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Richard A. Flournory Engagement Award recognizes champions of inclusion

November 3, 2021

Four faculty members and two students received the Richard A. Flournory Award in recognition of their efforts to promote inclusivity at NIU.  Dawn Brown, Joseph Flynn, Harvey Green, Janice Hamlet, Lichuan Liu and Brittany Price were honored during the Richard A. Flournory Homecoming Inclusion Reception in October.

Sponsored by the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Presidential Commission on the Race and Ethnicity, the award was created in 2020 to honor Flournory, who founded the NIU Inclusion Reception in 1990 then called the Minority Reception.

The reception, which has since been renamed in Flournory’s honor, occurs the Friday of homecoming weekend each October, and brings together alumni, students, faculty, staff and community members for an inclusive celebration. The award, much like the reception, celebrates diversity and inclusion and recognizes those who have worked to make NIU a more inclusive place.

“This award is an important one for the NIU community,” said Monique Bernoudy, assistant vice president, NIU Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “We need to recognize people for the work they do to make our campus and community welcoming.”

Bernoudy said the efforts made by each individual have made a difference on campus, in the community and beyond.

“These people don’t seek accolades,” Bernoudy said. “It isn’t necessarily part of the job that they do; they go above and beyond and we reap the benefits of this inclusive community. When you feel welcomed and you feel like you belong, someone has worked to make that occur.”

Here’s more about this year’s winners.

Dawn Brown

Dawn Brown

Since coming to NIU five years ago, Dawn Brown’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has been unwavering. A clinical assistant professor of physical therapy and director of clinical education, Brown has been deliberate with her efforts to make the physical therapy program a place where students, faculty, and staff may share their lived experiences and perspectives to enrich the entire program and NIU academic community.

Brown said receiving this award empowers her to remain vigilant in her efforts, no matter the challenges and obstacles that arise along the way.

“Administrators, faculty, staff, and students need self-reflection and an understanding of their own biases, assumptions, and stereotypes about people from sociocultural identities that may differ from their own,” Brown said.  “Only through cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, and cultural humility can we, as a university, learn to respect and engage with one another to ensure that everyone is included – not excluded. We can only be ‘Better Together’ when everyone has achieved a sense of belonging and can bring their authentic self to campus and thrive.”

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn puts his whole self into making NIU more inclusive. The associate director of academic affairs at the Center for Black Studies and associate professor of curriculum and instruction in NIU’s College of Education, Flynn said he was truly humbled to receive this award.

“Being extended an honor like this is a wonderful affirmation of our work and commitment to doing what we can to make NIU a welcoming and empowering place for all students, staff, faculty, and administration,” Flynn said.

Flynn is a respected leader whose expertise on race and engagement has helped countless people learn and grow. He encourages others to be open and involved, adding that it does not matter where you start as long as you continue advancing your own knowledge, creating partnerships and community, and regularly reflecting on your own actions, values, beliefs, relationships.

“Recognize that being involved in justice and diversity work is not a one-off enterprise,” Flynn said. “It is a way of life, but that does not have to start in big ways like organizing or giving presentations. Smaller moves like watching and discussing a book, documentary, film, or TV show, or joining a campus organization, or taking a class are just as important. I think at root it is about engaging in your own learning and then sharing that with your community.”

Flynn said that backlash is a reality when it comes to advancing conversations about diversity and justice, as there is a great deal of division, dismissal, and misunderstanding or misrepresentation.

“This work does require reflection, action, and patience; if you are just starting out this is not a semester long activity. If you have been working with these issues for a while sometimes things can seem futile,” Flynn said. “What is essential is that we always remember that ultimately this is a fundamentally human project. Those of us involved with this work do it in an attempt to influence the continued development of a community in which we all feel safe, engaged, recognized, and respected.”

Harvey Green

Harvey Green

Working to make NIU a more inclusive place to be is something that Harvey Green has done since arriving at NIU.

“I remember how afraid I was as a young, queer and trans kid moving away from home for the first time, and how substantially some kind souls at this university helped me feel at ease,” Green said. “If I can contribute to a campus culture that facilitates more of those special connections that will have been enough. I am honored that those attempts were noticed and that I was able to make such a visible impact.”

Green is a student, campus leader, advocate and activist. As vice president of PRISM, the LGBTQ+ student organization, and as a member of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center’s Speaker’s Bureau, Green has educated other students about queer and transgender experiences on NIU’s campus.

