2023 Local Genius Awardees Karletta Chief, Ph.D. (Diné) and Celestino Fernández, Ph.D. will each give short lectures discussing their creative and professional achievements that are being recognized for their global impacts and innovative approaches.
Chief is a hydrologist who conducts environmental research devoted to supporting Indigenous communities and training students in sustainable technologies, and Fernández is a sociologist whose work focuses on topics pertaining to immigration, education, culture, and corridos (Mexican ballads).
Presentations will be followed by a conversation moderated by Mary Okoye and audience Q&A.
The 2023 Local Genius Awardees are award-winning sociologist and researcher Jennifer Carlson, Ph.D.; hydrologist Karletta Chief, Ph.D.; sociologist Celestino Fernández, Ph.D.; baker and Barrio Bread founder Don Guerra; and late writer and journalist Tom Miller. Join us as we honor the Local Genius Awardees at MOCA’s 2023 Gala on April 15th with dinner, music, an auction, and dancing.
Purchase Gala tickets here
Karletta Chief, Ph.D. (Diné) is director of the Indigenous Resilience Center and Professor & Extension Specialist in Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. She is also the lead Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation Indigenous Food, Energy, and Water Security and Sovereignty Training Program. Chief’s lived personal experience of environmental injustice, and as a first-generation graduate, motivates her environmental research devoted to supporting the resilience of Indigenous communities and training students in sustainable technologies. Her primary Navajo projects include Navajo COVID-19 Risks and Indigenous Resilience and Gold King Mine Spill Diné Exposure Project. Chief received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000 and a Ph.D. in Hydrology and Water Resources from the University of Arizona in 2007.
Celestino Fernández, Ph.D. served as Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona for 39 years (retired July 2015). He taught courses and conducted research on topics pertaining to immigration, education, and culture, has published approximately 50 articles and book chapters on various sociological topics, composed about as many corridos (Mexican ballads), and recently published a 2-CD packet (Corridos de Celestino). He has helped start five schools, including San Miguel High School, a college prep school that serves students from low-income families. In recognition for his work he was named University Distinguished Outreach Professor in 2007 for his “exceptional service to the community, state and nation.” Fernández received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University.
Mary Okoye heads the Tucson office of Public Affairs Firm of Scutari and Cieslak. Okoye graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law and was subsequently admitted to the state bar of Arizona. She also attended the Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C., her third year of law school, while interning with the office of Senator Dennis DeConcini. During her career as an attorney she has worked in private practice, served as a Tucson City Court Magistrate, and was Pima County Public Fiduciary prior to accepting her position with the City of Tucson as Director of Intergovernmental Relations. A life long volunteer, passionate about and committed to the Tucson , she recently served on numerous boards including the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, Tucson Pima Library Foundation and the Urban Libraries Council. She currently serves on the Tucson Festival of Books, Patronatos and the University of Arizona Department of Fine Arts Advisory boards.
About the MOCA Local Genius Award
Founded by MOCA in 2009, the Local Genius Awards honor visionary and innovative Tusconans whose activities have a global impact and whose talents have been internationally recognized. The Awards are a testament to the rich intellectual diversity of Tucson and a reflection of MOCA’s commitment to honoring cutting-edge creativity in all disciplines and practices.