Three recipients honored with 2022 Excellence in Diversity Award

Contact: Zinta Aistars

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Western Michigan University will recognize three recipients of the 2022 Excellence in Diversity Award at this academic year’s Fall Convocation ceremony, set to take place at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16, in the North Ballroom of the Bernhard Center. The recipients for 2022 diversity award are Dr. Staci Perryman-Clark, the WMU Athletics Diversity Task Force and the Professional Development Institute.

“The purpose of these awards is to acknowledge and honor our colleagues who are moving the needle forward in diversity, inclusion and equality,” says Dr. Candy McCorkle, vice president for diversity and inclusion. “Each recipient has taken a very different approach—from creating a fellowship, building campaigns and building understanding in relationships—each bringing great value to the University in different ways.”

Dr. Staci Perryman-Clark

Perryman-Clark, a professor of English and African American studies and director of the Institute for Intercultural and Anthropological Studies (IIAS), is a globally recognized and accomplished scholar in rhetoric and composition. A faculty member since 2010, she leads diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for the provost’s office, developing DEI goals and leading colleges, departments, centers and other units in the process of disaggregating unit data around faculty and staff recruitment and student retention.

Dr. Staci Perryman-Clark

Perryman-Clark has led IIAS in filling the African American and African studies program with three—one jointly appointed—tenured and tenure-track BIPOC faculty. She has developed anti-bias and anti-racist workshops for faculty members serving on tenure and promotion as well as hiring committees, which has significantly impacted the BIPOC faculty.

“Dr. Perryman-Clark is deeply committed to making sure that WMU is an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued and their contributions appreciated,” asserts Dr. Mariam Konatè, professor of African American and African studies and gender and women’s studies. “Our community is only strengthened by colleagues such as Dr. Perryman-Clark.”

She is co-editor with Collin Craig of "Black Perspectives on Writing Program Administration: From the Margins to the Center with The National Council of Teachers of English/Conference on College Composition and Communication Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Series," which received the 2020 Council of Writing Program Administrators Best Book Award. She is a recipient of the Lambda Leadership Award, recognized for her advocacy for LGBTQ inclusion and her demonstration of commitment to improving the climate for LGBTQ campus community members.

WMU Athletics Diversity Task Force

The WMU Athletics Diversity Task Force, established in 2020, is comprised of athletics department staff members, coaches and student-athletes around the theme of “We Must Unite,” taking on issues of inclusion and diversity around campus and in the Kalamazoo community. The task force is committed to creating real change, advocating for equality, listening, and providing education and awareness.

We Must Unite The group has given presentations on mental health issues surrounding police brutality; partnered with the University’s WeVote initiative to encourage voting on campus and in the community; organized a march for social justice issues where student-athletes and staff spoke on such topics as Black Lives Matter, police concerns and encouraging student voting and civic participation; collected shoes to support the community with proceeds going to local organizations; assisted in planning and spreading awareness about panels, luncheons, sexual assault prevention, movie viewings and award ceremonies, with a focus on women empowerment and Title IX; and other projects.

“The Athletics Diversity Task Force has intentionally promoted and embraced diversity, inclusion and equality across all sports,” McCorkle says. “And they have done so as a department, with involvement at all levels.”

WMU Professional Development Institute

The WMU Professional Development Institute (PDI), led by Dr. Evelyn Winfield-Thomas, executive director of the Office of Institutional Equity, exists to build cultural competencies across Western’s campus and beyond. A presidential initiative and the first of its kind in southwestern Michigan, PDI promotes inclusivity in the workplace through professional development. This “train-the-trainers” workshop prepares practitioners to meld their individual expertise with the core concepts and curricula designed and provided by Dr. Mark Orbe, professor of communication, to impact the WMU community.

Dr. Evelyn Winfield-Thomas (left) and Dr. Mark Orbe (right)

The foundation of the 30-hour workshop curriculum is an understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice through an intercultural communication lens. Its design provides an institutional infrastructure to dismantle unconscious bias and recognizes, supports and sustains the efforts of this diversity and multiculturalism initiative at all levels of the institution. Guided by this design, Western is equipped with an ability to share knowledge and best practices that allow for  campus community members to both become and facilitate culturally competent professionals and educators.

“The PDI, guided by Dr. Evelyn Winfield-Thomas and facilitated by Dr. Mark Orbe, is, in my view, the strongest and best attempt WMU has made in this kind of institutional equity and is more than worthy of being recognized with the Excellence in Diversity Award,” Dr. David J. Paul, chair of the department of philosophy, wrote.

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