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The Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Awards recognize individuals or groups who have demonstrated a significant commitment to enhancing diversity at Ohio State and to exceeding expectations in implementing the Diversity Action Plan. The program, now in its 21st year, rewards efforts to enhance diversity on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran or military service status, gender identity, economic status, political belief, marital status or social background. Recipients were honored with a plaque and a $1,200 honorarium at a spring luncheon during the Office of Minority Affairs’ ninth annual National Conference on Diversity, Race and Learning. The University Senate Committee on Diversity sponsors the awards program in cooperation with the Office of Human Resources.
Click on photo or scroll down the page to read winner's bio.
Undergraduate student Joseph Connolly has found his niche at Ohio State by becoming a student leader and advocate for all students. “Joe is a young man of action; one who refuses to sit on the sidelines and wait for things to happen,” one nominator wrote. He organized an American Indian in Science and Engineering Society (AISES) chapter at Ohio State, a professional organization with a focus on building community by bridging science and technology with traditional Native values. He is one of the founders and current leaders of the Ohio State chapter of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, an organization that works to educate people about the harm caused by racist and stereotypical imagery perpetuated by the media. Connolly also serves as chair for Ohio State’s American Indian Council (AIC) and the Interfaith Council. And, he has helped to revitalize, strengthen and expand the horizons of AIC over the past three years. “Joe is truly an empowered student who feels a sense of obligation to the growth of Ohio State in the areas of diversity,” wrote a nominator. He also has been involved with the Office of Minority Affairs to help recruit Native American students to Ohio State.
Natacha Foo Kune
Natacha Foo Kune is “an individual who acts with the highest standard of passion, courage and inclusiveness in her commitment to diversity,” wrote a nominator. As a doctoral candidate in counseling psychology, Foo Kune not only finds time to meet the demands of clinical and course work in her department, she also finds time to promote diversity through her leadership roles. She is one of the founders of the Asian Pacific American Caucus for Graduate and Professional Students (APAC), an organization that advocates on behalf of students of Asian descent at Ohio State. She helped to create the mission/vision of the organization and coordinate several programs. Foo Kune also has participated as a mentor in the Office of Minority Affairs Mentoring Program. During her time as a Graduate Administrative Assistant for the Asian American Student Services office, Foo Kune served as an adviser for the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month planning committee. “Natacha’s passionate commitment to student retention and success went well beyond the expectations of the GAA position,” wrote a nominator. “She made herself available to students, faculty and staff in a way that has set the bar for others working in the arena of Student Affairs.”
Deborah Jones Merritt
Moritz College of Law Professor Deborah Merritt is a nationally recognized expert on diversity issues related to race and gender who consistently puts her expertise to work right here at Ohio State. “Merritt has been one of Ohio State’s most consistent advocates for diversity, furthering those goals through her research, teaching, university service, administrative leadership and community outreach,” wrote a nominator. She has co-authored an amicus brief supporting the University of Michigan in the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court. She has chaired Ohio State’s affirmative action committee as well as offered her consultation for a newly revised admissions application process. Merritt currently serves as director of the John Glenn Institute, where she has developed a significant number of programs and initiatives that embrace diversity. Those programs include outreach to minority high school students, the establishment of NEW Leadership Ohio, an intensive leadership training institute for college women interested in public leadership, and a partnership with the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, an effort to improve high school education in Ohio’s urban districts.
The Multicultural Understanding through Non-traditional Discovery Opportunities (MUNDO) Living Learning Program allows students to coordinate, facilitate and participate in on-campus and off-campus experiences that help to increase their understanding of the value and importance of cross-cultural understanding and civic engagement. Travel opportunities to cities such as New Orleans, Chicago and New York City provide students with first-hand experience of different cultural settings. Prior to traveling, students take related course work, attend faculty lectures and read texts associated with the culture. The program also supports a course for credit and study abroad experience that focuses explicitly on cross-cultural learning, multicultural understanding and social justice. At the end of the course, students traveled to London to explore its communities. Students are also given the opportunity to participate in community service projects such as a holiday card drive for children hospitalized at Children’s Hospital and meal preparation at the Ronald McDonald House. “I am always impressed by the caliber of students drawn to MUNDO and by the quality of engagement these students exhibit through their participation in MUNDO,” a nominator wrote.
Department of Women's Studies
The Department of Women’s Studies has established human diversity as its core focus by intertwining the pursuit of academic excellence with its commitment to diversity enhancement. The department aggressively and successfully recruits minority faculty, staff and students for both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Issues of diversity are used to structure courses; they are not just sections of courses. When the number of curricular materials didn’t address diversity as much as they would have liked, the faculty developed an innovative database of essays to build anthologies to be used in their own courses called Reading Women’s Lives. More than 100 universities nationwide have adopted this database. Women’s Studies faculty have been repeatedly recognized for their contributions to diversity, winning awards for multicultural teaching, cultural activism and service to activist organizations. Graduate and undergraduate Women’s Studies students show high levels of commitment to promoting diversity awareness through programs such as “Peer Power.” The program allows students to present issues of difference and diversity to local high schools. One nominator wrote, “Women’s Studies faculty and students don’t just study diversity; they live diversity on a daily basis — in the classroom, in choice of research topics and through service activities.”
2004 Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award