Six faculty members whose service contributes to the development of a culturally and ethnically diverse University of Michigan community have received 2019 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Awards from the Office of the Provost.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Valeria Bertacco, College of Engineering.
  • Ron Eglash, School of Information and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
  • Marita Inglehart, School of Dentistry and LSA. (Lifetime Achievement Award)
  • Petra Kuppers, LSA, Stamps School and School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
  • Chinedum Okwudire, College of Engineering.
  • J. Frank Yates, LSA and Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Established in 1996, the award is given in honor of Harold Johnson, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work.

“Faculty at the University of Michigan are instrumental to the success of cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus,” says Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer.” “Their contributions, both in and out of the classroom serve as a catalyst that drives who we are, and what we strive to become as a University.”

The awards will be presented during a ceremony on May 14, with each honoree receiving a $5,000 stipend.

The following profiles have been compiled from information submitted in nomination letters.

Valeria Bertacco

Bertacco, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has worked to create an inclusive, supportive and welcoming climate for diverse students and faculty in computer science and engineering.

Valeria Bertacco

To address the limited participation of women in her discipline, Bertacco created the Computing CARES (Climate and Retention Engagement for Success) program. The program aims to boost classroom climate and women’s participation and retention in computer science and engineering courses through methods like homework assignments and in-class presentations for students taking the first three semesters of programming courses.

For example, for one homework assignment, students are tasked with investigating gendered language on ratemyprofessor.com and by reflecting on their observations. In another method, students in the course are shown a video depicting interviews with a diverse set of students who have completed the course.

“The interventions strive to convey to the class that students of any gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economical background, etc. can become successful computer scientists,” wrote Jennifer Linderman, professor of chemical engineering and of biomedical engineering, and director of the ADVANCE program.

As an active member of the CSE Diversity Committee, Bertacco, associate dean for academic programs and initiatives at the Rackham Graduate School, also helped organize and develop a series of workshops on inclusive teaching that all graduate student instructors and instructional aides teaching introductory-level courses attended. In 2015, she helped found ECSEL — the Ensemble of CSE Ladies — which organizes peer mentoring for all incoming female graduate students. Bertacco has served as the faculty mentor for the group since its inception.

As the Rackham associate dean for graduate programs in physical sciences and engineering, Bertacco organized U-M’s participation in the California Alliance Research Exchange Program, which promotes research exchanges by doctoral students from under-represented groups. She also piloted the ReBoot Initiative, which organizes boot camp-style workshops to boost diversity in programs’ graduate applicant pool.

Since 2009, Bertacco has worked with universities in Ethiopia to develop computer science education capacity, and her efforts have led to critical student exchange opportunities.

Ron Eglash

Eglash, professor of information and of art and design, is committed to increasing cultural diversity and equity.

Ron Eglash

His primary academic work, “African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design,” was “a new milestone in opposing racist portraits and ‘primitive’ stereotypes,” wrote Audrey Bennett, professor of art and design.

Eglash’s work has been highlighted in both academic and public spheres, as his TED talk gained more than 1.5 million views and his work was covered in media outlets like The New York Times and The Economist.

Devoting much of his career to K-12 diversity outreach, Eglash helped develop a suite of award-winning web applets called “Culturally Situated Design Tools,” which are web-based software applications that allow students to create simulations of cultural arts using mathematical principles. These tools demonstrated statistically significant improvement in science, technology, engineering and math scores for African-American, Latino and Native American students, as well as students in Africa, Bennett wrote.

Eglash served as chair of the Coalition to Diversify Computing in 2009 and is a founding member of the Center for Minorities and Persons with Disability in Information Technology. When he worked at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he used his external grants to recruit and sustain underrepresented graduate students in science and technology studies, as well as students in computer science.

At U-M, his work with “Culturally Situated Design Tools” includes a collaboration with Michigan State University in teacher professional development, community outreach with libraries and community agriculture in Ypsilanti, and workshops with American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit.

Marita Inglehart

Inglehart, professor of dentistry and adjunct professor of psychology, has spent her decades-long career promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, and is the recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award,

Marita Inglehart

She has served in several programs related to mentoring and advancement for underrepresented minority students, including the Comprehensive Studies Program Mentorship Program, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and the U-M Mentorship Program.

Inglehart has participated in several School of Dentistry, university and national committees and programs, including the school’s Multicultural Initiatives Committee and Taskforce on Special Needs Patients, the Senate Advisory Committee for University Affairs Committee for a Multicultural University, and the Michigan Oral Health Taskforce subcommittee on child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse.

She helped establish the Multicultural Affairs Committee, which has been critical to the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion at the School of Dentistry and the university, wrote William Giannobile, William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor of Dentistry, professor of dentistry, and of biomedical engineering.

Inglehart runs an ongoing continuing education program for faculty, students and staff that covers a wide range of topics in patient care, such as treating patients with disabilities, patients with neurological disorders, underserved populations and underrepresented groups.

