Presidential Diversity Awards


Established in 2013, and led by the six Presidential Commissions on Diversity, these awards honor faculty, staff and students of Kennesaw State University (KSU) whose actions, activities, and/or accomplishments in diversity support the pursuit of excellence towards making KSU a more inclusive and welcoming university.  

Criteria and Nominations


Annually, the six Presidential Commissions on Diversity seek nominations of individuals at KSU whose accomplishments are aligned with the charge of one (or more) of the commissions. Each commission has its own award criteria that a prospective nominee should meet. This criteria also serves as a guideline in the selection of the award recipient(s).

  • The Carol J. Pope Award for Distinction recognizes outstanding efforts of an individual toward creating an inclusive, accessible, respectful, and safe climate for all students, faculty, and staff with disabilities at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

    Nominees should have exhibited longtime leadership and/or advocacy in raising awareness at KSU regarding issues on disabilities. Their contributions should demonstrate a substantial impact on and/or within the KSU community. Examples of such efforts might include, but should not be limited to, the following:

    • Advocating for or on behalf of individuals or groups for disability-related issues.
    • Creating projects and events that promote greater awareness.
    • Designing activities and programs that educate the campus community and foster mutual respect for and among all students, faculty, and staff.

    Current faculty, staff, and students of KSU, who meet the above criteria, are eligible for nomination.

  • The Outstanding Contribution Award recognizes outstanding efforts of an individual toward creating an inclusive climate that encourages increased gender and work life equity and success at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

    Nominees must have demonstrated a sustained and tangible impact on the campus community. Such efforts might include, for example:

    • A record of promoting an inclusive campus environment through the adoption of policies, procedures, and/or curricula that are guided by the principles of diversity, equity, transparency, and shared governance.
    • Promoting activities, programs, projects, and/or training initiatives surrounding gender and work life issues.
    • Developing proactive strategies and engaging in activities that promote KSU as a national leader in the higher education community with regard to how it engages with the issues and concerns related to gender and work life.

    (Include the length of time this individual has been engaged in the activities listed.)

    Current faculty, staff, and students of KSU, who meet the above criteria, are eligible for nomination.

  • The Teresa M. Joyce Award for Excellence recognizes a member of the Kennesaw State University (KSU) community who has made outstanding contributions to the university’s effort to create a supportive environment for its LGBTQ members.

    In order to be competitive, nominations should address as many of the following areas as possible:

    •  The nominee’s efforts in ADVOCATING on behalf of the GLBTIQ community.
    • The nominee’s accomplishments in EDUCATING the campus community on GLBTIQ issues.
    • The nominee’s achievement in LEADING structural change efforts.
    • The nominee’s record of INCLUSION.
    • The LONGEVITY of the nominee’s commitment and efforts.

    An award sub-commission from the Presidential Commission on LGBTQ Initiatives will review the submitted nominations. The full commission will review the top three nominations and select the award recipient.

    Current faculty, staff, and students at KSU, who meet the above criteria, are eligible for nomination. (Members of the LGBTQ campus community as well as their allies are eligible to self-nominate.)

  • The Presidential Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity works to shape appropriate plans, mechanisms, forums, and/or events for a continuing dialogue on issues of race and ethnicity at Kennesaw State University (KSU). The R.O.H. Social Justice Award has been named to honor the pioneering contributions toward racial and ethnic social justice by former KSU faculty members: Dr. Rosa Bobia, Dr. Oral Moses, and Dr. Harold Wingfield.

    Two awards are offered by the commission; one to an individual faculty or staff member and one to an individual student. These awards are given to recognize and honor individuals who have demonstrated significant contributions to improving the KSU community, such as:

    • Assisting with developing a vision and/or proactive strategies for addressing sensitive racial concerns that exist on campus.
    • Leading a proactive set of conversations, programs and/or training initiatives to guide KSU’s emphasis on race and ethnicity issues and/or concerns.
    • Advocating for approaches that contribute to KSU becoming a national leader in the higher education community with regard to how it embarks on racial and ethnic dialogue and/or issues.
    • Leading or assisting with activities, actions and/or policies that will lead to an increased understanding and acceptance of diverse viewpoints and perspectives between and among different members and groups of KSU’s diverse community.

