The University Record, April 30, 1996

Five named first recipients of Johnson Diversity Award

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

The first recipients of the newly established Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award have been announced by Lester P. Monts, vice provost for academic and multicultural affairs.

The winners, chosen by a special campus committee, are: Frances R. Aparicio, associate professor of Spanish and of American culture; Mark A. Chesler, professor of sociology; Donald R. Deskins, professor of urban geography and sociology; Billy Joe Evans, professor of chemistry; and Stephen H. Sumida, associate professor of English language and literature and of American culture.

"The committee has selected five outstanding faculty members whose work as scholars and teachers has contributed to the diversity efforts on the campus and in the community," Monts says. "Each has a long history of dedicated service."

The $5,000 awards, named for the former dean of the School of Social Work, will be given annually to full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members to further their personal research, education and creative activities.

Aparicio, a board member of the Women of Color in the Academy project, was cited for her work on behalf of Latinos and Latinas in academia. She is director of the U-M Latina/o Studies Program and has conducted research on the causes of inner-city public school dropouts, especially those in the Hispanic community.

"Frances Aparicio represents a role model that promotes and transcends her position as a Latina teacher, as a Latina woman," says Evelyn Velez-Aguayo, assistant professor of dance. "(She has) stimulated in me the mission of diversity in all education, especially for Latinas and Latinos in academia, through her efforts and commitment."

Chesler, who helped found FAIRteach, a U-M faculty program that helps peers facilitate multiculturalism in the class room, spearheaded efforts to establish multicultural teaching and learning services at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT).

He also writes, teaches and/or consults on race relations, desegregation, interracial growth in the classroom, attitudes toward the physically disabled, multicultural organizational growth and equity in schools.

"Professor Chesler has a longstanding commitment to multiculturalism and has spent most of his career working to change the institutional patterns that work against diversity," says CRLT director Constance Cook. "His work in this area began long before the terms 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism' came into common usage."

Deskins, who has served on various campus committees dealing with issues of race and diversity, has led efforts to establish a monthly seminar for faculty interested in discussing diversity issues and helped develop a race and ethnicity specialization for graduate students in sociology.

"For more than a quarter of a century, he has quietly served as a role model and a mentor par excellence to minority students and faculty members," says David Williams, associate professor of sociology. "Not only has he held several mentorship roles, he has worked tirelessly to recruit, encourage and guide minority students. The personal interest that he takes in students is legendary.

"Professor Deskins has always been able to see the larger picture for the University and has functioned as a bridge between Blacks and whites."

Evans has a long and distinguished record of helping minority students achieve success in teaching and research through his direction of the Comprehensive Studies Program and Program in Scholarly Research for Urban/Minority High School Students.

"For 25 years, he has recruited Black students for programs of this kind, providing them with financial, intellectual and moral support," Deskins says. "His efforts have touched a generation of promising young Black scientists.

"There are few in the University, white or Black, who have provided this level of stewardship for students. He is the kind of faculty member, a role model, whose activities have academically and culturally enriched this University by making it a more intellectually diverse learning environment."

Sumida, who teaches numerous courses on Asian American literature and a popular course on race and ethnicity in American literature and culture, regularly draws "rave reviews" from his students.

"With these classes, he has reached a broad spectrum of Michigan students, pushing them all to deal critically and effectively with some of the most difficult issues of our time," says George Sanchez, associate professor of history and o f American culture.

"At the heart of Professor Sumida's scholarship is a rich and productive curiosity about how race and ethnicity are constructed, contested and imagined in American culture. His many contributions to creating a diverse University have been felt so strongly by so many members of this community because they come so logically from the foundation of his work as a scholar."

While all of the award recipients are pleased with their special honor, they say that many others on campus also have contributed a great deal to the University's commitment to diversity.

"Many people are doing very important intellectual work and service in this area and deserve lots of credit," Chesler says. "The hard issues of deeply embedded racism and sexism will continue to call for more effort."