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Updated 10:00 AM April 18, 2005




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5 faculty members lauded for commitment to diversity

The Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs has awarded the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award to five faculty members.

The 2005 recipients are: William Alexander, professor of English language and literature; Percy Bates, professor of education and director of Programs for Educational Opportunity (PEO); Alec Gallimore, professor of aerospace engineering; Joseph Lam, professor of music and chair of the Musicology Department; and Jana Nidiffer, assistant professor of education.

Named in honor of Johnson, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work, the award was established in 1996 to recognize faculty whose service contributes to the development of a culturally and ethnically diverse campus community. The honorees receive $5,000 to further their personal research, teaching and scholarship activities.

Alexander's interests include American documentary film, literature and film on the war in Vietnam, political theater and video, empowering pedagogy, minority literature, Latin American cinema, and prison creative arts.

The latter inspired him to found the Prison Creative Arts Project, in which Alexander and others work with Michigan prison inmates to help them create and display their artwork. The annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners recently was shown on campus.

"Over the full course of his over 30 years at U-M and across the full range of his professional activities—teaching, research and service—Alexander has been a remarkably productive and passionate advocate for cultural and ethnic diversity," Sidonie Smith, the Martha Guernesy Colby Collegiate Professor of English and Women's Studies and chair of the Department of English, wrote in her nomination letter.

As director of PEO, Bates assists public school districts in the region to ensure that all students have an opportunity to succeed whatever their race, gender or national origin.

Bates has served the School of Education on its Diversity Task Force and Social Justice in Education Committee. On campus he has been the faculty representative to the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA for more than 12 years.

"Percy embodies the spirit and mission of the University's commitment to diversity—both intellectually and culturally," Director of Admissions Theodore Spencer wrote. "His interaction with minority athletes has helped foster an awareness of the importance of completing a college education and receiving an undergraduate degree."

Gallimore is director of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), which receives funding from NASA to promote education, research and outreach. The MSGC partners with the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program to sponsor the Worlds of Flight program. It brings 20 minority 7th and 8th graders to campus for five Saturdays to learn about aerospace engineering. The students build model gliders and rockets and test them in flight and in the department's wind tunnels.

"What is particularly impressive is that Alec has not only excelled in traditional academic pursuits, but since his arrival on campus in 1992 he has devoted a significant amount of energy in enhancing the diversity of the College of Engineering through a set of broad-ranging activities," wrote Stephen Director, out-going dean.

In her nomination letter, School of Music Dean Karen Wolff cited Lam's role in bringing an international and interdisciplinary conference on Chinese music and culture to campus next spring. Entitled "Musiking Late Ming China (1550-1650)", the conference will be part of the school's 125th anniversary.

Lam has served since 1997 as director of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments. Comprising more than 2,000 pieces of historical and contemporary musical instruments from around the world, the collection is the largest assembly of such artifacts at a North American university, according to the Stearns Web site.

"This position has provided him with unique opportunities to promote musical diversity not only to U-M faculty and students, but to the community at large," Wolff wrote.

Nidiffer's courses include the history of higher and postsecondary education, women as higher education administrators, philosophy of academic leadership, and an introduction to higher and postsecondary education.

"Through her scholarship, teaching, advising and other service activities, she has taught us much about the importance and centrality of diversity in the academic enterprise," wrote Karen Downing, foundation and grants librarian at the Hatcher Library and a doctoral student in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education.

"In her teaching, Nidiffer also makes great efforts to include diverse perspectives in her pedagogy and course content," Downing adds. "For those of us who are students of color, LGBT, as well as majority students, (we) appreciate the strong emphasis she places on presenting a diversity of viewpoints through our readings and discussions."

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