President’s Diversity Award Presented

Contact: Kathy Johnson

Photos  (back l-r) Jaunita Fleming, Karen Slaymaker and Carole Gnatuk (representing International Hospitality Program), Jim Wims
(click photo to enlarge)
(front l-r) Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Tamara L. Brown, Veleshia Smith
(back l-r) Juanita Fleming, Karen Slaymaker and Carole Gnatuk (representing International Hospitality Program), Jim Wims

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“I am extremely pleased with the caliber of our nominees this year. Each has exhibited a sincere desire and determination to improve the university through diversity efforts. This is consistent with our Strategic Plan objective for UK to nurture diversity of thought, culture, gender and ethnicity.”

-- Lee T. Todd Jr.,
president,
University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 24, 2004) -- University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. today presented the second annual President’s Award for Diversity in honor and appreciation of those who have demonstrated outstanding efforts toward advancing UK’s mission of embracing diversity while maintaining academic excellence.

The award was presented to five people and one unit within the university during a ceremony at the UK College of Law Courtroom today. The presentation was part of the conference “Education Beyond Brown: Future Perspectives” organized by the President’s Commission on Diversity. Award winners by category are:

Student: Veleashia Smith is a senior in the College of Social Work, a charter member of the President’s Commission on Diversity, a senator with Student Government, and second vice-president and Homecoming chair for her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta. She is very active in efforts to promote diversity at UK. Smith was credited with organizing the College of Social Work’s first minority seminar which led to the revival of the UK chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers. She was cabinet secretary for Campus Unity with Student Government and coordinated programs to help bridge the gap between Student Government and the African-American student population.

Staff member: James Wims, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life, was described by a nominator as “the best role model for diversity that UK has to offer.” Wims was credited with building an outstanding diversity training program for the Residence Life staff and instrumental in making diversity a strong part of the training for resident advisers in all of UK’s residence halls. The training is noted for its inclusiveness and supportiveness with regard to ethnic, culture, gender, sexual orientation and disability differences. Wims also was credited with recruiting and retaining a highly diverse staff and being an active participant in service work at UK and in the community including mentoring African-American students.

Staff member: Kathy Sheppard-Jones, project leader and researcher in UK’s Interdisciplinary Human Development Institute, was nominated for her “superb leadership in diversity issues on campus, especially in relationship to the needs of individuals with disabilities.” Among Sheppard-Jones’ many activities related to inclusion and accessibility, she has been credited with being the driving force behind the UK Accessible Map, an online interactive map enabling students, faculty, staff and visitors with physical impairments to find accessible routes to each building on campus. She also was involved with establishing the Engaging Differences Web site that provides information to faculty and staff to help them more effectively educate and serve students with disabilities.

Faculty member: Tamara L. Brown, assistant professor of psychology, became the first ethnic minority faculty member in the clinical psychology program at UK when she arrived in 1999. A nominator said, “Brown has worked relentlessly and untiringly for diversity.” Brown’s scholarly research, focusing on ethnic minority and cross-cultural psychology especially pertaining to minority mental health issues, has received national attention. Among Brown’s many diversity endeavors, she serves as faculty adviser to the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association and works to improve UK’s recruitment and retention of ethnically diverse graduate students. Her efforts within her own department have resulted in a significant increase in the number of African-American applicants to the doctoral program in clinical psychology.

Community member: Juanita Fleming, retired special assistant to the president for academic affairs and former professor of nursing at the University of Kentucky, is now interim vice president for academic affairs at Kentucky State University. A widely published researcher in the health care area and expert in academic policy, Fleming was described by one of her nominators as “a proven leader who has melded academic leadership with principles of diversity.” She was credited with having a quiet but progressive impact on the hiring of diverse faculty members especially in areas of scientific under-representation, and she informally provided counsel to women and other minority faculty who wanted to pursue administrative careers. In 1990, Fleming served as chair of UK’s Ad Hoc Committee on Minorities.

University unit: The International Hospitality Program (IHP) is a community-based organization sponsored by UK’s Office of International Affairs. Due to the efforts of the program, approximately 150 of UK’s 1,500 international students are currently paired with American volunteer hosts in the community. The IHP works with community and university groups to provide welcoming events for international students and to provide other supportive services for the students. IHP’s purpose is to promote cross-cultural learning, provide international students a culturally rich experience outside the classroom, and offer local citizens the opportunity to make international friends.

“I am extremely pleased with the caliber of our nominees this year. Each has exhibited a sincere desire and determination to improve the university through diversity efforts,” said Todd. “This is consistent with our Strategic Plan objective for UK to nurture diversity of thought, culture, gender and ethnicity.”

Recipients of the President's Award for Diversity were selected by the President's Commission on Diversity Awards Committee and received $500 and a display award.


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