Seven faculty members who have shown dedication to developing cultural and ethnic diversity at the University of Michigan have received the 2016 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the Office of the Provost.
The recipients are:
• Dr. R. Alexander Blackwood, Medical School.
• Omolola Eniola-Adefeso, College of Engineering.
• Arline T. Geronimus, Institute for Social Research and School of Public Health.
• Robert Jagers, School of Education.
• Nojin Kwak, LSA.
• Jennifer Linderman, CoE.
• Ruby Tapia, LSA.
“I was very impressed by the deep pool of nominations we received this year. It was inspiring to read about the faculty on our campus who have a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Robert M. Sellers, vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs.
“Their hard work and commitment make us better as a university, and their contributions will have a real and lasting impact on the difficult issues we face on our campus, particularly in this first year of the diversity strategic planning process.”
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.
Dr. R. Alexander Blackwood
Blackwood is associate professor of pediatrics and director of Pathways in the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion at the Medical School. In more than 20 years on the U-M faculty, he has demonstrated an ability to inspire mentees. They include 11 undergraduate students who have received American Heart Association of Michigan grants, and three who have been awarded Presidential Scholars Fellowships from the National Science Foundation.
An example of his mentorship involves fourth-year medical student Mohammad Issa, a Palestinian-American. Together they developed a personal hygiene, safe water assessment in the Kulandia Refugee Camp in the West Bank. This relationship led to the formation of the Middle Eastern Global Health Initiative.
The initiative is a group of Michigan pre-health students promoting awareness of global health needs in Middle East refugee camps. Blackwood serves as the faculty facilitator. Data has been collected from four refugee camps in the last three years and additional publications are anticipated.
“The attributes that make Dr. Blackwood especially well-suited for this award are a combination of versatility, preparation and vision. Dr. Blackwood has been building a cohort of mentees and a panel of programs that are eminently linkable,” wrote Dr. David J. Brown, associate vice president and associate dean, Office for Health Equity and Inclusion.
Eniola-Adefeso, associate professor of chemical engineering and of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, is known as an outstanding educator, a dedicated researcher and committed to promoting diversity.
Within the Department of Chemical Engineering, she has been a champion for women and underrepresented minority students and faculty members. As part of the department’s graduate committee since 2008, she was instrumental in improving the quality and diversity of students in the Ph.D. program.
Understanding that diversity must not compromise academic standards, she explored and implemented proactive ways of recruiting high-quality students of all backgrounds. In particular, she focused on increasing the department’s visibility at national conferences.
As graduate chair since 2014, she is increasing diversity in the program. The current first-year Ph.D. class is 44 percent women and 26 percent underrepresented minorities, the most diverse in the history of the department.
She also developed and submitted a proposal to Rackham for a new peer-mentoring program within the department. High-performing third-year graduate students serve as educational and social mentors to a diverse group of five to six first-year Ph.D. students. The program was funded by Rackham for two years. It is making a positive impact.
“Lola is a tireless champion for diversity. She exhibits tremendous leadership qualities and is absolutely on track to become a leader in her department and college before too long,” wrote Alec D. Gallimore, associate dean for academic affairs, CoE.
Arline T. Geronimus
Arline T. Geronimus, research professor in the Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, and professor of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health, is known for having proposed and tested the “weathering hypothesis.” It posits that the impact of repeated exposure to and high-effort coping with stressors by U.S. racial and ethnic minorities leads to early onset of chronic disease and early biological aging, compared to U.S. whites of the same chronological age.
Her work advances a perspective that population health disparities arise from the qualitatively different life experiences, exposure to stressors, and access to coping resources associated with specific social identity groups in an unequal society.
She is credited for increasing the number of minority doctoral students in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at SPH. She also supervised a disproportionate share of their doctoral dissertations. Geronimus also supported their efforts to win postdoctoral fellowships and faculty positions, while maintaining high academic standards.
“Geronimus has repeatedly demonstrated intellectual excellence and commitment to cultural diversity in all aspects of her work — service, teaching, mentoring and scholarship — has helped increase diversity within her academic units and the university, has solidified a commitment to diversity as part of the university’s educational mission, and has relentlessly strived to bring about equity in society,'” wrote Jeffrey Morenoff, director of the Population Studies Center.
