Diversity Honors and Scholarly Activities

This page makes the campus community aware of colleagues and students, who receive diversity-related honors, make diversity-related presentations, publish diversity-related articles/books/dissertations, and display diversity-related creative activities. The intention of this link is to serve as a resource and a connecter to advance inclusive excellence.

2017 Awards

2017 UCA Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Awards

This year marks the second year for the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Award. The conception of this award was put forth by the University’s Strategic Planning Committee and the Diversity Advisory Committee.
This award recognizes individuals whose commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence on and/or off campus have made a significant impact on various ethnic groups and diverse populations in a positive way. These individuals have improved conditions at UCA and within the community that have enhanced society.

Dr. Taine Duncan

Recipient: Dr. Taine Duncan, Associate Professor and Director of Gender Studies Program, Department of Philosophy and Religion

Dr. Taine M. Duncan, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, exemplifies the commitment of a scholarly academic who is both a supportive ally to students and colleagues and a dedicated advocate of diversity and inclusive excellence. Her outstanding contributions are visible in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Gender Studies, the College of Liberal Arts, UCA, and the community. In her department, she is the instructor of the Gender/Race/Class course and multidisciplinary service learning courses. In her program, she is the Director of the Gender Studies minor. In her College, she chairs the Diversity Committee. Her University service includes advisor for the Feminist Union RSO and head of the One Billion Rising event. She is an activist for LGBTIQ faculty, staff, and student concerns. In the community, she collaborates with the Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice. The aforementioned highlights only some of the service of this dynamic UCA leader. Emphasized in her letters of recommendation, “Taine is the finest champion of diversity and inclusive excellence at UCA.” “She is everything you want in a professor, professional, and colleague.” “Her zest and tenacity always come across in every interaction.”

Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Finalists

2017 Finalists

Dr. Darshon Anderson, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology and Counseling, and the Director of Assessment for Diversity Initiatives, Institutional Diversity

During the five years Dr. Darshon Anderson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling, has been a part of the UCA faculty and campus life, she has been instrumental in changing the culture of the campus. Her background in research has led her to receive various grants to promote and improve diversity and inclusive excellence in her teaching, scholarship, and service at the University and in the community. She has received several grants including the American Psychological Association Diversity Grant that examined the underrepresentation of ethnic minority faculty in psychology departments in the state of Arkansas. This work resulted in local and national presentations and publications. She proposed and implemented the first UCA Psychology & Counseling Diversity Summit and the first undergraduate Multicultural Psychology course offered in the Department of Psychology & Counseling. Dr. Anderson serves as the Director of Assessment for Diversity Initiatives at UCA and is a member of the University Diversity Advisory Committee. She shepherded the recent campus climate survey that offered feedback to the University concerning all aspects of diversity on campus and other important experiences of students, faculty, and staff. In her nomination, Dr. Anderson’s colleagues and community members pointed out her dedication, focus, and excellence. One colleague wrote, “She has created a ripple effect that shows no signs of slowing.”

Dr. Michael Kithinji, Assistant Professor and Director of the African /African American Studies Program, Department of History

As a scholar of Africa and its Diaspora and world history, Dr. Michael Kithinji invests his critical perspective, classroom practices, and service activities in work that combats negative myths and stereotypes about Africa and the non-Western world. Dr. Kithinji, Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Director of the African and African American Studies Program, has demonstrated a consistent commitment to encouraging campus wide diversity and inclusion efforts since he joined the faculty in 2013. At the heart of his work is an emphasis on challenging the intellectual opportunities for students to become more culturally competent by offering classes such as Pan-Africanism and the Liberation Struggle, Apartheid South Africa, and Modern Africa. He is currently organizing a study abroad opportunity to Tanzania to help students expand their sense of self within a global community. Dr. Kithinji also invests in students outside of his classroom by participating as a frequent guest speaker on campus, supporting the involvement of students in the Faulkner County NAACP, and serving as an involved member of student retention efforts for African American men. Most recently, Dr. Kithinji played a key role in the establishment of the African/African American Studies Society, fondly known as AFAM. Through this student group, students have opportunities to participate in educational trips and more speakers and events related to minority cultures occur on campus. Overall, his efforts are building the secure foundation for a bright future for the AFAM Program. Colleagues note that Dr. Kithinji is hardworking, dedicated, resourceful, and patient—his ability to use limited resources to expand the cultural viewpoints on our campus from the local to the global is laudable.

The Outstanding Diversity Outreach by a Student Award

This is the first year of this award. It recognizes an individual whose commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence on campus and/or off campus has made a significant impact on various underserved groups in a positive way. This individual has improved conditions at UCA and within the community that have enhanced society.

