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UC engineering assistant dean honored as equity ambassador

Marian Spencer’s legacy inspires future generations

a black women with long wavy hair in a black shirt stands smiling against a gray background

Whitney Gaskins considers Marian Spencer an influential role model. Photo/Provided.

Whitney Gaskins received a 2020 Marian Spencer Equity Ambassador Award from the University of Cincinnati's Office of Equity and Inclusion.

The office’s annual awards recognize members of the campus community whose efforts related to diversity, equity and inclusion have had a positive impact on the university – advancing belonging, agency, cultural competence and accountability within and across the campus community. 

“It is an honor for me to receive an award that is named after someone who has inspired me and so many others,” said Gaskins, who is the assistant dean of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement for the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UC.

The spirit of the award is to honor Marian Spencer’s legacy of activism and servant leadership. Spencer, a celebrated civil rights activist and a 1942 graduate of UC, was the first African American woman elected to Cincinnati City Council and the first female president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP. She led the fight to desegregate public schools and integrate Coney Island amusement park. She won both battles. 

Marian helped pave the way for me.

Whitney Gaskins, Assistant Dean, Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement

Five black female high school students in casual clothing stand on either side of one black woman in an army green dress

Whitney Gaskins at Women's Empowerment Day at Hughes STEM High School. Photo/Provided.

“Marian helped pave the way for me,” Gaskins said. “She not only created opportunities at the university, but also fought for educational and civil rights so that I, and my children, can have equal access within the city of Cincinnati.”

Demonstrating a powerful commitment to community involvement, Gaskins serves as mentor, motivator, and advisor to students of all ages. She is dedicated to philanthropic endeavors, community activism, and advancing educational equity.

“Marian Spencer is one of my 'she-roes.' I am blessed to have been able to tell her in person,” Gaskins said. 

a male and a female high school student stand to the left of a black woman

Gaskins engages with future Bearcats at her office's annual robotics competition. Photo/Provided.

In 2009, Gaskins founded The Gaskins Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate and empower the African American community. Its core program, STEMulates, provides free, year-round K-12 educational programming dedicated to introducing more students to math and science.

“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Gaskins in such a meaningful way.  Her work and contributions continue to advance the ideals and principles that Mrs. Spencer lived into action,” said Bleuzette Marshall, vice president for Equity, Inclusion and Community Impact.

Gaskins is a three-time alumna of UC, having earned a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering, a master of science in quantitative analysis and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The Links, Incorporated. She has been actively involved in the National Society of Black Engineers since 2003.

The Office of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement was also honored as Organization Recipient of the year.  Visit UC News to read more about all the 2020 award recipients

Featured image at top: Whitney Gaskins with students from Shroder High School during an E Week celebration. Photo/Provided.