Diversity award goes to seven faculty
By Kevin Brown
Seven faculty members who have shown dedication to developing cultural and ethnic diversity at U-M have received the 2012 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
The recipients are Deborah Goldberg, LSA; Barbra Meek, LSA; Dr. Juanita Merchant, Medical School; Stephanie Rowley, School of Education (SoE); Derrick Scott, College of Engineering; Dorceta Taylor, LSA and School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE); and Stephen Ward, LSA.
“I am gratified to see these award winners honored for their contributions to diversity at the University of Michigan,” says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs. “Our commitment to create an excellent, broad-minded, and welcoming community of scholars would be nothing if we didn’t have faculty and staff working toward that goal every day, through their research, teaching, recruitment of students and faculty, and respect for one another.”
Established in 1996, the award is given in honor of Harold Johnson, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work. The award provides $5,000 to recipients to further research and scholarship opportunities.
Deborah Goldberg, Elzada U. Clover Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and chair and professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), LSA, was recognized for sustained contributions over 30 years to promoting diversity at U-M and beyond.
Those contributions include her support for EEB participation in BioKids with Detroit-area public schools fifth- and sixth-graders, and M-Bio, which provides programming, support and funding for students with potential for success, yet are inadequately prepared to study college science.
Also cited was her support of the Enhancing Diversity, Quality and Understanding of the Ecological and Evolutionary Science for Tomorrow program, in which underrepresented minority students spend summers on independent research projects under a faculty or doctorate student mentor, and her work with the Summer Research Opportunity Program promoting student research experiences with faculty mentors.
“In the end, diversity is a major issue in our department and Deborah deserves the credit for putting it there and keeping it there,” wrote John Vandermeer, Asa Gray Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, EEB.
Barbra Meek, associate professor of anthropology and linguistics, LSA, was cited for her work to support Native American students, language revitalization efforts, and the Department of Anthropology’s commitment to diversity.
A member of the Comanche nation, Meek was recognized for her scholarship in language revitalization with the Kaska people of the northern Yukon region, and her work on the linguistic expressions of inequality and its role in reproducing patterns of dominance in Native and Caucasian interactions.
Tom Fricke, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology cited “her vital role in mediating interactions between the U-M Museum of Anthropology and Native Michigan communities in bringing the university into conformity with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” Meek also was lauded for reshaping the admissions process within the department as director of graduate studies, for contributing three courses to the department’s Native American studies minor, and for being an effective mentor of Native American students while also providing a role model of a successful academic.
Dr. Juanita Merchant
Dr. Juanita Merchant, H. Marvin Pollard Professor of Gastrointestinal Sciences, professor of internal medicine, and molecular and integrative physiology, Medical School, was cited for her work on two Medical School committees seeking to promote diversity.
Merchant recently chaired the Dean’s Review Committee of the medical school diversity office and policies, and the committee that developed the Health System's strategic plan for diversity. Merchant created the pre-Medical Science Training Program with the goal of increasing the number of under served undergraduate students applying to and successfully undertaking a medical doctor or doctorate degree.
She also is a member of the Cellular and Molecular Biology Program diversity committee, has mentored minority post-doctoral trainees, is a member of the STRIDE committee that provides faculty workshops on recruiting diverse faculty, and has been a keynote lecturer on faculty diversity at peer institutions.
“The Medical School is extremely fortunate to have someone with such drive and commitment to diversity. She has been playing a key role in our efforts for nearly 20 years,” wrote Dr. Joseph Kolars, senior associate dean of education and global initiatives and professor of medicine.
Stephanie Rowley, professor of psychology, associate chair of psychology for operations, LSA, and professor of education, SoE, was recognized for her teaching and mentoring efforts to support diversity, participation in several leadership roles in organizations promoting diversity, and her research.
That research challenges the model in which African-American children are viewed from the perspective of deficiencies by documenting the cultural and familial sources of strength and resilience these children bring to face challenges.
She has been elected to the Black Caucus of the Society for Research on Child Development, and serves on the advisory board of the Black Graduate Student in Psychology Conference. As a research fellow at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, she conducted a research project examining how African American parents’ school experiences impacted how they socialize their child about education and race.
Rowley also was lauded for her teaching and mentoring. “What impresses me most about Stephanie as a mentor is her willingness to invest in students who are not as productive because they have lost their way or have yet to find it,” wrote Robert M. Sellers, professor of education in the SoE.
Derrick Scott, director of inclusion and multicultural engineering programs in the CoE Center for Engineering Diversity & Outreach, believes that access for underrepresented minority groups is the first step in developing a total educational community with competencies in diversity.
He is the longtime leader of the CoE Multicultural Engineering Program Office (MEPO), charged with developing and facilitating enrollment, retention and graduation of underrepresented minority students. In his role as MEPO director, Scott has developed support services including the Summer Engineering Institute, which serves pre-freshmen as well as first- and second-year students.
“As a result, MEPO has demonstrated significant successes in facilitating student interest in engineering and preparing students academically and professionally for STEM careers,” wrote Robert Scott, CoE academic multicultural initiatives director. He also formed the MEPO Advisory Council, composed of high-level engineering employer representatives who assist the office in strategy, resources and advocacy.
Scott also has been a key adviser to multicultural student societies and has represented the CoE on numerous diversity/culture committees and task forces at the college and university levels.
Dorceta Taylor, professor of environmental sociology, SNRE, and professor of environment, LSA, is recognized for lifelong achievements promoting diversity through service, research and teaching.
“Her work is practical, with applications influencing policy, reducing inequities and fostering resolution in the face of conflict. Her efforts reach K-12 students, undergraduate and graduate college students, faculty members, administrators and members of the larger community beyond the walls of academe,” wrote Paul W. Webb, director of the Program in the Environment, SNRE.
Taylor has mentored and coordinated internship programs for minority students on environmental activism and science. She led 14 U-M students on a 2010 research trip to the Virgin Islands to explore intersecting issues of environment and preservation, inequality and social change. The themes were examined in her award-winning book “Environment and the People in American Cities, 1600s-1900s: Disorder, Inequality, and Social Change.”
Taylor serves as director and diversity advocate for the Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative, a Web portal project housed at SNRE. It profiles and publicizes minority environmental professionals, identifies promising minority students for university environmental programs and organizations and conducts research.
Stephen Ward, associate professor of Afroamerican and African studies and associate professor in the Residential College, LSA, was cited for his work as faculty director of the Semester in Detroit (SiD) Program. In SiD, U-M students live at Wayne State University, work as interns at a Detroit-based community or cultural arts organization, and take Detroit-focused classes offered by U-M faculty.
“Now in its fourth year, SiD has to some extent exceeded expectations, earning recognition from various local media outlets and from President (Mary Sue) Coleman, who praised the program as a model of socially relevant learning and service to our state and community, both of which are top priorities of the university,” wrote Angela Dillard, director and professor, Residential College, and professor of Afroamerican and African studies, LSA.
Ward, who was instrumental in the creation of a new undergraduate minor in urban studies, also has worked to preserve and make more accessible a collection of archival materials related to African-American studies at U-M. As a mentor, he has inspired and supported students and continues to mentor many after they graduate.