Community members receive inaugural award honoring MLK

Krystal Miller and Carleigh Beck

Five members of the Quinnipiac University community received the MLK Dream Award on Feb. 1, for honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through their work for the community.

The winners of the first annual award were Marilyn Ford, professor of law; William Jellison, professor of psychology; Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate provost for faculty affairs; Emily Diaz, junior political science major; and Mercy Quaye, alumna and founder of The Narrative Project.

“The award is to a student who , kind of embodies some of the characteristics and the morals and values that MLK hopes to see in our youth today, that is continually fighting for what they believe in and for what’s right,” Diaz said.

Diaz is the president of the Latino Culture Society and the treasurer of the Indigenous Student Union. She sat on the Cultural Planning Committee but is currently spending the semester in Washington, D.C., working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. She said she is conducting research on the indigenous people in Chile decolonizing histories of gender.

“My work really intends to empower people of color across the board, all of our students, and finding ways where we can have access to equitable resources and opportunities on campus,” Diaz said.

Diaz said she worked to see herself represented in more positions of power on campus, and has worked with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Indigeneity Initiative and the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement at Quinnipiac.

She also said the multicultural education part of the DCGE has helped her with access to resources and the Quinnipiac University Enriching Students Transitions program, where she worked as a mentor in the First-Year Immersion program to support underrepresented students’ transition to Quinnipiac. 

“I work really hard on sort of facilitating unity within our Black and brown students … so that we can come together and sort of move away from the categorization of who we are,” Diaz said. 

According to the Quinnipiac Spring 2022 Equity and Inclusion report, the class of 2025 is 78.8% non-underrepresented minority. 

Diaz said she feels supported and lucky that her work means something to Quinnipac even when she is not on campus this semester.

“I’m just grateful that there is a community here, and I hope that with the work that I do, but the work alongside the other people who have won awards is really shining through the community, not for me, but to support them, and make sure that they have the resources, opportunities and access to the things that they deserve,” Diaz said.

Professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies William Jellison, who received the MLK Dream award, said that concepts of diversity should be included in all courses. (Peyton McKenzie)

Jellison, who teaches psychology and women and gender studies, said receiving the award rendered him “speechless.”

“I’m kind of taken aback,” Jellison said. “I think it’s an honor to be recognized for what I do and what I’ve done for a couple of decades on campus.”

Jellison is the faculty affiliate for the Unity Living Learning Community and is also the faculty advisor for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club. Both the LLC and and the GSA are organizations that help bring the Quinnipiac LGBTQ community together.

He has taught courses that incorporate topics like gender and sexuality. Some of these courses include MCI 150, Queering the Screen: LGBTQ, which runs during the fall semester.

“I think sometimes (diversity, equity, and inclusion) work is seen as an ‘add on’, it’s seen as something that people do on the side, not necessarily a core part of their work,” Jellison said. “(DEI) serves the needs of our students, it has value when it comes to serving the needs of all out are students.”

Jellison explained why DEI courses, especially those pertaining to the LGBTQ community, are important to students.

“I think we can incorporate these ideas into all our courses,” Jellison said. “The more we see the relevance of it, it becomes less about ‘I need to take this class to check off a box’ and more about ‘how can I be more informed or more well rounded?’”

A ceremony for all the recipients of the MLK Dream Award will be held on Feb. 25.