2015 Winners

Dr. Gerardo Sandoval, Professor, Planning Public Policy & Management

I am truly honored to have been selected for this important award. Creating a climate of inclusion that encourages equity and diversity in Oregon and within our university is a critical issue. I am humbled that the University of Oregon sees my work as contributing in a positive light to that important effort. In my research I focus on understanding how marginalized immigrants are able to improve their neighborhoods in the face of large scale redevelopment that historically has threatened and displaced communities of color.  I try to understand and explain how these communities rely on their social, financial, political, and cultural forms of capital to increase their agency to help these neighborhoods thrive.

Through my teaching, I try to instill in my students a critical perspective which helps them understand the larger structural forces that create inequalities for communities of color. But I encourage my students to go beyond the critique to formulate solutions that acknowledge the strengths and resources within these communities. This is why I have been drawn to the community development field. It is critical that our university provide our students with both the theoretical concepts and practical skills that enable them to analyze, critique, and develop interventions to work on social justice and equity initiatives in low income communities of color.

Deb Casey, Director, Student Support Services, University Teaching and Learning Center

I’m honored to be the recipient of this MLK award, recognition I share with the students and colleagues with whom I collaborate in the TRiO Student Support Services program (SSS) and the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC). In SSS, we have the opportunity to support the efforts of motivated students and also work to develop resources and policies that broaden possibilities, helping the higher-ed culture of UO more fully embrace a wide range of student abilities and ambitions. We support students disadvantaged by their socio-economic backgrounds, yet who are rich in wisdom gained through life experience. It’s this collaborative approach that simultaneously serves equity, inclusion and diversity at the UO.

Among the many memorable messages Dr. King imparted was the need to step forward, speak out and act to bring about change that promotes equality: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Our students provide powerful examples. Individuals who persevere against tough odds, struggle to fill gaps from uneven preparatory educations, and may have made some serious mistakes, they are trying to move forward. Proud to be admitted to UO, they are fiercely committed to earning their degrees while also often employed, parenting, and meeting multiple responsibilities. Each day, they inspire us to work together supporting their efforts, and to speak out when policies and practices need attention. Our students often don’t think of themselves as contributing to diversity, instead struggling to feel like they even belong at UO. They motivate us to help them build skills and confidence, and forge a sense of community. This is the community I represent receiving this award, and I am grateful to be part of the TLC TRiO collaborative team, and of this event, acknowledging that the ideals of Dr. King are valued by UO.

Dr. Karla Kennedy, Coordinator, Scholastic Journalism Outreach

Dr. King called himself a drum major for justice. I am not actually sure that I would call myself a drum major, but I am definitely a part of the marching band. I beat the drums for student voice in Oregon. Part of my responsibilities as Scholastic Journalism Outreach Coordinator and Executive Director of Northwest Scholastic Press is to help recruit more students of color to UO and to encourage them to major in some aspect of journalism. I work with many local high schools and attend national conferences of high school journalism students. I come face to face with the harsh inequities in public and higher education, and the challenges of motivating prospective students. When students of color see me and learn of my background, they realize that they too can overcome obstacles.  With the assistance of a few determined African-American journalism students, we reconstituted UO’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and have attended the past two national conventions and career fairs. My goal is to simply do what I can to make things better for the community, the state, and the nation. Through the Innovations in Diversity Grant from OEI in cooperation with the SOJC we have successfully reinstated the newspapers of two marginalized high schools in Portland.

It is wonderful to be able to continue to beat the drums of justice. It is truly humbling to be receiving this award. It truly warms my heart and charges my spirit. I'm very proud of the people I work with, the local communities that allow me to visit their schools, and the School of Journalism and Communication and the Office of Equity and Inclusion visionaries that support my efforts at every turn.