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Diversity Awards announced

By Marissa Neeley
On March 25, 2014

The USU Diversity Award recipients were announced last week. There are awards for administrator, faculty, staff, student and community.

Garth Wilson of the USU Eastern Blanding campus received the administrator award; Dr. Robert McPherson of Blanding received the faculty award; Juan Carlos Vazquez from the Center for Persons with Disabilities received the staff award; Indhira Hasbun, a graduate student in engineering received the student award and the Museum of Anthropology received the community award.

“The purpose of the USU Diversity Awards, now in its 20th year, is to recognize those individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to further the principles and values of affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity,” said Stacy Sturgeon, director for Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity at USU.

“Utah State University values the tremendous diversity reflected on our campus, within our community as well as throughout the state we serve,” she said. “Valuing diversity allows us to share ideas, and in doing so enriches all of our experiences personally and professionally.”

Calls for nominations go out and the USU’s Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity advisory council reviews the nominations for the awards. After consideration and discussion, they collectively decide on the award recipients.

Recipients of the awards receive no monetary prize in recognition of their accomplishments.

“We know there are individuals and organizations doing great things worthy of recognition,” Sturgeon said. “They don’t do these things for a monetary prize or even for recognition; they do them because they are passionate about helping to make a difference. Often, the recipients don’t even know they have been nominated. When I call to notify them of the award and to thank them for their efforts, they are so surprised and reply with such gratitude and humility. It is truly an honor to speak with each recipient and to hear more about their work.”

Leon Anderson, head of the sociology, social work and anthropology department, submitted the nomination for the Museum of Anthropology.

“The Museum of Anthropology at USU has been fostering an appreciation of human diversity for many years with its various in-house exhibits, public programs, K-12 teaching trunks and traveling exhibits,” said Patricia Lambert, director of the Museum of Anthropology. “In fact, the primary goal of the discipline of anthropology is to explore and develop an appreciation for human diversity and the shared legacy of our common humanity.”

Juan Carlos Vazquez, multicultural director for the Center for Persons with Disabilities, received notice that he was the a diversity award recipient a few weeks ago, nominated by a friend and mentor to him.

He said he believes his nomination of the award has to do with his continuous involvement addressing areas of diversity within the university setting and at the national level in conferences providing cultural and linguistic competence trainings and presentations at various levels.

“I feel very humble for being nominated and awarded for doing something I am passionate about it,” Vazquez said. “It means a lot to me to be recognized for contributing, among many other qualified and caring individuals at the university, to address and actively engage in issues of diversity, providing knowledge in the area of cultural and linguistic competence to staff, faculty, students and members of our community.”

Dr. Robert McPherson, a history professor at Blanding, said the demographic in Blanding is 50 percent Native American, primarily Navajo and Ute tribes. Native Americans make up 60 percent of the student population.

“Our campus is all about diversity,” he said. “We have other background, but we deal with diversity everyday.”

McPherson said he feels appreciative about receiving the award because it recognizes the campus.

“It is a very unique campus,” he said. “We have Utah State teaching centers that broadcast classes to on and off the reservations. We bring higher education right into Navajo communities. We also broadcast into Colorado to two Ute reservations, Towaoc and Ignacio.”

This award is also an opportunity to recognize the students who are taught at Blanding, McPherson said.

“Diversity is very much a real thing,” he said. “Native Americans are now a majority minority. Our campus is a small part of a large university. There is a lot of poverty and limited economic development that offers all sorts of involvement. The only way to understand others is to be exposed to other ways of thinking.”

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