    Current faculty, staff, and students of KSU, who meet the above criteria, are eligible for nomination.

  • The R.C. Paul Excellence in Sustainability Award recognizes the outstanding efforts of an individual toward promoting environmental sustainability in the educational and operational practices of the Kennesaw State University (KSU) campus community.

    The nominee will have demonstrated consistent leadership in addressing sustainability issues and works to implement sustainable practices on our campus, with tangible results. Examples of such efforts might include, but should not be limited to, the following:

    • Designing or coordinating campus sustainability initiatives such as green building projects, commuting alternatives, energy and water conservation measures, farm-to-campus programs, etc.
    • Advocating for the inclusion of sustainability perspectives in campus planning and policy making.
    • Contributing across the curriculum by promoting sustainability content in courses and academic programs throughout the university.
    • Creating projects and events that promote greater awareness of KSU's sustainability efforts (e.g. energy and water conservation, commuting alternatives, farm-to-campus programs).
    • Designing informal educational activities and programs to inform students, faculty, and staff about ways to foster sustainable practices at KSU and the communities it serves.

    Current faculty, staff, and students of KSU, who meet the above criteria, are eligible for nomination.

  • The Mattox Award for Excellence in Service and Leadership is designed to commend and recognize an individual whose vital and instrumental contributions support, represent, and make it a personal duty to assist members of Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) veteran community.

    Nominees must have taken a comprehensive approach with impeccable character to have a positive influence at KSU with regard to the veteran community. Examples of these actions may include:

    • Commendable selfless service, while maintaining a standard of excellence in professionalism when developing camaraderie among campus and community partners.
    • Outstanding volunteerism for the veteran community above and beyond established expectations.
    • A keen and personal interest in advocating for and representing the veteran community to enact positive outcomes while serving as a leader/affiliate of a veteran service organization.
    • Personal contributions that have been emulated by others in recognition of awareness and participation in external veteran related events, programs, and/or activities.

    Current faculty, staff, and students of KSU, who meet the above criteria, are eligible for nomination.

Past Recipients

  • 2018
    Dr. Joya Carter Hicks

    Associate Professor in Special Education and Coordinator, Universal Design for Learning Laboratory

    Dr. Hicks was recognized for the strong impact she has made on the disability community, namely at KSU where she has implemented an inclusive learning lab for teacher educators, and where she has taught courses, conducted research, and been an advocate for students with disabilities.

    Dr. Ibrahim ElSawy

    Executive Director for the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth and Clinical Associate Professor of Exercise Science and Sport Management

    As executive director of the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, Dr. ElSawy advocated for and furthered the work of the University in the inclusion of students with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Dr. ElSawy was recognized for his long-term advocacy for persons with disabilities.

    Ms. Karyn Alme

    Her nomination noted that she always goes above and beyond the call of duty for all students but especially those with disabilities. “She tries to teach all students to advocate for themselves but will always be there to provide support,” her nomination stated. “She teaches some of the future educators of Georgia, and she is a shining example of how we should treat students with disabilities.”

    Ms. Eileen O’Laughlin

    Ms. Eileen’s nomination was on the strength of her career service to students and in assisting each student with preparation for the world of work. Her nomination stated, “She strives to ensure that students with disabilities have the equal opportunities when it comes to access and integration into our campus culture. By working closely with both Student Disability Services and various campus departments, she has been successful with creating on-campus work opportunities for students with disabilities.”

    Ms. Jordan Cameron

    Ms. Cameron’s nomination noted that “she is a leader in educating colleagues about the importance of making web-based learning materials accessible for all students. As a result of her advocacy, DLC Instructional Designers are helping online faculty across the university focus more on making their courses 508 compliant, and thus more accessible for all KSU students.”

