Taubman Students, Faculty, Staff Honored with MLK Spirit Awards

Several members of the Taubman College community were honored at the North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Awards during a ceremony held on January 20, 2020. North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Awards are given to students, student organizations, staff, and faculty members who exemplify the leadership and vision of Dr. King through their commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Brittany Simmons and Anikka Van Eyl, both urban and regional planning students, received student awards. 

Simmons previously served as co-president of the Urban Planning Students Association. She also works in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). In addition, she is a leader of the Taubman College Pathways program, which introduces underrepresented minority students to the fields of architecture and urban planning. 

Van Eyl was a chair of the Expanded Horizons program in 2019, a weekend-long opportunity for first-year urban planning students to learn about urban planning and city development in different U.S. cities. Van Eyl was also was a member of Taubman College’s MLK Symposium Committee. 

Faculty awards were given to Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, and Irene Hwang, lecturer and assistant chair of architecture. 

Pimental Walker’s research investigates how disenfranchised communities engage with urban governance and evaluates the significance of participatory institutions in planning socially and environmentally just cities. Currently, she and her cross-disciplinary research team are working with the School of Nursing, U-M’s Office of Global Affairs, a U-M student group called RE[vive], and the Congolese community in Kent County, Michigan, to establish a refugee education pathways program. They held their first workshop in April 2019, bringing 16 Congolese refugee high schoolers to U-M for a day of educational and vocational training. 

Hwang partnered with Taubman College’s DEI office in 2019 to create the Phonetic Name Initiative, which encourages members of the community to learn the correct pronunciation of each others’ names. Doing so respects the diverse cultures of the Taubman College community and allows all members to feel comfortable sharing their own cultures. In addition, Hwang is incorporating leadership development components into the architecture professional practice core course so that all students have an opportunity to develop their leadership potential and create community change through their work as designers.

The Taubman College chapter of NOMAS, the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students, won the student organization award. NOMAS works to ensure minority architecture students feel comfortable and valued through programming, community-building, and professional guidance. The organization takes the lead in planning Taubman College’s annual MLK Symposium. In addition, NOMAS offers opportunities for peer project reviews and reviews by professional architects and members of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). These experiences cultivate students’ design and give them confidence and assurance to continue pursuing a career in a field in which minorities are poorly represented. 

Joana Dos Santos, Taubman College’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, received a staff award. As its first DEI officer, Dos Santos has been responsible for working with college leadership to develop and evolve the college’s DEI plan. She has organized numerous personal and professional development opportunities for students, faculty, and staff; restructured the hiring policies and practices to reflect DEI guidelines; and worked to make sure the college is inclusive and transparent through workshops and a DEI newsletter. She also launched the I Am Taubman College campaign to showcase how students, faculty, and staff are working to make the college a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place to learn and work.

The North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Awards are presented by Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the College of Engineering, Stamps School of Art & Design, and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance in conjunction with ArtsEngine and the Duderstadt Center as part of the University of Michigan’s MLK Symposium.