(Left to Right) Carnell Jones, Mary Grace Almandrez, Kathy Collins, Donald Dehayes, David Dooley, George Gallien and Blessing Gbemisola presented at the Diversity Awards. | Photo by Grace DeSanti.

Over a hundred students, staff members and guests gathered yesterday evening to honor community members dedicated to the advancement and incorporation of diversity at the University of Rhode Island.

The annual Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Award Banquet was hosted by Dr. Carnell Jones, the director of Enrollment Services and Blessing Gbemisola, a senior at the University of Rhode Island.

“When you look around this room, you look at everyone from different walks of life,” Jones said. “From a diversity standpoint, this is what an event should look like.”

The Director of the Multicultural Center George Gallien, welcomed all guests to the event and spoke on the importance of the awards.

“The University of Rhode Island Diversity and Inclusiveness Awards celebrates students, faculty, administration, staff and organizations that have demonstrated the commitment to community leadership, academic excellence and service in promoting diversity and multiculturalism,” Gallien said. “These individuals have worked in promoting human differences as an asset.”

URI President David Dooley, Provost Donald H. DeHayes, Vice President of Student Affairs Kathy Collins and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Mary Grace Almandrez joined Jones and Gbemisola on stage for the awards part of the ceremony.

Gyasi Alexander was the recipient of the undergraduate student community excellence award. Gbemisola said that this award honors a student who has positively impacted URI through their “leadership, service, art and or culture.”

Justin Gold was the recipient of the undergraduate student academic excellence award.

“Justin [Gold] has not only pursued academic excellence in the classroom, but he has also remained active across the URI community, where he deeply desires inclusion for all students, no matter the background,” Jones said.  

Katherine Canfield was the recipient of the graduate student excellence award.

“It is clear that Katy [Gold] is committed to centering diversity and inclusion in her teaching, research and service at URI,” Gbemisola said.

Biological sciences professor Bryan Dewsbury received the faculty excellence award.

“[Dewsbury’s] innovator approach to learning has ignited learning and decreased withdrawal rates in introductory level science courses,” Jones said. “Dr. Dewsbury makes it his mission to inspire students across all social, cultural and ethnic lines.”

Dr. Erin Earle, the assistant director of the Welcome Center, received the staff excellence award.

“Dr. Earle is a respected advocate, instructor and activist across our campus community,” Jones said. “As the associate director of the URI campus visitor experience, she works tirelessly to create a consistently supportive and inclusive campus community across all boundaries of culture, identity, and expression.”

Brothers on a New Direction (BOND) received the student organization excellence award.

“BOND believes that they are the change they have been waiting for and the future is theirs,” Gbemisola said. “Through BOND’s leadership, they have made their corner of the neighborhood a better place.”

Health Services received the unit excellence award.

“URI Health Services has served as a vehicle for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion,” Jones said. “As a collaborative team, the unit has expanded its mission to create a safe and inclusive culture. Through safe zone training of all staff, safe zone advanced training and international student training, the staff remains committed to supporting all members of the URi community.”

Jones said Health Services has also worked to allow student health insurance to include transgender health, uses translation services to communicate more easily with students of different native languages and recently brought in an expert to teach staff about how they can best provide care to Muslim students.

Lastly, Dooley presented Sharon and Frank Forleo the Lifetime Achievement Award. Dooley said it would be difficult to find more honorable members of the URI community.

The Forleo’s made significant contributions to URI’s Talent Development program over the course of more than 40 years.

“The cumulative impact of your love for the students of the University of Rhode Island, particularly those students who, for very good reasons, felt marginalized, ignored underappreciated and disrespected, is extraordinary,” Dooley said. “The difference you’ve made in their lives is also extraordinary. The difference you two have made to this University cannot be calculated. It is only the smallest of measures that tonight we can celebrate all you have done.”

Sharon Forleo said they were honored to receive the award and that they were grateful for all of the students they have worked with over the years. Frank Forleo said they were honored to help move the University forward.

“I have to thank my students for decades, decades,” Forleo said. “This is your achievement.”

Almandrez gave the closing remarks for the banquet. She said those who were both nominated and received the awards are an inspiration to the URI community. Almandrez said the award recipients are leaders who have helped transform the community.

“Our award recipients have loved publicly, loudly and proudly,” Almandrez said. “We are ever so grateful for their dedication.”   

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Andrew Main
I am passionate about writing for the Cigar because I enjoy informing others about what is going on in the URI community. It is often said that education is one of the most powerful tools an individual can have. Through writing for the Cigar, I aim to help educate the community about what is going on and why it is important so that people can be as educated as possible about newsworthy events on campus. I ran for the news editor position because I want to help make the Cigar as successful as possible by not just writing articles but by helping other reporters capitalize on their strengths as well.