November 2, 2009 — "The lifting power of many wings takes us all farther. We are flying twice or three times as high, even with our small staff of seven, because of all the wings of supporters, warriors and heroes for social justice and equal rights," said Darlene Scott-Scurry, director of Equal Opportunity Programs at the University of Virginia, in explaining the rationale for creating the EOP Champion Awards this year.
Much behind-the-scenes work done by U.Va. staff, administrators, faculty and students in the areas of human rights goes unnoticed because it must remain confidential, but it deserves to be acknowledged, said Scott-Scurry, who came to the University three years ago and began holding an annual fall open house for the U.Va. community.
The inaugural EOP Champion Awards, given at Friday's open house, recognize U.Va. community members who have taken it upon themselves or excelled in making the workplace a more welcoming or comfortable climate for all to succeed.
The 17 recipients, listed below, represent a variety of individuals and groups who followed new avenues to expand diversity in their work and educational settings – in the provost's office, in the Law School, the Engineering School and the offices of Information Technology – and who work tirelessly in recruiting and advocating for underrepresented faculty and students.
Scott-Scurry said the response to the call for nominations was positive, and she hopes to expand the number of winners from even more nominations next year, to keep the awards going annually.
The group paused after its ceremony to remember a previous director of Equal Opportunity Programs at U.Va. Karen Holt, who led the office from 1997 to 2003, was working as assistant vice president of the Institute for Public Service at the University of Tennessee. When she didn't get to work Oct. 27, a colleague found her at home, dead at 54 from an apparent heart attack.
"She was a zealous advocate who fought unceasingly for full inclusion of all people and issues," Scott-Scurry said. "She was dedicated and committed to strengthening and expanding EOP's programs and services. Even after leaving U.Va., Karen was always available to us, providing wise counsel and guidance.
"She laid a solid foundation for us to build upon. We will miss her."
The Equal Opportunity Programs office is a resource for addressing complaints related to discrimination, making disability accommodations and training in the legal aspects of faculty and senior administrator searches. The office also provides information and resources in different media and houses the ombudsman.
The Web page of "Frequently Asked Questions" is a good place to look over what the Equal Opportunity Programs office means to the U.Va. community.
The first group of U.Va. members named EOP Champions on Friday, with their award citations:
• University Internship Programs, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service (nominated by Karen Farber, the program's director): "The University Internship Program builds bridges between underrepresented communities and establishes connections among individual groups in various ways. The missions of many of the UIP internship sponsoring organizations in which students serve have racial minority and/or female populations. UIP actively recruits women and racial minority students for admission to the program and actively pursues diverse internship sponsors to serve as supervisors and mentors to its interns."
• UVA Pride (nominated by Edward Strickler, Claire Kaplan, Ellen Bass and Charlotte Patterson): "UVA Pride advocates for the creation of social space and engagement among LGBTQ members of the University community and for the creation of opportunities for learning about LGBTQ issues. They are committed to the goal that the workplace should be fair and just for all; believing that a workplace that welcomes LGBTQ diversity is more welcoming to other diverse communities."
• Beverly Adams, Carol Gutman, Shawn Lyons, College of Arts & Sciences association deans (nominated by Karen Ryan, professor of Slavic languages and literature): "Shawn, Beverly and Carol proposed a detailed protocol for hiring new association deans in the summer of 2009. The protocol is painstakingly designed to diversify the applicant pools for the association dean positions and to ensure careful consideration of minority candidates for association dean positions."
• Brian Balogh, professor of history (nominated by Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs): "Brian served on the President's Commission on Diversity and Equity and was a proponent of the commission's recommendation to establish a program to provide more opportunities for students to work collaboratively within communities of persons who come from different backgrounds and experience. He also works hard to diversify the faculty."
• Ellen J. Bass, associate professor of systems and information engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science (nominated by Deborah G. Johnson, Olsson Professor and Department of Science, Technology and Society chairman): "Ellen has made enormous contributions to the life of the University on behalf of social justice and equal rights. Ellen takes initiative in recruiting underrepresented students and by being proactive in encouraging and mentoring underrepresented students in her STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes and through her research program."
