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Credit: Luke Chen

Ian Jeong, former Lambda Alliance chair and Nursing senior, was looking at the syllabus for one of his nursing classes when he realized it neglected certain aspects of LGBTQ health. 

When he and a group of students from Nurses at Penn Understanding Sexuality in Healthcare pointed it out to nursing professor Kirsten Hickerson, Jeong said she researched and integrated the intricacies of LGBTQ health into the curriculum. She even went further, creating a simulation lab for students to learn how to interact with LGBTQ patients. 

Jeong hopes efforts like these will be recognized by the new Campus Diversity Award created by the 5B — five different umbrella coalitions representing minority groups on campus — in collaboration with the Vice Provost for University Life. The award is intended for faculty and staff who have made outstanding contributions to diversity at Penn. Students have the opportunity to nominate the first recipients, who will be selected this spring.

The 5B, made up of the Lambda Alliance, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, UMOJA, the Latin@ Coalition and the United Minorities Council, created the award to celebrate the efforts and impact of faculty at Penn that they say go otherwise unrecognized. It has three categories to recognize contributions to outstanding mentorship, distinguished teaching and notable cultural contribution.

“We really want to send a message to students, as well as staff and administration, that diversity is something that is very important and that it is something that students notice, and something that should be rewarded,” Tunmise Fawole, former UMOJA co-chair and College senior, said.

Fawole said the award celebrates the importance of diversity to represent minority perspectives in the classroom, as well as to inspire students of color to enter academia themselves. 

Jeong also noted the importance of honoring the types of achievements not traditionally celebrated in a research-driven setting.

“There is so much more to Penn that’s not just about academics, like pure research,”Jeong said. "There's a lot of personal growth that happens for students when they come to Penn. There's a lot of different exchanges that go on beyond teaching and research."

Fawole described the positive experiences she has had with professors at Penn who support students' extra-curricular activities and “take time out of their day to mentor students and really provide a space for them outside of the classroom.”

Jeong commended the mentorship of the professor from his nursing class and how she fostered "cultural promotion" by tackling issues like disparities in access to health care for LGBTQ patients that he felt other professors skimmed over. 

“These awards are important to communicating to administration that this is something that is important to students and that it is something that students notice,” Fawole said.

Former Latin@ Coalition co-chair and College junior Ramon Garcia Gomez also highlighted the importance of the award as making “diversity known to others” on campus. Garcia Gomez also mentioned the collaboration with Associate Vice Provost for Health and Academic Services Max King, who worked with the 5B to provide logistical support on behalf of VPUL for the first iteration of the awards.

"VPUL enthusiastically supports the inaugural award process and we hope that students will continue the awards for many years," King wrote in an emailed statement on behalf of VPUL. "I look forward to seeing who will be honored with a Campus Diversity Award and I hope that many in the Penn community will support the awards by nominating worthy recipients."