Published: April 7, 2021

Recipients, chosen by faculty committee, ‘work tirelessly and most times in the dark’ for diversity and inclusion

Thirteen students, staff and faculty members are being honored for their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the University of Colorado Boulder College of Arts and Sciences.

The winners are the recipients of the first awards from ASCEND, or the Arts and Sciences Consortium of Committees on Climate, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. 

The winners were selected and announced by the Diversity Committee of the Arts and Sciences Council, which is the primary representative body for the college’s faculty.

Celine Dauverd, associate professor of history and diversity-committee member, said the committee created the awards to acknowledge the “outstanding work of faculty, staff and students who work tirelessly and most times in the dark” in support of diversity and inclusion.

Undergraduate winners are Rita Disibio and Chris Castañeda, both BFA students in theater and dance. They were nominated by Kevin Rich, associate professor in theater and dance. 

In his nomination, Rich said Disibio and Castañeda “have been deeply engaged in efforts in the Department of Theatre and Dance to interrogate and decolonize our curriculum and production season.” 

Last summer, they and alumni and music students co-authored an open letter to the department “demanding that we implement anti-racist policies and practices in all of our classes and productions,” Rich said.  

Since then, they have been regularly meeting with department administration and helped form a student organization called CU IDEAS, “which is committed to issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in the Department of Theatre and Dance and across campus.” 

Graduate-student winners include Shen Lu of mathematics and Leanna Luney in ethnic studies. 

Lu, a PhD student in the Department of Mathematics, was nominated by the department’s diversity committee, which noted Lu’s work both as a graduate teacher and an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The committee characterized Lu this way:

“His work has been exemplary. Shen is one of the driving forces of the Diversity Committee, and has organized numerous events including, the ‘LGBTQ Safe Zone: LGBTQ Inclusion Presentation,’ and the ‘Wait Your Turn: Interrupting Sexism’ event.”  

Luney, a PhD student in the Department of Ethnic Studies, was nominated by department faculty members Nishant Upadhyay and CheyOnna Sewell.

Upadhyay and Sewell said Luney has demonstrated “inspiring leadership toward racial justice on campus and beyond.” 

The nominators added: “As the co-founder of BIPOC Radical Womxn/Femmes Collective, Luney has played a pivotal role over the last two years to create spaces to build community, organize and heal together. The anti-racist statement by the collective, co-authored by Luney, has been a foundational document for instructors on campus to address anti-racism in their classrooms.” 

Staff winners include Erin Cunningham, Kurt Gutjahr, Shelly Hammonds, Angie Jimenez, Karen Hawley and Victoria Romano, who are members of the staff-summit planning committee. 

Staff Summit Team

Staff summit planning committee. Pictured above: Karen Hawley, Erin Cunningham, Vicky Romano, Angie Jimenez and Kurt Gutjahr. Not pictured: Shelly Hammonds

This planning committee focuses on providing and supporting opportunities for greater learning which, they argue, increase job satisfaction, bolster staff retention, enhance productivity, and promote supportive, collaborative and sustainable working environments for all employees in the College of Arts and Sciences. The staff summit was born out the of the Be Seen initiative (part of the larger Be Heard program). Be Seen stands for Better Engaged Staff through Effective, Efficient Networking.

Bernadette M. Stewart, the college’s assistant dean of administration, noted that Be Seen views the role of community as central to creating diverse and inclusive work environments, adding that the ASC Diversity Committee recognizes the importance of staff partnership in the college’s broader mission and celebrates staff members. 

Faculty winners include Holly Barnard in geography, Mithi Mukherjee in history and Michele Simpson in the Farrand Residential Academic Program.

Barnard, associate professor in geography, was nominated three times—by Assistant Professors Coleen Reid and Katherine Lininger, and by the Antiracism and Diversity Committee of the Department of Geography.

The nominators said Barnard has worked “tirelessly to create an inclusive and diverse community” within the department, adding:

“She has played a key role in identifying possible candidates for STAR/FDAP (diversity) hires. She also led the effort to change the graduate admissions process in geography, including permanently dropping GRE scores in the admissions process due to their documented bias against underrepresented applicants.”

Mukherjee, associate professor of history, was nominated by 13 colleagues and students.

Nominators said that as an international faculty member, she has worked hard to promote the principles of diversity and inclusive excellence on campus for 20 years. They also praised Mukherjee's engagement in the field of human rights, dedication to diversifying course offerings, and her support of graduate students, undergraduate students and junior faculty members. All those she has worked with "have described Professor Mukherjee as supportive, creative and truly inspirational,” the nominators said. 

Mukherjee has been described as a model for scholarly excellence, pedagogical creativity and effectiveness, and commitment to diversity at CU Boulder.  

Simpson, senior instructor in the Farrand Residential Academic Program, was nominated by fellow faculty members Elizabeth Anderman and Laura DeLuca, who said that Simpson has demonstrated a commitment to the principles and actions of diversity and inclusion. 

They added that Simpson “contributes to enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion through active community involvement, creative pedagogy and student mentorship.” 

They added: “Her community involvement is particularly germane to our current political moment. In response to the murder of George Floyd, Michele was active with the Boulder Police commission on racial justice as well as the Boulder Police oversight Implementation Team. She hosted a Boulder Diversity and Inclusion Summit: Listening to Community Voices. She launched a monthly radio show: Black Talk. And she was an organizer and moderator for ‘Black in Boulder.’ She is a staunch supporter for BIPOC and LGBTQ students, in and out of the classroom.”

The Arts and Sciences Council ASCEND Awards are supported by James White, interim dean, and Hillary Potter, associate dean of inclusive practice. The diversity committee comprises:

·      Ceciia J. Pang, theatre and dance, chair

·      Celine Dauverd, history

·      Mara Goldman, geography

·      Angelica Lawson, ethnic studies and cinema studies and moving image arts

·      Carla Jones, anthropology

·      Colleen Scanlan Lyons, environmental studies