The Division of Student Affairs has held their annual Neal R. Gamsky Quality of Student Life award ceremony every year since 1992. The tradition continued this year with a virtual ceremony on Tuesday, December 15. While things looked a little different, there was no shortage of enthusiasm and joy in honoring our 2020-2021 Gamsky award recipient, Dr. Dakesa Piña, staff counselor in Student Counseling Services.

Since joining the Student Counseling Services staff in 2010, Piña has been a tireless advocate for students, particularly students of color, and has been instrumental in developing many of the department’s signature, diversity-related programs. She helped develop the Voices of Discovery dialogue program, which has helped hundreds of students engage in meaningful dialogues about difference, power, and privilege. Piña was also instrumental in developing the Student of Color Process Group, a group that has provided students of color with a safe place to openly dialogue about what it means to be a student of color on a predominately white campus.

In addition to her work with these programs, Piña also served as an Inclusion Change Practitioner for her department and chaired the Multicultural Outreach Team in Student Counseling Services for several years. Under her leadership, the team developed a Microaggression Bystander training which teaches participants how to recognize and respond to microaggressions. Piña challenges her department to consistently provide fair, equitable, and just policies and practices so that every student who utilizes services experiences a system that is safe and inclusive. She fosters an environment at Student Counseling Services where every student is seen and heard, by every colleague within her department.

Piña has been described as someone who is thoughtful, caring, intentional, and compassionate. She has not only worked within her department, but across the campus community to develop, plan, and implement programming that promotes social justice and safety for all. She readily lends her voice, talents, and resources to the betterment and advancement of students, faculty, and staff at Illinois State. Hundreds of Redbirds have benefited from Piña’s support through her activism and advocacy.

Congratulations to Dr. Dakesa Piña, the 2020-2021 Gamsky award recipient! Thank you for your work to support students at Illinois State University!