    Ms. Jill Sloan

    Ms. Sloan’s nomination noted her tireless work on the launch of the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, which improved opportunities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

  • 2018
    Dr. Roneisha Worthy

    Assistant Professor in Civil and Construction Engineering, Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

    Dr. Worthy focuses much of her research on the formation of engineers from underrepresented groups. Most specifically, she is celebrated for dedicating a significant amount of her time an energy to making certain that women students are fully supported and welcomed.

    Dr. Cassandra Race

    Part-Time Assistant Professor of Technical Communication

    Dr. Race was acknowledged for her role in creating an inclusive climate for women faculty and staff at Southern Polytechnic State University prior to consolidation. In addition, she was also celebrated for her leadership of the Presidential Commission on Gender and Work Life Issues during the 2015-2016 academic year.

    Dr. Nancy Reichert

    In her role as leader of the Women’s Initiative in Academic Affairs at Southern Polytechnic State University, Reichert, associate professor of English, helped create a positive environment for women on the campus in order to better retain women students. “With the small number of women on the campus, such an initiative was sorely needed and long overdue,” her nomination stated. “Dr. Reichert worked tirelessly … to get as many women involved in campus life as possible through committees and activities, and used her blog,Women, Work, and Academics to highlight the stories and achievements of female students, staff, and faculty.”

    Dr. Elizabeth Boyd

    Dr. Boyd’s nomination noted, “She is an outstanding candidate because of the work she does with gender and the workplace as well as her research on work/life issues. Through her research, she is promoting KSU as one of the leaders in the country for gender and work life research.”

    Dr. Laura Davis

    Dr. Davis’ nomination highlighted “her commitment to promoting an inclusive campus environment, the initiatives she has taken in developing projects addressing gender and work life issues, and the incredible effort she puts forth on a daily basis. Davis is passionate about working to increase awareness of gender and work life issues at Kennesaw State and in the larger community.”

    Ms. Flora Lowe-Rockett

    Active in the Adult Learner Student Organization, Ms. Lowe-Rockett was a champion for a childcare facility to serve the needs of students, faculty and staff with young children.

  • 2018
    Officer Charles Dicken

    Community Affairs Officer, KSU Police Department

    Charles Dickens was recognized for being a staunch advocate of building strong relationships between public safety and the greater campus community, which also includes advocating for the LGBTQ community and marginalized communities.

    Dr. Sarah Holliday

    Interim Faculty Director of General Education and Associate Professor of Mathematics

    As one of the most passionate advocates for the LGBTQ community at KSU, Dr. Holliday was nominated for her support of students, faculty and staff. At Southern Polytechnic State University, prior to consolidation, Dr. Holliday served as a faculty advisor for the GLBTIQ-ally student organization. At KSU, she assisted in updating KSU’s non-discrimination policy, as well as the University’s facility access policy.

    Mr. Robert Sherer

    As professor of art and noted artist, Sherer has achieved many distinctions, but his enduring contributions to creating a supportive environment for the LGBTQ community at Kennesaw State and in metro Atlanta have been ongoing since he moved to the area in 1979. “He has created opportunities for his students to participate in nearly 20 professional and charitable activities focused on diversity and inclusion, including the AIDS Survival Project, Art Care, Embracing Difference and the Georgia Equality Project. This work has helped them understand how service and diversity intersect in ways that impact and change our community.”

    Ms. Jessica Duvall

    Ms. Duvall’s nomination stated that she epitomizes advocacy and innovation relative to LGBTQ initiatives and programming. “Her efforts have resulted in a number of life-changing events that have lent our LGBTQ communities a voice and a vital presence on the Kennesaw State University campus. She has been educating the Kennesaw community for a number of years on LGBTQ issues, and her efforts have had a significant impact.”

    Dr. Michael Sanseviro

    Dr. Sanseviro’s nomination noted that “he approaches his role with big-picture thinking, while remaining sensitive to the needs of the diverse populations of our community. Each of his accomplishments not only illustrates improvements to diversity and inclusion efforts on campus, but also leaves a legacy for current and future members of the LGBTQ population.”

