Twelve students and two student organizations were honored Thursday night at the MLK Spirit Awards in the Arthur Miller Theatre for their contributions to both the campus and Detroit area communities, as well as for exemplifying the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The event was organized in a combined effort by the School of Art & Design, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the College of Engineering and Agents for Change, an art exhibition promoting diversity on North Campus.
The MLK Spirit Awards have existed for many years on campus, but it was not until several years ago that the ceremony was formalized. Dean of Engineering David Munson said when he started at the University in 2006 the North Campus community did little to promote Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the MLK Spirit Awards at that time consisting of a lunch between the nominated students and the North Campus deans.
Munson said the purpose of the formal ceremony instituted in recent years for the awards was to recognize the work students have done to promote diversity on North Campus.
“The whole point is to get the whole North Campus community together and recognize some of our students and all of their great work related to diversity, inclusion and equity,” he said.
Taubman graduate student Ryan Goold, one of the award winners, said he was shocked and very grateful to have been recognized. Goold works on the Detroit Design/Build Dreamscape, which helps renovate the landscape of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School through utilizing sustainable technologies.
“I was completely taken by surprise,” Goold said. “I am really overwhelmed with gratitude. It is really such an honor to be named a Spirit Award winner, especially with the namesake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Munson and Christopher Kendall, former dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, were also honored at the event for their efforts to promote diversity in their various schools. The two spearheaded an effort to increase diversity events on North Campus, as well as encourage and increase minority representation within their respective schools.
This year’s awards are the first to include a collaboration between the deans and students in planning the event. Derrick Scott, Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engineering Programs, said students showed a desire to help, so they accommodated their ambition.
“This is the first time the students have come together the way that they have,” Scott said. “Once they did, we said we are going to find a way to make sure we can blend it with them.”
This new partnership resulted in a new addition to the event: the Agents of Change gallery. The gallery, which highlights the importance of diversity and community on campus, has been on display since Jan. 8, and is a combined effort among the different schools located on North Campus.
The idea for the gallery initially came from Stamps in Color, a student organization aimed at promoting diversity for students in the Art and Design school. The project started with the goal of creating an event to better honor Martin Luther King Jr. on North Campus, ending with the exhibit, which aimed to incorporate aspects of every school on North Campus.
Amy Kamdem-Wandji, LSA and Art & Design senior and one of the founders of Stamps in Color, said the organization wanted to make students on North Campus more aware of the importance in promoting diversity.
“The conversation doesn’t happen very much up here,” Kamdem-Wandji said. “We wanted to do something where for once the focus was here. We wanted to say, ‘Hey North Campus, you too have to talk about this. This matters in your work and your schoolwork.”