UAB names its diversity champions for 2020

Written by  Ashleigh

Two individuals, two groups and one student organization were honored with the President’s Diversity Champion Award Feb. 20. The annual award recognizes employees, students and organizations that have helped create a more culturally diverse, inclusive university community through their achievements.

Nominations are solicited from the UAB community for all categories, and awards are given in each of five categories for projects or activities that best reflect the implementation of unit and/or campus diversity goals. 

Congratulations to the 2020 recipients: 

DC Farah Lubin 400Farah Lubin, Ph.D Farah Lubin, Ph.D
Faculty, School of Medicine

Farah Lubin, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology, co-directs the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Neuroscience Roadmap Scholar (RMS) Program, which strives to engage and retain under-represented graduate trainees in the neuroscience workforce. She also co-directs the Mentored Experiences in Research, Instruction and Teaching (MERIT) Program for postdoctoral fellows and received the 2017 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship.

Lubin is an associate scientist in the Comprehensive Center for Healthy Aging and the Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, whose research is focused on the epigenetic basis of learning, memory and its disorders, including memory deficits associated with normal aging and neurological disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. She was listed among ‘100 inspiring black scientists’ earlier this month, and UAB Reporter profiled her journey to success in a December 2019 article.

DC Student Counseling Services 1920Kiera Walker, Herbert Wilkerson, April Coleman  Kiera Walker, Herbert Wilkerson, April Coleman  
Student Counseling Services

 Collectively, April Coleman, Kiera Walker and Herbert Wilkerson have worked to create a safe space on UAB’s campus for black students to discuss issues concerning race, mental health and wellness, self-care and more. Their idea: a group focused on the black experience, particularly the experiences one has as a black student on a predominantly white campus. “Hey, Sis, Hey” and “Fellas, Let’s Go There” provide an opportunity for candid, open conversation. Since its inception in the fall 2018, The Black Experience groups have been successful in meeting needs and connecting students who identify as Black/African American.

Coleman, a clinical counselor and outreach coordinator for Student Counseling Services, provides individual and couples counseling and coordinates and facilitates the department’s mental health outreach events and presentations across campus. She is a skilled crisis interventionist, group facilitator and QPR facilitator, and she also has developed and implements a campus-wide resiliency initiative program, “Blazers Bounce Back Building Resilience.”

Walker, a clinical counselor and triage and assessment coordinator for Student Counseling Services, oversees the stepped care service-delivery model and initial consultations, manages and leads the assessment of groups, outreach programs and user evaluations and assists in data-based evaluation of the programs and services offered. Walker said the skills she learned as a biology undergraduate and cancer researcher have made her a stronger counselor because the “skills you hone on research come up a lot on this side,” she said in a 2018 article after graduating with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Wilkerson, a clinical counselor and outreach team member for Student Counseling Services, is passionate about working with black students and other students of color to decrease the stigma of mental health in under-represented communities and works with student groups to ensure that students are aware of available counseling services. Prior to joining UAB, Herbert was a therapist in residential, foster care and mental health center settings. “It’s not about me” is something he routinely says to emphasize that his role is to help the under-served, marginalized people and treat them with dignity and respect. 

DC Occupational Therapy Students 1920Denise Dixon, Morgan Gordon, Chukwuemeka Ikejiani, Carissa Jones, Andrea Reed, Carl Robinson Denise Dixon, Morgan Gordon, Chukwuemeka Ikejiani, Carissa Jones, Andrea Reed, Carl Robinson
Graduate/Professional Students School of Health Professions

The collective work of Andrea Reed, Carissa Jones, Denise Dixon, Morgan Gordon, Carl Robinson and Chukwuemeka Ikejiani, graduate students in occupational therapy, began in spring 2019, when they were inspired to improve sensitivity to and awareness of diversity among their fellow and future students and professional colleagues.

They were motivated by presentations on social injustice, biases and inequities in the health care field given by Carmen Capo-Lugo, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy, and Zena Trost, Ph.D., during a “Barriers to Occupational Performance” course instructed by Sarah Dos Anjos, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in occupation therapy, and Gavin Jenkins, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.

These presentations, which encouraged the students to reflect on their individual experiences of racial bias as students and share their collective concerns, led them to propose the creation of a safe place for open dialogue between OT staff and students to discuss social injustices and biases in the field and among practitioners. They hoped it would be a catalyst to inspire others to look beyond their biases and experience the unfamiliar realities and perspectives of classmates and future clients.

As a result, the department implemented an all-day diversity training session for department staff and students in summer 2019, and the students established the UAB chapter of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) during the fall semester. They continue to advocate for diversity training to improve cultural awareness and sensitivity and develop a more diverse, equitable and inclusive occupational therapy community.

DC Renuka Srivastava 400Renuka Srivastava Renuka Srivastava
Undergraduate Student
College of Arts & Sciences

Renuka Srivastava, a senior with a double major in Political Science and International Studies and a member of UAB Honors College's University Honors Program, has a passion for social justice issues in the South. She plans to attend law school and return to the South after graduation to litigate for disadvantaged individuals and advocate against unjust public policy.

Srivastava’s commitment to improving UAB’s campus culture towards is demonstrated through her leadership roles in the Social Justice Advocacy Council, International Mentors, College Democrats, Leadership and Service Council and the Undergraduate Student Government Association. In 2018, she received UAB Student Affairs’ Student Excellence Award for Outstanding Student Leader.

She works with advisors and students to advocate for core policy changes at UAB to make the campus a safer space for all students and has registered thousands of students, faculty and staff to vote and arranged rides to the polls from campus during every election cycle.

DC Active Minds 1920Active Minds

Active Minds
Student Organization

Active Minds is a student organization with a mission to reduce stigma about mental health on college campuses by helping students understand that mental health conditions are common, that experiencing them is not their fault and help is available.

Active Minds works toward these ends through tabling with information on mental health resources, hosting educational events with UAB’s Student Counseling Services, fundraising for the national Active Minds movement and spreading information through social media.

The organization frequently partners with identity-based student organizations to speak about mental health at their chapter meetings. Each year, Active Minds places 1,100 objects (such as glow sticks or paper cranes) on the Campus Green, attached with stories of suicide awareness and messages of hope. The team strives to increase the accessibility of these conversations in communities experiencing mental health-related stigma.

The commitment to this goal has resulted in the annual Mental Health and Cultures Panel and Men in Mental Health Panel.