Beloved food service manager among staff members honored
Sia Mohsenzadegan’s dedication to serving Pacificans—primarily the university’s students—was recognized with the 2023 Podesto Award for excellence in student life service and mentorship.
The beloved resident district manager for Bon Appetit, the university’s food service provider, was honored at the annual Staff Years of Service gathering on May 24 on Knoles Lawn.
Mohsenzadegan combines caring, consistent, every-day service with his trademark special touches—culturally sensitive meals, hundreds of annual catering jobs for special university events and, quite simply, a smile and warm words for all with whom he interacts.
He has announced his retirement, although a date has not been set.
“I have worked for the company for 33 years, but this is the longest I have been anywhere. This is where I belong,” he said. “My company has said at times ‘San Francisco needs you or Santa Clara needs you,’ but I’ve said, ‘don’t transfer me. I am at home at Pacific.”
In addition to students, he has wide-spread admiration from colleagues.
“Most people don’t know if Sia works for Pacific or Bon Appetit,” said Maria Blandizzi, vice president for student life. “He works to provide a level of service that is center to our Pacific mission–support the whole student so they can maximize the Pacific educational experience. Sia does it through food.”
Mohsenzadegan goes the extra mile with meaningful service—a prime example of which occurred recently.
A student who observes Ramadan asked him to make a special dish when they broke fast at the end of the day. Mohsenzadegan worked all day on the dish to serve 200 students in President Christopher Callahan’s backyard for the Iftar meal on the penultimate day of the Ramadan observance.
“I love to make special meals to serve to the students, most of whom I know by name,” Mohsenzadegan said. “Pacific is so diverse and, as a master chef, I enjoy working with staff to cook these special meals. At times students will tell me the meals are like their mothers made. I tell them, ‘No, maybe like your grandmother did.' ”
Pacific President Callahan is very appreciative of Mohsenzadegan. "I genuinely believe we couldn’t be all that we are without Sia’s presence on our campus for the past 21 years,” President Callahan said. “He is the truest of Pacific Tigers.”
Also included in the staff appreciation ceremony were the Cavanaugh Leadership Awards, Champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion honors and recognition of staff members for their longevity at Pacific, including two Pacificans with 40 years of service.
Cavanaugh Leadership Awards
The Cavanaugh Award was established and endowed by former Vice President for Business and Finance Patrick Cavanaugh and his wife, Janita, to recognize individuals who make significant impacts on the university. The recipients:
Henderson has served Pacificans for 23 years, most recently as interim chief information officer for Pacific Technology.
In previous roles, Henderson helped the university save nearly $1 million dollars by negotiating a new Zoom contract for telephone services. He also championed technology improvements including Pacific’s new intranet portal, MyPacific.
Hunefeld ’90 is a 20-year staff member and alumna who has raised more than $30 million for the university. Her impact ranges from leading capital campaign projects for state-of-the-art facilities to working with donors to establish more than 100 endowed scholarships.
Hunefeld, who received the 2023 Susan B. Anthony Award for Community Service, recently announced her retirement.
Staff Champion of DEI awards
The awards are presented to one staff member each from the Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco campuses for their impact on and dedication to DEI work. The recipients:
Myisha Butler-Ibawi (Stockton)
Butler-Ibawi is program specialist for the LBGTQ+ Resource Center within the Center for Identity and Inclusion. She has worked diligently to build community at Pacific, forging alliances between faculty, staff and students.
She hosted book clubs featuring titles at the intersection of identity, power, and community as well as the first campus “Queer Cheer,” an event honoring National Coming Out Day.
Valerie D. James (Sacramento)
James is senior assistant dean of admissions for the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She has worked diligently as a go-to resource for students of color.
In heading the law school’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity, she has organized dozens of events including the Oak Park Black Film Festival & Cultural Experience, Tips to Get Your Credit in Shape, Lunar New Year events and Women’s History Month programming.
Jill Rodgers-Lash (San Francisco)
Rodgers-Lash, director of academic affairs and registrar in San Francisco, has worked closely with all programs on the San Francisco Campus on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion.
She supports an equitable student experience for all and works to make sure policies and procedures align with Pacific’s mission and goals. She takes part in community events, including LGBTQ+ Pride Walk in San Francisco.
Years of service recognition
Mary Lou Tyler, 40 years
Tyler took a circuitous route to her current role as academic advisor for the School of International Studies. She has worked in the College of the Pacific dean’s office, as a food service manager in two dormitories, and with a program called Pacific Experience –a precursor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
“I have had many careers at Pacific, and they have been rewarding in different ways,” Tyler said. “I started working here in 1983 and I have found Pacific to be warm and welcoming.”
Veronica Semler, 40 years
Semler of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy is currently director of pharmacy admission and plans to retire effective July 5. She served for 25 years in PharmD admissions and 15 years in undergraduate admissions.
“When potential students seek out her guidance, she listens and takes their concerns to heart,” Dean Berit Gunderson said. “Her ability to absorb information and problem-solve is truly amazing. The prospective students benefit immensely from this skill.”
Other staff members who were recognized for 25 or more years at Pacific are:
35 years: Christopher Bolthouse (Physical Plant, Stockton); Jeff Carricker (Physical Plant, Sacramento)
30 years: Brian Kolze (Athletics)
25 years: (Alan Buffo, Physical Plant, Stockton; Lynda Davis, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics); Lori Guerrero (Treasury and Investment Options); Sauda Kho (Physical Plant, Stockton).