Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, April 26, 2010

Six faculty members honored for
commitment to diversity

Six faculty members dedicated to developing cultural and ethnic diversity at U-M have received the 2010 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Affairs.

The recipients are Robin Means Coleman, LSA; Carol Fierke, LSA; Elijah Kannatey-Asibu, College of Engineering; Guy Meadows, CoE; Robert Sellers, LSA; and Louis Yen, School of Kinesiology.

“This year’s recipients demonstrate an exemplary commitment to diversity throughout the University of Michigan,” says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs. “The university’s students, faculty and staff have benefited from these faculty members because of their efforts to enrich our campus through mentoring, outreach, hands-on experiences and classroom interactions.”

Established in 1996, the award is given in honor of Harold Johnson, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work. The award provides $5,000 to recipients to further research and scholarship opportunities.

Robin Means Coleman

Means Coleman

Means Coleman, associate professor of communication studies and Afroamerican and African studies, is lauded as an innovative teacher, a committed mentor and scholar who has produced three books on representations of African Americans in the media.

While teaching about racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in two units, Means Coleman also has developed new courses such as “AfroAsian Popular Culture” and “Media in the Black World: African Americans and Popular Culture.” She has served on at least 12 committees dedicated to racial and gender equity, and to social justice within the university.

Her efforts to recruit and retain talented students of color at the graduate level are noted in a nomination letter written by Susan Douglas, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, and Kevin Gaines, director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS). “Her role in identifying and assisting in the recruitment and hiring of outstanding new colleagues, especially in the areas of race, gender and the media, has contributed to the excellence of the current faculty. And fueled the momentum that characterizes both communication studies and CAAS,” they wrote.

Carol Fierke


Fierke, the Jerome and Isabella Karle Collegiate Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry, has worked to transform U-M with respect to women faculty in science and engineering, notably as a member of the Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence committee, which is part of the ADVANCE Program.

As part of the ADVANCE initiative, Fierke implemented several efforts to enhance faculty diversity, including monthly lunches to promote integration of young faculty members. Since she joined the Department of Chemistry in 1999, she also has taken part in peer mentoring and led a number of changes that increase transparency and fairness in the department. Under her leadership the number of women and under-represented minority faculty members significantly has increased. 

“(Fierke’s) leadership and mentoring have been invaluable to our entire faculty, and she helps set a gold standard for all departments on campus to emulate,” Mark Meyerhoff, the Philip J. Elving Professor of Chemistry and acting chair of the Department of Chemistry, wrote in a nomination letter. “We all have benefited from her thoughtfulness, fairness and generosity, and this nomination is our sincere thanks to Carol for her efforts to help make our whole department a better and more diverse environment to work and play (with molecules, atoms, etc.)”

Elijah Kannatey-Asibu


Kannatey-Asibu, professor of mechanical engineering, shows great enthusiasm toward outreach and diversity activities at U-M. He enjoys mentoring middle school and high school students, encouraging them to pursue careers in engineering.

As director for education for the Engineering Research Center for Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems, he wrote proposals that allow for collaboration with minority institutions, such as Florida A&M University. Among his many other activities, Kannatey-Asibu has been involved with the Detroit Area Precollege Engineering Program, through which he has inspired some under-represented minorities to study at U-M.

“Elijah has definitely made significant contributions to research and outreach/diversity, and especially to the outreach and diversity efforts within the university,” Albert Shih, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, associate director of the Medical Innovation Center and co-director of the SM Wu Manufacturing Research Center, wrote in his nomination letter. “He has had major impact on the exposure of area school children to engineering, and especially on the exposure and recruitment of under-represented students to engineering fields at the university.”

Guy Meadows


Meadows, professor of physical oceanography in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (NAME), and Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, and director of the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory, NAME has been a longtime advocate of advancing diversity within the College of Engineering. He champions learning environments that ensure all CoE students are prepared to lead in a global society, and provides personal coaching and mentoring.

Meadows served as the faculty director of the Michigan Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (M-STEM) Academy, which identifies diverse incoming students who because of socio-economic issues, first-generation college student status, race or gender might face difficulties in pursuing an M-STEM degree. He also developed curricular initiatives to attract diverse groups into multi-disciplinary experiences, and wrote the curriculum for his popular class “Crossing the Boundary.” And as graduate program adviser for NAME he worked to increase the number of under-represented students in the department’s graduate program.

“Dr. Meadows … is absolutely committed to fostering the success of diverse students,” Robert Scott, director of Multicultural Academic Initiatives, CoE, wrote in his nomination letter. “He truly understands the importance of diversity to the future of science and engineering disciplines. And he always goes the extra mile to make certain that the students understand both the micro and the macro connections between mathematics, science and engineering.”

Robert Sellers


Sellers, professor of psychology and associate chair, Department of Psychology, began his outreach as a graduate student at U-M when, as president of the Black Psychology Student Association, he successfully made it his mission to increase the number of minority students in the department. He later founded the National Black Graduate Student Association, which brought together black faculty and top students from multiple universities.

Within the Department of Psychology, Sellers has created the Diversity Committee to help identify promising undergraduates who might attend U-M for graduate studies. He also works to recruit faculty who could bring greater diversity to the university. Sellers mentors both undergraduate and graduate students, and works with them to research the construct of African-American racial identity.

“(Sellers) never tires of trying to improve the programs that will attract diverse students, of talking to faculty who would increase our diversity, of explaining to others on campus why it is so very important that (the Department of Psychology) and U-M continue and improve the diversity of our students and faculty,” Theresa Lee, professor and chair in the Department of Psychology, wrote in her nomination letter. “He is enormously creative in developing programs that seem to work, and in creating an environment in psychology and beyond that supports the goal of diversity.”

Louis Yen


Yen, an associate research scientist at the Health Management Research Center, School of Kinesiology, significantly has facilitated building academic and cultural links between U-M and China, which has promoted diversity of campus.

Yen worked with the GEIU program to send kinesiology students to China, where they interacted with students at Beijing Sports University and Tianjin Medical University while learning about sports management and health management. He also is a key figure in exchange programs between U-M and Chinese universities. Yen also played a critical role in the launch of the Confucius Institute at U-M (CI-UM), which promotes Chinese arts and cultures.

“The CI-UM is the only unit … through which U-M faculty and staff can directly engage with Chinese aesthetics and practices of expressive humanity,” Joseph Lam, professor of music and director of CI-UM, writes in his nomination letter. “Dr. Yen … continues to bring intellectual and cultural diversity to the U-M community.”