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Penn’s leaders in diversity were honored by the James Brister Society at the 16th annual Student and Faculty Leadership Awards Reception this Friday.

JBS is a group of 68 alumni and parent leaders dedicated to making Penn a culturally diverse community. The society is named after 1881 School of Dental Medicine graduate James Brister — the first black man to graduate from the University.

The JBS Award For Distinguished Faculty was awarded to Sociology professor and director of the Center of Africana Studies Camille Charles.

Charles was honored for her work at the center and for improving the experiences of prospective and current students of color.

College senior Janice Dow was awarded the JBS student award for creating and facilitating intercultural communities on campus through her work with the Race Dialogue Project and the Fellowship to Build Intercultural Communities.

“I didn’t know what interculturalism meant before I came to Penn. I now know that it’s a melding of people in order to understand each other,” Dow said.

JBS also asks for nominations from minority alumni associations across the University.

The Association of Latino Alumni awarded College senior Enmanuel Martinez for using poetry to address the under-representation of the Latino and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities through his work with the Excelano Project.

“Without you, I’d be nothing here,” said an emotional Martinez as he thanked his parents and the staff of the LGBT center and Penn’s Latino cultural group, La Casa Latina.

College senior Megan Red Shirt-Shaw received the award from the Association of Native Alumni. Throughout her undergraduate years, she pushed for increased American Indian representation in instituting the first annual powwow last year and renewing and revamping the American Indian community at Penn.

The Black Alumni Society selected College senior Ryan Jobson based on his leadership and involvement in UMOJA, DuBois College House and the greater black community.

“It was the legacy left by Brister that allowed me to accomplish these things,” Jobson said.

Wharton senior Rohan Grover received the University of Pennsylvania Asian Alumni Network award because “you really can’t stop hearing about this man,” according to UPAAN President and 1997 College and Wharton graduate Calvin Chen, who presented the award.

Grover attributed his successes to the support he received from his peers and colleagues. “I was never standing alone in anything that I did. I was as strong as the people who I worked with,” he said.

College senior Jason Goodman received the award from the LGBT Alumni Association. During his time at Penn, he organized the first LGBT Get Out the Vote rally and brought together the LGBT communities of Penn and Philadelphia.

“Our mission is to support and promote diversity among students, faculty and staff,” JBS Co-Chairwoman and 1979 College graduate Susan Taylor said.

“The students who make the community here — their accomplishments are astounding.”

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