Jagers, associate professor of education in the School of Education, demonstrates a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through his efforts to encourage civic engagement and critical consciousness in young people. Jagers has been developing a course called Partners in Authentic Learning that prepares undergraduate students to tutor and mentor mostly ethnic minority students in local schools.
He spent three years as chair of the Combined Program in Education and Psychology (CPEP). During that time, CPEP rose to No. 2 in the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of educational psychology graduate programs while also boasting several cohorts of exceptional doctoral students of color.
Jagers has been developing and leading the Wolverine Pathways program aimed at increasing representation of low-income students at Michigan. The goal is to help create Michigan-ready high school graduates. Its design is born of more than 25 years of research and field work aimed at understanding the complex connections among culture, race and class and their impact on the social-emotional development of urban youth.
“He is training the next generation of scholars and practitioners dedicated to diversity by sharing a strong vision of social justice and community engagement. Just as he is enriching our university through these efforts, he is also enriching the local communities around us,” wrote Stephanie J. Rowley, professor and chair, CPEP.
Kwak, associate professor of communications studies in LSA, demonstrates an outstanding commitment to the development of a culturally and ethnically diverse campus community.
A hallmark of Kwak’s diversity efforts is his directorship of the Nam Center for Korean Studies since 2009. The Nam Center encourages the economic, political and cultural understanding of Korea in the U-M community and beyond.
As its director, Kwak has supported student and faculty research and recruitment, engaged in curriculum development, established a speaker series, created two annual film festivals, and provided funding for public programs. He has raised more than $5 million to support the Nam Center’s programming, regularly meeting with donors in Korea while maintaining an active research, teaching and service program.
He also has developed curricula and educational programs, and allocated resources to help students enhance their cross-cultural knowledge through engaged and immersive learning. Kwak also directs the Committee on Institutional Cooperation Korean Studies e-School, a course-sharing initiative among CIC member schools.
“Through fundraising, sustained programming of a range of academic and cultural activities, and nurturing Ph.D. students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, Dr. Kwak has played a critical role in positioning Michigan as the leading center for Korean and Korean-American studies,” wrote Aswin Punathambekar, associate chair and associate professor of communication studies.
Linderman, associate dean of graduate education, professor of chemical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering in CoE, has helped the college maintain a diverse and high-performing graduate student body.
Recruiting begins with Linderman’s office developing a comprehensive list of student prospects. They are suggested by multiple stakeholders and sources including engineering faculty members and alumni in academia, current graduate students who recruit at their alma maters, national fellowship databases, summer research programs, campus visit programs and contacts made at key national conferences. They include the National Society of Black Engineers.
In a given year, her office compiles data from more than 20,000 prospective graduate student contacts to reach a target list of approximately 1,300 Ph.D. student prospects. An application fee waiver program she advanced has been effective in diversifying the Ph.D. application pool.
Linderman also is a key mentor of the college’s women faculty members, and is helping to lead the effort to develop the diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan for CoE.
“Considering not only the length and breadth of Professor Linderman’s contributions to enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion on this campus, but also her creativity and dedication in developing new initiatives, I believe she is richly deserving of this important recognition,” wrote Abigail J. Stewart, director of ADVANCE, promoting institutional changes to support the needs of a diverse faculty in all fields.
Tapia is an associate professor of English language and literature, associate professor of women’s studies and director of undergraduate studies in LSA. She has served on the Rackham Humanities Diversity Committee since summer 2014.
At Rackham, her contributions have been instrumental in the development and launching of the new Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program, the construction and continuing refinement of recruiting strategies to be shared with departments, and the creation of a draft resource to be made available to departments.
Rackham also has benefited from her work to develop a presentation to faculty participating in the summer program about the role of diversity in the vitality of the humanities. Tapia also is known as the Department of English Language and Literature’s go-to faculty member for advice, support and guidance on diversity issues.
“Beyond her seemingly boundless energy, what most strikes me about Ruby is that she has been absolutely fearless about speaking on behalf of equity and inclusion in whatever forum it is required,” wrote Valerie Traub, Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of English and Women’s Studies.
“Not only is she attentive and generous in ways that disarm opposition; her observations are often so finely targeted and so rhetorically deft that they prove enormously helpful in moving conversation and scholarship along more productive paths.”