Six faculty members whose service contributes to the development of a culturally and ethnically diverse University of Michigan community have received 2018 Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Awards from the Office of the Provost.
The recipients are:
• Sara Ahbel-Rappe, LSA.
• Elizabeth R. Cole, LSA.
• Nicolai Lehnert, LSA.
• Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
• Allison Steiner, College of Engineering and LSA.
• Robert Joseph Taylor, School of Social Work.
“Faculty members at the University of Michigan continue to play a vital role in the success of furthering our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” says Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “This year’s recipients epitomize this role and have made significant and lasting impacts — not just in their respective fields, but across our entire university community.”
Established in 1996, the award is given in honor of Harold Johnson, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work. The awards will be presented during a ceremony and dinner on May 8, and each honoree receives a $5,000 stipend.
The following profiles have been compiled from information submitted in nomination letters.
For more than a decade, Ahbel-Rappe, professor of Greek and Latin, LSA, has been a leader in diversifying the Department of Classics and the field at large, wrote Artemis Leontis, professor of modern Greek and chair of the department.
In a field marked with a lack of diversity and representation from historically underrepresented groups, Ahbel-Rappe “put her brilliant mind to work to plan how to bring equal opportunity to students with diverse backgrounds so as both to diversify Classics and to push its study outside its comfort zone,” Leontis wrote.
For the graduate program in classics, she added new structures to build bridges and bring in more underrepresented students. She got the department involved in the Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program, and played an instrumental role in the creation of the department’s new Bridge Master of Arts in classical studies degree program, which she directs as well.
The Bridge program is a fully funded, three-semester program that assists students — particularly those from non-traditional backgrounds, diverse cultures or first-generation college students — in developing the ancient Greek and Latin language skills needed to pursue a Ph.D. in classical studies.
Ahbel-Rappe has mentored diverse undergraduates, and worked to extend the boundaries of the university classroom to prisons. She has brought undergraduate students into correctional facilities to study with those incarcerated, taught a prison educational exchange class at Macomb Correctional Facility and is part of UM-Dearborn’s Women’s College Program, a volunteer collective of U-M faculty that teaches at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility.
She helped create the Working Group on Social Justice for the Society of Classical Studies and she has fought for LGBT rights, including testifying before the state Legislature regarding a plan to take away benefits from same-sex partners of public employees.
Elizabeth R. Cole
Elizabeth R. Cole, professor of women’s studies, of Afroamerican and African studies and of psychology, and associate dean of the Department of Social Sciences, LSA, was the “main architect” of LSA’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan and led the college in the initial implementation of several of its DEI initiatives, wrote Fiona Lee, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and professional development, and professor of psychology, LSA.
Cole chaired the Faculty Diversity Taskforce during LSA’s DEI strategic planning process and she played a major role in the creation of a new associate dean position in the college dedicated to DEI.
She also played a key role in the integration of the National Center for Institutional Diversity into LSA, “providing a catalyst” for the college to engage in DEI scholarship, wrote Lee, also an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management, Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
With the U-M ADVANCE Program, Cole created “Faculty Career Workshops,” where faculty learn more about various topics, including grant writing, book publishing, teaching skills, etc.
“Many important norms and advice faculty receive about career advancement are communicated through informal networks,” Lee wrote. “These networks are generally more accessible to members of dominant, majority groups.”
She was also a founding member of the Next Prof program, a multiday professional development workshop aimed at recruiting underrepresented scholars in science, technology, engineering and math.
Cole also spearheaded the LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, in which the university recruits scholars whose research, teaching or leadership demonstrates a commitment to the principles and values of DEI.
“Under Dr. Cole’s leadership, LCPFP promises to produce transformative change that will reshape the LSA faculty for years to come, as well as the discourse around the importance of diversity in higher education,” Lee wrote.
Lehnert, professor of chemistry and of biophysics, LSA, has worked to recruit students from historically underrepresented and underserved populations to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and math.
He created and leads the Detroit Research Internship Summer Experience program, or D-RISE, which brings students from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School to the university for seven weeks over the summer to perform research in the laboratories of faculty members in chemistry.
The goal of the program is to increase underrepresented minority participation in the sciences, wrote Robert Kennedy, Hobart H. Willard Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry.
Since its inception, the majority of students who have participated in the program have been accepted to U-M. While 75 percent of participants from the 2014-16 programs are now attending U-M and the remaining students attend Harvard University, Stanford and Wayne State University, all of these students are entering STEM areas.
“The students all commented on the strong impact of this experience in giving them hands-on experience with real science, further motivating them to pursue STEM careers,” wrote Kennedy, who is also a professor of chemistry, LSA; professor of pharmacology, Medical School; and professor of macromolecular science and engineering, CoE.
