Four at MSU honored for promoting diversity

Contact: Robbie Ward

MSU President Mark Keenum (center) congratulates 2009 Diversity Award winners (from left) Maria White, Robert Damm, Erdogan Memili, and Alexander Washington.
MSU President Mark Keenum (center) congratulates 2009 Diversity Award winners (from left) Maria White, Robert Damm, Erdogan Memili, and Alexander Washington.
Photo by: Kristen Hines Baker

STARKVILLE, Miss.--Members of the student body, faculty and staff at Mississippi State again are being honored for contributions to a diverse university environment.

The campus President's Commission on the Status of Minorities recently recognized four individuals for demonstrating "a significant commitment to enhancing diversity" and "promoting the concept of diversity and improved cross-cultural understanding through their positive interactions with others," said Tommy Stevenson, commission chair.

"These individuals are champions and we believe their actions can serve as inspiration to others in promoting a more inclusive educational environment," he added. "Diversity is a key component in creating an environment where everyone truly feels like a part of the Bulldog Family."

Speaking at the program, MSU President Mark Keenum said persons from all walks of life must use education as a way to improve themselves and others. He reminded the audience that civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. often emphasized the need for educational institutions to teach all students to think critically and intensively.

"Having diversity at universities helps provide academic and economic opportunities for people from all segments of society," Keenum observed.

The 2009 MSU Diversity Award honorees include (alphabetically):

--Robert Damm, Teaching Faculty Category. He is a professor in the music department and director of its music education partnerships program, as well as chair of the College of Education's Diversity Committee. Beyond taking a multi-cultural approach for African-American music and other courses he teaches, Damm has led recreational drumming sessions for teenagers at an area juvenile detention center and directed a variety of local and area community programs that highlight cultural heritages.

--Edogan Memili, Research Faculty Category. He is an assistant professor of animal and dairy science and director of the Animal Functional Genomics Laboratory in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His research involves multidisciplinary approaches that regularly involve scientists and students from historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.

--Senior Alexander G. Washington of Madison, Student Category. A banking and finance major, he has contributed to diversity both on campus and in the community through work with the Richard Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and the College of Business' Ambassadors Program, among others. He is the MSU Student Association's director of minority student affairs and a past president of the Holmes Center's Peer Counselor and Peer Ambassador program.

--Maria White, Staff Category. She is assistant dean of students, director of the Holmes Center--where she has worked since 1989--and an adviser for several student organizations. To help increase university retention of minority students, White created "Live at Five," a forum for undergraduate students to discuss race-related topics, and organized forums for faculty, staff and students to discuss diversity-related issues, among other initiatives.

PCSM chairman Stevenson is assistant director for diversity programs and student development in MSU's Bagley College of Engineering. Earlier this year, he was honored by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning for his efforts to recruit minority students to college and enhance their experiences while attending the land-grant institution.

NEWS EDITORS/DIRECTORS: For more information, contact Dr. Stevenson at 662-325-2270 or


MADISON-AREA EDITORS: Washington is the son of Margie Washington.

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