    Dr. Teresa Joyce

    Dr. Joyce’s nomination noted her role in the Safe Space Program and in managing its endowment. She has been very active in leading KSU’s LGBT Summit for several years.

  • 2018
    Dr. Griselda Thomas

    Coordinator of African and African Diaspora Studies and Associate Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies

    Dr. Thomas was recognized for her teaching, service, and scholarships that are guided by her commitment to diversity, interdisciplinary studies, and the intersectional inquiry of systems of oppressions. A tireless advocate for social justice, Thomas has played an integral role in advising marginalized students and faculty of color, as well as assisting faculty of color obtain promotions and tenure.

    Savannah Bronson

    Student, Human Services Major

    Savannah Bronson was acknowledged for her social service at KSU, which included leading a fundraiser to support a student who lost their family, efforts to collect personal items for battered women, and supporting many others in need at KSU.

    Dr. Debarati Sen

    Assistant Professor of Conflict Management and Anthropology and Online Coordinator for Geography

    Dr. Sen creates a classroom environment that welcomes difficult dialogue and respects all perspectives. Dr. Sen was recognized for her tireless efforts in ensuring that her students learn and grow as individuals and thinkers, as they examine social and cultural difference in international contexts and relate it to their experiences.

    Dr. Judy Brown Allen

    Allen, senior lecturer of sociology, has helped provide scholarships and other financial resources, personal assistance, counseling and her own time and money to ensure that all students, regardless of race or social status, receive the same opportunities to succeed, her nomination stated. “She consistently goes out of her way to support the success of underrepresented students. She is a breathing example of what it means to strive for social justice.”

    Ms. Ramona Devonish

    A graduate student, Devonish combined the duties of peer advisor for International Affairs and Political Science in order to increase the availability of student peer advisors who represent varying viewpoints. Her nomination stated: “As the current president, and new president-elect of the Graduate Student Association… Ramona worked diligently to build a diverse executive board by attracting students representing various racial, ethnic, and identity groups as well as officers from both campuses of the newly consolidated University.

    Dr. Ernesto Silva

    Dr. Silva’s nomination made note of his steadfast commitment to diversity and social justice and that his leadership of the LALS Program “is perhaps his greatest achievement at KSU. Through this critical venue, he has touched the lives of countless underrepresented students on their educational trajectories.”

    Ms. Tiffany Smith

    Ms. Smith was cited for her community activism. Her nomination stated, “It is clear that Tiffany’s community involvement with regards to racial, ethnic and social justice is quite impressive. Her maturity, enthusiasm, dedication, and focus as she strives to make a difference in our community are an inspiration to those around her.”

    Mr. Roderick Williams

    Mr. Williams is the founding president of the KSU chapter of National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS). He created the NOMAS lecture series that has brought in speakers to discuss race in the profession. “Roderick’s initiative served an important need that may not have been met in the general lecture series, one that provided our students of color with a vision of themselves and their future careers as architects.

    Dr. Flora Devine

    Dr. Devine was selected as a great example of a pioneer for racial and ethnic diversity at KSU. Her nomination noted “the programs that she has put into place address diversity in areas of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Devine continues to champion for all women and persons of color.”

    Mr. Yen Rodriguez

    Mr. Rodriguez was selected as "a champion for those who are voiceless and unable to fight for themselves." His nomination noted that “because of his perseverance, many victories have been won in his own life and in the lives of others. With more people like Rodriguez in the world, justice will be served and equality will be the norm.”

    Dr. Jesse Benjamin

    Dr. Benjamin’s student mentoring activities and his role as adviser to the AADS Student Organization were mentioned, as well as his work with the NAACP chapter at KSU.

