Student-led event focuses on creating an open dialogue
February 2020 – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
This quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was repeated loud and often at Drew University’s 2020 MLK Awards Celebration, organized by the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
Through group discussions and the presentation of awards, the student-led event focused on the “things that matter” by honoring and furthering efforts to create a diverse and inclusive campus.
The celebration opened with moving musical performances by the Drew University Chorale and Ubuntu, the Pan-Af Choir, before the 2020 award winners were announced by Deb Liebowitz, Provost & Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies.
Daniel Viera C’21 and Kirsten Trambley T’20 were each honored with the MLK Award for Equity and Inclusion for their work across campus and beyond.
Katherine Brown and Rachel Sawyer both earned the MLK Award for Social Justice for their work as faculty and staff to dismantle barriers and improve access and opportunity for all Drew community members.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in small groups, each representing one of Launch’s Identity/Affinity Communities, to discuss how we view a given identity, and how Drew can work to ensure that members of all identities receive inclusive and equitable treatment.
“I’ve been at Drew for three decades. The history of Drew is one of diversity,” said Prof. Katherine Brown, part of the International Student group discussion.
“The beauty of our school is that we don’t have a majority culture. No matter what somebody ‘is,’ there are other people like them. It’s understanding humankind from multiple perspectives. As a university we have to remain committed to making sure that all students learn about all of our students.”
“I came from South Africa and I knew there were other South Africans at Drew,” said Tshedza Marole C’23. “There is a safety net there, but I didn’t feel the need to be solely surrounded by them because Drew is a lot more modern and inclusive than other universities, from what I hear from friends.”
The International Student group, featuring students, faculty, staff and parents from Kenya, South Africa, Armenia, Syria, Mexico, Afghanistan and the United States, went on to discuss the challenges international students can face when coming to America for college.
They then brainstormed various ways that Drew could embrace inclusivity, like highlighting and promoting stories of international students in order to break down barriers and introduce different cultures into the larger student body.
The same activity occurred at tables representing Launch Communities for ethnic/racial heritage; visible/invisible disabilities; first generation students; gender and sexuality; faith, religion and spirituality; commuter/transfer/nontraditional; and limited resources.
Following an hour of discussion, one student leader from each group furthered the event’s collaborative nature by presenting a summary of their group’s ideas to the rest of the audience.
After a day of open dialogue and celebration, the 2020 MLK Awards ensured that Drew would not be silent about the “things that matter.”
For a student perspective on the event, read a recap by Lara Schmidt C’23.