The Graduate Student Commitment to Engagement and Activism Awards recognize graduate students who work on promoting social justice, equity, and inclusion in their graduate degree department and/or on campus. They strive to educate, encourage, and create change to foster welcoming and brave spaces for all students, particular students from diverse BIPOC backgrounds. They demonstrate strong leadership skills through meaningful engagement for influential change.
Nominations for the next round of Graduate Student Commitment to Engagement and Activism Awards will open in spring 2023.
Qualities of a social justice advocate:
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Promote values of social justice, equity, and inclusion
A social justice advocate learns, teaches, and empowers through equity, inclusion and seeks social justice for the communities they serve as well as those that might affect these communities. Someone who can speak out on issues relating to the communities they work with and dedicate time to learning about them.
Create opportunities to educate
Social justice advocates provide opportunities for empowerment through education of issues communities face and how others can work toward creating a more equitable world. This also includes the ability to teach and lead workshops for groups and identifying current student struggles.
Uphold inclusive spaces
A good social justice advocate intentionally creates and holds space for those who are underrepresented at an institutional level and builds a welcoming environment for them to connect with others and thrive in. Communities are at the center of their work and it begins with building those relationships with others.
Actively seek to make necessary change
An advocate listens to the needs of communities and works through issues with them to find possible solutions. If there needs to be change, a good social justice advocate can identify this and seek out the proper resources to make it happen.
Demonstrate leadership skills and knowledge
A social justice advocate is someone who has taken the initiative to educate themselves and develop skills to be a leader in promoting values, educating, creating community, and making change.
Remains open to continue to educate themselves
A social justice advocate strives to continue to educate others by educating themselves and always looking for new ways to help the communities they serve.
Zubin DeVitre is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Counseling Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. During his time at UW–Madison, Zubin has filled various roles including, but not limited to, lead instructor for UW’s Academic Enhancement Seminar, a mentor for the Posse Foundation, and a community support specialist at the Counseling Psychology Training Clinic. In these roles, Zubin has done his best to ensure that he is finding system-level interventions that he can put into place to help instill lasting change while also attending to his required responsibilities. Examples include creating a partnership with Clif Bar to help scholars with food insecurity and crafting system processes to provide more equitable access for student resources. As a second-generation South Asian American, his professional interests focus (broadly) on Pan- and South Asian American mental-health/well-being. Specifically, recognizing that South Asian Americans are often forgotten within the higher education and mental-health narratives, Zubin works to provide representation to South Asian American students within the university setting. It is for these reasons that Zubin’s research publications and presentations have a specified focus on ways to reconstruct the narrative surrounding Pan- and South Asian American students’ well-being and why he worked to develop UW–Madison’s first ever Asian American Psychology course.
Ashley Scott is a MD-PhD student in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In her thesis work she utilizes biomaterials to design scaffolds that closely mimic diseased aortic valve architecture. She utilizes these systems to explore the biological underpinnings that contribute to the sex differences of aortic valve disease. In addition to her biomedical research, Ashley is passionate about improving the lives of marginalized groups through medicine and biomedical research. To accomplish this goal, she invests her time mentoring underrepresented students, developing novel curricula on implicit bias, organizing summits and rallies, and leading diversity and equity focused organizations. Ashley’s multitude of endeavors help create a more just system from which everyone can benefit.
Morgan L. Henson
Morgan Henson is a PhD student in the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He researches social hierarchies such as whiteness and patriarchy around the world, specifically in Central and Eastern Europe. Morgan is a public sociologist with a growing social media presence and enjoys teaching the public about the social hierarchies he researches in plain, graspable language. He believes that most hierarchies are perpetuated, both consciously and unconsciously, by those who most benefit from their structures. So, the foundation of his community engagement is rooted in removing the guilt and accusation commonly associated with these difficult topics and, instead, engaging with white people, cis men, etc. critically and collaboratively on how these hierarchies implicitly structure our lives. In addition to his academic role here at UW, Morgan tutors high school students and loves to travel and understand social hierarchies outside of the U.S. context. Prior to his doctoral studies, Morgan lived in Russia and Ukraine, and he currently speaks English, Russian, Ukrainian, French, and German.