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PCSM names Deacon Davis award recipients

April 15, 2013
Top: Latasha Bennett, Sandy Lopez. Bottom: Nancy Russo and James Cohen

Top: Latasha Bennett, Sandy Lopez. Bottom: Nancy Russo and James Cohen

NIU’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities has announced the recipients of the 2013 Deacon Davis Diversity Awards: student Latasha Bennett, staff member Sandy Lopez, faculty members James Cohen and Nancy Russo and the Society of Women Engineers.

Named in honor of Deacon Davis, founder and former Director of the CHANCE (Counseling Help & Assistance Necessary for a College Education) Program, the award was created to recognize the significant contributions made to the improvement of the status of minorities on campus by members of the university community.

Bennett will graduate in May as one of the first students to complete a degree in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement through the Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development (NGOLD). According to her nominator, she is committed to social justice and issues in diversity. In addition to her coursework, she is involved student groups on campus, and serves in a leadership role for her sorority.

Lopez serves at assistant to the director for the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies. She devotes many hours after work and in the evenings to assist in the success of students, including working the student organization DREAM ACTion NIU. She spends time with middle and high school students, helping them to understand that college can be for them as well.

One nominator summarized all of the work she does with students: “She shows great enthusiasm organizing culture events of interest to students, and she encourages them to take advantage of scholarships, financial aid, and mentoring opportunities.”

Cohen, assistant professor in the Department of Literacy Education of the College of Education, shares his knowledge of English as a Second Language (ESL) and bilingual education while working with future K-12 school teachers. Early in his career at NIU, he applied for and received a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Education Professional Development called Project DREAMS. Through the grant, NIU undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to earn ESL/bilingual certificates. This major grant is just one of many that his nominators highlighted.

Russo, professor in the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems, demonstrates teaching excellence as she shows her students the types of diversity they may encounter after they graduate and begin their careers. She helps prepare students for the “workforce and real world” and encourages them to think creatively yet critically according to one of her former students who wrote a letter on her behalf. Her teacher evaluations “reveal that students are very receptive to her efforts to promote diversity and provide an overall high quality learning experience” as described by her nominator.

Logo of the NIU Society of Women EngineersThe Deacon Davis Diversity Award also recognizes organizations, departments or programs that significantly improve the status of minorities at NIU. This year’s organization recipient is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which is a NIU student organization affiliated with the national SWE.

The NIU-SWE participates in a multitude of activities, including open houses for prospective students.

One nominator wrote: “The recruitment and retention of female students at the college has gone up by more than 200 percent over the last three years.” Members in the organization also help with outreach events for elementary and middle school children, often working in conjunction with the National Society for Black Engineers and the Hispanic Society.

NIU’s PCSM was established in the late 1970s to assure that NIU would consistently and comprehensively reflect, sponsor, mandate and support activities designed to enhance the status of minorities. It is the oldest commission in existence on the NIU campus.

The Deacon Davis Diversity Award recipients will be recognized during the “Diversity and Inclusion Summit” sponsored by the PCSM. The awards ceremony will begin at 4:35 p.m. Monday, April 15, in the Sky Room in the Holmes Student Center. All are welcome to attend.

For more information, call (815) 753-6038 or email [email protected].

Celebrating Excellence logoThis event is part of Celebrating Excellence at NIU, scheduled from Sunday, April 14, through Sunday, April 28. Celebrating Excellence highlights the accomplishments and contributions of NIU students, faculty, staff and alumni to the university’s mission of promoting excellence and engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and outreach and service during the academic year.