Excellence in Diversity Awards 2021

Established in 2014, Rowan’s Excellence in Diversity Awards celebrate outstanding contributions by students, faculty, and professional staff who address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in creative ways. Please join us in celebrating the work and commitment of the following students, faculty and staff.

Excellence in Diversity for Student Scholarship

Congratulations to Writing Arts MA student and adjunct professor Stephen Cobb, who has won the University Senate’s Excellence in Diversity Award for Scholarship in the student category! Stephen won for his spoken word poem “European Nooses in the Classroom,” which can be viewed [HERE]. In this powerful poem, which Stephen wrote and performed, he draws extensively from research in Writing Studies and his own critical pedagogical self-reflection. In unveiling the linkages between racism, language, and power in the U.S., Stephen takes down White language supremacy in the composition classroom. Amazing work, Stephen! We are moved by your words and your work to blend art and scholarship.

Stephen Cobb headshot


Excellence in Diversity for a Student Group Project

Congratulations to Sa-Rawla Stoute, Mbuh Payne, Sanaz Shahi, Kerry Cormier, and Donn Garby for their DEI project “Equity Audit of Rowan University.” This group of doctoral students in the College of Education refined common definitions in which Rowan University uses to determine diversity, equity, and inclusion, and then analyzed existing data relative to those issues.   They  worked to develop and implement survey tools, and developed clear and concise recommendations for Rowan University moving forward.  We are proud of your initiative, Kerry, Donn, Mbuh, Sanaz, and Sa-Rawla, and your efforts to create a more just space, and we hope higher education continues to benefit from your work in the future!

Sa-Rawla Stoute   Mbuh Payne  

Sanaz Shahi   Kerry Cormier

Donn Garby headshot

Excellence in Diversity for Student Social Activism

Congratulations to Shariese Katrell Abdullah, doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program in the College of Education, for her work advocating for a more just and inclusive world through her research examining the intersection of race and disability, as well as her community work. Shariese leads annual fundraising for the Anita Kaufmann Foundation and the Lupus Foundation focused on hidden disabilities. She also recently organized and led Black Lives Matter rallies in Princeton. Thank you, Shariese Katrell Abdullah, for your example of activist scholarship and citizenship!

Shariese Katrell Abdullah headshot


Excellence in Diversity for Student Social Activism

Congratulations to Eliya Bravo for your leadership establishing the Women Of Color Alliance at Rowan this past year. Under Eliya’s leadership, the Woman of Color Alliance was established, garnering wide support from the Rowan community even in the face of pandemic-related obstacles. In their first year the group organized the Women of Color Collective, the Say Her Name peaceful protest, and a petition effort that prompted the university to remove a social media post related to the Black Lives Matter movement. Thank you, Eliya Bravo, for your courage, persistence, and passion in leading our Rowan community to be more welcoming, inclusive, and just!

Ellya Bravo headshot


Excellence in Diversity for Scholarship

Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Abraham for her groundbreaking work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Oaxaca, Mexico!  Dr. Abraham won a prestigious Fulbright-Hays scholarship twice in a row. She used the funding to bring K-12 educators from the Rowan and South Jersey community to Oaxaca for six weeks in order to learn about indigenous education, histories of language practices in Oaxaca, and public education there.  Additionally, Dr. Abraham was granted a Spencer grant for her work with multicultural and multilingual children in the South Philadelphia community.  From both projects, she has published prolifically including in The Radical TeacherEquity & Excellence in EducationCritical Education, and the Journal of Education Policy.  Dr. Abraham won these three highly competitive national-level funding awards in her first five years at Rowan, and is an outspoken leader in critical language education in the field.  Thank you for your leadership and mentorship on all levels at Rowan University, the region, and the hemisphere!

Stephanie Abraham headshot


Excellence in Diversity for Scholarship—Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions for the Excellence in Diversity in Scholarship Award goes to Professor Heather Lanier and Dr. Nicole Vaughn. Professor Lanier’s book Raising A Rare Girl, published by Penguin Press, interrupts harmful conceptions of normalcy in the microcosm of the family as well as in the landscape of broader institutions and society. Dr. Vaughn’s research includes important grant funded projects to support community intervention and education toward more equitable and accessible public health. You both make Rowan proud!

Professor Heather Lanier    Dr. Nicole Vaughn headshot


Excellence in Diversity for Social Activism

Congratulations to Paula Watkins, Rowan SOM Assistant Dean for Admissions, for her work cultivating diverse future physicians and shaping the future in the osteopathic tradition. Assistant Dean Watkins has championed diversity through her redesign of recruitment processes, work encouraging high school students in underserved communities to pursue careers in medicine, recruitment of medical students from underrepresented groups, influencing the creation of the SOM Diversity Task Force, and lending her diversity recruitment leadership to other osteopathic medical schools through the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. SOM anticipates the composition of this year’s incoming class to be 30% underrepresented minorities as a result of her leadership. Thank you Assistant Dean Watkins for your vision, passion, and leadership!

Paula Watkins

Excellence in Diversity for the Study or Practice of Medicine

We are delighted to recognize The Black Collective at RowanSOM for their work in advancing equity and inclusion, including: Chloe Soremekun, Courtney Chineme, Dr. Adesola Oyewole, Dr. Anna Ayum, Emmanuel Asenso Jr., Dr. Jamila Holston, Dr. Mavis Britwum, Melvin Ways, Niurka Wallace, and Nyesha White. Since June 2020, the Black medical students and alumni of The Black Collective have worked hard to identify and transform cultural and structural barriers to success for students of color in medical education. They have partnered with Rowan SOM administration and the Division of DEI to ensure accountability and meaningful change, in addition to establishing networks of support and mentorship to support students academically and professionally. We admire The Black Collective for their persistence and commitment to equity and community! 

Chloe Soremekun   Courtney Chineme  

Dr. Adesola Oyewole  Dr. Anna Ayum  

Emmanuel Asenso headshot  Jamila Holston headshot

Mavis Britwum  Melvin Ways headshot  

Niurka Wallace  Nyesha White


Excellence in Diversity for a Group Project

We honor Cate Romano and Anna Bassiri, lecturers in Writing Arts for their work in social justice pedagogy. The committee was impressed by Professors Romano and Bassiri  development of a College Composition I curriculum with the theme of linguistic justice, which helps students work through complex investigations the intersections of “academic” English, racism, and power. The course includes assigned readings that center the voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, working to decolonize the curriculum. What’s more, Professors Romano and Bassiri shared their course materials with other faculty who teach in the First Year Writing curriculum, designing and offering professional development events to support fellow instructors in teaching the course. Because the First Year Writing program serves thousands of Rowan students each year, we are certain this course design will do meaningful antiracist work with students for years to come. We’re so inspired by your innovative pedagogy!

Cate Romano headshot  Anna Bassiri