Diversity Awards celebrate inclusion

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Diversity Awards celebrate inclusion

Emma Johnson, Staff Reporter

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The fifth annual Diversity Awards were held on Wednesday May 8th at 6:00 p.m. in the SURC Ballroom. The awards were presented by Office of the President and Office of the Vice President. The beginning of the ceremony started with emcee Veronica Gomez-Vilchis assistant director of the Diversity and Equity Center. Gomez-Vilchis then introduced student and poet Ruby Nambo who read her poem, “The Product of Tomorrow.”

CWU President James L. Gaudino gave a speech welcoming attendees to the event, discussing how springtime is the time of year when there are several awards ceremonies honoring faculty and staff, but that the Diversity Awards are the most important out of them.

The keynote speaker for this years ceremony was writer, journalist, social justice advocate and New York Times Best Selling author Ijeoma Oluo. She was also voted one of most influential people in Seattle by the Seattle Times, and one of the most influential women in Seattle by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. Oluo said she became a writer because she did not feel like she could say what she wanted to say, but now her perspective has changed.

Oluo discussed how the end result of diversity is not when a room looks diverse, but when an organization in said room has no other choice but to be diverse, because the diverse people in the room are recognized for their unique qualities. She then discussed how diversity requires equity, a commitment to growth, recognition of efforts, and celebrating small victories. Oluo also made a point to talk about how conversations of diversity should make people uncomfortable.

The Diversity Award winners was one faculty member, two staff members, a student, two community members and an alumni.

The faculty member was professor Teresa Devine, who is the advisor for the Black Student Union among other things for CWU. The first staff member was Natalia Thomas, and the second one was CWU Police Chief Jason Berthon-Koch. The student who won the award was Samuel Gutierrez who is the president of Brother to Brother club. The first community member who won the award was Pastor Jen Stuart of First United Methodist Church, who is making efforts to provide safe places for immigrant children, and advocates for LGBTQ+ acceptance in church, ensuring that her church is a safe place of worship for anyone who wants to be there. An honorable mention was given to Rolf Williams, who is an advocate for destigmatizing mental and physical disabilities in the community. And finally, Alumni John Haroldson who is the district attorney of Benton County, Oregon. He is Oregon’s first Mexican-American district attorney.

Audrey Higginbotham, a student at CWU who attended the event said “I think [the event] was very eye opening, [Oluo] describes that the young adults should be shaping the future instead of the universities shaping how their students will affect the future.”


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