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Updated 3:00 PM May 8, 2003



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Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award winners announced

Five U-M faculty members have been named winners of the 2003 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, and one has been named a special honoree. Established in 1996, the award was named in recognition of Harold Johnson, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work. Award recipients are recognized for their commitment to the development of a more culturally and ethnically diverse campus community. Awardees receive $5,000 to further their personal research, teaching and scholarship activities.

Robert Griess, Jr.


Robert Griess Jr. is a professor in the Department of Mathematics. Peter Hinman, professor and associate chair of mathematics, notes that for more than 10 years Griess has led the department's effort in the King/Chavez/Parks College Day visitation program. Griess is single-handedly responsible for the fact that the department every year hosts 30-50 groups of 7th graders. Griess believes one positive contact for these children with a professional mathematician has the potential to change their thinking about mathematics, Hinman says.

Griess is committed to seeing more students from underrepresented minority groups stay in the pipeline leading to undergraduate and advanced degrees in mathematics-based disciplines. Besides recruiting for the program, he has spent much time developing support materials for it. He has videotaped many of the best presentations over the years and scheduled showings of the tapes for potential presenters who are unfamiliar with teaching middle school students.

When U-M was selected as the site for the Fifth Conference for African American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences (CAARMS), held in 1999, Griess immediately saw the value of putting undergraduates from underrepresented minority groups into contact with the 100 or more African American mathematics professionals and graduate students who would attend the conference. With no external funding, Griess organized a "shadow conference" for these undergraduates that ran parallel with CAARMS, borrowed speakers from the main conference, and capitalized upon opportunities such as the CAARMS social events to put the students into direct contact with the people at the main conference who could serve as role models.

Griess also has taken a personal, direct interest in students from underrepresented minority backgrounds who enter the University's mathematics graduate program and has a demonstrated commitment to academic excellence and diversity.

Maria Montoya


Montoya is the director of Latino/a Studies and associate professor in the Program in American Culture. Alan Wald, director of the Program in American Culture, notes that Montoya's scholarship, teaching and service are deeply invested in the project of making diversity central to the work of the University. Montoya emphasizes teaching about diversity, race and ethnicity in her mainstream classes, such as History 161, as well as in more traditional venues, such as Latino History.

Montoya's nationally recognized scholarship also emphasizes the broad integration of the study of race and ethnicity. She draws together work in gender studies, legal history, environmental history, Western history, and race and ethnicity. Her book, "Lost in Translation: The Maxwell Land Grant and Conflict over Land in the American West, (1840-1900)" (UC Berkeley 2001), makes clear the many ways in which these previously distinct categories are inextricably bound in the history of the American West.

Her book received acclaim for its unique and important contribution to the history of the West and Latino/a history. Sonya Rose, chair and Natalie Zemon Davis Collegiate Professor of History, Sociology and Women's Studies, notes that it skillfully analyzes the complexity and multiplicity of ethnic and racial divisions. This scholarship places her at the forefront of Latino historians as it links Latino history to global comparative frameworks.

Montoya is crafting a new vision for Latino/a Studies at U-M, and she mentors numerous junior faculty. Montoya has contributed to the teaching mission of the Department of History and has taught survey courses in her area and courses cross-listed with American Culture. She is known as a demanding teacher, and she carries her concern for diversity into the teaching of Latino/a history by making her students come to grips with the gaps among Spanish-speaking populations, her nominators say. She is a careful and exacting mentor of graduate students, and is an exemplar of the values of this award.

Michael Spencer


Spencer is an assistant professor of social work, faculty affiliate of the Program in American Culture, and faculty associate at the Center on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health. A native Hawaiian, he is committed to communities of color and to fostering interethnic group communication. He has served as a facilitator of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching's Summer Multicultural Institute. His dedication to fostering the education and development of students of color is exemplified by his mentoring in the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, say those who nominated him.

In the School of Social Work, he has been a faculty advisor to the Social Work Affirmative Action Committee and the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Social Workers. His commitment to communities of color goes far beyond University walls. He has served as a consultant for the city of Detroit, the Detroit Public School Head Start Program, Mott Children's Health Clinic Behavioral Service Department, the Southwest (Detroit) Counseling and Development Services, Starfish Family Services, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Spencer has been a pioneer in the development of a unique course in the School of Social Work, "Intergroup Dialogue Facilitation on Diversity and Social Justice," a course to train social work graduate students to engage in dialogues about diversity and social justice in professional and community settings. Spencer also teaches "Contemporary Cultures in the United States," which has a reputation as an intensive course in multiculturalism.

Dean Paula Allen-Meares notes that Spencer's research and writings reflect a dedication to diversity and social equity, as well as academic excellence. His scholarly publications focus on understanding the development of racial and ethnic identity and on ways of promoting improved multicultural education throughout people's lives. On the doctoral level, Spencer frequently reaches out to students interested in the Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowships. He speaks to students nationally about this program, and remains part of the support network not just for students at U-M, but also in other schools of social work around the country.

