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President's Diversity Award Recipients for 2014
Author: Global Diversity
Posted: May 15, 2014

President’s Diversity Award Recipient Biographies for 2014

Faculty Award  

Grace Dillon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Indigenous Nations Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Grace Dillon teaches courses on a range of subjects including Indigenous science fiction, Indigenous cinema, popular culture, and social justice. She is widely published and has been responsible for providing leadership for Indigenous Nations Studies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion activities.  Her students credit her with exposing them to “diverse, groundbreaking, mind-expanding, and deeply moving Indigenous literature”. Currently, Professor Dillon is leader of the Curriculum Committee of the School of Gender, Race and Nations Initiative where she is helping to set the school’s priorities, policies, and programs to enhance gender, ethnic, and social diversity in its faculty, staff and students.  She has served on the Advisory Board of the Native American Student and Community Center and was a faculty advisor to United Indian Students in Higher Education.  For the past five years Professor Dillon has sponsored a national contest for young writers in Indigenous science fiction, held here at the Native American Student and Community Center. This event brings together student writers from across the country to demonstrate their skill and to be mentored by our faculty.  Many of the contest winners have leveraged their accolades and have later been offered entrance to fine colleges and universities across the country. Professor Dillon is a very gifted faculty member, able to find and encourage the positive attributes, skills, and perspectives of her students. 

Faculty Award  

Sridevi Nair, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Women, Gender and Sexulities Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Sridevi Nair's areas of expertise include women of color feminisms, global sexuality studies, and transnational feminist theory.  In teaching these subjects she been especially adept at bringing theory alive for her students, a very demanding learning goal given the tensions that ensue from the historically under-appreciated contribution of women of color to feminism.  Within a few years of her hire, Professor Nair has become a prominent advisor and mentor for students from communities of color and for women who are first generation college students.  Her approach to advising is not to only create pathways to graduation, but to focus on helping students make sense of the relationship between their education and professional goals.  Her scholarship focusses on gender, race, culture, and aging in South Asian communities and the impact of globalization.  At PSU she is involved in the South Asian Initiative which is working toward more curricular and community investment in South Asian Studies.  So both her research and teaching revolve around diverse populations, gender, and sexuality.  Many of our students have never been asked to think critically and speak cogently about these intersections.  It is due to scholars like Professor Nair that our students are gaining more insight and understanding about how to seriously and productively engage with the complexities that constitute our global society. 

Staff Award

Kirsten Keith, Assistant Coordinator, Queer Resource Center, Enrollment Management & Student Affairs

In the past year, Kirsten went from a post-bac student employee, to the interim coordinator of the Queer Resource Center, and then to the assistant coordinator at QRC. Kirsten began exploring their future career in higher education by participating in the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, a program that seeks to increase the number of historically underrepresented professionals in student affairs and higher education.  However, Kirsten’s most notable involvement as an undergraduate student was with the QRC.  In their role as the Trans and Interpersonal Violence Resources coordinator, Kirsten was a co-convener of the Commission on Sexual and Gender Equity (SAGE), providing high impact programming for Transgender Day of Remembrance and Trans Awareness Month, and supported queer and trans students who were affected by interpersonal violence.  Kirsten was also an active member of the Bathroom Avengers group responsible for the first multi-stall gender neutral restroom on campus.  This restroom is one of many services provided by PSU that makes the campus one of the nation’s leading universities in supporting transgender college students. PSU has been listed as one of the nation’s “Top 25 LGBT-friendly Colleges and Universities” since the inception of the list in 2011 as a result of the many ways that PSU creates an inclusive campus for queer and trans students through proactive resources, policies and practices.  Through their impact as a student and as a full-time staff member, Kirsten is most deserving of a President’s Diversity Award to honor and formally recognize their work in making our campus a destination of choice for queer students, faculty and staff. 

Undergraduate Student Award  

Goutam Saha, Film Major, School of  Theatre & Film, College of the Arts

Goutam Saha is an undergraduate film major in the School of Theatre and Film in the College of the Arts.  Since 2012 Goutam has been a video production coordinator for the Pathways to Positive Futures Training Collaborative under the direction of professors Eileen Brennan and Pauline Jivanjee in the School of Social Work.  The Pathways to Positive Futures program focuses on improving outcomes for young people of transition age with serious mental health conditions.  In this capacity Goutam has been involved in creating online modules to train service providers who work with these emerging adults, 14-30 years of age.  These modules are interview-based and Goutam has truly excelled, showing a deep respect for everyone who agreed to be interviewed.  The interview pool is very diverse including young people with extended experience with the mental health system.  Goutam advocated to include in the pool people from immigrant families.  According to evaluations of the service providers who have taken the modules, the video clips of interviewees have provided some of the most valuable information in the training program.  Goutam’s approach to filmmaking has established with our community partners that PSU is an institution where students bring cultural competence to their work. 

