The 2020-21 cohort of Outstanding Women of Color, who are all quietly making an impact on the UW–Madison campus and the nation, are passionately dedicated to their research, academics and serving the community in vastly different ways. The thirteenth cohort of awardees will be honored at a virtual reception on Wednesday, March 3.
The honor of being named an awardee is based on the premise that faculty, staff and community women who are deeply involved in teaching, research and outreach, along with personal and family responsibilities, are unsung heroes, Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion Cheryl B. Gittens said. Their colleagues, friends and relatives all admire and appreciate them, and this is a chance to show the overall impact of their dedication hasn’t been overlooked.
Honorees say the true reward is getting to meet each other and welcome like-minded colleagues to a growing network.
“Typically, our honorees have never had an opportunity to meet, although they may have heard of one another,” Gittens said. “It isn’t uncommon for them to form new working and volunteer partnerships and they always find new friendships and connections.”
Each year a new and impressive array of talented and passionate candidates emerge, Gittens said. This speaks to a campus and community that is growing ever richer academically and socially, as well as more welcoming, she added. These is just one of many exciting reasons to recognize and celebrate a small portion of the excellence in our community year after year, Gittens said.
“This year’s virtual event will feature a collective presentation that brings us together in the spirit of past in-person gatherings and every year is a reunion of past and present honorees,” Gittens said. “So virtually gather your friends and family to meet our honorees and share this moment.”
This year’s six honorees include:
Advanced Geriatric Fellow, School of Medicine and Public Health/Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology
Dr. Shenikqua Bouges chose to bypass lucrative clinical practice options to pursue dementia research and academic teaching that will impact and create meaningful change for underrepresented populations.
Shenikqua earned her medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2014 and trained in Internal Medicine at University of South Alabama. In 2018, she joined the UW-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health for a Geriatric Medical Fellowship. This led her to becoming an Advanced Geriatric Fellow at the Geriatric Research Educational & Clinical Center (GRECC), where she performs clinical research and works to improve representation of minority groups in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) research.
From volunteering as an undergraduate student at local clinics/hospitals and helping at different local events to traveling to Jamaica to aid the children living with HIV, Shenikqua demonstrates her volunteerism throughout her career. In community service, she volunteers at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Macular Degeneration Symposium and UW Department of Medicine (DOM) Covid-19 Journal Club, a journal club based on emerging science information from the COVID. she recently participated in the mentorship of UW-Madison Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (UW-ADRC) junior Research Education Component (REC) trainees, by imparting her experience and career knowledge to these undergraduate students who are from minority communities and interested in pursuing careers in Alzheimer’s research.
As a researcher, Shenikqua focuses on assessing recruitment strategies to improve the participation of under-represented populations in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. Almost no one is trying to address this problem, despite the fact that African Americans are two times more likely than other racial groups to develop AD yet are very underrepresented in AD research. Her research project seeks to bridge the gaps in AD research by improving trust building techniques that improve marginalized individual’s willingness to participate, such as respecting cultural and religious barriers of underrepresented groups.
Shenikqua’s project on testing recruitment strategies was awarded grant funding as a Clinical Community Outcomes Research (CCOR) Pilot Award from the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) – a highly prestigious honor – and just one of many she has earned for her academic research and work.
Shenikqua has strong relationships with the black community of Madison and members of the Black Leaders of Brain Health (BLBH) Community Advisory Board (CAB). She has been a committed resource for the community, generously donating time to provide education on AD risk in African Americans. Her relationship with CAB has served to bring about local and impactful changes such as the “Memory Sunday” campaign to the local African American churches.
“Memory Sunday” is observed on the second Sunday in June and bringing awareness on AD is accomplished through materials such as The Book of Alzheimer’s for African American Congregations. Shenikqua led the 2020 local observance of this event by not only bringing the concept to the local churches, but by also giving a seminar on AD to the local church audiences on the Thursday leading up to the observance. By bringing this campaign to Madison, Shenikqua has further educated the local Black community, but also given them another trusted resource. She is not the loudest voice in the room, but she is among the most passionate. Having family members affected by the disease has led her to advocate for the highest quality care and service for elders living with the disease – especially Black elders.
Similarly, Shenikqua is also a resource to the Oneida Nation Alzheimer’s CAB for AD and related dementias on the Covid-19 pandemic. She has accomplished this through seminars which included details on the virus, and details on how to use and care for reusable masks as well as other hygienic information to decrease the spread of Covid-19.
Shenikqua will soon start a new role as a Clinical Health Science (CHS) faculty. In that role, she will carry a significant clinical responsibility. But academia needs her. There is a shortage of clinician scientists because a balance between clinical and research work is so difficult to achieve. She has been a trusted health resource for underrepresented populations in Madison and beyond. Through her science she has fostered relationships with the community that will be beneficial to science advancement, the community and research.