Hershila Lallu

Recipient, Hershila Lallu

The recipient of the inaugural Outstanding Diversity Outreach by a Student Award has been active in bringing awareness and cultural activities to UCA and to the Conway community. She has selflessly served organizations such as the Student Government Association, the Minority Mentorship Program, the Order of Omega Honor Society, and the UCA National Panhellenic Council. Hershila has also actively served as a Presidential Leadership Fellow, a UCA Ambassador, a peer coach, and much more. Our first recipient was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Spirituality Speaking Series, which increases understanding of the religious diversity on our campus and the HOLI Festival of Colors that celebrates good over evil. At HOLI Festival, everyone comes together for an afternoon of dancing and throwing of colored powder. Considering that the end of the event leaves everyone covered in colored powder, signifies an acceptance of differences while it also honors unity, friendship, and healing. Much like the HOLI Festival, Hershila honors diversity and inclusive excellence as well as unity, friendship, and healing.

Recent graduate, Dr. Barrett Petty was selected as the recipient of the 2017 Association of Teacher Educators Distinguished Dissertation in Teacher Education Award for his dissertation titled Factors That Contribute to the Completion of Programs of Study at Arkansas Institutions of Higher Education for African American Males.

The Theta Lambda chapter of Beta Alpha Psi chapter at the University of Central Arkansas earned two first place awards at the organization’s Southwest Regional meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, February 25, 2017.

Emelyn-Doriane Djoké of Côte d’Ivorie and Tuan Nguyen of Vietnam competed in the Community Outreach category of Best Practices using their project, “Diversity in the Accounting Profession.” The students competed against three other regional teams and won the competition. The students who participated in the competitions earned the right to compete at the national meeting this August in Anaheim, California.

The UCA Department of Accounting received contributions from BKD, LLP which allows the students to travel to the southwest and annual conferences. The UCA Student Government Association and the UCA Diversity Office also covered a portion of the registration fees for the conference.

Beta Alpha Psi is an honor organization for financial information students and professionals with over 300 chapters on college and university campuses. The Theta Lambda chapter is identified as a superior chapter by the organization for its commitment to professional and service hours.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact our chapter’s faculty advisors, Dr. Connie McKnight (cmcknight@uca.edu; 501.450.5076) and Dr. Karen Oxner (koxner@uca.edu; 501.852.0028).

Beta Alpha Psi

Pictured left to right: Jacob Hoelzeman, Anastasiya Klimiankova, Nathan Scheuter, Emelyn-Doriane Djoké, Alyman Ouattara, Kylie Garrett, Obed Onyemakonor, Tuan Nguyen, Johnathan Long, Jean Piere Leon Chavez, Sultan Faretdinov, and Dr. Karen Oxner.

2016 Awards

2016 Committed to Diversity Award

Committed to Diversity

2016 LULAC Certificate

LULAC 2016

UCA Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Awards

This year marks the first year for the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Award. The conception of this award was put forth by the University’s Strategic Planning Committee and the Diversity Advisory Committee.

This award recognizes individuals whose commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence on and/or off campus have made a significant impact on various ethnic groups and diverse populations in a positive way. These individuals have improved conditions at UCA and within the community that have enhanced society.

Dr. Gayle Seymour

Dr. Gayle Seymour, Associate Dean, College of Fine Arts and Communication, 1st Place

Dr. Gayle Seymour has been an asset to the University of Central Arkansas and the community for over 30 years. During that time, she has been involved in over two million dollars in grants to fund a variety of projects for UCA and the community. Dr. Seymour is committed to the significance of diversity and inclusive excellence on and off campus in a variety of ways including African American history awareness, Japanese American internment awareness, LGBT+ advocacy, and the inclusion of adults with developmental challenges. She stated “…I could use the arts as a way to help people grow beyond their boundaries and develop empathy and compassion for those who may not be like them.” Dr. Seymour received grants for the commission of The Little Rock Nine opera that will take place in 2017 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. She secured a grant from the Japanese-American Confinement Sites program for the creation of Gaman, a lyrical dance performed at Reynolds Performance Hall. Moreover, she played an intricate role in the UCA exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest piece of ongoing community art, in honor of Arkansans who died of AIDS. In addition, she played an important role in the Every Person Counts project for the ArtsFest in Conway in order to cultivate new art audiences such as individuals with developmental challenges. “Her commitment and mindfulness of the role and importance that diversity and inclusion play is reflected in who she is, how she activates engagement, and the broadness and impact of her reach into the community.”