Green urges students to use their voice which is critical to forcing change and making NIU an inclusive space.

“If you see something on campus, be it a physical incident, a facet of campus culture, a site for improvement, say something,” Green said. “In my nearly four years here, I have seen students make so much change in relatively little time. Your voice holds power, and I encourage you to harness it.”

Green’s message to faculty and staff is simple: listen to your students.

“We are on the ground every single day. The things that you study, the reasons that you develop a pedagogy of inclusion and equity, those are our lived realities. We know what we need to make our campus safer – and we need your help facilitating those changes. We can make substantial headway if we work together on these initiatives.”

Janice Hamlet

Janice Hamlet

When it comes to making NIU a more inclusive place, Janice Hamlet practices what she preaches.

As the associate vice provost for faculty mentoring and diversity, Hamlet has led NIU’s Preparing Future Faculty of Color program for the past six years, inspiring attendees through her efforts, insights and leadership in this critical area.

“Practicing equity and inclusiveness is a lot like Christianity,” Hamlet said. “Christianity is not about how many bible verses you can recite, it’s about how you demonstrate those biblical teachings; how you live your life and how you treat others. This is how it should be with diversity, equity and inclusion advocates. It is not enough to just talk about it, conduct research about it, be on committees discussing it. We need to demonstrate it by what we say, how we treat others, and what we do.”

Hamlet said it doesn’t matter what you say about diversity, equity and inclusion; it’s about what you do and how you act that affects people and has the greatest impact.

“We must be willing to stand up and speak out and do what is right and fair,” Hamlet said. “We must also stop thinking that advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion is an act of sympathy toward people of color. Nonsense! It is an act of social justice. It is to acknowledge and embrace the wealth of knowledge, skills, experience, and creativity that people of color bring to the table if only they were invited to it.  Practicing equity and inclusiveness in all we do can only make this university, this community, this country better for us all.”

Lichuan Liu

Lichuan Liu

Lichuan Liu shows exceptional commitment to build an inclusive campus environment at NIU, and her leadership helps to motivate and uplift women, colleagues and the university.

Liu, professor of electrical engineering, has been active in developing innovative programs for women students who are underrepresented in engineering fields. She works to create opportunities that help women students achieve their educational and career goals, serving as a reference for women students, introducing internship opportunities and providing research opportunities under her supervision.

“As a woman engineering student, an electrical engineer, a researcher and a female engineering educator, I noticed that women in the STEM field are a minority,” Liu said. “I really want to do something to encourage more girls in this area: teach, mentor, advise, supervise and be a role model for female students in STEM field is what I have done and plan to do through my career in my future.”

Liu said she is grateful for the university’s focus on improving inclusiveness and encourages others to do their part in forcing change.

“We have such a great opportunity to make our university an environment of inclusion, diversity and equality,” Liu said. “I believe that we can work together to make our campus more inclusive.”

Brittany Price

Brittany Price

Brittany Price felt a call to action to make NIU’s department of geology a more inclusive environment, actively promoting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) principles. After becoming more aware and educated regarding how poorly black and indigenous people of color were represented in the field, she decided it was time to promote change through concentrated efforts within the department.

“When I compare myself to the Flournory Award recipients from 2020 and 2021, I see many individuals who have put in a lifetime’s worth of work to make NIU a truly inclusive institution,” Price said.  “While I feel honored to be counted amongst these individuals, I look at this award as a continual call to do my best to continue to center the needs of those who must fight so much harder than myself to be given the same opportunities and resources.”

Price said that the path to creating an equitable, just and inclusive community is not an easy one, but the work is important.

“Change can take time, but there are many opportunities to get involved here at NIU,” Price said. “There are others in your department and around campus who are already involved in initiatives to propel positive change, reach out and express your interest in getting involved.”

Price was one of six graduate students in the department who participated in the National Science Foundation funded anti-racism program Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences (URGE). Through URGE, she worked to establish the framework for building a more diverse department that centers on the inclusion and success of minoritized groups that are historically excluded from the geosciences. Price was selected for NIU’s Presidential Commission on Race and Ethnicity (PCORE), as well as the geology department’s DEI committee for the 2021-22 academic year.

Price’s engagement and passion for institutional change is in alignment with university’s mission, goals and values.