State Director of Nursing, Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP)-RN, CCHP-Advanced
For more than 30 years, Mary Muse has dedicated her career in nursing to advocating for individuals whose health care is received in correctional settings. She has applied her multifaceted skills and nurse leadership as an effective administrator and policy maker, addressing systemic challenges that must be met in order to provide just and compassionate care to individuals experiencing incarceration.
Currently serving as Director of Nursing for Wisconsin Corrections System, Mary has had a significant and sustained impact on the quality of correctional care nationally and in Wisconsin. She has led in developing and implementing evidence-based, compassionate standards of care. Through decades in national and local workgroups, Mary has a grassroots understanding of the systemic barriers to quality health care in corrections. Acting on this critical understanding, she has published and presented information to raise the visibility of conditions in jails and prisons, and the resulting impact of such conditions on the long-term health of incarcerated individuals. She is the author of numerous publications on correctional nursing and was a lead author on American Nurses Association “Scope and Standards for Correctional Nurses,” revised in 2007, 2013 and 2020.
Mary’s work is a unique form of social justice advocacy, and the impact of her career is a service to the profession of nursing, to the corrections system and to incarcerated individuals. As such, it intersects with many of society’s most troubling social determinants of health and provides needed advocacy for some of the most vulnerable individuals in our population. Incarcerated adults comprise a truly marginalized community, burdened by a disproportionate share of serious health conditions. These conditions are often compounded by the substandard and disrespectful health services provided while incarcerated. Mary champions respectful, high quality, evidence-based, professional care and has developed programs that respond to the special needs of incarcerated adults while delivering compassionate care.
More than thirty years ago, she observed the ethical challenges and resulting moral distress of correctional nurses struggling to fit into a work culture which was heavily ‘custody’ driven. She recognized that health care staff had become jaded caring for a justice population, and that empathy and professionalism were lacking. In response to these factors, Mary committed to advancing the specialty of correctional nursing, through which she would make substantial and lasting improvements in the quality of care provided in this setting.
Mary has elevated the standard of nursing practice in correctional facilities throughout Wisconsin through various approaches. She intentionally recruits more BSN prepared nurses for staff positions, and graduate prepared nurses for leadership positions. Seeing gaps in orientation and onboarding procedures in corrections nursing environments, she instituted processes to introduce new health care providers to the complex health care needs in corrections. She addressed a need to further develop the knowledge base of correctional nurses by initiating an on-line educational program to improve nurses’ clinical knowledge, particularly where disparities in health outcome for inmates were most apparent.
To expand the educational opportunities of correctional nurses, Mary is working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing (SoN) to establish an educational partnership that will improve correctional nurses’ access to continuing education. She also actively encourages nurse managers to attend conferences and to participate in leadership development workshops.
The benefit of Mary’s work extends across the state and spans the Department of Corrections.
Most directly, it improves the quality of care provided to incarcerated individuals. Mary’s impact serves the mission of the nursing profession by protecting and improving health of the vulnerable justice population. And, by increasing the level of professionalism and adding ongoing support though professional development, nurses serving in the specialty area of correctional nursing are better able to preserve the compassion that inspired them to enter their professions, but which is so easily undermined in a ‘custody’ environment. Her contribution in this capacity has resulted in standardization of procedures and guidance for corrections nursing that did not previously exist.
As Director of Nursing for the Wisconsin Correctional system, Mary has led policy and procedure review processes, facilitated robust local and national discussions, designed and implemented systemwide improvements that have drastically changed and improved the standards and processes for care in corrections. As highlights of such improvements, she guided the Wisconsin Correctional System in its development of a sophisticated program to care for aging prisoners which now serves as a national model. Mary also served as the chief architect of a Statewide Quality Improvement Program that updated and standardized more than 100 policies and procedures across the entire correctional system in Wisconsin.
Her passion for this complex project was drawn from her deep commitment to the impact
on the health that could result from improvements at this scale; Mary’s leadership and policy expertise brought it to fruition. The result was a documented improvement in compliance with access standards from a system-wide rate of only 36% to 95-100%, over the course of three years.
Though her administrative and leadership skills are exceptional, Mary applies these capabilities
in service to providing compassionate and professional care to individuals receiving care in corrections environments. Her ability to identify and serve the special needs of incarcerated populations is demonstrated in her long history of support for incarcerated women. She has initiated a women’s health program, led by a nurse clinician who worked with the female corrections population. She has initiated a program for anger management, facilitated a women’s book club, established healthy eating programs, and initiated a doula program for pregnant incarcerated women. She was also instrumental in improving treatment of juveniles and pregnant women in corrections settings.
Mary is active and influential nationally, with clear benefits accruing to the state of Wisconsin.
She serves on the board and as a surveyor for the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCHCC) for over a decade, critically appraising other correctional facilities for their compliance with NCHCC standards. She has served twice as president of the Academy of Correctional Health Professionals, chairing the certified correctional health professionals, registered nurse committee, and leading the national Nurse Directors group. She was instrumental in developing, and subsequently revising, the NCHCC position statements for correctional health staff, for example to limit the use of restrictive housing/isolation, and the time in continuous isolation. Mary served on the board of the National Commission of Correctional Health Care and as chair of the Academy of Correctional Health Care Professionals and on the initial and subsequent task forces to develop a correctional nursing national certification exam.
