By Kelsey Kendall

Old Dominion University’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity hosted the 2024 John R. Broderick Diversity Champion Awards at Chartway Arena on March 28.

The awards acknowledge individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to promoting diversity and equity in the classroom, workplace and community. Sixteen faculty members and students were recognized this year. Their work spanned across University departments and disciplines including counseling, criminal justice, health sciences, libraries and humanities.

“The Diversity Champion Awards offers us an occasion to show how members of our campus community create pathways and gateways of opportunity that enhance our living and learning communities and ultimately position us in a more forward-focused position to contribute to the economic growth, innovation and community and wellbeing of Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area,”  said September Sanderlin, vice president for Human Resources, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Veleka Gatling, assistant vice president for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, said the 2024 nominees came from across the University, including areas that “have not been traditionally” nominated for their efforts in diversity and inclusion, such as distance learning and health sciences.

“It truly helps us to understand that we are truly working to operationalize what it means to be a community committed to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Gatling said. “And it truly is baked into everything that we do.”

Angela Wilson, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences, was named this year’s Overall Diversity Champion.

The recognition came as a surprise to Wilson, who said she could not think of any event or program she helped in “that had the word ‘diversity’ in it.” Instead, it was the little things she included in her classroom and work.

Wilson joined the University in 2017 and was selected for the Overall Diversity Champion award recipient for her work to incorporate new perspectives from the medical laboratory sciences field and her teaching philosophy that emphasizes inclusion and belonging for all.

She said she tries to ensure her students learn about all the backgrounds their peers or colleagues could come from, whether they be cultural, financial, mental health, religious or something else.

“I appreciate diversity, so I try to practice it every day – practice a sense of belonging – because we’re all diverse,” Wilson said. “Makes life more exciting.”

Wilson recently incorporated transgender medicine and its impact on laboratory testing into the curriculum. She also participated on committees and boards that promote health equity initiatives.

From 2018-2023, Wilson served on the Interprofessional Education Committee of the College of Health Sciences and participated in an annual conference that drew students from across the college to share what they learned in their programs.

Wilson has also facilitated global engagement and learning. In 2022, she directed a study course that delved into the historical, social and political aspects of the Cuban health care system.

Also in 2022, Wilson participated in the Center for Global Engagement and Center for Faculty Development Collaborative Online International Learning Workshop and brought back the concepts she learned to introduce a project with ODU health sciences students and Brazilian architecture students to “theoretically” design an ergonomic microbiology lab. 

“When I did the COIL training, the real focus was to respect and realize these cultural differences among students and try and bridge those gaps,” Wilson said.

Throughout the project, Wilson noted the way the students, despite being from different countries and backgrounds, found ways to relate over things like their pets and being far from their homes to go to school.

It was important for her students to learn about global diversity and diversity in health care through the project, Wilson said. Understanding differences can help students understand why certain groups might be reluctant to get a vaccine or seek medical assistance and gives them the tools to start to address equity in health care.

“I hope it trickles into their professional practice,” Wilson said. “I hope it trickles into communities and into their homes.”

Rachel Childs, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences, nominated her colleague because of how Wilson goes “above and beyond” in promoting inclusion and diversity.

Childs said this recognition for Wilson brings “more awareness to how diverse health care is.”

Wilson said part of promoting diversity in health care is interprofessional education.

“We really are interconnected, particularly when it comes to patient care,” Wilson said. “We can learn from each other.”

She practices this through several collaborations with other professionals in nursing, dental hygiene and oceanography – studying the impact of tidal flooding on soil nutrients and microbes.

Childs said Wilson offers suggestions on how to make communications more inclusive and recognizes underrepresented and disadvantaged groups by bringing awareness to events like Black History Month, Native American History Month and LGBTQIA+ Month.

This shows students walking by her office that they belong, and she is someone they can come talk to if needed, Wilson said.

All the 2024 Diversity Champions:

  • Krystall Dunaway
  • Brianna Elum
  • Travis Jacobs
  • Sampath Jayarathna
  • Shanda Jenkins
  • Holli Kubly
  • Najmeh Moradiyan-Rizi
  • Aine Norris
  • Vanessa Panfil
  • Judith Wambui Preston
  • Kerri Rinaldi
  • Mitsue Shiokawa
  • Portia Stokes
  • Shuntay Tarver
  • Brandi Woodell
  • Angela Wilson