The Memorial Union Ballroom was packed full this past Tuesday night for the 18th Annual Diversity Awards Ceremony. Students, faculty, staff and organizations were honored for their commitment to community leadership, academic excellence and service in promoting diversity and multiculturalism.

A quick video was shown for each of the award recipients that showcased their opinions and takes on promoting diversity and inclusiveness. Melvin Wade, Director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, opened the ceremony with a few remarks on the recipients of these awards and why this ceremony and what it represents is so important.

Wade explained the importance of these videos, showcasing the award recipients, is to “help to create opportunities for us to educate each other on matters of culture, race, gender, sexuality, ability and nationality.”

He stressed the importance of what these individuals have accomplished as well as how important the community they are in has helped them.

“It takes a village to [raise] a child,” he said, “and of these 2016 URI Diversity Awards it has certainly taken a village to help.”

Nasser Zawia, Dean of the Graduate School, followed Wade with a few words himself to start off the ceremony. Zawia said that Wade had asked him to speak many times before, but this year he was very grateful to be asked because he finally understood “how important it is what we are doing here.”

Zawia stated to the crowd how important a ceremony like this is to have right now.

“We’re hearing a lot of rhetoric out there,” Zawia said. “We are hearing rhetoric that is anti-diversity, we are hearing rhetoric that is anti-inclusiveness, and such rhetoric there is a claim that we can make America great again. And I say to you, America will not be great unless it is diverse [and] inclusive.”

Tammy Warner, the Interim Director of the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program of the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education, closed out the welcoming remarks praising the school for their efforts.

“I am proud to be part of a university who is giving those topics and issues the importance that they merit. I’m proud to be a part of this University,” Warner said.  

The awards were given to a number of students, faculty and organizations, all of whom, according to Zawia, exhibited leadership, “promoting diversity, promoting inclusiveness, trying to build a better world where there’s equal opportunity for others, where everyone is respected and everyone has a right.”

The Undergraduate Student Excellence awards in Arts and Culture were received by Shawn Antoine and Katheryn Arias. The Academic and Service awards were given to Oluwadamilol (Dami) Animashaun and Maryam Attarpour. The Leadership and Service awards were given to Michael Bonilla and Zulmy Cortez.

The Organization Excellence awards in Leadership and Service were given to Multicultural Unity Student Involvement Council (MUSIC) and Powerful, Independent, Notoriously Knowledgeable (PINK) Women. The Graduate Student Excellence awards in Leadership and Service were received by Qutaiba Al Harfi Albluwi and Sandi Lewanika. The Staff/Administration Excellence awards in Leadership and Service were given to Brittney Cross and Holly Nichols. The Faculty Excellence awards in Leadership and Service were received by Charles (Chet) Hickox and Anita Jackson.

The Ceremony ended with The Honorable Jorge Elorza who received the Lifetime Achievement Award. As the Providence Mayor and a child of immigrants, Elorza spoke of how it is his goal to make Providence, as well as the rest of Rhode Island, more inclusive and stressed the importance that education has on bridging this gap.