Office of DEI announces 2022 Inclusive Excellence Grant awardees 

Eastern Mennonite University’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion announces the recipients of the inaugural Inclusive Excellence Grants.

The program, which started this academic year, offers EMU faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to develop ideas that advance a community of learners where everyone has an opportunity to grow, learn, and belong together. “Inclusive excellence” is a research-based approach that encourages proactive, collaborative steps towards creating a community in which we all belong.

“The Office of DEI extends congratulations to these awardees for bringing our community together through their projects,” said Jackie Font-Guzmán, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “It has been energizing to read these proposals and see the passion, creativity, and commitment to having an inclusive campus where we celebrate each other for who we are.” 


Inclusivity in Science Mural

This project entails designing and painting a mural at the entrance of the Suter Science Center depicting figures outside the presumed dominant culture of who a scientist is, or can be. To select the scientists that are to be depicted, the project leaders distributed a survey to faculty, staff, and students at EMU. Project leaders wrote: “…creating a mural featuring scientists of color, female scientists, and queer scientists would help address both issues, creating a more welcoming atmosphere in the building for all people.” 

Award: $1,200

Project co-leaders: Asha Beck, student; Grace Harder, student representative from Race and Gender class for social change project; Jake Myers, student; Molly Piwonka, student, and Afton Rhodes-Lehman, student.


Undergraduate Admissions DEI Speaker Series

This project will fund speakers as part of a larger effort of providing training that begins to address the challenges and opportunities that emerge as the undergraduate admissions department personnel encounter increasing diversity in the workplace as reflected in both employee and prospective student demographics. As a historically white institution, there are likely practices, policies, assumptions, and biases that are having a negative impact on creating a deep sense of belonging among the staff and a variable experience of welcome for prospective students and their families. It is anticipated that this training will build upon work that has already been underway at the university and serve as a pilot that can be evaluated and revised for expanded use with other employee groups at the university, in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Award: $1,200

Project co-leaders: Matt Ruth, director of admissions, and Luke Litwiller, senior admissions counselor, in collaboration with Mary Jensen, vice president for enrollment and strategic growth.


At the Crossroads: Using Photovoice to Envision Belonging for LGBTQ+ Students at Eastern Mennonite University

This project uses photovoice to document LGBTQ+ student perspectives in a manner that allows the Office of DEI to learn more about next steps for campus advocacy and inclusion efforts. Photovoice is a type of arts-based participatory action research in which participants use photography and captions to represent their realities. For this project, awardees will slightly adapt traditional photovoice methods to include other visual mediums (painting, collage, video, sculpture, poetry, theater, photography, essay, spoken word, etc). The project leaders will create a multimedia pop-up museum during the annual 2022 ACE Festival at EMU. 

Award: $1,200

Project co-leaders:  Conner Suddick, graduate student, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, and Kathy Evans, professor of graduate teacher education; Zander France, student; Veronica Horst, student; Luke Litwiller ‘19, senior admissions counselor; Katie Mansfield, lead trainer, Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience; Melissa May, adjunct faculty, Intensive English Program; Finn Wengerd ’19, educational tech analyst.


Outdoor Courts Redevelopment

This program aims to foster a space for BIPOC students and create a space that is student-centered. The Student Programs, Student Life Division is partnering with student clubs to offer opportunities for the entire student body to be involved as we install new equipment and celebrate the newly updated space in the outdoor basketball courts. Project leaders aim to create an environment at the outdoor basketball courts that is representative and welcoming to diverse student and community populations. They desire to celebrate cultural diversity within recreational activity through investing in sports such as basketball and soccer. Once the improvements to the courts are completed, Student Programs will host a grand opening party that would offer an official welcoming of the space for the EMU community and the broader community. At this event, project leaders will offer the opportunity for feedback through QR code surveys.

Award:  $1,145

Project co-leaders: Katie Corbit, recreational sports coordinator; Anne Coyne, staff associate; and Tyler Goss, assistant director, all with EMU Student Programs.