Seeing a significant gap in leadership, Mary co-founded a visionary group of leaders in correctional nursing, forming a new correctional nursing organization, the “American Correctional Nurses Association” and led the initiative to convene the Senior Nurse Leaders in a Correctional Health Care Group.
Mary is currently working with faculty and students in the SoN and the School of Medicine and Public Health on an NIH funded intervention study to develop and test a program to improve post release health care access for adults with HIV, hepatitis, and substance use disorder.
Doctoral Candidate, Counseling Psychology, School of Education
Jessica G. Perez-Chavez is a fifth-year counseling psychology doctoral candidate and an exceptional student who has made a remarkable impact on the program, university, local community, and professional training. While remaining an outstanding academician Jessica has developed into a professional who remains committed to making important contributions to American society through her activism and research.
Jessica came to the attention of UW-Madison faculty and staff long before she became one of only seven percent of applicants admitted to the rigorous counseling psychology doctoral program. Academic interactions with Jessica dates back over 10 years ago when she was a high school student applying to college. She initially reached out for information on the field of psychology and potential research opportunities. Immediately impressed by Jessica’s resilience, academic excellence, and strong commitment to community service, it was noted that despite the many challenges she faced as a high school student, including being a low income, undocumented immigrant, and first-generation English speaker, she graduated as the valedictorian of her class.
While in high school, she distinguished herself for being a young community leader and advocate for racial and ethnic minority students coping with the challenges associated with poverty and having an undocumented immigration status. In fact, Jessica was one of the pioneers of what today is known as the Dreamer’s Movement, which culminated with the executive order, signed by former president Barack Obama, known today as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It was in this spirit that in 2009 she founded one of the first organizations for and by undocumented students called the DREAM Action, and became a young activist raising awareness about the many challenges experienced by undocumented youth. It was clear then that she had the perfect combination of knowledge, initiative, determination, work ethic, critical skills, compassion, and the desire to create positive change in society for not only herself but also for others.
It is on this foundation that Jessica is building a professional career that will have broader reach and greater impact because of the skills she is developing as a psychologist. Jessica has accomplished much more than most of her peers through her community service prior to entering UW-Madison, providing meritorious service to her Chicago and Cornell University communities, and showing a brave leadership that was beyond her years as a high school and college student.
Since being an undergraduate at Cornell University, Jessica has established a strong record of research that focuses on the psychological study of issues affecting ethnic and racial minority communities. She became a member of the IC-RACE Lab (Immigration, Critical Race, And Cultural Equity), which UW-Madison co-founded and co-direct, and has been very active in writing and presenting on topics related to immigration and its impact on communities of color. In addition, over the last 10 years, she participated in several research projects that have culminated in several journal articles, peer-reviewed professional presentations, and workshops, including a recent article in the prestigious American Psychologist titled, “Healing Ethno-Racial Trauma in Latinx Immigrant Communities: Cultivating Hope, Resistance, and Action.” Having a publication in the American Psychologist is quite an accomplishment for a person so early in their career, and it reflects Jessica’s work and commitment to using her training to improve the lives of racial and ethnic marginalized communities.
In addition, for the past six years, Jessica has been student editor of Latinx Psychology Today (LPT), the official peer-reviewed bulletin of the National Latinx Psychological Association (NLPA). In her role as student editor, she is author and editor of a regular column of LPT called Voces del Pueblo [Voices from the People], a space for individuals to share information and knowledge. Voces del Pueblo was Jessica’s vision; it provides opportunities for high school students, students in community college, and members of the community to become published authors.
In research, Jessica has worked with colleagues to author a model of practice to define and address the forms of ethno-racial trauma experienced within Latinx communities. The enactment of state-sponsored cruelty through inhumane family separation and imprisoning children in nothing more than cages—as well as the mere threat of family separation and imprisonment—creates what she and her colleagues have termed ‘ethno-racial trauma.’ This term acknowledges the traumatizing effects of racist policy and actions on members of the Latinx community. Unlike most psychological interventions, they identify the critical importance of community action and healing that are required for individuals within the Latinx communities. This model was published in the prestigious journal, The American Psychologist, the official academic and professional journal sent to nearly 100,000 members of the American Psychological Association. It is remarkable that Jessica was able to publish in the journal as a student.
Jessica is fulfilling her family’s ambition and tremendous sacrifice to provide her generation with opportunities for advanced education. She is a first-generation student without immigration documentation who immigrated from Mexico with her parents as what is generally considered the ‘Sacrifice Generation.’ They sacrificed all they had in Mexico and started over socially, occupationally, financially, and in most other ways in the United States.
