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SoHE Grad Student Receives Campus Honor

Update October 28, 2019: Mariela Victoria Quesada Centeno has also just been awarded the UW System-wide Outstanding Woman of Color award.

Mariela Victoria Quesada Centeno, MPH, doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) was honored on March 5 ,2019, as part of UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color

Mariela Quesada Centeno, UW-madison Vice Provost Patrick Sims
Patrick Sims, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer and Quesada Centeno (Photo: Andy Mani)

Award celebration. The award, now in its 11th year recognizes women of color who are, “deeply rooted in both the campus and the Madison community through their work toward social justice, service, research and community building.”

In her remarks at the celebration Chancellor Blank observed UW-Madison rarely gives this award to graduate students, and the individual would need to be very special to receive this recognition.

Mariela Quesada Centeno is just such a person.

Making Life Better for Others

Quesada Centeno has a ‘bias towards action’ that is unstoppable. She earned her DVM degree at the Universidad Nacional in Heredia, Costa Rica and after migrating to the United States, she completed her Masters of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Working on her doctoral degree in HDFS while simultaneously directing Programa Bienestar at Centro Hispano of Dane County, Quesada Centeno is resolute in her effort to support the work of “promotoras de salud” (community health workers), to advance their careers, and build their capacity to promote maternal and child health; and by expanding the scope of her work to partner with colleagues from Harambee Village and the African American Breastfeeding Coalition.

Larissa Duncan “Mariela is a humble, creative, and determined leader who rallies people at all levels to achieve impact on collective well-being and it is my great honor to serve as her advisor,” noted Larissa G. Duncan, Elizabeth C. Davies Chair in Child & Family Well-Being. “Her doctoral research with the community health worker (promotoras de salud) program she launched while at Centro Hispano of Dane County builds on her years of organizing to empower the Latinx community.”

A member of the Center for Child & Family Well-being Leadership Team and the inaugural recipient of the Jane Davies Holloway Graduate Fellowship from the School of Human Ecology, Mariela is taking on a new campus leadership role that will inform the Prenatal to Five Initiative, addressing heath equity across the state in this sensitive developmental period between the prenatal period and school entry for young children.

A photo of Janean Dilwort-Bart “We’re thrilled that Mariela was honored for her work,” stated Janean Dilworth-Bart, Department Chair, Human Development and Family Studies, and Chair of the Prenatal to Five Initiative. “We are fortunate to have her as a student in our graduate program, and our wider community is fortunate to have her as a champion. She really is the embodiment of what it means to be a Human Ecologist.”

Duncan added, “Now at UW-Madison, Mariela is elevating the rigor of our multidisciplinary program through her clear vision regarding needed change in the interconnected systems that make up human ecology. She is unwilling to allow racial/ethnic disparities to persist, and she is tirelessly and compassionately working to promote and test innovative models that center the voices of people of color. Mariela’s dedication to community empowerment, combined with brilliant scholarly acumen, will undoubtedly have ripple effects many generations into the future.”


The UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color Award celebrates notable achievements of talented women students, staff, faculty and community members whose academic, professional and personal endeavors are making the campus and broader community more just, more inclusive, and better places to live, learn, and work