Leaders who foster diversity. Teams who demonstrate equity and inclusion. People who devote their days to the ideals of public service.
Columbia College honored four individuals or groups during its fourth Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 24, inside Dorsey Gymnasium. The annual event recognizes and acknowledges staff, faculty and CC community members who follow in the footsteps of Dr. King.
“We are delighted to celebrate our colleagues who make a difference in our community every day,” says Alejandra Gudino, director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Columbia College. “These people represent the best of who we are, and we can all learn from their powerful examples. The passion they pour into their continual acts of service is nothing short of inspiring.”
“These people represent the best of who we are, and we can all learn from their powerful examples.”Alejandra Gudino, director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
This year’s event was dedicated to Rev. Dr. C.W. Dawson Jr., a fourth-generation preacher in Columbia who grew up during the height of the Civil Rights movement.
Dr. Dawson graduated as the first African American to earn a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Missouri. He has taught as an adjunct professor of philosophy at Columbia College in addition to serving as the senior minister at Dawson Journeys Ministry based in Columbia.
Dr. Dawson planned to serve as keynote speaker but was unable to attend due to his recent diagnosis with a severe illness. A GoFundMe page has been established to support him and his family.
“He always says that every conversation about race is a good conversation to have,” Gudino says. “Talking about race is hard and uncomfortable, but sitting in the uncomfortable is where we grow and where the light comes in. That’s how we become ready to hold new conversations.”
The following recipients were honored with 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards:
Carmela Thornton – individual award-winner
Carmela Thornton is a CC alum, longtime faculty member, current student and full-time staff member. She has served the college for over a decade as an adjunct instructor and more recently joined the Online Education team as assistant director of operations after retiring from the State of Missouri’s Office of Equal Opportunity, where she worked to ensure equitable business opportunities for all. She will graduate again from CC in April with dual bachelor’s degrees in Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Organizational Leadership.
Thornton serves as a volunteer for Jefferson City Project Homeless Connect, as a board member for the Jefferson City Juneteenth organization and as a school-based mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Carmela is CC in every way,” says Andi Kenuam, senior director of Online Education. “She exemplifies Dr. King’s values of integrity, kindness, excellence, lifelong learning and service before self in all she does for the college, the community and the world.”
Jared Clark – individual award-winner
Jared Clark has served for over five years as a program specialist for Columbia College Global and is a member of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. After serving as a table host for CC Faculty Forums on Diversity, he recognized the need for instructor resources on diverse topics to help faculty navigate difficult yet important conversations. To support faculty, he researched, developed and curated a web resource called DE&I Conversations on topics such as affirmative action, unconscious bias and ableism.
Clark volunteers at many DE&I events to ensure CC is represented in the community and is always willing to share his love for learning.
“Jared’s dedication represents the true public servant spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Gudino says of Clark. “His daily interactions with students and the community at large have shown a commitment to advancing not only the mission of Columbia College, but the spirit of Dr. King.”
Girls Who Game – group award-winner
“Girls Who Game,” under the leadership of Online Program Coordinator Dr. Lindsay Zeiter, fosters a safe, welcoming and supportive community that empowers female, transgender and nonbinary students to embrace their passion for gaming. The group aims to establish a pipeline for more diverse and inclusive competitive eSports, ignite students’ interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) careers and increase awareness of the need for diversity in STEAM careers.
The program invites middle and high school students to engage in cooperative and competitive play. While the group’s summer camp occurs once per year, the “Girls Who Game” facilitate activities and pop-up events throughout the year as well as a moderated Discord server for game sessions and more.
“This group is led by dedicated individuals who have a passion for supporting students who love playing video games, but may not have safe spaces to learn, train, play and grow,” says Provost and Senior Vice President Dr. Piyusha Singh. “Each of the coordinators and facilitators embody the spirit of Dr. King by volunteering their time and resources to create equitable and supportive spaces.”
Office of the Registrar – group award-winner
The Office of the Registrar, under the leadership of Registrar Jennifer Thorpe, takes on the crucial job of welcoming Columbia College students as a first point of interaction. The entire team works quickly and effectively to ensure that students’ needs are accommodated, and they make the process seem easy.
The office has developed an environment that is supportive of not only students but also staff members. They effectively work with other teams across the college to ensure the CC community thrives.
“The Office of the Registrar helps students every step of the way, from putting them at ease when starting at CC to evaluating transcripts to make sure students are following the best degree program for their needs,” says Raea Mills, instructional technologist in the Online Program. “Simply put, this group goes above and beyond on a daily basis.”