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Feb. 28, 2013 Volume 34, No. 21

Awards for MU diversity work given to students, staff and faculty


Several faculty received awards in diversity

On Monday, MU officials from the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative awarded students, staff and faculty with the 2013 Inclusive Excellence Award and the Faculty Achievement Awards in Diversity. The awards are given to individuals or groups who have made contributions to diversity, such as gender, racial-ethnic background, language, religious belief, sexual orientation, disabilities and economic strata. The following people each received the Inclusive Excellence Award.

Tracy Johnson is a third year law student and president of Mizzou’s chapter of Lambda Legal, an organization dedicated to awareness and inclusion. Johnson has worked to re-establish the organization, which had struggled to maintain a presence at MU. Lambda Legal is committed to achieving full recognition of civil rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Within the Office of Diversity at the MU School of Law, Johnson promotes and develops initiatives including mentoring programs and alumni outreach to improve the sustainability and representation of diversity within the school.

Rhonda Miller is an accelerated nursing student at MU working on her second bachelor’s degree. Originally from Panama, she grew up traveling around the world as a member of a United States military family. She has been at MU for four years and is the founder and president of the newly formed Diversity in Nursing Association (DNA). She created DNA to inspire and serve underrepresented populations in the nursing program as a means to diversify the nursing profession.

Jenny Chism is an academic adviser in the Trulaske College of Business and works with the Vasey Academy, which provides minority students with opportunities to learn about business and the economy as well as various academic paths into the business world. She is the Trulaske College of Business Diverse Student Association adviser and helps organize programs to educate students about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Clyde Ruffin joined the MU faculty in 1983 as a professor of theatre and founding director of the MU World Theatre Workshop. He has served as department chair from 1990 to 1995 and from 2007 to present. He is the recipient of the President’s Award for Community Engagement, Purple Chalk Award, Kemper Teaching Fellowship, Faculty Alumni Award and the Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creativity. He was awarded the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Medallion for regional and national service. 

From 1996 to 2003, he served as the Artistic Director for the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration and is currently President of the John W. “Blind” Boone Foundation. In 2011, Professor Ruffin led the successful campaign to place a headstone on the unmarked grave of James T. Scott, a 1923 lynching victim buried in the Columbia Cemetery for which he received the NAACP Distinguished Community Service Award.

Jessica Semler, Erika Patterson, David Tager, and Susan Even are psychologists who work at the MU counseling center and MU student health center. They noticed a need for inclusive and knowledge-driven mental health and physical health care for MU transgender students.

Over the past two years, these providers have actively sought opportunities to improve safety and services for transgender people on campus and in the Columbia community. 

They have worked to organize transgender issues training (TransAction Team Training) for the MU Counseling Center and the Student Health Center staff to improve health care providers’ awareness. Semler gained approval from the counseling center to provide long-term counseling services for individuals moving toward and progressing through transitions. 


Faculty Achievement Award in Diversity

Three faculty each received the Faculty Achievement Award in Diversity. This is an endowed award to be given annually to three faculty members whose work elevates diversity and inclusion on the MU campus. 

Demetrio Anzaldo González currently teaches courses in Spanish composition and conversation, Latin American literature, Mexican art and culture, and medical Spanish in the romance languages and literature department in the College of Arts and Science. 

Astrid Villamil is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Science. Before pursuing graduate studies, Villamil worked for two years in her native country of Colombia as a communication specialist, implementing training and development opportunities for employees in various corporate settings. Once in graduate school, she focused her research agenda on communication processes surrounding diversity in organizations. 

• Antonio J. Castro is an assistant professor of social studies and teacher education in the Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum in the College of Education. His research interests include the recruitment, preparation and retention of teachers for culturally diverse contexts and urban schools, as well as multicultural citizenship and democratic education. Prior to serving as an assistant professor, Castro taught in urban schools and worked in a variety of outreach and educational programs for low-income and minority populations. He currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in diversity and social studies education at MU.  

— Jerett Rion