The Wayne State University Division of Government and Community Affairs hosted the third annual Spirit of Community Awards ceremony, which recognized outstanding community service by university students, faculty and staff, on April 11 in the Student Center Ballroom.
This year, the Division of Government and Community Affairs partnered with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to add four new honors, dubbed the Champions of Diversity and Inclusion Awards, to the program. The Champions of Diversity and Inclusion Awards recognize faculty, staff and students with an established and successful record of creating and sustaining a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus.
The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Inspire from Within Philanthropy Award, presented by the Division of Government and Community Affairs to faculty and staff who strengthen the Wayne State community through philanthropic investment.
Congratulations to this year’s winners:
Spirit of Community, Staff Engagement:
Donna MacDonald – As director of community outreach and professional development for the Institute of Gerontology, MacDonald has led the institute’s community outreach and engagement for a decade. In the past seven years, the IOG’s community engagement for older adults and professional education has reached more than 70,000.
Spirit of Community, Faculty Engagement:
Steven Kahn – Kahn, who runs the WSU Center for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, built its two cornerstone programs: The WSU Math Corps, a combined academic enrichment and mentoring program for Detroit Public School students, and the WSU Emerging Scholars Program, which is designed to help underrepresented minority college students excel in math.
Spirit of Community, Student Engagement:
Kavya Davuluri – Davuluri, a student in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College, co-founded Optimize Wayne, which has raised funds for student-led initiatives. Davuluri also serves as president of Timmy Global Health WSU and works as a dedicated peer mentor.
Spirit of Community, Project Engagement:
Auntie Na’s House Health Clinic – Auntie Na’s is a community center on Detroit’s west side whose volunteers transformed an abandoned house into a medical clinic. The clinic includes examination rooms, a waiting room and meeting rooms. Students conduct widespread blood pressure and screening checks to those in need.
Champions of Diversity and Inclusion, Staff:
Shanese Ross – Ross, an academic advisor in the Mike Ilitch School of Business, currently serves as the Vice President of Operations for the National Black MBA Association, and as an advisor for the Wayne Black Business Student Association in the Mike Ilitch School of Business. Ross is devoted to ensuring that Wayne State has an active involvement in activities and events designed to encourage, support and influence students of color.
Champions of Diversity and Inclusion, Faculty:
Simone Chess – Since 2008, Chess, an associate chair and associate professor of English, has served as the primary advisor to the undergraduate student group Joining Intersectionality, Gender and Sexuality at Wayne (JIGSAW). Through her mentorship and vision, the group has thrived and now includes several offshoot organizations and campus-wide programs.
In 2014, she led the creation of Rainbow Graduation, funded through the Dr. Rae Lee Siporin GLBTA Endowed Scholarship, to celebrate the accomplishments of queer and ally students, and highlight university awards with a focus on gender and sexuality. Additionally, it acts as a homecoming event for LGBTQ+ alumni.
Andre Furtado – Furtado’s tireless evaluation of statistical trends on performance data led him to the realization that lack of access to challenging curricula, miseducation and tracking in the K-12 pipeline kept certain ethnic or socially defined racial groups, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, disproportionately underrepresented in academic disciplines, especially in mathematics and computer sciences. Furtado, an assistant professor in mathematics, then created interventions to narrow or eliminate the resultant gap, and, in so doing, pioneered early efforts to establish academic support programming that responds to the specific needs of these and other marginalized groups.
Champions of Diversity and Inclusion, Student:
Jami Pittman – A doctoral student in clinical psychology, Pittman joined the Psychology Department’s Diversity Committee, then designated a diversity task force, in her first year. The Diversity Committee was created to ensure that diversity, in all its forms, is respected and valued by fostering and maintaining an open, non-discriminatory and empowering environment of inclusiveness within the Psychology Department. Pittman was instrumental in the committee’s transition from a task force to a formal department body. Pittman has spearheaded many initiatives to increase individual and departmental awareness of, respect for and equitable engagement with diversity- and inclusivity-related issues and with communities in the greater Detroit area.
Champions of Diversity and Inclusion, Team:
National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) – NOBCChE members are interested in creating and promoting diversity in chemical science. WSU NOBCChE student members actively engage in professional development, community outreach, leadership training and networking while building an inclusive, open and diverse academic and social group.
Inspire from Within:
Lisa Rapport – As a researcher of neuropsychological assessment, Rapport has devoted her life to finding solutions for people with ADHD, severe depression, traumatic brain injury and more. Rapport helps these individuals understand their condition and become more independent, while weaving them into the community, making our community stronger.