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2022 President's Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award Recipients Announced

Presidents Diversity and Inclusion Champion AwardsSALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University honored seven members of the campus community with its 2022 President’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion Awards.

SU President Charles Wight and Eli Modlin, chief of staff, presented the awards during the University’s annual Multicultural Week festivities.

Honorees included:

  • Undergraduate Student: Chinua “Josh” Arinze and Zakera Banks
  • Professional Staff: Mark Andrews and Candace Henry
  • Faculty: Dr. Ellen Schaefer-Salins, Dr. Rachel Steele and Ryan Weaver

Arinze, a social work major from Lagos, Nigeria, recently developed a podcast highlighting the experiences of Latinx sexual minority youth. Josh brought in scholars, experts and mental health clinicians to discuss challenges and opportunities faced by these young people. His work gave special attention to a strength-based empowerment approach to intervention, which is too rarely the focus when working with sexual minority people of color, said his nominator Dr. Rebecca Anthony.

“Josh serves as a student representative for the National Association of Social Workers and is very active in this role by shaping policies and training opportunity for other social work students in the state of Maryland,” she said.

Banks, a senior sociology major from Wilmington, DE, through her Presidential Citizens Scholars (PCS) program, is developing a strategy to use data collected through surveys to show how increasing available public transportation options will provide greater economic and educational opportunities to the residents of Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware and Wicomico and Somerset counties in Maryland.

She and her PCS team ensured that surveys were available in Spanish and Hatian Creole, as well as English, to provide maximum opportunities for participation.

“Zakera has been an extremely involved student this semester, and as her advisor, I can say that she wants to leave a legacy of inclusiveness at Salisbury University,” said her nominator, Dr. Margaret Sebastian, director of SU’s TRIO Student Support Services Program. “She is thoughtful, patient and kind to students. Through her research and programming, she has done a great job of showing other students how to get involved and be a good citizen of SU and the State of Maryland.”

Andrews, assistant director of dining in the Commons, attracts, develops and maintains a robust workforce which includes PIN, contractual and student workers all working in a team environment to produce and serve over 5,000 meals per day, said his nomination from Owen Rosten, University Dining Services director. “His development of staff has resulted in career opportunities and promotions for individuals from outside and within.”

Andrews has fostered a partnership with SU’s Janet Dudley-Eshbach Center for International Education to welcome international students to the Commons’ work team. He also has ensures that meals in the dining hall offer culturally diverse food items, including on special religious and cultural occasions, Rosten said.

Henry not only oversees the Disability Resource Center as its director, but also serves on numerous campus committees to ensure the needs of her constituents are met. Recent efforts have included the development of a parking policy for students with disabilities who need access to main campus parking but are not eligible for a handicap placard. She also created a Disability Advocate Training program for faculty, staff and student organizations, providing in-depth information on working with students with disabilities.

In addition, she played a pivotal role in establishing the deaf studies minor and the disability studies minor, which launches in fall 2022. 

“Candace's wide-reaching impact has challenged SU's staff, faculty and students to become advocates for people with disabilities and to recognize disability as diversity,” read one of her nominations.

Shaefer-Salins, a staunch advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities, particularly those who are deaf or hard of hearing, led the efforts to create the deaf studies minor. She is the founding faculty advisor for the American Sign Language (ASL) Club on campus and was instrumental in securing the ASL Zone in SU’s Center for Equity, Justice and Inclusion.

“Dr. Schaefer-Salins' work and advocacy for the deaf and hard of hearing community will have a lasting impact on the culture of the University,” said Anthony, also her nominator.

Steele incorporates diversity efforts into her teaching, including readings that revolve around internalized heterosexism, racism in the LGBTQ+ community, racial colorblindness, and privilege awareness, among other diversity issues. Outside of her teaching, she has participated in the SU Women’s Forum, Justice and Equity Forum and other efforts to further herself and her teaching.

“Dr. Steele’s commitment to incorporating diversity in her teaching is admirable and impressive. Her student evaluations reflect that she makes students feel welcome and included and students comment on how much they have learned about (diversity, equity and inclusion) in the field of psychology,” said Dr. Meredith Patterson, Psychology Department chair, in her nomination of Steele.

Weaver oversees SU’s ShoreCorps AmeriCorps program members and is a lecturer for the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) Presidential Citizen Scholars Program. In Banks’ transportation survey project, Weaver helped distribute the survey in needed areas, and used personal and professional connections to ensure the survey reached those who needed to be heard in underserved communities.

“Because Professor Weaver thinks that everyone's voice should be heard, he encourages all of his students and coworkers to become better community leaders,” said Banks in her nomination letter. “He accomplishes this by ensuring that his students are working to bring forth equitable change for Eastern Shore residents. Weaver encourages groups from all walks of life to speak on social issues, resulting in many diverse viewpoints. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, individuals want to learn more about one another's needs.”

The ceremony marked the 14th year the honors have been awarded.

Learn more about how SU students and faculty make tomorrow theirs at the SU website.

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