Other Finalists

Dr. Taine Duncan, Assistant Professor and Director of Gender Studies Program, Department of Philosophy and Religion
Since coming to UCA from another program in Women’s and Gender Studies, Dr. Taine Duncan has demonstrated a consistent and passionate commitment to diversity and inclusiveness on our campus. Dr. Duncan is a key person on UCA’s faculty for bringing discussions of gender diversity front and center in our classrooms. Dr. Duncan’s commitment to diversity, however, is neither limited to issues of gender nor to the classroom. Her service learning courses have supported One Billion Rising, an organization devoted to stopping domestic violence against women and girls, and she has also presented for the Center for Teaching Excellence on advocacy service learning. Dr. Duncan also serves as advisor to the Feminist Union, Registered Student Organization, has worked actively against discrimination toward Syrian refugees through “#refugeesARwelcome, and has been a consistent advocate for LGBT+ faculty, staff, and student concerns. “Dr. Duncan manages to engage in all these service activities, remain a fantastic classroom teacher and strong academic scholar, while remaining ever ready to assist students and colleagues in their needs”

Mrs. Reesa Ramsahai, Staff Counselor/Coordinator of Outreach Programming, UCA Counseling Center and the Office of Diversity and Community
Mrs. Reesa Ramsahai works tirelessly on behalf of those who feel invisible based on their individual differences. She juggles two UCA assignments and volunteers in many campus-related activities, demonstrating her passion and commitment to UCA. In her University roles, Mrs. Ramsahai provides counseling both during and after University business hours. In addition, she collaboratively organizes and implements educational programs both on and off campus. She specifically develops programs to assist the LGBT+ population. For instance, she facilitates Safe Zone and other LGBT+ professional development sessions for the University community. What is more, she coordinates programs for women’s issues. For example, she coordinates Women’s History Month events. “Reesa’s dedication to social justice is tempered by a sense of realism and understanding.” She helps others to see institutional barriers and helps them engage in the work that is needed to create valuable social change. Her ingenuity allows her to navigate the campus and social climate to ensure that the voices of marginalized people of all manners are heard. “Reesa has been a tireless and dedicated ally to diversity and inclusion, consistently seeking out opportunities to put “otherness” center stage.”

2016 Honors

Vice President Ronnie Williams was named a National Role Model by Minority Access, Inc. He was honored for being a role model and father figure to many, offering guidance, insight, and wisdom. Throughout the years, alumni who are now educators at every level, physicians, attorneys, and the gamut of professionals have returned to campus to connect with him and to validate his positive influence on their lives. He has persevered over the years to initiate critical conversations with courage, conviction, and kindness. He is a treasure to the University of Central Arkansas.

Dr. Angela Webster was also recognized as a National Role Model by Minority Access, Inc. She works diligently to assist following generations of students in obtaining graduate degrees. She serves as an instructor for independent, guided courses for diverse doctoral students and serves on master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation committees of diverse students. She recruits and mentors diverse undergraduate and graduate students as well as diverse faculty. She has also initiated diversity-related campus programming and has secured grant funding to advance inclusive excellence.

Diversity Honors 2015

Edayshia Tank, a graduate student in the Psychology Department, became a fellow in the inaugural year (2015) of the Minority Fellowship Program in Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY). The fellowship is under the auspices of the American Psychological Association, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Conference Presentations 2015

Nancy P. Gallavan, Angela Webster-Smith, & Barrett Petty (2015, February). Obtaining a baccalaureate degree: How high school GPAs and ACT scores affect African American males. Association of Teacher Educators. Phoenix, AZ.

Angela Webster-Smith (2015, March). A six-point model of diversity and inclusive excellence for academic human resources. National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. Washington, D.C.

Publications 2015

Barrett Petty (2015). Factors that contribute to the completion of programs of study at Arkansas institutions of higher education for African American males. Doctoral Dissertation. The University of Central Arkansas.

Angela Webster-Smith (2015). Racial identity. In Sherwood Thompson’s Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice. (pp. 592-596). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Student Diversity Activities

During Fall 2015, students from RELG 1320 World Religions classes visited Little Rock to meet with members of the Central Arkansas Hindu community at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (temple). Members explained the customs surrounding the Hindu festival of Diwali and discussed the temple’s many community activities and functions. Dr. Jim Deitrick and Dr. Julia Winden-Fey accompanied the students. Funding for travel and for the Indian cuisine sampled in class was provided by a “Deep Learning” grant from UCA’s Residential Colleges. For more information on the mandir, please see http://www.baps.org/Global-Network/North-America/LittleRock.aspx.

2014 LULAC Certificate

LULAC 2015