While many undocumented students survive by remaining invisible within their communities, Jessica has realized that although remaining silent may protect her individual circumstances, silence leaves little hope for collective change. Consequently, she has taken the extraordinary risk to herself by engaging in social activism on behalf of undocumented students and families. And despite her personal vulnerability and that of undocumented students, Jessica is resolute in her commitment to reaching out with kindness, generosity, and empathy for those at less risk. Most recently, she serves as a community liaison for the associate board of directors of DREAMers of Wisconsin and volunteers with Organizing Communities Against Deportation (OCAD).
Finally, Jessica’s commitment to marginalized communities and her keen understanding of oppression experienced by people of color and social change, coupled with her passion for learning, openness to feedback, and strong work ethic are qualities that have allowed her to become an exceptional scholar who uses her skills to better the lives of others and in particular racial and ethnic minorities. She has found and animates a strong sense of purpose and mission in her life and her career, which is to serve unselfishly.
Assistant Dean of Evening, Executive, & Professional MBA Programs, Wisconsin School of Business
Since Leslie Petty stepped into her position as the Assistant Dean of Evening, Executive, and Professional MBA Programs in Wisconsin School of Business in 2013, she has been a key partner in enhancing diversity and inclusion, particularly through program reform in the evening and executive MBA programs. With more than 20 years of experience in adult education, she instituted an initiative embedding diversity and inclusion programming into the evening and executive MBA programs, which has become a distinguishing factor among peer business schools.
In Fall 2015, Leslie instituted a requirement for a diversity and inclusion session in orientation for both programs. Instruction continued throughout the academic year by incorporating workshops and classes on concepts linked to inclusive leadership by embedding relevant D&I principles into course content across the board.
The imbedded material was designed to utilize academic research to illustrate the impact of inclusion on business strategy, to help students develop skills to recognize non-inclusive practices that may be normalized in an organization, and to provide students with tangible skills to change cultural norms and lead inclusively in building diverse and inclusive organizations. In the process of achieving these objectives, students engage in courageous conversations, often disagreeing with their peers on sensitive or politically charged topics. The candor and richness of these discussions contributes to a heightened awareness of the differences in lived experiences, both in opportunities and challenges.
This initiative creates classrooms with greater cumulative empathy and understanding. Students report making decisions differently at their workplace, specifically in who they hire, promote or even reflecting on the diversity within their network.
Leslie’s decision to require inclusive leadership training for every student enrolled in her program by leading collaboration between her office, MBA faculty and WSB Diversity and Inclusion Office has been instrumental in students receiving transformative experiences and skills to lead inclusively. Her commitment to preparing business leaders to be ethical and inclusive with an open mindset is unwavering. No other degree program in the school has mandated such a comprehensive approach to preparing students to become inclusive leaders.
Petty holds an Ed.D. from Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware and a master’s degree in education from Temple University.
Leslie also is devotion to the greater University of Wisconsin-Madison community. She serves on the Academic Staff Executive Committee and was recently appointed to the ASEC Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, where she is charged with enhancing DEI among UW academic staff.
When summer 2020 events brought social justice back to the forefront across the nation, Leslie led staff discussions with the Evening and Executive MBA programs, on topics related to race, DEI, and social justice. She asked how staff were processing the events and taking action; challenged them to consider how they can make a positive impact personally and professionally, and how the University can better incorporate DEI to ensure all students have access to an inclusive and respectful environment in which they have a voice.
Leslie also served as the Interim Assistant Dean of the BBA program in 2017, where she supported and encouraged students in the Business Emerging Leaders program and ensured the start of a more substantial structure to ensure the safety and well-being of those students. She is a mentor across the Wisconsin School of Business and University of Wisconsin-Madison for other Black professionals, providing inspiration and development for many young professionals.
In the community, Leslie holds leadership roles in the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, TEMPO-Madison, and in the Madison and Waunakee communities.
As the current chair of the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC), Leslie has worked closely with CEO and President Michael Johnson to ensure over 6,500 youth throughout Dane County gain access to a myriad of educational resources and provide support for disadvantaged and marginalized young people and their families. Through her work during the time of COVID-19, the BGCDC raised money for a grant given to the UW-Madison Center for Educational Opportunity to provide financial support to students experiencing financial struggles due to COVID-19 and the changes in academic instructional delivery. Under her leadership, the BGCDC raised approximately $250,000 to help families pay for utility bills, rent, and groceries in partnership with United Way. In partnership with Alpha Kappa Alpha, Leslie spent time grocery shopping at Met Café with single mothers who were able to benefit from funds set aside by the service sorority.
As this year’s president of TEMPO Madison, Leslie helps this premier organization connect successful women with diversity backgrounds to organizations throughout the greater Madison area. In her work this year, she has introduced programming on social justice and diversity, inclusion and equity.
