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Multicultural office presents first diversity awards

by Richard Veilleux - April 3, 2006

Sixteen people – many with connections to UConn – and the University’s Division of Enrollment Management were honored Wednesday, during the first Diversity Awards ceremony, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Multicultural and International Affairs.

The event, which will be repeated annually, was created to honor students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community leaders for their outstanding work and leadership in advancing diversity and diversity issues.

“The event was inspired by the recognition that so much of the important and significant work that individuals and organizations do to advance diversity on this campus and in this state goes unacknowledged and unappreciated,” says Ronald Taylor, vice provost for multicultural and international affairs.

“The event is designed to draw attention to some of this work by individuals and groups who deserve to be recognized for their efforts.”

Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University and a named defendant in the U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed the right of universities to practice affirmative action in enrollment, was the keynote speaker.

He has been a lifelong leader in promoting diversity, and has received numerous awards, including the National Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice, and the National Equal Justice Award from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Awardees were:

Presidential Award for Excellence in Diversity: George David, CEO and chairman of United Technologies, and David Carter, chancellor of the Connecticut State University system and former president of Eastern Connecticut State University;

Presidential Humanitarian Award for Diversity: Lottie Scott, president of LBS Human Resources Consultants and a 22-year employee at the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities;

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jim Comer, Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine; and A.J. Pappanikou, professor emeritus of educational psychology at UConn and founder of the A.J. Pappanikou Center for Developmental Disabilities;

Pioneer Award: Bessy Reyna, born in Cuba and raised in Panama, who helped establish the UConn Women’s Center; and Donald “Dee” Rowe, head men’s basketball coach at UConn from 1969 to 1977, and the first UConn coach to field an entire starting team of student-athletes of color;

Provost’s Award: Rafael Perez-Escamilla, associate professor of nutritional sciences, director of the NIH-funded Connecticut Center of Excellence for Eliminating Health Disparities among Latinos, and a founder of the Hispanic Family Nutrition Program;

Vice Provost for Multicultural and International Affairs Award for Excellence in Diversity: Hedley Freake, a nutritional sciences professor and member of several UConn committees devoted to diversity. He also is the principal investigator on a five-year, nearly $2 million grant to increase enrollment and retention of first-generation and historically underrepresented populations in the life sciences; and Roger Gelfenbien, former chair of UConn’s Board of Trustees and a driver of UConn’s 140-recommendation Diversity Action Plan;

Deans’ Awards for Excellence in Diversity: Carlton Molette, a professor of dramatic arts at UConn who wrote and produced, with his wife Barbara, the play Prudence, about teacher Prudence Crandall, who defied officials and accepted African-American women into her school in Canterbury;

Alumni Award: Theresa Hopkins-Staten, director of Conservation and Load Management and Community Programs at Northeast Utilities, who holds bachelor’s and law degrees from UConn. At Northeast Utilities, she creates educational initiatives and oversees grant awards to schools across Connecticut;

Diversity Leadership for Academic or Service Unit: Division of Enrollment Management, including its offices of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, orientation services, and the registrar, all of whom work toward admitting, enrolling, and supporting diverse student populations at the University, an effort that has increased the University’s minority population for 10 consecutive years;

Diversity Leadership Staff Award: Meg Malmborg, manager of the Lodewick Visitors Center. Working to create an environment that is welcoming to all students, Malmborg annually builds a staff of student guides that is nearly one-third composed of ethnically and racially diverse students;

Graduate Student Excellence in Diversity Award: Jose Barzola, a student in the higher education and student affairs master’s degree program, where his focus is on issues of diversity, identity, and multiculturalism in higher education;

Undergraduate Student Excellence in Diversity Award: Erica Berg, president of the Native American Cultural Society, who has worked toward creating acceptance and understanding of American Indian people, a largely overlooked minority at UConn and elsewhere;

International Award: Amii Omara-Otunnu, a history professor and the only UNESCO Chair in Human Rights in the nation, and founder and director of the Institute of Comparative Human Rights at UConn.

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