Several members of the KSU community were honored at the inaugural Presidential Diversity Awards for their involvement with the university and recognized for their commitment to making KSU a more diverse, equitable and inclusive institution.
KSU President Daniel Papp was in attendance along with nearly 100 others for the first-ever Presidential Diversity Award Ceremony held Monday, April 22 at 1 p.m. in the Prillaman Hall auditorium. The purpose of the event was to recognize outstanding members of the community and award them for their various achievements and efforts to make Kennesaw State a unique institution of higher learning.
KSU’s Chief Diversity Officer Erik Malewski welcomed the audience members before speaking about the importance of recognizing individuals who promote diversity across campus.
“As many of you know, diversity work can easily go unrecognized,” Malewski said. “For this reason, diversity and equity work often comes from a different place within us.”
Malewski said the hard work of individuals within their communities, although important, often goes unrecognized and unrewarded. He said the award ceremony is important because it honors the “trail-blazers” of the institution, the individuals who compel others to become better people and challenge their assumptions.
“The work they do is a result of a calling, a sense of being called to do work for the collective good of different communities– to making things better– to righting wrongs so that humanity as a whole might be better.”
President Papp delivered the ceremony’s opening remarks.
He said the awards “epitomize our continued pursuit of inclusive excellence.”
“These awards speak to our past and offer a glimpse of what our future can be,” he continued.
Following Papp’s speech, Kennesaw State’s Presidential Commission Chairs were introduced. These faculty members gave brief speeches before recognizing the Diversity Award winners and presenting them with plaques for their various accomplishments.
Disability Strategies and Resources Chair Elizabeth Tindel awarded Jill Sloan the Carol J. Pope Award for Distinction for her role as assistant executive director and program coordinator for the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth. Sloan works to improve opportunities for KSU students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Gender and Work Life Issues Chair Robert Wise honored KSU student Flora Lowe-Rockett for her efforts to develop a childcare facility on campus for non-traditional students with children.
Ana Baida, the associate director of Career Servives and chair of Kennesaw State’s GLBTIQ Initiatives, presented Kennesaw State’s Associate Provost Teresa Joyce with the Gender and Work Life Issues Outstanding Contribution Award. Joyce was recognized for working to improve the college experience of KSU’s LGBT community.
Sociology Professor Jesse Benjamin was awarded the R.O.H. Social Justice Award for Racial and Ethnic dialogue for his role as faculty adviser for KSU’s African and African Diaspora Studies and well as his work with the school’s NAACP chapter.
Benjamin has been teaching for 16 years, seven of which have been at KSU. Benjamin, a self-proclaimed “Pro-Palestinian Israeli,” said he “stands for all forms of social justice” and identifies with oppressed groups around the world Kennesaw State Biology Professor and Director of Sustainability, R.C. Paul, was presented the Sustainability Award for Distinction for his help in creating KSU’s Climate Commitment Council.
Lastly, KSU Student and Iraq War veteran Derek Ridings was given the Excellence in Service and Leadership Award for his work with fellow KSU veterans.
Ridings, who works at the Veterans Resource Center on campus, served in the Army and spent three tours of duty in Iraq over the course of five and a half years.
“It was nice to be recognized for my work,” Ridings said. “It was a neat experience and I was honored to receive it.”