Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Virginia Commonwealth University honored students, faculty and staff who have helped shape a respectful and inclusive environment on campus during the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment this week.
Blue Wooldridge, D.P.A., a longtime professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, was twice honored, receiving the Riese-Melton Award for efforts in cross-cultural communications and being honored as a co-recipient of the faculty award.
“I’m highly honored. Receiving the Riese-Melton Award was completely a surprise,” he said. “It’s great that we work at a university that celebrates these kinds of activities.”
A crowd of about 180 packed the University Student Commons Ballrooms for the awards ceremony and reception.
“We are thankful to so many for the small – as well as significant – things that they do to create an inclusive community for all people,” said Wanda Mitchell, Ph.D., vice president for inclusive excellence. “That’s why we’re here today.”
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., called on the university to dig deeper on diversity and inclusion.
“How well do we integrate? How well do we truly leverage each other and the differences that each of us brings to the table?” he said. “We have a lot of work to do on that. I need everyone’s help.”
Rao said the awardees had worked diplomatically to influence their peers on campus and in the community.
“These are people who have stepped forward, stepped out and sometimes put themselves in uncomfortable positions. We need a roomful, we need an institution-full, of people who are completely committed at all of the right times,” the president said.
Provost Gail Hackett, Ph.D., led the ceremony’s proceedings.
“Celebrating the PACME awards is such a wonderful occasion each year because it represents something special about VCU and our community,” she said, thanking the award committee for their hard work.
Nakeina E. Douglas-Glenn, Ph.D., was first on stage to receive the administrator’s award. Douglas-Glenn directs the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and serves as an assistant professor in the Wilder School.
“This is not my award alone, but a tribute to everyone at VCU who makes a commitment to causes greater than ourselves, those of us who make it real,” she said.
Charlene Crawley, Ph.D., who nominated Douglas-Glenn, called her “a truly gifted individual who has the ability to engage, connect, promote and transform individuals and organizations under her influence.”
Co-recipients of the faculty awards were Clarence W. Thomas, Ph.D., and Wooldridge. Thomas is an assistant professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
“Blue’s record of teaching, research and service speaks volumes about his commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion at VCU and elsewhere,” said nominee Jacqueline Smith-Mason, Ph.D., associate dean of the Honors College.
Thomas thanked many members of his family for attending the ceremony, calling the award a blessing.
“Embrace the reality that’s been staring us in the face all along,” Thomas said. “Let’s not talk to talk, let’s go on and walk the walk in terms of diversity.”
Thomas was nominated by Robertson School Director Hong Cheng, Ph.D., who noted a “decades-long and time-tested” commitment to enhancing diversity.
Multicultural enrichment cannot be real without advocates, leaders and role models.
“Multicultural enrichment cannot be real without advocates, leaders and role models,” Cheng said. “Dr. Thomas is all of them.”
Receiving the staff award was Nicholas Garcia, a doctoral student, instructor and senior undergraduate adviser in the Wilder School. Garcia said he appreciates the many layers of diversity at VCU.
“I’ve changed a lot since 2007, and VCU has been integral to that change,” he said.
“His message to a student is clear, yet empathetic, always offering a solution to whatever challenge that student faces,” said nominator Jill Gordon, Ph.D., associate dean of faculty and academic affairs at the Wilder School.
The audience was left wondering how student recipient Tania Valencia accomplishes so much with only 24 hours a day. Among her many activities and accomplishments was researching and pressing for the upcoming Latino Cultural Achievement Ceremony, said nominator Yolanda Avent, director of multicultural student affairs.
“At VCU we have the opportunity to form bonds with groups of people who reflect our backgrounds, while also learning more from those who are different from us,” Valencia said. “VCU is a home away from home. I’m proud of the inclusiveness that the university can provide to students such as myself.”
Valencia is a senior sociology major and psychology minor in the College of Humanities and Sciences.
Dorothy Fillmore received the President's Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award from Rao during the ceremony. Fillmore, only the second recipient of the award, remarked on the big changes in society and on campus since her upbringing in Tennessee.
“VCU’s administrators, faculty, staff and students want to make inclusion real at VCU. We can make more progress, and we can be allies to one another,” she said.
Fillmore called for a campus LGBTQ resource center as a next step.
“For as many students who come to VCU well-adjusted and proud, we still have students who come to VCU afraid,” she said. “We still have faculty and staff who are closeted because of fear.”
Monday’s event included performances by the VCU Black Awakening Choir, art from the Black Art Student Empowerment and fashions from Art180.
For more information, visit http://www.inclusive.vcu.edu/diversity-awards/pacme/.
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