In February 2020, Leslie co-taught in the professional community with colleague Binnu Palta Hill, Wisconsin Business School assistant dean of diversity, inclusion, and equity, the session Diversity and Inclusion: Core Concepts and Skill Building to Enhance Inclusion at the annual educator retreat for Waunakee Community High School teachers and administrators. In July 2020, she co-facilitated a session with Madison College president Dr. Jack E. Daniels III for the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. She supports staff and student development designed to shape inclusive leaders, which included a 2017 presentation at the Part-Time MBA Conference at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the topic of Developing Inclusive Leaders: Revolutionize Your MBA Program.
Leslie gives back to her community and encourages others to do the same. Since 2017 she has taught religious education at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (Waunakee, WI). She also leads an annual service event with Evening & Executive MBA Programs staff at Second Harvest of Wisconsin, instilling the importance of taking time to give back to our community together.
Sami Schalk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Gender & Women’s Studies, College of Letters and Science
Professor Sami Schalk’s combination of rigorous scholarship, superlative teaching, and community activism. In a relatively short time as a UW faculty member, she has had a tremendous impact on her field, her department, and the greater Madison community.
Sami arrived in Madison in 2017 as an assistant professor, recruited her from the University at Albany, State University of New York, where she held a faculty position. As a scholar of disability studies, she practices what she advocates: making every space she enters more equitable. Her groundbreaking best-selling book Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability Race and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction had already been published to widespread acclaim but was more about how to achieve life-work balance. Although still a junior faculty member, she was already in great demand as a public speaker. Even before Sami became famous for her performance of body positivity and Black joy, she was aware of strategizing how to maintain a strong and steady publication record while also preserving one’s well-being in the public sphere.
Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined was the first book within the emergent field of disability studies to offer a sustained account of how race and disability work in concert. Coining the useful concept of “Bodyminds,” a feminist conglomerate of the mental and physical, Dr. Sami builds on the field-defining work of her colleague in GWS, Ellen Samuels. Bodyminds Reimagined expand our understanding of Afro-futurism by analyzing genres like Science fiction and young adult writing, that are not always considered part of the established literary canon.
Schalk is a rising star in a variety of overlapping fields, including Black studies, gender, women, and sexuality studies, disability studies, pleasure studies, trans studies and media studies, to name just a few of the interdisciplinary areas addressed on in her book.
In addition to the acclaimed Bodyminds Reimagined, Sami has published extensively in the flagship journals of her fields. She is a senior scholar and our graduate student raved about her graduate course on Feminist Disability Studies.
Sami has been a steady participant in work to be an agent of change. For her students and community members her involvement has consistently brought to the fore the intersectional nature of systemic racism, especially how it is easy to overlook how ableism and transphobia can co-exist within organizations that seek to overturn sexism and racism. This type of perspective is crucial element of Sami’s activism and scholarship.
In 2018, Sami was involved in the successful No Cops in Pride campaign to remove police presence from the annual Pride parade. For a year after that campaign, she worked with the Community Pride Coalition to educate the LBGTQ community in Madison about anti-racism and police violence. As part of that work, she also began writing regularly for Our Lives Magazine, Madison’s local LBGTQ publication, authoring a column called “Dear Queer White People,” which answered common questions from white queer people about how to address racism within the community. She helped organize Madison’s first police-free Pride celebration in 2019 and was the leader of the Queer and Trans People of Color Committee, which organized a social space for queer and trans people of color at Pride. Later that fall, in recognition of her work addressing racism within the queer community, Sami was named Outreach Community Center’s LBGTQ Advocate of the Year and her activist collective Community Pride Coalition was given the President’s Award.
In 2019, Sami was asked to join the board of Freedom Inc., a local Black and Southeast Asian feminist, queer activist, and advocacy organization. In the past year with Freedom Inc., she has led several disability justice workshops within the organization to improve their work on behalf of people with disabilities, while also supporting their work in the summer of 2020 during the Madison protests. During this time Sami raised funds for supplies such as food, water, and medical care items for protesters, and participated in on-the-ground protest work leading car caravans and painting the streets.
As a result of this work and her vocal public support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sami has received death threats and coordinated harassment from right-wing individuals and organizations. Recently she was added to Turning Point USA’s ultra-conservative Professor Watchlist due to her role in the Madison protests this summer. Despite the harassment and threats, she continues to be dedicated to radical social justice and collective liberation for all people. Sami follows in the footsteps of the Black feminist writers whom she has researched, like Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler.
In addition to her activist work in the city of Madison, Sami also speaks regularly across the country at universities about her research. Her first book Bodyminds Reimagined (Duke UP 2018) has sold over 2,000 copies and has been positively reviewed over 20 times in a wide variety of academic journals. Currently, Sami is finishing a second book, Black Disability Politics. This book explores a history of Black activist engagement with disability as a political concern using archival research on the Black Panther Party and the National Black Women’s Health Project as well as interviews with contemporary Black disabled activists in the disability justice movement. The book manuscript is currently under review at Duke University Press and has already received an advanced contract. Sami intends this second book to speak to both academic and activist audiences, using lessons from the work of previous Black activists to inform the strategies and approaches of Black disability political work today. In Spring 2020, Sami was recognized for her academic achievements with the Early Career Award at UW-Madison. The award will fund her third book project.
