Family Therapy at the Ann Arbor Center for the Family and the director of “Stories for Hope Rwanda.” Participants in the program speak about family history, culture, traditions, and the genocide that killed a million people in two months.

Patricia’s Mission: To heal Rwanda's wounds through storytelling and by bringing elders and youth together to speak about the past.

Fight Injustice

Michael Posner ’72 History

Humanitarian Service: As the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, Michael Posner has spent his entire career fighting injustice and helping victims around the globe, using his legal expertise, his deft skill with a pen, and his gift of oratory. Prior to being sworn in as Assistant Secretary, Mike served as Executive Director and then President of Human Rights First.   

Michael’s Mission: To advocate for human rights across the globe.

Learn through Nature

Marilyn Price ’62 Sociology

Humanitarian Service: Founder of Trips for Kids, a nonprofit organization that uses mountain bikes to expose at-risk youth to the natural world. The program seeks to inspire kids to develop a healthy lifestyle, challenge themselves, gain self-esteem, learn teamwork skills, learn about protecting the environment, and much more.

Marilyn’s Mission: To expose inner-city kids to the splendor of the natural world. 

Rebuild Detroit Schools

Doug Ross ’65 History, Ed cert ’66

Humanitarian Service:  Founder and superintendent of Detroit's University Preparatory Academy charter schools. Doug believes that schools have to accept absolute responsibility for developing college-ready graduates regardless of what kind of background or educational deficits the students bring with them. In 2009, 95% of his students graduated, and 100% of those graduates went on to post-secondary education with a University Prep first-year scholarship covering tuition, room, board, books, and fees.  

Doug’s Mission: To help students succeed.

Teach Students with Need

Christine Schepeler ’10, Political Science, Communication Studies, and American Culture

Humanitarian Service: On U-M's campus, Christine was the president of LSA Student Government, and she led a successful fundraising campaign for the American Cancer Society. Directly after graduation, Christine took her liberal arts education and student activism to Arizona to serve with Teach for America, in a very challenging assignment. It didn't deter her, as she now teaches low-income students in Boston.

Christine’s Mission: To educate low-income students and advocate on their behalf.   

A Heart for Philanthropy

Joan H. Tisch ’48 English

Humanitarian Service: Joan is a philanthropist and active volunteer. In addition to the generosity she has shown the University of Michigan (with Tisch Hall), she has also given to numerous institutions including NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and Tisch Hospital, Duke University's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Research Center, and the Tisch Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also supports AIDS-related charities.  

Joan’s Mission: To support educational, civic, arts, and health organizations across the country.

Serve Around the World

Jack Hood Vaughn ’43 Spanish, M.A. ’47

Humanitarian Service: Jack served in every overseas agency of the U.S. government and was an ambassador to Panama and Colombia. As the 2nd director of the Peace Corps, Jack oversaw the largest contingent of volunteers serving in the most countries in the agency's history. Jack was also the 1st international director of Sesame Street and Dean of International Studies at Florida International University, among many other accomplishments.

Jack’s Mission: The former Michigan head boxing coach served humanity throughout his lifetime. He is shown here in 1943, when he served as a Marine 2nd Lt. during World War II. Jack received an LSA Humanitarian Service Award in 2007, and he passed away in 2012 at the age of 92.

Inspire Social Leaders

Britt Yamamoto ’92 English 

Humanitarian Service: Britt is the founder and executive director of iLeap, an international non-profit organization with a mission to inspire and renew social leaders and global citizens through integrated leadership programs that ignite hope and transformation in the world. Headquartered in Seattle, iLeap collaborates with social leaders throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America to build regional networks of change leaders.  

Britt’s Mission: To help change the world by training and equipping social leaders.

Map Crises to Bring Aid

Jen Ziemke ’97 

Humanitarian Service: Jen is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the International Network of Crisis Mappers. Crisis mappers leverage technology and statistical models to identify activity in conflict areas. Jen has used these methods to create data-driven studies and to provide humanitarian assistance during many crises. For example, in Libya her studies monitored conflict and provided crisis response, and in Haiti, her maps were used to find survivors and provide disaster relief. 

Jen’s Mission: To use technology to understand conflicts and provide disaster relief.