To view the April 1 DEI Student Leadership Awards ceremony, visit this link.
The O’Neill Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted its inaugural Student Leadership Awards on April 1 to honor students, faculty, and staff who have played a critical role in advancing DEI efforts within the school and in the larger community.
Once nominations were gathered, students voted on the recipients. The winners were announced at a virtual awards event. Students and nominators were able to share their thoughts about each of the recipients, including faculty of the year, Dr. Jamie Levine Daniel and Dr. Cullen C. Merritt, both from O’Neill IUPUI.
You don’t have to look far to find students who can attest to the impact Merritt has had on them. One person who nominated him for the award wrote, “Dr. Merritt has been such a role model for me thus far at IUPUI. I had him my first semester of my freshman year and he has impacted me in so many ways and still reaches out to me to this day.”
While many students say Merritt motivates them to pursue their dreams and advance equity, Merritt acknowledges that those same students encourage him to push further as well.
“Fighting to systematically advance diversity, equity, and inclusion inside and outside the classroom is essential,” Merritt says. “I look to O’Neill students for fresh and innovative ideas when seeking to further DEI. Their fearlessness in challenging the status quo, in particular, has been a tremendous source of inspiration. Receiving the Faculty of the Year Award—which was determined by student nominations—gives me further motivation to fight to advance DEI even if it makes people uncomfortable.”
Levine Daniel’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic have left a lasting mark on her students. One nominator said her approach to teaching and adaptability during COVID has allowed them “to flourish and find rejuvenation even during late evening classes.” That nominator went on to say, “Her energy is infectious, her willingness to courageously confront race and disenfranchisement in a clear, concise, and honest way provides space for students from all walks of life to see themselves positively reflected in the solutions we co-create in class.”
For Levine Daniel, knowing the award nomination and selection came from students reinforces her methods and is a sign that what she’s doing in the classroom is resonating.
“Our students are training to be public and nonprofit leaders,” Levine Daniel says. “They have to address wicked problems—problems of social complexity that lack clear solutions. Often these problems are rooted in issues of power and lack of access to resources and opportunities. We need look no further than our own campus—historical lands of Miami, Shawnee, and Potawatomi, and more recently its history of displacing communities of color—to see examples. I am thankful to my students who feel comfortable enough to ask uncomfortable questions, hold us accountable for answers, and constantly press us to do better.”
The DEI Student Leadership Awards ceremony recognized several other award recipients, including:
Student Organization of the Year: Students for Equity in Public Affairs, O’Neill Bloomington
Nominator: “First, SEPA members, particularly its presidents and board members, work tirelessly to achieve equity for themselves and others. These students often come from one or more underrepresented backgrounds and experience inequity as part of their lived experiences while they are students in O’Neill. Yet, they readily accept the challenge to face such inequities head-on so that they can leave O’Neill better than they found it for future students. While this process is not without many challenges, I have had the pleasure of watching students blossom personally and professionally as they see the good they can create in asking hard questions and pushing through institutional barriers from a student-led perspective.”
Research of the Year: Natali Jouzi and Li Feng, O’Neill Bloomington
Nominator: “The team developed an educational program for the case competition to develop an approach to influence policy and combat the opioid crisis in Indiana. The team had to use multiple data sources and remain budget neutral. The mission of the research was to prevent, reduce and eliminate opioid abuse by providing effective education to Indiana’s youth through an evidence-based prevention program. For this, the research focused on high school students and preventing opioid misuse. They adopted a program called “Project Towards No Drug Abuse” as their model, and the team suggested improvements for the curriculum and program while making it feasible. The main approach was to problem-solving and coming up with a solution was using Lean A3 thinking, SWOT analysis, fishbone diagram, project flow and timeline, cost-benefit analysis, and success/performance metrics. This research also won an award at the GT-IDEA Conference on Healthcare and Life Sciences Luddy Data Jam.”
Graduate Student of the Year: Sabrina Brant, O’Neill Bloomington
Nominator: “Sabrina is instrumental in creating the first step handbooks for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office. She had the vision to help those who were having difficulty in starting those hard conversations. They strive to create tangible materials to help others be well informed.”
Undergraduate Student of the Year: Ky Freeman, O’Neill Bloomington
Nominator: “Ky is extremely engaged in our class discussions and is willing to ask questions and challenge the accepted answer. For example, when we discussed comparative education policy, he noted that simply transferring a European approach would not work well because the American context is very different. In a 100-level class, it’s rare to have a student who is so passionate and engaged in the class material.”
Diversity Impact Award: Mike Bennett, Director of Information Technology, O’Neill Bloomington
Nominator: “As a director of O’Neill IT Team, he has been vital in helping his team’s minority staff’s concerns and problems. He truly contributes to change the view of current U.S. DEI environment. He works with the Diversity Equity Inclusion office to show staff have role models that represent their diverse and inclusive population. I believe his effort will change a view of DEI and enhance them in our school and community.”