Sami’s academic research both informs and is informed by her activism in the larger world, a commitment she brings to the classroom as well. Her positive course evaluations and full courses with extensive waitlists make clear that in the short time she has worked at UW, Sami has made a name for herself as an engaging and impactful educator. Her classes address issues of gender, race, disability, and sexuality in contemporary American media, literature, and culture. Her students are encouraged to research issues they are passionate about and produce final projects that creatively engage social justice. Sami’s teaching is as exceptional as her research and community activism.
Professor, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Community and Environmental Sociology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Monica White is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Community & Environmental Sociology and Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. She is an exceptional scholar and public intellectual who is transforming public and academic conversations about African Americans, agriculture, community power, and racial justice.
As “the black farmers’ historian,” Monica is producing knowledge and knowledge communities that are distinctively new. Her work furthers ties between the university and communities of color and nurtures the careers of other scholars and activists of color both here at UW-Madison and in the wider public.
Monica joined the UW faculty in 2012 and received tenure in 2019. Her book, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2018) won the 2019 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award from the Division of Race and Ethnic Minorities Section of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the 2020 Association for the Study of Food and Society First Book Award. She explores the historical role of food sovereignty and farming in African American liberation struggles, linking contemporary urban farming projects to a 100-year-long struggle for racial justice in and through agriculture.
Previously, work on African Americans in agriculture overwhelmingly focused on its role in structural oppression and tracked the Great Migration as escape from a racist South; Monica’s significant reinterpretation reaffirms the analysis of structural oppression but reveals a vibrant use of agriculture within African American resistance and movement for those who stayed in the South and those who turned to farming for community empowerment and self-determination more recently. The book is read by scholars and students in sociology, environmental studies, human geography, anthropology, history, and the many disciplines represented in food studies, as well as by community organizers and activists in a variety of food justice non-profits and initiatives.
Monica’s research also generated a pathbreaking and highly effective way of working collaboratively with the communities she studies, one that sets a standard for a new generation of scholars.
Her book-in-progress is equally paradigm busting and she is uniquely able to pursue it. The book, “We Stayed: Agriculture and Activism of Black Families Who Kept the Land,” is a family history centered on George H. Paris, the first Black USDA loan officer who lived in Tuskegee, Alabama. Paris worked to harness government resources through the USDA for the purposes of the Civil Rights Movement. Active in the movement from his days as a student at Tuskegee Institute, Paris also served as President of the local chapter of the NAACP. Paris and his family have entrusted their story to Monica, who has completed dozens of hours of interviews for the project. This is an untold multigenerational story of activism that few scholars even have imaged existed.
Monica has established a national and international reputation and reach among academics. She has spoken in over 120 venues and events in the past seven years, including keynoting academic conferences. She has spoken at universities such as Spelman College, UCLA, University of Michigan, Georgia State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Princeton University, and Harvard University and at professional meetings such as Agriculture & Human Values, Rural Sociological Society, the Southern Foodways Alliance. Monica is on the editorial board of The Black Scholar and has advised scholars who were establishing a new Food Studies program at Spelman College and an Environmental Justice curriculum at Yale. Her active professional participation has had a profound impact on the ways that academics discuss issues of food, farming, and racial justice.
Monica also has established a national reputation with community organizers and non-profits in adjacent fields. White has spoken at a plethora of nonacademic conferences including the North American Food Systems Network, the Consumer Cooperative Management Association, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the Michigan Family Farmers’ conference, the Black Farmer Urban Gardeners conference, and Detroit Food Summit, among others. She also serves in the most significant food justice organizations of our time, including as a member of the Food Equity Committee of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Food Justice Task force of the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy, and the coordinating committee of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance.
She has served on the boards of organizations like the Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network, the Detroit Black Community Food Service Network, and the Black Oaks Center for Sustainable/Renewable Living. If anything, Monica’s work has accelerated since the pandemic shutdown, as food emergencies intersect with the Movement for Black Lives to make her contributions more urgent. Her outreach activity is simply breathtaking.
Monica also is engaged in transforming our racialized food systems locally. She has served as a community engagement consultant for the Willy Street Coop and for Second Harvest Food Bank (students in her fall 2018 DCES class conducted focus groups with users of Second Harvest food pantries to provide feedback to the organization on their experiences). She has helped organize and presented at the annual Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference for the past eight years and she has nurtured students in the Wisconsin Black Student Union.
As faculty, an academician and an environmentalist, Monica is transformational, catalytic, powerful, and a force for good in environmental studies. Her work at the Nelson Institute has helped produce both a challenging, and welcoming, landscape within which environmental studies operates. This is a field founded on painfully narrow terms, and from equally narrowly constituted communities; Monica has shaken the assumptions of the program, its underpinnings, and its aspirations. The current reevaluation of the curriculum in environmental studies is inspired by her thoughtful presence.