Antonia Villarruel


Villarruel's commitment to fostering diversity in the School of Nursing and the University's mission is evident in the multiple programs she has initiated to involve individuals of different ethnic backgrounds in health promotion and programs about educational and research programs dealing with health disparities, say her nominators. She is the leader and principal investigator of the MESA Center for Health Disparities, a collaborative effort of the U-M School of Nursing and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Nursing, which involves faculty and students in research projects in collaboration with a partner school and university that have high minority enrollments.

Villarruel, an associate professor at the School of Nursing, also helps ethnic students use the minority supplement mechanism available through the National Institutes of Health on her research grant, "Reducing HIV Risk Among Mexican Youth." Through the Center of Excellence in Health Promotion, she has brought additional students of diverse backgrounds into research. She is co-investigator of the National Research Service Institutional Award (T32) on Health Promotion/Risk Reduction Interventions Training.

Her scholarly endeavors and publications almost exclusively address the health and health care issues of Latino individuals. She has a number of publications in peer-reviewed journals and in major nursing texts, and she has addressed numerous professional associations. Villarruel also has influenced health policy at the national level within nursing.

She and several colleagues initiated a Centers of Excellence Scholars Program, and they actively recruit students of diverse backgrounds into these positions. She is on the Latino Children's Health Consortium for the American Academy of Pediatrics/ Child Health Research Center; the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on HIV and STD Prevention; the planning committee for Uniting Resources to Eliminate Disparities, an initiative of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR); NINR's Nursing's Agenda for Minority Nurse Research; and the National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice.

Alford Young Jr.


Alford Young Jr. is an associate professor in sociology and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS). In addition to being a dedicated and effective mentor, Young has participated actively in collective efforts to enhance the breadth and quality of multi-cultural education at U-M, note James Jackson, professor of psychology and director of CAAS, and Howard Kimeldorf, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology. Young's commitment to diversity is informed by his research and teaching, both of which examine the life experiences of racial and ethnic minorities, as well as his own experiences as an African American academic.

Young provides countless undergraduates an opportunity to work with him in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). He has supported UROP by serving as its Martin Luther King Jr. Day speaker, and as a member of its annual Orientation to Research panel. His mentoring for minority undergraduates extends to his involvement in the Summer Research Opportunity Program.

Young's contributions to diversity reach across the University. He has worked on improving the campus environment for historically underrepresented student groups through his involvement with multicultural education initiatives. He also has served on the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Faculty Advisory Board, where he focuses on ways to enhance the learning environment for multicultural education.

Young is active as an intellectual on matters relating to race and ethnicity, notes Mark Chesler, professor of sociology and director of undergraduate studies in sociology. Young conducts research on urban minority populations, and on minority scholars, tracing the ways in which social forces establish the limits and opportunities for individual and collective achievement. He teaches courses on urban minority populations in the Department of Sociology and CAAS. The constant troop of undergraduate students in and out of his office testifies to his broad personal and intellectual appeal as well as his patience and dedication.

Special recognition—Gerald Gurin


Gerald Gurin has been associated with U-M since Feb. 1947, when he came here as a graduate student in the newly founded Joint Program in Social Psychology. He joined the Survey Research Center (SRC) of the Institute for Social Research in 1949 and remained until his retirement as a research scientist in 1993. Beginning in 1970, he also had a joint appointment as a professor in the Center for Higher and Postsecondary Education.

In his early years at the SRC, his research covered a broad range of interests. He directed some of the first studies undertaken by the center in organizational and political behavior, mental health and help seeking, and student development in the college years, among others.

Beginning in the 1970s, his interests focused on issues involving racial/ethnic minorities and intergroup relationships. As a program director at the SRC he worked with two young scholars at the University—James Jackson in the Psychology Department and Carlos Arce in the Center for the Study of Higher Education—to develop two major proposals for broad in-depth national surveys of African Americans and Americans of Mexican descent. Both proposals were funded by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) and were the beginning of the SRC's long-term and continuing commitment to studies of minority populations.

In 1983 Gurin began a 10-year association with the Hispanic Research Center at Fordham University in New York, the major center funded by NIMH devoted to issues faced by Hispanic populations in the United States. Gurin consulted with the young scholars at the center in the development of their research proposals and carrying out their research.

In 1990 Gurin worked with John Matlock, director of the Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI), to develop and carry out the Michigan Student Study. In a series of surveys, the study followed an undergraduate class from the time students entered the University in 1990 through their senior year in 1994. It covered students' reactions to many aspects of their Michigan experience, focusing particularly on their reactions to the University's racial and ethnic diversity. Data from the study was a major source for the analysis Patricia Gurin, the Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor emerita of psychology and women's studies, wrote in her brief supporting U-M's position in the legal defense of its admissions policies. Since his retirement in 1993 Gurin has continued his association with OAMI and currently is involved with 10-year follow-up studies of the original Michigan Student Study.

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