PACME awards honor commitment to diversity

While the selection committee reviews nominations for the 2002-2003 Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment, others begin to prepare for the ceremony taking place April 29.

In all, four members of the VCU community will receive an award with one of those four earning the Riese-Melton capstone award. Guidelines call for awards in the faculty, administrator, classified and hourly staff categories as well as student.

“Our job is to submit the final recommendations to the president through the committee,” said Velma Jackson-Williams, who helped coordinate the presidential awards committee. “We keep all information very confidential.”

Jackson-Williams, director of VCU’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Services office, and Napoleon Peoples, director of multicultural student affairs, shared responsibility in collecting nominations and working with the selection committee.

“We have a great responsibility in making sure these awards take place,” Peoples said, explaining that each category is directed toward a specific segment of the university community.

The PACME awards, initiated by President Eugene P. Trani in the early 1990s, honors nominated individuals who have made significant contributions toward enhancing VCU’s commitment to diversity.

The capstone award, named for a professor of psychiatry, the late Dr. Walter Riese, and his employee, the late Herman Melton, goes to the candidate the committee deems to have significantly improved cross-cultural relations. As the capstone, the award memorializes the two men’s support for the rights of black employees in the VCU community.

PACME honors nominated individuals who have made significant contributions toward enhancing VCU’s commitment to diversity in the following categories:

* Administrator Award

* Classified and Hourly Staff

Award

* Faculty Award

* Student Award

* Capstone

* Riese-Melton Award

Last year, the Muslim Student Association became the first student organization recognized for promoting civility and building community.

“Just the nomination was important to (the association),” said Sohaib Mohiuddin, president of the MSA. “(The association’s) initial goal was just to engage faculty and students…and ultimately be a dynamic organization on campus that would use diversity to address issues that affect all people regardless of their religion.

“(The MSA) evolved to be an organization that met the needs of not only Muslim students but many (students).”

The MSA’s activities on campus included the Ramadan Fast-A-Thon 2002 to raise awareness about fasting and hunger, and the three-part lecture series “Unveiling Ignorance” concerning Islam and the understanding of Islamic nations.

Several people in the VCU community, especially Helen Ruth Aspaas, assistant professor in the urban studies and planning department, sent e-mails in support of the association’s events.

Aspaas said the MSA’s vision includes bridge-building.

“The PACME awards represent people who build bridges between cultures … different groups who may not otherwise come in contact with each other,” she said.

Peoples expressed similar sentiments for this year’s nominees.

“This year, in terms of current climate…(look at) how this award (can) demonstrate that people can go out in this world and make it a better place, just by understanding and helping someone who’s different.”

Peoples suggested that many individuals do wonderful, positive things for the world as part of their lifestyles.

“(PACME) is really the university saying, ‘you know, we recognize and appreciate all of the things you’ve done,’ ” Peoples said.

The five-person selection committee consists of educators, faculty and employees representing different disciplines within the university: John E. Ulmschneider, executive director of VCU libraries; Nancy Scott, associate dean of the School of the Arts; Cynthia Andrews, director of employee relations; Carlton Edwards, captain of the university police; and Jackson-Williams.

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