Graduate Student Award

Shannon Sprague, Education Counseling Major, Graduate School of Education

Shannon has a proven track record of involvement ever since she started her undergraduate career at PSU in 2005. From 2005 to 2009, she served as a fellow officer for Kaibigan, the Filipino American Student Association on campus, where she helped organize hundreds of events and projects including a scholarship program to benefit and promote the Filipino American community and promote diversity as a whole. Because of her leadership and contributions, Kaibigan was recognized consecutively with awards such as “Student Group of the Year” and “Cultural Event of the Year.”  What’s even more inspiring about Shannon’s dedication and service to the Filipino American organization and commitment to diversity is that she is not of Filipino descent. When Shannon graduated at the top of her class in 2010 as summa cum laude, her involvement did not stop there. As a graduate, Shannon immediately became involved in Kaibigan’s Alumni Advisory Board. Through this role, she’s provided guidance, support and training to 12 executive board members on various topics. Shannon also works full-time in PSU’s Student Legal Services as the office manager. Shannon has been unwavering partner to her supervisor in developing and implementing the Explore the Law Program in collaboration with the Multnomah Bar Association and Oregon State Bar.  Explore the Law is a pipeline program for underrepresented students at PSU interested in pursuing careers in law. It is no surprise that Shannon is pursuing her master's in counseling at PSU and pursuing a career in higher education. After her extensive work organizing events, leading and building student organizations from the ground up as a student leader and breaking down barriers to create safe, inclusive and welcoming spaces for her peers, colleagues and the students she mentors, it is very fitting that Shannon is pursuing a career that will allow her to help and mentor students to reach their full potential.  

Team Award

Population Research Center: Sheila Martin, Jason Jurjevich, Kevin Rancik, Charles Rynerson, and Janai Kessi; and Mark Harmon Leymon, Criminology and Criminal Justice - all from College of Urban & Public Affairs

The Population Research Center (PRC) at PSU is an interdisciplinary public service, research, and training unit for population-related data and research for the State of Oregon. In 2009, the Urban League of Portland published the State of Black Oregon. The stories and data in the report, made visible the troubling social and economic reality of Black Oregonians.  It illustrated the community’s humanity and resilience providing a human face to the issues of poverty, discrimination, gentrification, educational achievement and entrepreneurship.   As the first major snapshot of one of Oregon’s growing communities of color. Five years later, the Urban League of Portland will produce a new and innovative State of Black Oregon with the assistance of PSU’s Population Research Center.  The Population Research Center did extensive research and collected data for the Urban League of Portland to produce the 2014 State of Black Oregon Report. The 2014 report will include:

 - An innovative and unique approach to updated national, state and local data on Black Oregonians on a number of social and economic indicators.  

- A documentary short film of the report.

- New personal stories and gripping case studies.

- Updated policy recommendations in each focus area. And

- A closer look at the Black LGBTQ Oregonian community, at older adults and the African/immigrant refugee community.

The impact of the State of Black Oregon will lie in the data that powerfully illustrates the inequities in employment, education, housing, health, criminal justice and wealth creation.  Michael Alexander, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, said the Populations Research Center has not only provided the league with updated research around key social and economic indicators, but it has also helped them identify areas of research that cross policy arenas and that specially speak to the Black Oregon experience.

Alumna Award 

Mindy Johnston, Director of Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan Ensemble, Lewis & Clark College, Adjunct Instructor of Gamelan at Portland State University.

Mindy Johnston is an alumna of PSU, having earned a Master of Science in Conflict Resolution in 2010 with a focus on music and activism.  Currently, she is director of Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan Ensemble at Lewis & Clark College and an adjunct Instructor of gamelan at Portland State.  Mindy has directed the Venerable Showers of Beauty since 2007, and has played in the ensemble since 1993, producing dozens of concerts in the Northwest and bringing world renowned guest artists from Java to perform with the ensemble.   After discovering gamelan as a student at Lewis & Clark, she was awarded the Dharmasiswa scholarship in 1998-99 and 2004-05 to study traditional Javanese music at the Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI), the arts university in Solo, Java.  From 2004-2007, she studied and performed gamelan there with some of the most venerated Javanese gamelan musicians.  Before starting graduate school, Mindy worked for many years with “at-risk” adolescents in a residential treatment program, coordinating treatment services and working as a liaison with community partners.  She also worked as the program coordinator for the African Diaspora Dialogue Project, bringing conflicting communities together with the aim of reconciliation and healing.  Most recently, she established a community based Crime Victim Advocacy Program with Lutheran Community Services Northwest in Vancouver.  And she currently serves as a facilitator and board member for the Insight Development Group, doing restorative justice work at youth and adult correctional facilities.  She hopes to start a regular children’s gamelan ensemble, as well as offer gamelan workshops in prisons, schools and other community settings in the Portland area. 

Donor Award

Evelyn Crowell, donor of the Albert Crowell, Jr. Endowed Memorial Scholarship, College of the Arts

Evelyn made a gift to PSU in the memory of her uncle, Albert Crowell, Jr., to create the Albert Crowl Jr., Endowed Memorial Scholarship. In 1948, when Evelyn was 12 years old, her father died.  Her Uncle Albert stepped forward to become her guardian and nurtured her through adulthood.  Her uncle made substantial sacrifices so that Evelyn could attend college.  His financial support  as well as other scholarship support enabled her to enroll in higher education and receive her undergraduate degree from Portland State College in 1959.  Her master’s degree in Library Science was granted by the University of Washington in 1961. Following library positions at both Linfield College and Fisk University, Evelyn was hired by PSC President Joseph Blumel in 1972 as an assistant professor and head of Lending Services for the PSU Library.  Evelyn retired from PSU in 2002. As a young black woman with few financial resources, Evelyn experienced first hand the difficulty of attending higher education.  As her uncle and others stepped forward to help her, she, in return, hopes that the scholarship in honor of her uncle will help others, especially those with keen understanding, appreciation and empathy for the challenges that face African-Americans. Evelyn has been a strong supporter in the College of the Arts, where she established this endowed scholarship to rotate yearly between opera and theatre students and support the opera with annual gifts.