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UC Honors Those Who Exemplify the Principles of a Just Community

Recipients of UC’s Just Community Award will be honored at the May 15 University Recognition Ceremony.

Date: 4/18/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lia Ventre

UC ingot   In their daily activities on campus, they’re actively representing the most honored ideals of the University of Cincinnati – in front of the classroom, or in their work cubicle or at their club meeting. UC’s 14th annual Just Community Awards will be presented by Mitchel D. Livingston, vice president for Student Affairs and chief diversity officer, at the University Recognition Ceremony at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 15, in the Great Hall of Tangeman University Center.

UC’s nationally recognized Just Community initiative evolved from students, staff, faculty and administrators across the university. The civic education program was created around the principles of pursuing scholarship and leadership, celebrating the uniqueness of each individual, practicing civility, embracing freedom and openness, seeking integrity, promoting justice, striving for excellence and accepting responsibility.

The recipients of the Just Community Awards were nominated by members of the UC community for incorporating the values of the Just Community into their daily practices. For the first time, two people will be honored posthumously with the Just Community Awards.

The 2011 recipients of UC’s Just Community Awards are:

Carl Bryant – The educator assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies for Romance Languages & Literatures was praised by the University Honors Program for his dedication to community engagement. He led an Honors study abroad experience to Nicaragua in 2009 and 2010, in which students lived with a Nicaraguan family during the entire two-week stay. “The impact that Dr. Bryant left on my education is something I’ll cherish as long as I live,” says UC student Jesse Taylor, who switched a Spanish minor to a Spanish major after a 2009 service-learning experience that Bryant led to Nicaragua. “His teaching style was so unique and effective that I told as many people as possible that they needed to take classes from Dr. Bryant,” says Taylor.

Todd Jones – The director of Athletic Academic Services and advisor for the Lacrosse and women's basketball teams was praised by one of his student workers for applying the Just Community Principles toward his work. Secondary language arts education and journalism major Ginny Walters, who is graduating this year, says Jones first guided her through the college admissions process back when she was a high school student, so for years, she has been inspired by his professionalism. “He strives for excellence 150 percent of the time,” she says. “He never stops. He is always working toward his fullest potential, which in turn inspires others to do the same.”

Mark Kohan – The UC doctoral student in educational studies was praised for his work in bringing together a city-wide coalition of education and community organizations to organize a one-day series of events with the Freedom Writers Foundation, an organization dedicated to preventing high school dropouts and promoting tolerance. The “Teaching Hope”-themed events, featuring Freedom Writers founder Erin Gruwell, are scheduled to take place on May 12, with a culminating event at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. As a former high school English language arts teacher in West Virginia and current coordinator of an afterschool program at Hughes High School in Cincinnati, Kohan, a teacher educator in the School of Education, has dedicated his career to inspiring students to pursue positive change. “He brings many gifts to our college,” says Chester Laine, professor of literacy and second language studies. “He brings years of successful teaching experience, a unique understanding of school contexts, an uncommon talent for teaching, an appreciation for diversity and a true commitment to the principles and spirit of UC’s Just Community.”

UC Racial Awareness Program (RAPP) – The student organization is a nationally recognized nine-month program that serves as a forum for students to challenge, debate and educate each other on issues of social justice and social positioning. The program explores race, culture, gender, socioeconomic class, sexuality and other areas of difference. This academic year, the program evolved into two – one for currents students and RAPPORT, which continues its outreach to alumni. The organization offers free programming to the UC community as well as the Greater Cincinnati community on communication topics covering diversity and social justice.

Elissa Yancey Sonnenberg – The field service assistant professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and assistant director of the journalism program was recognized for applying the Just Community values to her teaching and service-learning. “Service-learning is where students practice their skills out in the community, benefitting both the community and the student,” explains Emily Wendler, a recent graduate in geology and journalism. “Elissa wholeheartedly believes in this approach to practicing journalism because it allows journalism students to get real-world experience while promoting community and justice.”

Kimmins Southard – The UC senior is graduating with a bachelor’s in social work this spring. Southard is praised for serving as a peer leader and student facilitator in the RAPP program as well as serving as a peer educator with the UC Wellness Center. Southard worked tirelessly to build bridges of understanding with UC’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and was active in the student movement to create UC’s LGBTQ student center, which opened last year. “Kimmins is and has been deeply committed to actively leading and improving UC in ways that will make it a more diverse and inclusive place for generations,” says Kimberly Fulbright, program coordinator for the UC Women’s Center.

Two Just Community Awards will be presented in memory of people who exemplified the Just Community principles in their longstanding commitments to the university:

Linda Bates Parker – The UC alumna, director of UC’s Career Development Center, adjunct professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow was a trailblazer for black women in the business and academic community. She was the first black woman to be hired in market research at P&G and was the first black woman at UC to serve as associate vice provost for Student Affairs. She is credited with developing some of UC’s first distance learning courses. She established a scholarship to benefit economically disadvantaged students of color and taught classes that educated students about diversity in the workplace. She is credited with inspiring the creation of UC’s RAPP program to provide a forum for students to discuss race relations. For decades, she led organizations and forums dedicated to the professional development of women. She also served on numerous boards and commissions in the community.

Don Becker – The Kroger executive was a longtime supporter of UC’s students of color. For more than 20 years, he was a generous volunteer for UC’s Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program. His support resulted in raising more than $1 million to support UC’s academically talented students. Becker first joined the Kroger Company as a clerk in 1969, working his way up to numerous leadership positions including Executive Vice President in 2004. During his entire career, his business approach emphasized inclusion and diversity, and he served as co-chair of Kroger’s first General Office Cultural Council.