  • 2018
    Edwin Akins

    Associate Professor of Architecture, Department of Architecture

    Ms. Christine Rube

    Student, Theatre and Performance Studies Major, Environmental Studies Minor

    Ms. Christine Rubel received a degree in Theatre and Performance Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies in 2016. During her final semester at KSU, Ms. Rubel founded the Green Ambassadors Program, a student-driven initiative providing in-person sustainability education for students, staff and faculty. Ms. Rubel educated over 600 people on KSU's sustainability services through presentations and campus tours. In addition, she recruited 10 new Green Ambassadors to continue on her mission to raise awareness of sustainability at KSU. Ms. Rubel is a winner of the Georgia Campus Sustainability Network's Student Poster Competition.

    Mr. John Anderson

    Mr. Anderson, assistant vice president for Facilities Services, has been a strong advocate for sustainable practices and environmentally sound campus planning at Kennesaw State. “He also has been a proponent of sustainability education… He does an outstanding job of quietly convincing diverse groups to see the value in following the most sustainable approach to campus projects,” his nomination stated.

    Ms. Robin Taylor

    Ms. Taylor, who became farm manager in 2009, was cited as being a tireless advocate for sustainable dining, playing a central role in every aspect of building the farm-to-campus program from the ground up.

    Ms. Jodie Sweat

    Ms. Sweat’s nomination noted her ongoing efforts implementing and promoting sustainable practices as the new standard of operating practice for the Physical Plant Division. “Under her direction, the utilities team’s energy-saving initiatives have resulted in significant cost savings; chemical use has been reduced by 40%; and recycling efforts have been increased through a single stream recycling program.”

    Dr. R.C. Paul

    Often referred to as the “father of sustainability” at KSU, Dr. Paul was a driving force behind the creation of the Climate Commitment Council and KSU’s observance of Earth Hour and Earth Day.

  • 2018
    Mr. Micheal Redd

    Assistant Registrar and Part-Time Instructor of Sport Management

    A founding member of the Presidential Commission on Veteran Affairs, Redd has advocated for the veteran community for nearly 10 years. His service to the veteran community has included processing veteran educational benefits, engaging in the planning for veteran related events from Veterans Day to Purple Heart Day, and serving as an advisor to student veterans as well as supporting the Military and Veteran Services team.

    Ms. Glenda España

    Academic Associate II, Office of the Registrar

    Ms. Glenda Espana served as the Veteran Affairs Certifying Official at KSU for 15 years. Her nomination also recognized the integral part she played in the founding of KSU Military and Veterans Services.

    Dr. Bob Mattox

    Dr. Mattox, associate vice president and director of Student Success Services, received dual nominations for the first award named in his honor. “His personal interest in student veteran concerns is what ultimately led to the establishment of the Veterans Resource Center and the hiring of the first Director of Military & Veteran Services at a university in the state of Georgia, here at KSU. This was the catalyst to creating an all-inclusive environment for the veteran community at KSU,” according to one of the nominations.

    Mr. Percy Ivey

    Mr. Ivey’s nomination highlighted his dedication to the student-veteran population and to the university as a whole: “His ability to manage the campus bookstore while simultaneously devoting his time to both the ROTC club as an adviser and as an active member of the Presidential Commission for Veteran Affairs.”

    Ms. Dawn Ramsey

    Ms. Ramsey was cited for having been an influential and pivotal member of the military task force at the Marietta Campus. “Over the years, she has proven to be a woman of undeniable dedication to the veteran community and impeccable character. Her efforts of exemplary volunteerism have not gone unnoticed as she has shown to be the glue that has held the coalition of students, faculty, and staff that serve those student-veterans, together.”

    Mr. Jonathon Dotson

    “After several deployments," noted his nomination, "Dotson has continued to set an exemplarily example of leadership and service by serving as an officer in the Semper Fi Society, advocating for veterans as a Senator with the KSU Student Government Association, and serving as a peer mentor with the Veterans Resource Center.” Passionate about assisting his fellow veterans, his determination has been instrumental in the development of several “veteran friendly” policies at KSU.

    Mr. Derek Ridings

    Mr. Ridings was nominated for his outstanding service to the student-veteran community through many events and in his role as Veterans Senator in the KSU Student Government Association