5 faculty members receive inaugural Inclusive Excellence Award at IU Bloomington

In her many roles at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, Maresa Murray creates positive environments in which diversity thrives and inclusion is the norm. For her efforts, Murray's peers on the Bloomington Faculty Council have selected her as one of five inaugural recipients of the Indiana University Inclusive Excellence Award.

A limestone trident on a building on the IU Bloomington campusView print quality image
Five faculty members have received the inaugural Inclusive Excellence Award. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

The Bloomington Faculty Council's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee created the award, which recognizes faculty who contribute to the continued enhancement of a diverse campus community in accord with IU Bloomington's Statement on Diversity. The recipients are:

  • Maresa Murray: Assistant dean of diversity, inclusion and organizational climate; associate clinical professor of human development and family studies; and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Applied Health Science.
  • Maria Hamilton Abegunde: Post-doctoral fellow at the University Graduate School and founding director of the Graduate Mentoring Center. She is also a visiting lecturer of African American and African Diaspora studies and affiliate faculty in gender studies, both in the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Kevin Brown: Richard S. Melvin Professor in the Maurer School of Law.
  • Arlene Diaz: Associate professor in the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Jennifer C. Lee: Associate professor of sociology and acting director of Asian American studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel and IU Vice President for Research Fred Cate provided initial funding for the annual award, which this year includes a $3,000 stipend for each honoree.

Murray was recognized for her pedagogical reach as a faculty member who teaches students about ethnic family health and her work as assistant dean.

"I have enjoyed the process of creating opportunities to provide racial and inclusivity coaching among our administrators, chairs, faculty and staff, with the hope of cultivating a more productive and collegial professional environment for all, including our students," Murray said of her work as assistant dean. "My hope is that people experience large improvements from even the smallest efforts toward inclusivity, which will become effortlessly woven into the fabric of our interactions."

Frank Diaz, co-chair of the Bloomington Faculty Council's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, said such recognition is essential to creating an atmosphere that fosters creativity and inclusion.

"We're looking for ways to use this opportunity as a catalyst not only for celebration, but for reflection as well," Diaz said.

In addition to creating videos of each honoree and their work, the BFC and Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion will host a reception honoring the five in the fall.

Hamilton Abegunde said she is full of gratitude and love for the community. As founding director of IU Bloomington's Graduate Mentoring Center, she fosters graduate student success that encourages professional growth and well-being and focuses on community and inclusivity.

"To have family, friends, colleagues and students believe so much in who you are, what you do and how you do it is life-affirming and nurturing," she said. "What has been most meaningful to me and has had the most impact? The commitment of these amazing beings -- on and off campus -- to be present when most needed; to be unafraid to dream with me; and to be willing to change and transform into a new vision of the world. Obrigada, modupe, thank you."

Lee said she is honored and humbled to receive the award, knowing that so many others have devoted much of their time and energy to creating an inclusive community at IU. As a sociologist of education and race and ethnicity, her research, teaching and mentoring practices reflect her goals of increasing access, equity and inclusion in higher education, and encouraging the growth and empowerment of students.

"I am grateful that IU has taken this important first step in recognizing this necessary, yet often invisible, work that is disproportionately shouldered by faculty of color and women," Lee said. "My research focuses on race and education, and I have served on many steering, advisory and DEI committees during my time at IU, but without a doubt, the work that I value the most has been teaching and mentoring students. I hope that I have encouraged my students to think critically about their environments, specifically education, and have empowered them to create meaningful change."

Brown teaches law and education; race, American society and the law; and torts and criminal law. He has published nearly 60 articles or comments on issues related to race, law and education. Arlene Díaz has published articles on the history of Venezuela, the Spanish Caribbean and Brazil. Research for her current book weaves together the disparate, complex interactions between knowledge, representation and empire at the moment they came together in the United States.

Research, creative activity, teaching, mentoring or service contributions are all eligible to be recognized through the award. The BFC's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee will review nominations and select the honorees annually.

The next call for nominations will be announced at a later date.