Diversity and Equity awards honor CWU and Ellensburg community members


Omar Benitez

President Wohlpart giving his introductory speech.

Omar Benitez, Senior Reporter

The ninth annual CWU President’s Diversity awards kicked off on March 2 in the SURC Ballroom. 

The night began with an introduction from President Jim Wohlpart where he recognized the native tribes of this land.

“This is the historic home of the Yakama people, the Klickitat, the Palouse, the Walla Walla, the Wanapum, the Wenatchee and the Wishram people,” Wohlpart said. “They remain committed stewards of this land, cherishing it and protecting it through the generations. We are honored and grateful to be here today on their traditional lands and we give thanks to the legacy of the original people.”

The ceremony continued with a speech from guest speaker and Yakima School District Superintendent Trevor Greene. Greene is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and was raised on the Yakama Indian Reservation, and he talked about how he’s been trying to make an impact for the native community as an educator.

“Oftentimes, when I was growing up and even now as an educator, I would see that my people [the native community] were not even included, and that was something that was often ignored or not recognized in the field of education,” Greene said. “So I committed to making a difference for those that needed a voice.”

The award ceremony then officially began and more guest speakers stepped up to the podium to unveil the winners. The awards were divided in three categories and were given to students, faculty and staff. 

The first awards handed out were the student awards. The winners included Diversity and Equity Center Student Initiative Coordinator Paige Hall, ASCWU Equity Vice President Mariah Minjarez, ASCWU President Luis Reyes and accounting assistant Manny Valencia.

Valencia, a senior in accounting and the son of two first-generation Mexican immigrants, talked about how much this recognition means to him.

“Just to be nominated is a humbling experience, win or lose,” Valencia said. “I feel like just being nominated and recognized by my peers, that’s everything to me. So I was overwhelmed to even have my name announced and have [the diversity award] right here, I’m just very grateful.”

The second round of awards handed out was the faculty awards, and there were a total of five winners, including Assistant Professor in economics Tennacia Dacass, Director of Bands T. Andre Feagin, Professor of business Sayantanni Mukherjee, Associate Professor in physics Darci Snowden and Director of El Centro LatinX for Latino and Latin American Studies Christina Torres-Garcia.

Feagin, who’s been director of bands for three years, talked about how important diversity is in university in making an inclusive atmosphere for everyone.

“The real conversation is belonging and inclusivity, and those have to do with atmosphere and how people feel in an environment,” Feagin said. “I think before we can talk about diversity from a number sake, we have to talk about how inclusivity and belonging impact why people go to places and more importantly, why people stay at places.”

Five awards were also given out to staff; including Assistant Director of Leadership and Development Fiona Corner, Regional Director Mishel Kuch, Exploratory Academic Advisor Jessica Murillo-Rosales Davis, Assistant Director of Culinary Operations Joe Ritchie and Disability and Accessibility Consultant Kendall Smart.

Growing up in a first generation immigrant Guatemalan home, Murillo-Rosales faced her share of obstacles that comes with being from a first generation family, like being first in the family to attend college. In her role as advisor, she does her best to guide students who find themselves in similar situations she was in.

“Going through college and being a first generation college student, a child of immigrants, I recognized that there were privileges out there that I might not be able to achieve in one way due to my ethnicity,” Murillo-Rosales said. “That’s why I became an advisor, to try to help remove some of these barriers and make sure that they feel welcomed and they have the resources they need to stay.”

The final award given out of the night was the Bobby Cummings Lifetime Achievement Award that was awarded to former Vice President of Inclusivity and Diversity Dr. Kandee Cleary.

The awards were started by Cleary as a way to honor those individuals working to spread diversity and equity on campus.

“This was her vision, to elevate the work of diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus,” Wohlpart said. “She did it to recognize the people doing this really important and hard work.”

According to Wohlpart, all winners and nominees were nominated by other students, faculty and staff with nomination forms that get emailed out to the university community.

Nominations for next year’s awards begin in November and nominations will be collected in January, according to Wohlpart.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
Navigate Left
Navigate Right