Honor recognizes undergraduate student advocacy.
Thursday, March 21, 2024

The 2024 Lola Lopes Award for Undergraduate Student Advocacy has been awarded to Dr. Maria Guadalupe Bruno and Kate Torno Fashimpaur. 

The award recognizes administrators, staff, or faculty outside of their teaching role who serve as strong and effective advocates for undergraduate students and the undergraduate experience.  Recipients are selected by a committee of staff, faculty, and a student. 

Maria Bruno
Maria Bruno

Maria Bruno, executive director for belonging and inclusion in the Division of Student Life, has inspired countless students and young professionals through her passion for mentoring and sharing her own personal story of perseverance. With a three-pronged approach to advocacy that incorporates programming, community-building, and individual intervention, she is dedicated to helping students transition into a collegiate academic culture where they may initially feel out of place. Her holistic attention to students’ academic, social, and cultural needs helps them feel better equipped for success both academically and personally.

Outside of her administrative responsibilities, Bruno provides coaching for student government leaders, has twice served as a sponsor for the President’s Leadership class, and since 2018 has been faculty advisor for the multicultural Sigma Lambda Gamma national sorority. She volunteered as advisor to the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center during a year when the center struggled without a staff coordinator, and she currently chairs the UI Latinx Council for Staff and Faculty. 

A licensed clinical psychologist, Bruno helps students discover the positive change they are capable of in their own lives and in their communities. Students say the relationships she has forged with them continue to lift them up not only throughout their time at the UI but also beyond graduation. 

Kate Torno, senior academic advisor in the Department of English, has advised thousands of undergraduates during her time with the department. She is known for her comprehensive approach to advising, helping students get the most out of their college experience from the time they set foot on campus as prospective students through their undergraduate careers and into their journey as alumni.

Kate Torno
Kate Torno

In addition to serving her own advisees, her advocacy for student-focused curricular and community-building initiatives has impacted all students in the department and beyond. A recent example is her effort that led to opening the “Literary Loft,” a welcoming community space for English undergraduates. In fall 2022 she launched community building book clubs and writing groups for new students in the major. From her experience as an early member of Iowa’s First Gen Task Force, Torno was inspired to create an e-mail “pep talk” series for English majors, now a comprehensive ICON resource site that has become a model for other departments. She lobbies continually for better administrative practices that will facilitate transparency and student success.  

Torno was instrumental in the launch of the English and Creative Writing major, now the most popular major in the department. She has team taught and continues to reshape the innovative “English at Work” class, which introduces students to career paths and alumni speakers. More recently she created another course, “English Unbound,” to help new students transition into their lives as college students and English majors, with an emphasis on cohort-building and study skills. 

Bruno and Torno each will receive a $1,000 honorarium and a certificate, and their names will be added to a plaque that will be displayed in the Admission Visitors Center. 

The award is named in honor of Lola L. Lopes, former associate provost for undergraduate education and professor emerita of management and organizations in the Tippie College of Business.  Lopes served as interim executive vice president and provost during 2007-08.