• Dr. Wendi El-Amin, assistant professor of family medicine (nominated by Dr. Sharon Hostler and Dr. R.J. Canterbury, School of Medicine): "Wendi exemplifies the spirit of this award through her devotion to increasing the number of underrepresented students who matriculate at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and to diversifying classrooms to create the strongest possible educational experience for all students. Wendi serves as an active role model. She lives what she advises working to eliminate disparities in health care access and delivery."
• Gertrude Fraser, vice provost for faculty recruitment and retention (nominated by Dawn Hunt, Maggie Harden and Sherri Barker, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention): "Gertrude has been a committed and formidable champion of equal rights for women and people of color, both faculty and students, for nearly two decades. She is dedicated to making the University an institution that offers equal commitment to, and resources for, the success of all faculty members."
• Kim Forde-Mazrui, professor of law (nominated by Barbara Ruddy, director of human resources, School of Law): "It is through Kim's tireless efforts that the Center for the Study of Race and Law has been met with widespread enthusiasm. He has also made notable contributions to the cause of social justice and equal rights. In 2007, he participated in a debate on same-sex marriage and adoption that brought a standing-room-only crowd to the School of Law."
• Valerie Gregory, associate dean of admission (nominated by Ryan Hargraves, senior associate dean of undergraduate admission): "Valerie has been a tremendous promoter of students from underrepresented groups within the context of U.Va.'s highly selective admissions process. For the past decade, she has dedicated her days, nights and weekends to recruiting and matriculating racial minority and low-income students. Not only does Valerie champion these prospective students, she also nurtures them through her leadership, advising numerous student organizations."
• Richard Haines, director, Chaplaincy Services and Pastoral Education (nominated by Mildred Best, Medical Center program manager, Chaplaincy Services and Pastoral Education): "Rev. Haines has continually supported principles of equal opportunity in the workplace. He established the Clyde Watson Award for clergy who have contributed to working for the betterment of the community."
• Barbara Johnson, administrative supervisor, Department of Astronomy (nominated by Janice Dean, fiscal technician, Department of Astronomy): "Barbara cultivates a supportive, productive office environment that allows her employee, an individual with multiple, invisible disabilities, to succeed. She treats her as a valuable human being while holding her to the same high standards she would expect of any other employee."
• Debra Mincarelli, human resource manager, Information Technology and Communications (nominated by Aron Teel, departmental computing support manager): "In the spring of 2009, an ITC employee revealed the intention of going public with a gender transition. Debra navigated through numerous roadblocks and institutional biases in a way that was sensitive and supportive and coordinated an educational training program on transgender issues in the workplace for the University community."
• M. Wynne Stuart, associate provost for academic support and classroom management (nominated by F. Aaron Laushway, associate dean of students): "Wynne has proved to be an invaluable advocate for those members of the U.Va. community who are physically challenged and disabled. One cannot travel the U.Va. Grounds without encountering the ways in which access has become easier and the environment friendlier because of Wynne's quiet and behind-the-scenes dedication and influence."
• Shannon Wampler, senior supplier diversity coordinator, Procurement Services, (nominated by Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget): "Shannon has demonstrated a commitment to the principles of equal opportunity and to raising awareness about issues of inequality. Shannon has established a strong reputation throughout the Commonwealth as an advocate for small, women- and minority-owned firms. Her efforts have been instrumental in building a first-class SWAM program at U.Va. that has been the recipient of multiple awards."
• Sarah Wilcox-Elliott, assistant dean of students (anonymous nomination): "Sarah works tirelessly to advocate for the often-overlooked needs of the Asian/Asian Pacific American community at U.Va. She maintains the respect of her students, well beyond graduation, and motivates them to make a difference in their communities. She is an active member of the President's Women's Leadership Council."