UWM welcomes Diversity Fellows

Diversity Fellows (from left) Joseph Flipper, Selina Gallo-Cruz, Melissa Redmond, Jacqueline Nguyen and Shaun Ossei-Owusu. (Photo by Alan Magayne-Roshak)

UWM welcomed its fourth cohort of Diversity Fellows during a site visit early in March.

The Diversity Fellows program, which started in 2009, provides an avenue for UWM to strengthen its academic programs while pursuing the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, says Cheryl Ajirotutu, interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The Diversity Fellows are comprised of underrepresented students who have recently earned doctoral or terminal degrees, or are Ph.D. candidates. They may teach six-week courses during the summer session or conduct research in their areas of discipline.

Shaun Ossei-Owusu and the others in his Diversity Fellows cohort presented at UWM's Inclusive Excellence conference in March.

The 2012 Diversity Fellows who will be joining UWM come from an array of backgrounds, though they are united by some common objectives, including the opportunity to teach.

“I was excited about the opportunity to get some teaching experience before starting my professional academic career,” says Shaun Ossei-Owusu, a doctoral candidate from Berkeley’s Department of African American Studies.

Ossei-Owusu will be teaching “Order and Disorder: The Quest for Social Justice,” a course in the Department of Africology. His research has reviewed equality in the criminal justice system, with specific focus on public defenders. “The majority of the research focus in this area has been with police officers and prosecutors; however, public defenders play a key role.”

“I think the professional connections will be very valuable,” says Jacqueline Nguyen, a postdoctoral fellow in the Child Development Laboratory at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Nguyen received her doctorate in educational psychology from UW-Madison and will be teaching a course in the School of Education. Her research interest, which grew out of her own experiences as a child of Vietnamese immigrants, focuses on parent-child relationships among immigrant families.

Selina Gallo-Cruz is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Emory University in Atlanta. She will be teaching a sociology course at UWM this summer. “I was very interested in becoming a Diversity Fellow for the opportunity to expand my teaching experience and become acquainted with scholars at UWM whose work I am familiar with.” Her research interests are in the areas of culture, social movements and global change.

Joseph Flipper, a doctoral candidate in religious studies at Marquette University, joins the fellows with the advantage of familiarity with the Milwaukee area and the UWM campus. Flipper indicates he has used the UWM Libraries often while attending Marquette. One factor that attracted him to the Diversity Fellows program was the unique opportunity to work in two different areas. His research focus is on the relationships between Christian theology and modern politics, and he will be teaching a course on religion and literature this summer.

Melissa Redmond, a doctoral candidate from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, is the program’s first international fellow. “This was a great opportunity to work and come to the United States without having to apply for a visa until after I was accepted,” says Redmond. She will be teaching a course in Cultural Diversity and Social Work in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare this summer.

Her research focus is child protection workers and how legislation and regulatory requirements within organizations impact them. She’s also looking at ways to encourage those workers to stay in the field, since long-term support from them can help improve the future for children. “Retention of child protection workers is a very hot topic right now. I hope to be able to contribute to that discussion.”

The Diversity Fellows program is a campuswide initiative that supports departmental efforts to increase campus diversity, notes Ajirotutu. “We are committed to preparing our students to be effective citizen-leaders who respect and appreciate the dynamics of a pluralistic world.”