Skip to main content

Ten people or groups received 2015 University Diversity Awards recognizing their significant contributions to the enhancement, support and furtherance of diversity on the Carolina campus and in the community.

The seventh annual diversity awards, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, were presented March 23 during a reception at the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt observed that the people receiving these awards were the kind of selfless individuals that don’t expect to be recognized for what they do.

“These are not the things that people do to gather awards. These are the things that people do because it comes up from the heart,” Folt said. “Every one of these is a choice, a decision made from the heart in a way to reach out to other people.”

Said Taffye Benson Clayton, associate vice chancellor and chief diversity officer: “Today is an important indication of how UNC continues to support the work of promoting diversity, both on our campus and in our surrounding community.”

For the first time, two people received the faculty award. Rumay Alexander, clinical professor and director of multicultural affairs in the School of Nursing, was one of them. Her nominator said she “treats all with respect and dignity and is often the conscience of the School of Nursing.” Alexander’s influence is national as well as local with her service with the American Hospital Association, the National League for Nursing and the American Organization of Nurse Executives. At Carolina, she initiated the School of Nursing’s “Courageous Dialogues” in which faculty and staff come together to discuss their responses to books, film and other media. She also serves on the Faculty Governance Committee on Community and Diversity and as a diversity champion for the School of Dentistry and Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The other faculty member to be honored was Brian Hogan, research assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. “The greatest significance of his work comes from increasing the number of students that are traditionally excluded from careers in chemistry,” said his nominator. Hogan co-directs the Trans-Atlantic Science Student Exchange Program and is academic director of Scholars’ Latino Initiative, which increases access for Latina/o high school students. A Faculty Engaged Scholar, Hogan worked on the creation of the UPLIFT PLUS curriculum for high school students and led a student group that provides surplus science materials to under-resourced middle schools. He is also founder and president of a nonprofit in Guatemala focused on women’s literacy and the building of schools.

Fostering diversity is a foundational principle of the Friday Center, winner of the department/unit member award. Examples of its mission to expand access include part-time studies, correctional education, adult learner scholarships and a wide range of conferences, programs and performances.

Two students received undergraduate student awards. Frank Brady Gilliam of Charlotte, a first-year comparative literature major, spent his gap year volunteering as an English tutor and interning in small medical clinics in Thailand, Madagascar, Bolivia and Peru. At Carolina, Gilliam has been a Campus Y intern with global interests, including connecting Duke and UNC students involved in international projects. An LGBTQ activist, he has been a member of the LGBTQ Housing Community Board and conducted research in oral history and queer anthropology. Looking at all Gilliam has accomplished in just his first semester, his nominator said that, in “25 years of teaching college students, it is hard for me to imagine (or even remember) a more deserving candidate for the Diversity awards.”

The co-recipient of the undergraduate student award was Trey Mangum, a senior from Roxboro majoring in journalism and mass communication. As president of the Black Student Movement and diversity columnist for the Daily Tar Heel, Mangum has worked to bridge the gap between black faculty and students and to raise awareness of various issues faced by underrepresented students. “Trey takes the approach of educating rather than persecuting,” said his nominator.

Blessing Aghaulor, a second-year medical student from Nairobi, Kenya, received this year’s graduate and professional student award. As an undergraduate at Yale, she found her passion for public health and Chinese culture. This interest led her to design and implement a Medical Mandarin course for Carolina’s School of Medicine, as a pilot in fall 2014. The course teaches useful phrases for medical students and offers them a chance to build relationships with Chinese seniors in the community. Aghaulor said her course “offers interested students the tools and skills to become culturally and linguistically competent physicians in the future.”

Staff award winner Amy Burtaine is director of Interactive Theatre Carolina in Student Wellness, which uses theater to address the intersections of health and social identity. “Amy works to ensure the efforts of ITC affords Carolina students the ability to find and have a voice…to tell their story,” said her nominator. Trained as a social justice educator, Burtaine has worked nationally and internationally in theatre and education for over 20 years, including training with Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed in Brazil.

The campus organization award went to the Carolina Indian Circle, which creates cultural and learning opportunities for the entire campus and provides more insight into the Native citizens of the state and of the nation. Founded in 1974, the Carolina Indian Circle is a registered student organization that provides a positive atmosphere and a sense of community to Native students. It also advocates for the recognition and respect of Native American cultural heritage through cultural events, education and the awareness campaign “My Culture is Not a Costume.”

Documentary filmmaker Barb Lee received the alumni award. As founder and president of Point Made Films, Lee has been able to work on several documentaries that aim to promote the varying aspects of American identity, such as “Adopted,” a feature length documentary that explores the grit rather than glamour of international adoption, and “The Prep School Negro,” about the complicated issues that arise when African American students are given scholarships to attend elite prep schools. Lee is a past Board of Visitors member, a current member of the J-School Board of Advisors, and a founding member and past chair of the Alumni Committee on Racial & Ethnic Diversity.

The community award went to Kara Stewart, a member of the Sappony tribe and Tribal Council and literacy coach with the Chapel Hill- Carrboro City Schools. As chair of the Culturally Responsive Instruction Committee with the State Advisory Council on Indian Education, Stewart has been instrumental in developing online resources for accurate teaching to and about American Indians. “Kara believes that it is vital for Native people to be reflected in an accurate, contemporary and non- stereotypical way,” her nominator said. Stewart is also a photographer, poet and award-winning fiction writer published in “Rich Fabric – An Anthology: The Symbolism, Culture & Tradition of Quilting.”

In addition, the Harvey Beech Scholarship goes to students who exemplify a commitment to service and academics. The scholarship bears the name of one of the first four African-American students admitted to UNC who was the first to graduate in 1952. This year’s recipients were Kendall Atkins, a sophomore journalism and mass communication major; Nashara Moore, a junior management and society and sociology major; and Geovanni Parroquin, a junior political science major.

By Susan Hudson, University Gazette

Published March 23, 2015