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Annual Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award winners announced; Virtual celebration to be held May 25

The Diversity and Inclusion Champion Awards Celebration, sponsored by Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will be held virtually via Zoom on Tuesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. This event aims to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of students, faculty and staff who made outstanding contributions towards diversity and inclusion in the Lawrence community.  

The event will start off with an introduction of the award recipients and their work surrounding diversity and inclusion, according to Kimberly Barrett, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty.  

Five award recipients will be recognized in Tuesday’s celebration: senior Shaun Brown; the Lawrence University Disability Working Group (LUDWIG); Jaime Gonzalez, the assistant director of admissions and interim “Diversity, Inclusion, and Access” (IDEA) specialist; Associate Professor of Music Horacio Contreras; the Kaukauna Area School District First of Many Program. 

Brown, a student majoring in Psychology and Anthropology, focused his two Senior Capstones on the mental well-being of Black youth who are facing police violence and racial trauma, as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people of color regarding racial health disparities.  

Brown is also the senior intern for the IDEA student recruitment team in Lawrence’s admissions office, where he is responsible for contacting, meeting and interviewing prospective students and families. In his four years in admission, Brown has worked with many prospective students of color and students within other marginalized identities and provided information regarding support, resources and student organizations tailored to their identities.  

With what he hopes are impacts on future prospective students, as well as his own academic, organizational and professional pursuit to contribute towards diversity and inclusion on campus, Brown is grateful that his efforts are being recognized.  

“All these experiences have been a pleasure,” Brown said. “And [it is] something I will take with me as long as I live.” 

LUDWIG, founded by junior Alex Chand during this academic year, has been advocating for disabled students on campus and collaborating with various student organizations to host diversity-related events. In the past, LUDWIG has had several virtual mixers as a social outlet for disabled students, worked with Greenfire for the in-person screening of the film “I am Greta” and hosted the Disability Policy and Advocacy and World Autism Day events. 

Disabled students are facing difficulties in academic, social and personal life, especially for those who have cross marginalized identities, Chand said; as an organization, LUDWIG plans to continue to support students with different marginalized identities in an effort to engage with the community and create a safe space for all students. 

When Gonzalez was a student at Lawrence from 2012 to 2016, he was actively involved in various diversity initiatives including campus wide social justice trainings for students, faculty and staff. Returning to Lawrence in 2019, Gonzalez has been contributing his time in diversity recruitment strategy, transfer recruitment strategy and overall admissions goals. 

As a musical scholar, Contreras co-authored “The Sphinx Catalog of Latin-American Cello Works,” a free database that contains information about works for the cello by Latin American composers, dismantling stereotypes and creating new ways in the cello music area. As a professor, Contreras often helps students locate funding for summer experiences and opportunities for pursuing graduate work or professional careers. 

The Kaukauna Area School District First of Many Program, created by junior Molly Ruffing, is a mentorship program matching first-generation Lawrence students with potential first-generation students at Kaukauna High School. Lawrence mentors meet with their matched mentees on a weekly basis to discuss college-related topics such as possible challenges, financial aid and applications.  

After each recipient makes brief remarks, the attendants, such as the recipients’ nominators, supervisors, colleagues and peers, will have the opportunity to express how the recipients have impacted them in academic, social and personal life, Barrett said. 

This year’s Award Celebration Event will be especially interactive, according to Barrett. She thinks the virtual platform will provide the audience a chance to directly participate in the process of honoring the recipient and show the recipient how their efforts are valued by the everyday people they are seeing in this community.  

Each award winner is selected by a committee of students, faculty and staff volunteers from the President’s Committee on Diversity Affairs (PCDA), who review the nominations, discuss the selection of recipients and recommend the recipients to Barrett.  

 “[We are recognizing] those folks who are doing extraordinary work and using their own influence to make Lawrence more inclusive,” Barrett said. “I think it’s important, particularly in times like this during the pandemic and…all the inequities we see society, that people don’t just give up but are still willing to [do] this work [of diversity and inclusion].”