PennWest Clarion Student Senate and the Office of Equity and Title IX honored six individuals and a student organization at the annual Equity Dinner and Awards Ceremony Nov. 1. The annual dinner recognizes faculty, staff, students and community residents for their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.


Sheleta Camarda-Webb, assistant vice president for assessment and external relations, welcomed guests and honorees. Camarda-Webb said the dinner and awards ceremony began in 1994.


“The longevity of this event is one of the ways that Pennsylvania Western University shows its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said.


Dr. Jane Schuchert Walsh, associate professor of sociology, shared her doctoral work that launched the Coalition of Ommokalee Workers, a small farmworker organization in southwest Florida, into a national fair food movement. She outlined the four-year battle of the workers for fair treatment, noting their motto, “Consciousness plus commitment equals change.”


Award winners, with excerpts from their nominations, are:


Outstanding Community Award – Jacqueline Griebel of Clarion: “Ms. Jackie is an asset and a treasure to the Clarion community. Anytime someone needs advice, direction, a friend or assistance, she’s always there. Upon hearing that there would be no carnival at ALF this year, she quickly stepped in to ensure folks could still have a good time. She is especially deserving of recognition for her efforts.”


Outstanding Supporter Award – Dr. Joseph Croskey, chair of PennWest Department of Student Achievement and Success and director of the State System’s Frederick Douglass Institute: “He is an iconic supporter of diversity, open-mindedness an atmosphere of belonging, both on campus and in the community. He has organized many events and workshops, including Juneteenth and a panel discussion with United Nations.”


Outstanding Employee Award – Dr. Natasha Dias, assistant professor of biology: “Dr. Dias is worthy of the Outstanding Employee Award, having earned it through her genuine love of this university and every student in it.” Dias plans the annual Cultural Night along with cultural festivals such as Diwali. As advisor to Clarion International Students Association, Dias seeks to share the American culture as well.


Outstanding Student Award – Natalie Thomas: “Ms. Natalie Thomas is an outstanding student leader. For the last two years, she has been president of the student organization ALLIES, which creates a safe space for the Clarion student body. She has been in charge of organizing drag and other events that promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Natalie has been editor of the student journal TOBECO, making sure students’ voices are heard in a creative way. Last spring, Natalie helped put together the Hezreel Robinson Filmmaker speaker’s event for Black History Month.” Thomas is a senior from Harrisburg, majoring in integrative studies with concentration in communications, a minor in social work and a certificate for professional writing.


Special Group Award – ALLIES: ALLIES is an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and straight students, faculty and staff who work for the preservation of the human rights of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Through their advocacy and education, ALLIES works to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students, faculty and staff. The club participates in various education and advocacy presentations through classroom discussions and table presentations. They continue to encourage dialogue through events such as Celebrate Bisexuality Day, National Coming Out Day, International Pronouns Day, and Transgender Day of Visibility. The club's Drag Bingo and the Annual Drag Talent Show have become popular with the campus and community.


Special Equity Award – Jarrett Boxley, assistant director of Admissions and NAACP representative: “He is always helping minority students connect. He puts younger students in place to be helped by older students, as well as connecting people that can help you with classes.”


Presidential Award – Rogers Laugand III, assistant vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Student Support: “Rogers has devoted years to bringing diversity to our classrooms with his Building Bridges program. He also assisted in developing our Inclusive Community Assessment Team and leads the way in responding to reports. He is active on the Frederick Douglass Student Scholar Committee and other organizations promoting equity, diversity and inclusion.”