She served as the program data manager of the Health Careers Opportunity Program, which addresses access, retention, matriculation and professional development of diverse dental professionals.

Inglehart also developed diversity-related orientation programs that received two Best New Program in Dental Education Awards from the American Dental Education Association.

“She enhances the success of student and faculty from diverse backgrounds, serves as an enthusiastic mentor to countless students, and, through her research, continues to bring equity to our society,” wrote Dentistry Dean Laurie McCauley.

Petra Kuppers

Kuppers brings to her diversity service work “a globally-recognized expertise in disability studies and performance-based activism that reconstructs space and power in the name of honoring and mobilizing difference,” according to nomination materials.

Petra Kuppers

Kuppers is a professor of English language and literature, women’s studies, art, and theatre and drama. She has authored six academic books on disability and the arts, and is the founder of Olimpias, an artists’ collective and performance research series.

Olimpias “explores art/life, cross-genre participatory practices, arts for social change, and disability culture work” and creates “collaborative, research-focused environments open to people with physical, emotional, sensory and cognitive differences and their allies,” according to nomination materials.

Along with organizing events and conversations that allow community members to discuss issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, Kuppers serves as chair of the English Department Diversity Committee and as the English Rackham Diversity Faculty Ally.

For many years, Kuppers directed the U-M Initiative in Disability Studies, which seeks to expand diversity at U-M by integrating the study of disability into research, scholarship and teaching. She is an active member of the initiative’s steering committee, and she has also been the faculty adviser to the Disability Studies Rackham Group since its founding in 2014.

Graduate students note Kuppers’ ability to “empower community members to thrive and create for themselves accessible spaces of learning and expression,” according to application materials.

“All of the classes that she teaches approach theory through creative, performance, and/or site-based practices,” wrote one of Kuppers’ Ph.D. advisees in nomination materials. “She has a unique and beautiful way of bringing critical texts into contact with students’ own lives and their embodied experiences — a pedagogical approach that offers a bridge for students who might otherwise feel alienated from the material or marginalized in traditional discussion formats.”

Chinedum Okwudire

Okwudire, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has worked to support efforts that foster diversity in his department.

Chinedum Okwudire

While serving on the mechanical engineering department’s undergraduate program committee, he learned that on average, African-American students performed poorly relative to their peers in core courses of the department’s undergraduate curriculum.

He helped apply for an ADVANCE Faculty Leading Change grant to study this issue and he learned that African-American students felt a sense of isolation due to the small number of them in the department.

To address these concerns, Okwudire led the establishment of two student clubs for African-American students — one for undergraduates and the other for graduates. These clubs hold monthly meetings for academic and social support and mentorship, and this model has spread to other departments.

Okwudire also helped to establish the Dean’s Advisory Committee for Faculty of Color, which was created to increase the recruitment and retention of faculty of color in the College of Engineering and advise leadership on issues of importance to these faculty members.

He co-initiated the NextProf Pathfinder Workshop aimed at first- and second-year Ph.D. students to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to develop strong curricula vitae that could help them be more competitive for faculty positions.

Along with serving as the faculty adviser for the National Society of Black Engineers, Okwudire has mentored several students and he developed an outreach program aimed at inspiring underrepresented minority students in middle school in Detroit to pursue futures in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

J. Frank Yates

Yates, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and professor of psychology and of business administration, helped found several U-M programs and initiatives to increase diversity.

J. Frank Yates

Following the Black Action Movement student strike to improve student services for minority students in 1968, Yates wrote a proposal to begin the Coalition for the Use of Learning Skills, which later combined with the Opportunities Program, which focused on minority student recruitment.

These programs later developed into the current Comprehensive Studies Program, which serves more than 2,700 undergraduates from underrepresented groups and offers coursework and academic advising that extends to M-STEM Academies and learning communities such as Women in Science and Engineering.

Yates was also instrumental in the formation of the U-M Black Graduate Students in Psychology Association, which focuses on the recruitment and retention of black students in psychology and offers them professional development and networking opportunities as well as community and support.

Noting the lack of diversity among business school students, Yates founded and has served since 2005 as the faculty director of the Ross School’s Preparation Initiative. The initiative was developed as a learning community designed to attract and support first year undergraduates who have expressed an interest in applying to the business school and identify as having “risk factors,” such as hailing from underrepresented groups or under-resourced K-12 schools, according to nomination materials.

The program offers a focus on socialization into the business school as well as academic supports to help students improve their business school applications and prerequisite course grades.

Yates continues to serve on many committees dedicated to the issue of improving the success of minority students, and he has possessed a career-long interest in helping the next generation of minority scientists.

“His earlier work on education and achievement was the impetus for decades of social psychological research on stereotypes and stereotype threat, setting the stage for countless future psychologists to examine the external causes and internal biases that cause debilitating effects on performance of minority students,” according to nomination materials.

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