UM-Dearborn staff honored with two diversity awards

January 14, 2019

From wraparound support for international students to broader services for our LGBTQ+ community, here’s how staff made UM-Dearborn a more inclusive place in 2018.

Sherry Boyd, Amanda Donovan, Rebekah Awood and Deidra Berry stand side by side.
The College of Engineering and Computer Science student support team was one of five teams to receive a 2018 U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award. Pictured, from left: Sherry Boyd, Amanda Donovan, Rebekah Awood and Deidra Berry. Not pictured: Joey Wo

This article was originally published on January 14, 2019.

The College of Engineering and Computer Science has made diversity and inclusion a big priority in recent years, and their efforts continue to earn U-M systemwide recognition. Most recently, CECS’s support staff members were recognized with a U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award (DDLA), which honors individuals and groups from all three campuses and the medical center who are making significant contributions to the university's diversity, equity and inclusion goals.

The staff members receiving the December award included Sherry Boyd (administrative assistant, Interdisciplinary Programs); Rebekah Awood (graduate secretary, Mechanical Engineering); Joey Woods (academic records assistant, Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering); Michael Hicks (academic records assistant, Electrical and Computer Engineering); Amanda Donovan (administrative assistant associate, Electrical and Computer Engineering); and Deidra Berry (CECS master's graduate programs coordinator).

The group was recognized, in particular, for its above-and-beyond approach to serving international students. In addition to helping students navigate various academic bureaucracies, Boyd said their interdepartmental team functions like a second family. Around the holidays, international potlucks and receptions for students have become a regular tradition. They routinely help students find everything from affordable housing and reliable transportation to the best international grocery stores. And on any given day, you can bet someone in the group is taking a minute to help a student who’s having a rough day.

“They’ll knock at the door quietly and say, ‘Are you busy?’” Boyd said. “And we’re always busy — but never too busy to see if there’s something we can do. I’m sort of the mom around here, and they really are like my kids.”

Blake Bonkowski was one of 10 individual award honorees at the 2018 U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award.
Blake Bonkowski was one of 10 individual award honorees at the 2018 U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award.

Bonkowski, UM-Dearborn’s campus coordinator for LGBTQ+ programs and initiatives, also took home a 2018 DDLA award. During his year-plus at UM-Dearborn, LGBTQ+ students have seen a boost in a variety of campus programs and services. Perhaps most notably, the campus LGBTQ+ student organization, which was in danger of disbanding, now has around 30 active members. And he’s helped do outreach about the university’s new preferred name policy, which gives individuals the freedom to determine the name they want to be known by in the university's information systems. 

Bonkowski also was recognized for his vision to expand the reach of his office to the non-student community. He helped launch the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group for staff and faculty. And he’s facilitated more than a dozen sensitivity trainings for individual offices and classes that are looking to build literacy around LGBTQ+ issues.

“Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the choir needs practice, but it really is important to make sure we’re not just preaching to the choir,” Bonkowski said. “This has to be about the whole community, and that includes everybody: staff, faculty, colleagues, collaborators. No matter who it is that needs our services and programs — and whoever wants to help  — we want to make sure we’re there for them.”