Monica also has pushed hard to reimagine our programming, advance a more sophisticated and complicated suite of visitors, guests, and speakers. Our “Everyone’s Earth” series, which is intended to radically reconfigure who is expected to speak for, about, and on behalf of the environment, has been fueled by Monica’s work in the environmental studies program, and has been fundamentally transformational in how it is conducted. The people who come to this campus, the themes championed, and the relationship of programming to diverse publics has been fundamentally transformed and advanced by Monica.
On campus, Monica quietly does the work of a hidden army of mentors. As students from historically underrepresented communities make their way through the maze of this institution, she has proven to be a reliable, stalwart, and supportive destination. Students come to Monica with thoughts, problems, and crises, small and large.
In Fall 2020, in conjunction with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the UW-Madison, Monica is launching the Office of Environmental Justice and Engagement. White is the visionary and the director of this brand-new initiative which will focus on building university-community partnerships to support groups doing racial justice work around agriculture and food in Madison and around the country.
In summary, Monica is a remarkable change agent who stands at the crossroads of community and academic innovation; she brings new ideas into academic life from her experiences with community agricultural activists past and present, and she extends university resources and perspectives into urgent public conversations.
Honors List of UW–Madison Outstanding Women of Color
Desiree Bates, Computational Chemistry Leader, Chemistry, College of Letters & Science
Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, UW Health Chief Diversity Officer, Madison District 5 City Alder
Gina Green-Harris, Director, Center for Community Engagement & Health Partnerships, School of Medicine & Public Health
Eden Inoway-Ronnie, Chief of Staff, UW-Madison Office of the Provost
Laura Minero-Meza, Doctoral Student, Counseling Psychology, School of Education and 2019-2020 Internship at Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, UC-Los Angeles
Ahna Skop, Professor, Genetics, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
Jasmine Zapata, Assistant Professor (CHS), Pediatrics, School of Medicine & Public Health and Centennial Scholar, UW Institute for Clinical & Translational Research.
Bianca Baldridge, Assistant Professor, Educational Policy Studies, School of Education
Mariela Victoria Quesada Centeno, Graduate Student, Human Development & Family Studies, School of Human Ecology; Director, Wellness Program, Centro Hispano
Jennifer Young Choe Edgoose, Associate Professor (CHS), Family Medicine & Community Health, School of Medicine & Public Health
Melissa Metoxen, Academic Support Coordinator for the Native American Center for Health Professions, School of Medicine and Public Health
Cherene Sherrard Johnson, Professor of English, College of Letters and Science
Christy Clark-Pujara, Associate Professor of History, Department of Afro-American Studies.
Taucia Gonzalez, Assistant Professor of Special Education, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education
Beverly Hutcherson, Outreach and Communications Manager, Diversity and Inclusion and Career Pathways Coordinator at the School of Medicine and Public Health
Helen Lee, Assistant Professor of Glass, Department of Art
Barbara Nichols, Former Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing
Brianna Young, current senior, UW-Madison School of Nursing
Fabu Phillis Carter, Poet, Scholar, Teaching Artist, and Outreach Specialist, Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Joan Fujimura, Professor, Department of Sociology; Holtz Center for Research on Science and Technology, UW-Madison
Binnu Palta Hill, Assistant Dean and Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Wisconsin School of Business
Sagashus Levingston, Tutor, Mentor, Volunteer Teacher, Lead Instructor, The Odyssey Project
Denise Thomas, Coordinator of Title VII American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Madison Metropolitan School District; Financial Specialist for the WiscAMP Program in the College of Engineering
Julissa Ventura, Fellow of the Morgridge Center for Public Service Community-University Exchange-South Madison, and PhD Candidate in Educational Policy Studies
M Adams, Co-Executive Director of Freedom, Inc., UW-Madison Alumna
Joselyn Diaz-Valdes, Senior Advisor, Office of Student Financial Aid
Heather Johnson, Assistant Professor, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine and Public Health
Lori Kido Lopez, Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, Department of Communication Arts, College of Letters & Science
Esmeralda Rodriguez, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, School of Education
Emilie Songolo, Senior Academic Librarian, Memorial Library, General Library System
Earlise Ward, Associate Professor, School of Nursing; also Health Equity Leadership Institute (HELI) in the School of Medicine and Public Health’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
Angela Byars-Winston, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine & Public Health
Ruttanatip (Dang) Chonwerawong, Assistant Dean, Student Diversity Programs, School of Education
Marla Delgado-Guerrero, PhD Candidate, Department of Counseling Psychology, School of Education
Shawnika Hull, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication; Center for Demography & Ecology, Department of Population Health Sciences
Carla Pugh, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine & Public Health
Michelle Robinson, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, College of Letters & Science
Lillian Tong, Faculty Associate, Center for Biology Education; Director of the University Educators Programs and Services; Director of Faculty/Staff Programs
