Hosted by Wittenberg’s Concerned Black Students (CBS), the first-ever congratulatory dinner honoring students of color and those representing various nationalities was a resounding success, with nearly 100 guests in attendance, five special awards presented, and a fundraising challenge offered and exceeded.
Aimed at honoring student success as well as building a stronger community between alumni and current students of color, the dinner was among several celebratory events leading up to the university’s 168th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 12, 2018. CBS plans to make the dinner an annual event.
Attendees included 26 graduates, their family members and friends, Wittenberg faculty and staff, and a dozen alumni. Imani Gospel Choir, under the direction of Kent Brooks, kicked off the event with a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Leul Bulcha, class of 2020 and CBS president, welcomed the audience, and Wittenberg President Michael Frandsen also made remarks.
Four newly-created awards were presented to members of the class of 2018. Mecca Abdul-Aziz, senior class president and communication major from Cincinnati, Ohio, received the 2018 Bridge-Builder Award for her “commitment to diversity and insistence upon cross-cultural conversation across campus with faculty, students and staff."
The 2018 Academic Excellence Award was presented to two recipients: Kayla Winn, an education major from Columbus, Ohio, who is planning to teach middle school after graduation, and Marietta Ojo, a double major in biochemistry/molecular biology and philosophy from East Orange, N.J., who has been accepted into the public health policy graduate program at Columbia University. The award recognizes their “towering example of scholarship and commitment to high academic achievement."
Neo Mosoeunyane, an exercise science major from Maseru, Lesotho, South Africa, received the 2018 Pan-Africanist Award “for her advocacy and student leadership as an international student who demonstrates service, compassion and justice across the Black Diaspora."
The 2018 Perseverance Award was presented to Yvonne Baker, a sociology major from Dayton, Ohio, and mother of two children, for her “awe-inspiring commitment to completion of [her] degree and overcoming obstacles along the journey."
Each award was tailored to the particular attributes of the recipient, ensuring that the award truly captured the essence of the student’s character and accomplishments. The selection committee was comprised of five students, two faculty and one staff member.
A special award was presented to James “Jimmy” Williams, senior associate director of admission and coordinator of multicultural recruitment, for his years of service to the university. Surprised and moved by the recognition, he said, “I may be retiring from the university [in July], but I live right down the street and will be available to assist Dr. [Julius] Bailey and all of you in continuing the work of creating a community for students of color.”
Associate Professor of Philosophy Julius Bailey, who also serves as faculty director of diversity, offered up a fundraising challenge to assist diversity programming for the 2018-2019 academic year, pledging to match up to $500 of donations received at the dinner. The challenge was met and exceeded, with more than $1,200 raised.
Wittenberg Audio/Visual Technician Ray Jones, who helped planned the dinner, described this event and other diversity programming as "intentional and thoughtful programming that answers the call by President Frandsen to which we are all purposed to recruit and retain students at Wittenberg."
To give a gift toward diversity programming, go to https://giving.wittenberg.edu/blackcongratulatory or mail checks to: Wittenberg University, Attn: The Wittenberg Fund, P.O. Box 720, Springfield, OH 45501.