Erika Christiansen, assistant director for leadership, service, and civic engagement in the University of Iowa Division of Student Life (DSL), is the recipient of the 2021 Lola Lopes Award for Undergraduate Student Advocacy.
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.
Christiansen supports many student programs in the DSL, including Food Pantry at Iowa, the Clothing Closet, Hawk the Vote, Student United Way, and Ignite UI. She proposed and enacted the Community Space, a civic-engagement hub in the Iowa Memorial Union that hosts AmeriCorps Members and students who are dedicated to making a difference in the community through service and engagement.
She also has served the UI community by assisting with the President’s Leadership Class, serving on the UI Council on the Status of Women, chairing the Hancher Auditorium Charter Committee, and participating in strategic planning and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within DSL. Outside of the university, she models civic engagement through frequent volunteering in Iowa City, participation in her neighborhood association, and active service as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program advocate.
Beyond her own advocacy for the students she works with, Christiansen challenges fellow staff members to keep undergraduate students at the center of their work—thus helping build a community of support.
More importantly, Christiansen empowers students to advocate for themselves. A humble leader who is dedicated to helping students push past their limits and find their way to shine, she connects students with real-world opportunities and challenges them to address situations by thinking intentionally and working through problems in their own way. She expertly guides students toward achieving their goals beyond the classroom and always prioritizes education and learning, working tirelessly to help students overcome obstacles to focus on academic success. She also makes sure students look after their health and well-being, taking care to follow up with resources and support when students are struggling.
Christiansen will receive a $1,000 honorarium and a certificate, and her name will be added to a plaque that will be displayed in the Admission Visitors Center in the Pomerantz 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 the 2007–08 academic year.