Eva Vivian, Associate Professor (CHS), School of Pharmacy
Desiree Alva, Assistant Director, Diversity Affairs Office, College of Engineering
Wilma Callaway, Assistant Director and Mentor Program Director, Center for Educational Opportunity
Karma Chávez, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Chican@ and Latin@ Studies
Roberta Hill, Professor of English & American Indian Studies, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Li Chiao-Ping, Professor of Dance & Chair, Dance Department
Saemyi Park, PhD in Political Science
Carmen Valdez, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology
Jacquelynn Dawn Arbuckle, Staff General Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine & Public Health
Tonya Lynn Brito; Professor of Law, Law School
Dawn Bryant Crim, Associate Dean for External Relations, School of Education
Rohany Nayan, Ph.D., and Senior Fellow, The Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions
Leslie Bow, Professor of English and Asian American Studies, Department of English & Asian American Studies Program, College of Letters & Science
Erica Laughlin, Director, Information Technology Academy (ITA), Division of Information Technology
Cynthia Lin, Social Justice Education Specialist, Multicultural Student Center, Division of Student Life
Ana Martinez-Donate, Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine & Public Health
Nancy Marie Mithlo, Assistant (now Associate) Professor of Art History and American Indian Studies, Department of Art History & American Indian Studies Program, College of Letters & Science
Manuela Romero, Assistant Dean for Student Diversity and Academic Services, College of Engineering
Araceli Alonso, Faculty Associate & Lecturer, College of Letters & Science and School of Medicine & Public Health
Emuye Asfaw, Administrative Officer, Office of Human Resources
Diane Gooding, Professor of Psychology, College of Letters & Science; Professor of Psychiatry, School of Medicine & Public Health
Patty Loew, Associate Professor (now Professor), Life Sciences Communication, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
Sandra Magaña, Associate Professor (now Professor) of Social Work and Director, Latino/Latina Chicano/Chicana Studies Program
Idella Yamben, PhD Candidate, Cellular & Molecular Biology, and Research Assistant in Anatomy, School of Medicine & Public Health
Peggy Choy, Lecturer & Sr. Outreach Specialist, Dance & Southeast Asian Studies; now Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Dance
Le Ondra Clark, PhD candidate, Department of Counseling Psychology
Sheri Williams Pannell, MFA candidate, Department of Theatre and Drama
May Lee Moua-Vue, Student Services Coordinator, International Student Services
Janice Rice, Senior Academic Librarian, Library System
Jacqueline DeWalt, Director of PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence)
Laura Klunder, Residence Hall Manager, Kronshage Hall-Holt Commons; in 2008 appointed Assistant Director of Campus Programs for Leadership and Social Justice at Macalester College, Minneapolis MN
Susana Lastarria-Cornhiel, Senior Scientist, Urban and Regional Planning, College of Letters and Science & College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
Mary Layoun, Professor of Comparative Literature, College of Letters and Science
Norma Saldivar, Professor of Theatre and Drama, also Chican@ and Latin@ Studies
Patricia A. Tellez-Girón, Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health
UW-Madison Recipients of the UW System Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award*
2018: Christy Clark-Pujara, Associate Professor of History, Department of Afro-American Studies.
UW System Award suspended 2016-2017
2015: Earlise Ward, Associate Professor, School of Nursing; also Health Equity Leadership Institute (HELI) in the School of Medicine and Public Health’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research; and Heather Johnson, Assistant Professor, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine and Public Health
2014: Lillian Tong, Faculty Associate, Center for Biology Education; Director of the University Educators Programs and Services; Director of Faculty/Staff Programs; and Shawnika Hull, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication; Center for Demography & Ecology, Department of Population Health Sciences
2013: Carmen Valdez, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, School of Education; and Roberta Hill, Professor of English & American Indian Studies, College of Letters & Science, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
2012: Tonya Lynn Brito, Professor of Law, Law School; and Jacquelynn Dawn Arbuckle, Staff General Surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine & Public Health
2010: Leslie Bow, Professor of English & Asian American Studies; and Ana Martinez-Donate, Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences
2009: Patty Loew, Professor, Life Science Communication, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
2008: Janice Rice, Senior Academic Librarian in College Library
2007: Linda Greene, Evjue Bascom Professor of Law, Law School
2006: Alberta Gloria, Professor of Counseling Psychology, School of Education
2005: Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, School of Education
2004: Linda Denise Oakley, Professor, School of Nursing & Joann Pritchett, Director of Diversity, School of Pharmacy
2003: Hazel Symonette, Senior Policy Planning Analyst
2002: Seema Kapani, Director of Diversity Programs & Learning Communities
2001: Ada Deer, Senior Lecturer in Social Work
2000: Gloria Hawkins, Assistant Dean, School of Medicine & Public Health
1999: Amy Ling, Professor & Director, Asian American Studies
1998: Lucille Badger, Community Leader; Stanlie James, Professor, Afro-American Studies Department, and Nancy Rodriguez, Student
1997: Linda Stitt, Program Director, Wisconsin Union
1996: Nellie McKay, Professor, Afro-American Studies Department
1995: Mercile Lee, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs