For 20 years the Strand Diversity Achievement Award has recognized faculty and staff for their efforts to heighten sensitivity about diversity.
It was in 1994 that University President Emeritus David Strand established an award to honor faculty and staff who help diversity thrive on campus. “I was looking for some sort of award that would be different from the traditional faculty and staff awards, yet something that would continue to be an important topic for the University in the years ahead,” he said.
At the time, Strand was leaving his position as provost to return to the position of vice president for finance. “As provost, it was one of my goals to make departments more cognizant of going beyond networks and personal comfort zones in the hiring process,” said Strand.
The more diverse a faculty and staff, the greater the chance to recruit a diverse student population, which benefits all students, Strand said. “We are often guided by our own environment. Our vision and our life parameters are defined by the contacts that we have with people with whom we interact.”
Strand noted that because state universities generally have a high concentration of people from the same geographical area, striving for campus diversity must be a priority. “A person from Chicago may meet a person from Carbondale, and there is some expansion of horizons, but that does not necessarily accomplish what that person is going to need as a skill set to prepare him or her for the world,” he said.
The first award was presented to Professor Savario “Sam” Mungo, who spearheaded urban teaching preparation at Illinois State University, beginning in the 1960s. (Read more about Mungo’s work here.) “The award meant so much, because it meant the efforts were being recognized,” said Mungo.
Through the years, there have been 21 recipients, with Professor Lou Perez and Professor Maura Toro-Morn sharing the award in 1998. For many of the recipients, the award is more than an honor. It brings an awareness of the continuing need for vigilance when it comes to diversity.
“I think people are sometimes afraid to publicly discuss sensitive topics and diversity can be one of the most sensitive topics there is,” said Rick Lewis, who was honored in 2010. He said the Strand Award keeps the goal of diversity in the forefront of people’s minds. “It places diversity in the spotlight, by naming the value and recognizing people who are courageous in their personal and professional efforts to educate others and to provide opportunities for underrepresented students, faculty and staff to be successful.”
Having the award available to applicants campus-wide helps solidify the University’s mission of diversity, said Alison Bailey, the 2006 recipient of the Strand Award. “It’s important to have work of this nature honored at the University level,” she said, noting the scope of the award means diversity is more than the mission of any one person. “It sends out a message that the University values enhancing diversity as one of the top priority goals.”
Strand believes the award will continue to be important in the years to come. “I think people’s sensitivity to diversity has peaks and valleys. The more comfortable people are in their environment, the more they tend to feel that they deserve what they have inherited. They are less likely to reach out to others, or be as sensitive to the needs of others.”