As chair of the Department of Chemistry’s Diversity Committee, Lehnert is the department’s liaison for the NextProf Science Workshop, which is focused in part on helping underrepresented minority scientists to learn about the faculty application process.
In this role, Lehnert selects the chemistry workshop participants and their hosts, and organizes programming.
Lehnert participates in the university network for first-generation college students, for which he has sat on panels and offered mentoring to students. Lehnert also serves as a member of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Director Search Committee.
Nunoo-Quarcoo, professor of art and design, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, is the chair of the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and helped initiate and found the Stamps in Color student group, which aims to increase the creative, social and professional opportunities of Stamps’ artists and designers of color.
As a Stamps in Color coordinator, Nunoo-Quarcoo has brought influential artists to speak at the school, sponsored a schoolwide trip to Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition and lecture at the Toledo Museum and partnered with North Campus units on MLK Symposium events.
As the programming liaison for the U-M GalleryDAAS, Nunoo-Quarcoo has promoted the creative work of African-American artists and coordinated events that have been visited by thousands of U-M students and faculty.
As part of the school’s DEI strategic planning committee, he helped lead the development and implementation of the plan’s goals, connecting students, faculty and staff and improving the climate for diverse community members who might feel overlooked or isolated, wrote Endi Poskovic, professor of art and design, Stamps School.
Along with taking the time to meet with students from nontraditional backgrounds, Nunoo-Quarcoo traveled to Sudan with U-M students and faculty to help develop a visual identity and communication strategy for two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Sites.
“Professor Nunoo-Quarcoo’s diligent efforts in promoting diversity have had a profound influence on the lives of our students, colleagues, faculty and staff, and the communities across the campus and beyond,” Poskovic wrote. “His ability to engage students about the role of diverse cultural environments reflect his own commendable knowledge of and sensitivity to culture and history that go beyond conventional wisdom.”
Steiner, associate professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, CoE, and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, LSA, has made significant contributions to developing a diverse and inclusive workforce at U-M and in her field at a national and international level.
As a graduate student, Steiner co-founded the Earth Science Women’s Network with five other female students to provide peer mentoring and networking to other women in earth sciences.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, Steiner led the network’s growth to its eventual development into a nonprofit. The network now has 3,000 members in 60 countries at varying stages in their careers, and involves large research universities, small liberal arts colleges, government agencies and research organizations.
“Not only did ESWN help thousands of students worldwide achieve their dream of a career in earth sciences — already an exceptional result — but it helped transform the culture in the field of earth sciences itself, so that it is now considered normal to have successful women in science and serving in leadership positions,” wrote Enrico Landi, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, CoE.
Steiner has served on several university committees dedicated to improving the culture, diversity and inclusion of CoE and U-M, most notably serving as a member and chairing the CoE Dean’s Advisory Committee on Female Faculty.
As chair, her leadership led to the school’s revamping of its child care policy to allow female faculty who have given birth to request one extra semester of modified duties in addition to the one term faculty receive for a new birth or adoption.
Steiner collaborated with Lola Eniola-Adefeso, professor of chemical engineering, of biomedical engineering and of macromolectular science and engineering, CoE, and chair of the Dean’s Advisory Committee for Faculty of Color to find candidates supporting DEI for department chair positions.
As a Rackham Diversity Ally, she has supported student-run, DEI events and led Diversity Town Halls for students to give feedback.
Robert Joseph Taylor
Throughout his career, Taylor, Harold R. Johnson Professor of Social Work, Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work and professor of social work, School of Social Work, has shaped scholarship on African-American families and mentored minority students and junior professors.
An engaged and dedicated teacher, Taylor spends great time mentoring doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars and junior faculty. He has organized and administered summer programs on research methods and academic success for junior faculty and doctoral students since 1998. As the head of the Investigator Core for the National Institutes of Health-funded Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research, he provides mentorship to doctoral graduates and doctoral candidates interested in aging research on older African Americans.
For three years, Taylor conducted Graduate Student Workshops, which were in part sponsored by the Minority Fellows Program of the Council for Social Work Education, which is the major diversity scholar pipeline program for social work.
Taylor still communicates with previous summer workshop participants, sending weekly notices about grants, publishing opportunities and research news items.
Along with mentoring doctoral students from across U-M, Taylor also is committed to mentoring assistant professors from around the country, often developing collaborative research projects that have resulted in published work.
“Many of the doctoral students that he has mentored have gone on to academic careers and have received tenure and promotion at their institutions,” wrote School of Social Work Dean Lynn Videka, the Carol T. Mowbray Collegiate Professor of Social Work and professor of social work. “To assist their development and launching their careers, he has secured grants for many of his doctoral students … and used his discretionary funds to support students’ participation in conferences.”