Seven faculty members who have shown dedication to developing cultural and ethnic diversity at the University of Michigan have received the 2015 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the Office of the Provost.
The recipients are:
• Lester P. Monts, School of Music, Theatre & Dance. (Lifetime Achievement Award)
• Sarah M. Aciego, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, LSA.
• Evelyn Alsultany, Department of American Culture, LSA.
• Linda Chatters, School of Social Work.
• Sandra Momper, School of Social Work.
• Dr. Lisa A. Newman, Department of Surgery, Medical School.
• Nils Walter, Department of Chemistry, LSA.
“It was an honor to learn about the extraordinary diversity work on our campus and in our community,” said Robert M. Sellers, vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs. “The nominations received were simply outstanding and prove that our faculty continue to think creatively and work hard to help advance the university’s commitment to diversity as an essential part of our educational mission.”
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, scholarship or student service opportunities.
Lester P. Monts
Monts, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and professor of music, SMTD, is the first recipient of the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a leading figure in the conversation about universities shaping a more just and equitable society. He has demonstrated a relentless commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at U-M and beyond by developing programs, awards and policies to solidify that link. He played a pivotal role in the hiring and retention of over 200 diverse faculty members across campus.
Monts has been instrumental in shaping U-M’s diversity and inclusion agenda.
“Because of his vision and will, we now have the Center for Educational Outreach, Global Intercultural Experiences for Undergraduates, the Council on Global Engagement, the Office of New Student Programs, and the National Center for Institutional Diversity. He has mentored countless faculty members of color, many of whom consider him crucial to their success here,” wrote Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the School of Education.
Monts has also brought his particular diversity orientation to national leadership roles, serving on boards including the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Senior Diversity Officers group of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, and the College Board.
Sarah M. Aciego
Aciego, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, LSA, and assistant professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, College of Engineering, has shown a commitment to increasing diversity at U-M, and to supporting communities not traditionally represented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
She recently helped organize a graduate student preview weekend for high-achieving, talented junior and senior undergraduates from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.
“The event was a great success, with many of the students who visited applying to come to U-M, with a number of enthusiastic potential supervisors on board,” wrote Nathan Sheldon, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and associate director of the Program in the Environment. “Beyond the success of the preview itself, is the realization among many of the faculty that this is something that we need to have an ongoing commitment to, and Dr. Aciego has already begun preparations for next year’s preview weekend.”
Aciego is called energetic and personable, an inspiration to students who does not let them wallow when things are tough. She welcomes students into her home and serves as a sounding board for life’s complications. She also works as an instructor in a summer camp for Native American students to engage them with science, and the cultural realities of coming from communities that often don’t put a premium on education.
Alsultany, associate professor of American culture, LSA, is a teacher and mentor for diverse undergraduate and graduate students on campus, and a scholar of cultural studies, critical mixed-race studies, gender and sexuality studies, Latino/a studies and Arab and Muslim-American studies.
Alsultany’s scholarship on race, mixed race, and the representations of Arabs and Muslims after 9/11 has been an important platform to discuss cultural, racial and ethnic diversity and has furthered interdisciplinary thinking.
Her co-edited book, “Arab and Arab American Feminism: Gender, Violence, and Belonging” (2011), earned the Evelyn Shakir Award. She recently received Honorable Mention in the 2014 Arab American Book Award for the co-edited book, “Between the Middle East and the Americans: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora” (2013). These books influenced academia and a national debate about racialized and gendered violence against Arab and Muslim Americans.
“Her commitment to expanding classes and resources for U-M students on Arab-American issues, particularly during our current historical period of persistent overt Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiments, is sought by all students on their own personal journeys to understand their world and their place in it. Not only has she gained great respect from students but also from faculty,” said Yamil Avivi, an American culture doctoral candidate.
Alsultany played a key role in establishing an Arab and Muslim American Studies Program, which offers interdisciplinary undergraduate courses focusing on the Arab and Muslim American experience.
Chatters, professor of health behavior and health education, School of Public Health, and professor of social work, SSW, has promoted a climate conducive to diversity that has impacted students, colleagues and the field of gerontology. She is a pioneer in the field of research on African-American elderly, and has been a champion for diversity within the university.
She has served as a member of the Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues, the Women of Color in the Academy Project, and the Health Disparities Faculty Search Committee in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. She is currently chair of the Doctoral Admissions Committee for the School of Public Health, where she has played key roles in assuring the admission of an excellent and diverse doctoral student cohort.
“Dr. Chatter’s contributions to diversity at the University of Michigan School of Public Health through her research, teaching, mentoring and service have transcended the boundaries of her home departments and schools, contributing to a deep and rich engagement that fosters a climate of diversity in the university more broadly, and to her chosen field,” wrote Amy J. Schulz, professor of health behavior and health education.
Momper, associate professor of social work, SSW, has demonstrated a commitment to diversity that cuts across her research, teaching and service activities. She is committed to finding ways to fight social injustice, address disparities, and create a better world for diverse populations.
She collaborates with American Indian communities to reduce health and mental health disparities, and has developed a national reputation as one of the leading Native American scholars in social work. She has numerous grants including National Institutes of Health funding for her work with Native American communities. She also has demonstrated commitment to increasing the number of American Indian youth who apply to U-M and the School of Social Work.
“Last year she was instrumental in helping the school write a competitive proposal from the Health Research Services Administration that awarded nearly $1.5 million to the school to provide scholarships to social work students who want to be trained to work in integrated health and behavioral settings in vulnerable communities in Detroit. Over the three years of the grant we will train and fund 99 MSW students,” wrote Jorge Delva, professor of social work and associate dean for research, SSW.
Dr. Lisa A. Newman
Newman, professor of surgery, Medical School, has focused research on the incidence and health care disparities among African Americans, and issues related to sentinel node biopsy and lymphatic mapping, and the increased frequency of triple negative breast cancers, which suggests the possible contribution of hereditary factors related to African ancestry.
Newman established the University of Michigan-Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital Breast Cancer Research Collaborative. This has generated valuable findings while improving the standard of breast oncology care. In 2012, The Detroit News named her Michigander of the Year for her efforts to improve the care of Michigan women affected with breast cancer.
She provides mentorship to the Black Medical Students Association and the Profiles for Success Undergraduate Student Program. She has mentored 37 fellows, Ph.D. candidates and medical students with an emphasis on students from diverse ethnic groups.
“She has worked tirelessly to include persons of all diverse cultural and racial backgrounds and genders in the educational process. She has developed programs and acted as a mentor at all levels to insure equal outcomes and success. She has promoted inclusion, equity, and social justice in every area of her life as an educator, scholar, administrator, physician, and citizen with consequent reach around the globe,” said Dr. James O. Woolliscroft, dean of the Medical School.
Walter, professor of chemistry and of biophysics, LSA, has made important contributions to the Department of Chemistry’s demographic diversity and diversity climate. Walter so far has graduated five Ph.D. students from underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups, a large fraction for a faculty member in chemistry. The students and postdoctoral fellows from Walter’s research groups have gone on to establish successful careers at major academic institutions and in industry.
In the fall of 2013, he almost single-handedly implemented a continuing, successful preview weekend for diverse candidates — especially those from historically underrepresented backgrounds — to introduce them to the chemistry graduate program.
“Professor Walter is a wonderful and deeply committed recruiter and mentor of graduate students in the sciences from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds, inspiring graduate students from a diversity of programs,” said Carol A. Fierke, chair of the Department of Chemistry.
Walter is a key member of the Chemistry Diversity Committee, and is active in NextProfScience, a workshop being developed by LSA as a way to increase the diversity of UM faculty applicant pools.