SU Announces 2024 President’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award Honorees

Group of diverse students at SU

 SALISBURY, MD—Salisbury University recently honored nine members of the campus community with its 2024 President’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion Awards, presented by SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre and Vanice Antrum, director of multicultural affairs.

“SU is a place of inclusion and belonging and acceptance — a place where everyone can be seen and felt and heard and valued,” said Lepre. “That’s really what we’re celebrating … we’re celebrating the commitment of our faculty, staff, and students to this shared sense of desire that we create an environment where there is true belonging.”

Honorees included:

  • Faculty: Drs. Carolyne King, assistant professor of English and director of first-year writing; Deneen Long-White, associate professor of public health and Opioid-Impacted Family Support Program project director in the Center for Healthy Communities; and Andrea Suk, assistant professor of secondary education
  • Staff: Brandon Smithson, director of intramurals and assistant manager of campus recreation facilities
  • Graduate Student: Sam Hicks, Office of Diversity and Inclusion graduate assistant
  • Undergraduate Students: Nyla Carter, Ben Schmitt, Kyra Stewart and Austin Walls

King was nominated for her work in disability rhetoric, including piloting a course on the topic twice in the past five years, leading to its being included in course options in SU’s disability studies minor.

“She uses a linguistic justice framework to honor the many languages and dialects spoken by our students [and] is incredibly aware of access issues for students with disabilities or who might need additional resources,” said Antrum, who read from each recipient’s nomination.

Long-White was lauded as a leader in multiple diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts at SU, and as a mentor to students and colleagues, especially those who identify as people of color.

“She has improved the climate of belonging on campus and represents us well to the community off campus in DEI and public health,” read Antrum.

Suk’s teaching approach centers on empowering future educators to create inclusive and supportive environments for students with disabilities by emphasizing the significance of understanding each student’s unique needs and adapting teaching strategies to meet them.

“By providing practical examples and real-life scenarios, she equips her students with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively support students with disabilities,” read Antrum. “Overall, her commitment to diversity and inclusivity at SU creates an environment where students from all backgrounds can thrive.”

In the past year, Smithson has created programs that allow all students, faculty and staff to participate, such as a recent Adaptive Sports Night featuring a wheelchair basketball tournament and para-boccia (with Dr. Dean Ravizza, professor of physical education, and the Commuter Connections program).

“During the course of these events, Brandon has had over 150 individuals participating in the adaptive sports activities, which demonstrates an interest in adaptive sports and inclusion here at SU,” Antrum read.

In the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), Hicks, of Keedysville, MD, has developed, organized, coordinated and delivered many events supporting students, faculty and staff.

“Sam is a collaborative, dynamic, energetic and thoughtful person who works with everyone in and outside of the ODI to serve the SU community at large,” read Antrum. “By utilizing her knowledge base as an educator, she is successful in developing and delivering training and workshops to various groups and actively creates a sense of community for all SU members.”

Carter, of Crofton, MD, spent the past year “promoting educational materials about nutrition, working with departments including University Dining Services, the Disability Resource Center, ODI and the Campus Housing and Residence Life Office,” read Antrum, noting that she also has continued efforts to promote awareness for Narcan training on campus.

Schmitt, of Salisbury, and Stewart, of Columbia, MD, were nominated for sharing their experiences with Autism to help SU faculty and future educators create inclusive content, respectful reflections and a classroom of belonging for all students. These efforts also included collaborating on the presentation “Bridging Gaps — Enhancing College Success for Students with Autism — A Professors’ Guide” for members of the campus community.

During the presentation, Schmitt led an initiative to share the concept of an “Autism Wheel,” which identifies the complexities of strengths and needs of individuals with Autism rather than presenting it as a linear spectrum. Stewart led an initiative to share new research related to females being diagnosed with Autism differently than males.

Schmitt “shared with me his struggles, not to gain sympathy or to gain an easier pathway at SU, but for us to problem-solve various situations,” read Antrum. “This taught me to be hyper focused on my expectations while increasing creativity on how to support students to reach those expectations.”

“Throughout the presentation, [Stewart] was open and honest with the audience on what SU and her professors did to support inclusion, access and belonging while also acknowledging that there are areas that still need to be better,” read Antrum.

Walls, of Centreville, MD, made a significant impact on the SU community through his dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus environment, organizing events and initiatives that have celebrated diversity, promoted inclusion and encouraged dialogue on important social issues.

“Their commitment to creating a welcoming space for all students, regardless of background or identity, has helped strengthen the sense of community on campus,” read Antrum. “Their leadership and advocacy have played a crucial role in promoting understanding, empathy and respect among students, faculty and staff” and have “contributed to making SU more welcoming, inclusive and engaging for students from the LGBTQ+ community.”

The ceremony closed with a surprise presentation to former SU President Charles Wight, announcing the naming of SU’s Center for Equity, Justice and Inclusion in his honor. Wight dedicated the center in 2018.

This year marked the 16th year the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion Awards have been presented.

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