Presidential Portraits Relocation

The EMU presidential portraits currently located in Room 303, Sadie Hartzler Library,reflect the historical whiteness and maleness of the institution. The project prospectus points out that this “therefore send[s] the message to current students who use this classroom and are not white or male that they do not belong” at EMU. The grant funds will enable the project leaders to move the portraits out of the classroom to another wall of the building and to generate discussion across campus of the need for diverse representation of people to enhance belonging. As part of their interest in advancing these conversations, the co-leaders will invite to campus a speaker to give a talk on why representation matters and a speaker who will  talk about the work of O. W. “Tom” Schenk, who painted five of the eight portraits. 

Award: $1,200

Project co-leaders: Marci Frederick, director of libraries; Arnie Driediger, structural services; and Mike Stellwag, structural services.


Roots Run Deep

This project will explore both the rich and painful history of African Americans in the Shenandoah Valley. At the heart of the project would be a tour, community building, and deep facilitated reflection by all the participants. The co-leaders wrote: “this project builds and strengthens the partnership between Eastern Mennonite University and the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project. The Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project will lead a day-long tour, ‘Roots Run Deep,’ on African American history in Harrisonburg and the surrounding valley…[the] widely diverse group of EMU faculty and staff will apply for and be selected to participate in this day-long tour on the history of the African American community from the Zenda plantation in Elkton to the ruins of Newtown, a booming black community until the R4 ravaged it in the 1950s and 1960s, to the current day Northeast Neighborhood.”   

Award: $1,200

Co-leaders: Amy Corinne Knorr, peacebuilding practice director, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding; Monica Robinson, executive director, Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project; and Matt Tibbles, instructor, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and social work department.


Colleagues who joined Jackie Font-Guzmán, executive director of DEI, in evaluating the proposals are:

  • Danielle Lickey, head men’s volleyball coach, athletics
  • Lindsay Martin, CJP advancement director
  • Katie Mulembe, graduate student at CJP and graduate associate for the Office of DEI 
  • Adesola Johnson, undergraduate student and inclusive excellence student leader, Office of DEI
  • Patience Kamau, digital media strategist and designer at  CJP and associate director for the Office of DEI
  • Benjamin Bergey, professor of music.

Important Dates

These DEI grants are possible thanks to the generosity of Jose Koshy ‘76 and Jean Koshy-Hertzler ‘79.

Join the Discussion on “Office of DEI announces 2022 Inclusive Excellence Grant awardees 

  1. Please add my email address and name to the announcement list when the “Roots Run Deep” project is complete and tours are scheduled.

    Thank you.

  2. Dear EMU community,

    I am aware that there have been some concerns expressed about the use of the word “relocation” when referring to moving the presidential portraits from their current location. There are also concerns about what this means for our history and legacy at EMU. I want to start by thanking those who raised their concern. As an academic institution committed to a Life Together, “we listen to each other with compassion and boldly share our own authentic statements of faith and doubt.”

    The legacy of our former presidents is at the heart of who we are today — and we will continue to honor it as we move together in building a community that embraces diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging.

    The presidential portraits are in a library room currently used as a classroom. As our student body has become more diverse, many of our students have expressed feeling uncomfortable in a space that lacks representation. The intent of this project is threefold:

    a) to create a classroom space that is inviting and inclusive for all of our students;
    b) to have a presidential gallery in a place that is more visible and more appropriate to its purpose of honoring university leadership, history and legacy; and
    c) to have conversations among our community members regarding ways to increase our sense of belonging among all students, faculty, and staff. How does our legacy support our diversity, equity, and inclusion aspirations?

    After re-reading the text in the article about this proposal, I recognize that it could have been hurtful to some and interpreted as being dismissive of the work done by our past presidents that have shaped who we are today. This is far from the intent of the project.

    The inauguration of the new presidential portrait gallery will be planned in consultation with the President’s Office and the Board of Trustees.

    As we continue to build a community that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, I invite any of you with concerns or ideas to reach out to me. We are stronger together if we all belong together.

    Jackie Font-Guzmán
    Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    jackie.font@emu.edu

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