The recipients of the 27th annual Utah State University Diversity Awards have been named. The recipients for the 2020-21 school year are Community COVID-19 Relief Effort, Janis Boettinger, Christy Glass, Nahomi Jimenez, Jamal-Jared Alexander and Dennis Briscoe. The awards recognize individuals and/or organizations on campus and in communities served by USU who have made significant contributions to diversity and inclusion.
“Cultivating diversity of thought and culture is central to USU’s mission and essential to preparing our students to be local and global leaders,” said USU President Noelle E. Cockett. “For 27 years, we’ve honored those in our community who are doing exactly that.”
Community Diversity Award
Community COVID-19 Relief Effort
This year’s community award goes to a collection of individuals and community groups who responded to a coronavirus outbreak at the JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum, Utah, in June 2020. This grassroots mobilization was led by a network of volunteer faculty, students and staff, as well as members of the community and local organizations.
USU’s Crescencio Lopez Gonzalez, Celina Wille and Jess Lucero joined Liz Villegas, a local advocate for the Latinx community, to lead an effort to collect and distribute food and household supplies, and donations to help with rent, utilities and medical support to more than 350 individuals and families in Cache Valley who needed to isolate or quarantine due to the outbreak.
Janis Boettinger, Helga Van Miegroet and Anthony Turnhollow were instrumental in collecting and distributing tens of thousands of dollars in donations. Chris Gonzalez and Amanda Barrandey assisted with outreach by using their strong ties with members of the Spanish-speaking community. Claudia Wright, Marina Bernal, and members of Cache Refugee & Immigrant Connection, St. Thomas Aquinas, Church of God and Friends at the Temple Boulevard Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all made significant contributions to these crisis response efforts.
Since the outbreak, members of the grassroots coalition have extended their partnerships to better serve our community moving forward. A diverse team of faculty and community leaders led by Lucero has been awarded nearly $150,000 in grant funding that will support ongoing efforts to improve service provision in our community in areas ranging from COVID-19 relief, housing, financial literacy, credit building and advocacy. These new partnerships and solidified coalitions will help build a strong Cache Valley community with a higher capacity for supporting each member, regardless of language, race, ethnicity, social class or country of origin.
Vice Provost Janis Boettinger has a long list of roles and achievements at USU. She is a professor of soil science, has served as interim vice provost of the School of Graduate Studies, is the executive director of the Office of Global Engagement, and serves on the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
Boettinger is known for serving her community both on and off campus. She is dedicated, volunteering with a number organizations and nonprofits, and she supports many local fundraisers. This past year, she helped raise funds and awareness to support individuals that were out of work because of COVID, playing an important role in the community COVID-19 relief effort that is this year’s recipient of our Community Award.
Within the Office of Global Engagement, she helped advocate for support and funding for international students in need during COVID, also encouraging others to donate. She champions diversity efforts on our campus that support international students, and she works to educate our campus community about the challenges international students face. To support those students further, she created an advising position that assists all international student associations.
Boettinger’s contributions to both the university and USU's international students are immense. From providing fundamental structure, support and services to international students, to working with President Noelle Cockett to help steer the university through the pandemic, Boettinger has contributed to the well-being of the USU community – and our greater community – in a variety of ways that have high and wide impact.
Christy Glass, professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, is known by her colleagues as a scholar activist who works tirelessly to promote diversity and inclusion in our institution and our community. Her efforts in creating the Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research (CIGSR) have been an outstanding example of transparent, engaged, and inclusive leadership, where she is always asking, “Who is missing from the table?” In the past year, the CIGSR has funded a class of six research fellows and five teaching fellows who represent a variety of disciplines, genders and ethnic groups.
Glass is committed to diversity in hiring and engaged in extensive research of best practices to recruit and hire faculty from underrepresented and marginalized groups. She has chaired four searches within the sociology program that have resulted in the hiring of five international and/or scholars of color into tenure-track positions, diversifying the department and contributing to the overall increase of diverse faculty at USU.
And after hiring, Glass understands that retention is critical for making diversity a fixed feature of an institution. She is a strong supporter of women, people of color, immigrants and others underrepresented at the university. She nominates diverse scholars for awards, recommends them for task forces and committees, and supports visa applications. Glass’s dedication to seeking out best practices and evidence-based innovations in diversity efforts is shown in her own work as a search committee chair, promotion and tenure committee chair/member, teacher, mentor and director of the CIGSR, and member of USU’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, along with her work to get these practices institutionalized within USU.
In her two years as USU’s Diversity Outreach Specialist, Nahomi Jimenez oversaw diversity recruitment and outreach for all prospective diverse students and worked to remove barriers that limit student success. She developed and supported many initiatives to serve diverse students, including the Diversity Recruitment Committee and Latinx Community Outreach. She also advocated for the diverse community, helping students find their voice at USU and helping faculty and staff find a community that reflected their background. Jimenez was a leader in promoting, encouraging and supporting diversity in our Aggie Family and community, and USU wishes her the best in her future endeavors.
Jamal-Jared Alexander, a doctoral candidate Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow in the Technical Communication and Rhetoric Ph.D. program, was recently selected for the first Diversity and Inclusion Assistantship from the School of Graduate Studies, where he will serve as Diversity Recruitment Officer. While this places him in a more empowered position to enact change at USU, Alexander’s work in recruiting, supporting and mentoring graduate students of color has already garnered the attention and appreciation of the university.
Alexander approached his doctoral program to ask about recruitment and retention efforts for students of color, leading to a new targeted recruitment plan in which he and associate professor Rebecca Walton visited historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and met with students to encourage them to consider applying to graduate school. He planned the entire trip, leveraging his existing contacts at HBCUs and forging new connections at schools that had undergraduate or master's courses in technical communication but no Ph.D.
In addition, Alexander serves as a mentor in the Black Student Union, works with the Inclusion Center to improve their communication and student visibility, and conducts research that helps marginalized groups navigate often oppressive institutions. He is also working closely with President Cockett, Interim Vice Provost Richard Cutler and Inclusion Center coordinator Luis Rodriguez to develop the Graduate Student of Color Association (GSCA), where he is the principal founder. His commitment to service and passion for his work benefit our entire community.
Dennis Briscoe is principal/CEO of Derby Strategies, LLC, a consulting practice specializing in international expansion and international collaboration. A two-time alumnus of USU, he has long supported the university’s international students by providing them a “home away from home” environment – even opening his home to an international student who did not have a place to stay. Briscoe also invites international students to share their perspectives with local community groups like the Cache Valley Morning Rotary Club. He is known for his kind heart, his work in diversity and inclusion and his love for his community.
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