Tuesday, April 29, 2013

UNO Celebrates Diversity Awards

Leyondo DunnUndergraduate student Le'Yondo Dunn received the University Outstanding Student for Commitment to Diversity Award.

For more than 50 years, the University of New Orleans has aimed to create an ethnically, racially and socioeconomically diverse campus that welcomes and celebrates students and faculty of all creeds and cultures. This month, the University's Office of Diversity Affairs advanced that mission with an awards ceremony designed to honor students, faculty and organizations on campus who have worked to build relationships and understanding and break down barriers.

"To me, the diversity ceremony is important because it is a night to celebrate diversity," said Maria Murillo, a graduate assistant in the University's Office of Diversity Affairs. "Students work really hard on the different events on campus. Sometimes they volunteer to work with our department, but sometimes they [develop diversity events] on their own."

The Office of Diversity Affairs presented awards on Monday, April 22 to an outstanding student, an outstanding staff member and an outstanding student organization for demonstrating commitment to diversity. The Office also awarded four student organizations – the Nippon Japan Culture Club, Genshiken Anime Club, Renshuu Douraku and the Saudi Students Union – certificates of recognition for having put together this semester two cultural cafes, one on Japan and one on Saudi Arabia.

Outstanding Student for Commitment to Diversity

Le'Yyondo Dunn received the University's 2012-2013 Outstanding Student for Commitment to Diversity Award. Dunn has demonstrated scholastic achievement, dedication to social justice issues and passion for bettering his community, Murillo said. He is known around campus as a leader, specifically as a Senator in Student Government, chair of the UNO Student Leadership Conference, business manager for the Driftwood newspaper and a member of the UNO Track and Field Team. He serves on numerous university committees as the representative of the student body, including a search committee for a new Dean of Business and a new committee on university technology fees.

"Faculty, students and staff continually look to him as a voice of the students," Murillo said, who said that Dunn's unwavering dedication to diversity and social justice shined this year when he chaired the Student Leadership Conference. "He planned and implemented a citywide, collegiate conference to promote civic-engagement, leadership development, and diversity initiatives among student leaders. Through his program, he created an initiative that continually challenged his peers to think innovatively on how to address injustices in their community."

For the past year, Dunn has worked for the Redevelopment Authority of New Orleans (NORA) as the Assistant to the Director of External Affairs and he hopes to become a fellow in the MBA Consortium, which strives to promote diversity among African American and Latin American Communities.

He was chosen for his award "because of his passion for inspiring fellow students to become effective ethical leaders, and responsible citizens, because he holds key leadership characteristics that will make him truly successful both the UNO community and beyond and because of his strong work ethic, proactive nature, intelligence and drive to give back to the community," Murillo said.

Outstanding Staff Member for Commitment to Diversity Award

Sarah Spivey, a graduate service assistant for the Office of International Students and Scholars, received the 2012-2013 Outstanding Staff Member for Commitment to Diversity Award.

Spivey "is a rich resource to the International Student Organization because of her support and involvement," Murillo said. "She has demonstrated dedication and commitment to her role, which contributed to the student organization's success at UNO."

Spivey went "above and beyond" expectations fulfilling her role as an adviser for the student organization, Murillo said. "Without her, it would have been really hard for ISO to put together International Night, which is a huge event that brings more than 750 people on campus.

Outstanding Student Organization for Commitment to Diversity Award

The Latin American Student Association (LASA) received the University's 2012-2013 Outstanding Student Organization for Commitment to Diversity Award, Murillo said.

The student organization partnered twice with Puentes New Orleans and the Muslim Student Association as part of the Welcoming Louisiana Initiative, said Maria Murillo. The initiative is an effort to welcome immigrants to area communities through education and open-dialogue projects aimed at promoting a healthy partnership between immigrants and non-immigrants – and to tear down misconceptions between the two groups.

This year, LASA also hosted an ALMA Awards Watch Party, which brought members of the University community to The Cove for Latino fare and fun with friends watching the ALMA Awards ceremony, an annual awards show for Latino artists from all over the U.S. hosted by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). In fall, LASA hosted a Rumba Party that included talent performances from Latino and non-Latino UNO students, and raffle prizes. On Saturday, LASA hosted the University's first annual Latin Fest, which included a guest artist from Honduras, local Latin American bands, dance groups, local restaurants and more.

LASA participated in UNO's International Night, diversity fairs and organizational fairs, said Murillo. The organization was honored for "for being a very dynamic and welcoming student organization, for enhancing diversity through their on and off campus activities, for its strong involvement with students, cultures, other student organizations and the community and for highly representing UNO and the Latino culture."