Professors, student and group honored for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion causes
ALMA — Winners of the Excellence in Inclusion Awards at Alma College are champions of doing the work to create an inclusive, safe, and just community.
Stephany Slaughter, Phillip Andre, Lauryn Bishop and the Kappa Iota sorority were the recipients of the first-annual awards, which were given out during the Unity Celebration at the end of Martin Luther King Jr. week, Jan. 21. According to Damon Brown, vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer, the awards are an acknowledgement that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are being felt across the entirety of the Alma College campus.
“Congratulations to Stephany, Phillip, Lauryn and Kappa Iota for receiving these awards. It’s important to celebrate the work they have done, and continue to do,” Brown said. “Our hope is that the recipients, along with the other nominees, and everyone who participated in our successful week of activities surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day, will feel encouraged to join in these important efforts.”
Awards were given out following a nomination period that was open to the public and chosen by a committee of college students, faculty and staff.
Donnesha Blake, director of diversity and inclusion, said the award is now expected to be given annually during the college’s slate of MLK Week activities. At Alma, historically, classes and athletics are canceled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as the entire campus community pauses to reflect and remember King and his legacy.
“Last year, we completed an Inclusive Excellence assessment and one of the recommendations from our assessment partners was to acknowledge and incentivize the work that people are doing to transform Alma into a place that is more just,” Blake said. “MLK Week is one of our largest heritage/awareness celebrations on campus, and so as we were building out the programming for the week, we thought it would be a perfect time to honor people on campus who both continue Dr. King’s legacy of social action and justice and who advance our college goals of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Stephany Slaughter is a professor of Spanish and women’s and gender studies, who has worked at Alma since 2008. Among her extracurricular involvements, she is a member of the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, a mentor in the King-Chavez-Parks mentorship program and an advisor to the Hispanic Coalition.
“Stephany has been an active participant in every DEI initiative that has happened on campus and has been responsible for initiating many of them,” nominating materials in her support stated. “(She) has been an advocate for minoritized groups all over campus. She is a model and inspiration to many on the faculty.”
Andre is the director of student success, as well as a lecturer of integrative physiology and health science, who has worked at Alma since 2007. Comprising a major component of his student outreach, Andre works one-on-one with male students to build upon their personal talents, develop holistically, and empower them to unravel the restrictive barriers previously experienced through toxic masculine environments.
“(Andre’s) studies on masculinity have shown that he’s truly invested in unpacking some of the challenges with being a male athlete,” nominating materials in his support stated. “He is also willing to be checked by others when he is less versed in certain areas and takes those suggestions with grace, humility and action.”
Bishop, from Detroit, is a junior majoring in art and design who serves as the resident advisor for the Julius Chatman Living Learning Community, vice president of Kappa Iota and the DEI chair for Alma’s Panhellenic Council. She also works alongside Blake in Alma’s Diversity and Inclusion Office.
“(Bishop) wants to make Alma a better place for everyone,” nominating materials in her support stated. “She wants to ensure that people of other races feel safe and included and is actively working on projects to make this happen.”
Kappa Iota is an organization focused on “building open-mindedness, loyalty and sisterhood,” as well as “the individuality of each member.” Originally founded at Alma in 1921 as a literary society, it was eventually disbanded before being reinstated in 1977, and has enjoyed strong numbers of participation since then.
“(Kappa Iota challenges) others to think differently about who can be a member of a sorority and for their welcoming nature to those of all identities,” nominating materials in their support stated. “They also have many members who are working to educate and learn with others about marginalized communities.”