Eight recognized for important contributions to diversity

Eight people or groups have been recognized with 2014 University Diversity Awards for their accomplishments in diversity and inclusion. The awards were presented Tuesday during a reception in Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Assembly Room.

“These are the people and organizations who are working to provide a clear example of fostering inclusive excellence,” said Taffye Benson Clayton, associate vice chancellor for diversity and multicultural affairs. “This award program celebrates the contributions of those who are fostering inclusive excellence and promoting a campus climate where every member of the community can thrive and be appreciated.”

Megan McCurley, an executive director for the Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education (SCALE), received the staff award for her involvement in many different areas. She is an active member of the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative and the National Coalition for Literacy, as well as a mentor for the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program, which promotes success among African American and Latino students. She also is an interpreter for ESL programs in the local schools, where she assists during parent-teacher conferences. In addition, McCurley encourages her staff to participate in campus-based LGBTQ training and the N.C. Diversity and Inclusion conference.

Patricia Parker, an associate professor of organizational communication and director of faculty diversity initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences, is the faculty award recipient in honor of her work to enhance the recruitment, retention and advancement of diverse faculty. Her teaching and research focus on community engagement, race, gender and group dynamics, and her service includes being a mentor for the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (MURAP), a graduate-level research experience for talented students from diverse backgrounds. Parker is also founder and executive director of the Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism, which “engages teenage girls in vulnerable communities as leaders and advocates for positive change.”

Kevin Claybren, a senior women’s and gender studies major with a double minor in sexuality studies and education, is the undergraduate award recipient for his efforts to establish gender non-specific housing at Carolina. This involved extensive research, student collaboration in gathering nearly 3,000 student signatures and presentations to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and the Chancellor. The University’s Board of Trustees endorsed the proposal, but the Board of Governors later voted to ban campuses from allowing students of opposite genders to live in the same on-campus suites or apartments. Claybren continues to be an advocate for social justice and the creation of safe housing for all Carolina students, including those who are LGBTQ-identified, the nominator said.

Whitney Sewell, a master’s student in social work, has a strong commitment to sexual health education and sexual and ethnic minority mental health disparities. An advocate for African American and LGBTQ communities, Sewell received the graduate student award for her focus on social justice in social work practice and research, her commitment to diversity as the Diversity and Inclusive Collegiate Environments (DICE) adviser, and her community service as a board member for the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Council of North Carolina. She also is a member of Delta Sigma Theta and a Troop Leader for the Girl Scouts of North Carolina Coastal Pines.

The American Indian Center (AIC) was recognized for its contributions to, and advocacy for, Native Americans – both on campus and in the community – as well as for making Native American issues a part of the intellectual life of the University. The center focuses on leadership in American Indian scholarship and research, engagement with Native populations across the state and the encouragement of campus diversity conversations. With initiatives ranging from the Elder in Residence and the annual powwow to the Seminar in American Indian and Indigenous Studies and the Healthy Native North Carolinians project, the AIC provides an enriched experience for all of North Carolina, the nominator said.

The Siren, a student-produced publication that promotes the feminist perspective and provides readers with resources for discovering, developing and challenging their self-identities and life philosophies, won the student organization award. The magazine features articles, essays, artwork and letters surrounding gender, identity, sexuality and human rights. The publication’s goal is to broaden the notion of feminism and feminist empowerment and to build a community that celebrates diversity and advocates for social justice. The Siren also supports other campus social justice efforts including Project Dinah and Feminist Students United.

The alumni award went to Ronny Bell, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention and director of the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine. Bell received his bachelor’s degree from Carolina in public health and nutrition. His primary research and clinical interests are chronic disease prevalence and risk factors, with particular emphasis on ethnic minority populations. He serves as chair of the North Carolina American Indian Health Board and as a member of the American Indian Alaska Native Workgroup for the National Diabetes Education Program. Bell is a member of the Lumbee Indian tribe of eastern North Carolina and serves on the advisory board for the UNC American Indian Center.

The Carrboro Bicycle Coalition (CBC) received the community award for its promotion of inclusion and safety for everyone in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities. The CBC has partnered with local governments and non-governmental organizations to reach out to underserved populations and economically vulnerable groups. Working with other local organizations, the coalition has hosted bicycle light give-away programs and fix-a-flat classes in low-income neighborhoods, and contacted business owners to see if any of their workers who commuted by bike were in need of lights. The CBC has also distributed translated bicycle safety literature to members of the Karen- and Spanish-speaking communities.

The awards are sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, part of the Division of Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement.

Published April 15, 2014.