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'Excellence in Diversity' winners at West campus are announced

June 02, 2010

The Campus Environment Team (CET) at Arizona State University’s West campus has announced its 2010 “Excellence in Diversity” award winners in the categories of faculty, staff, student and group.

Earning recognition in the 15th year of the program are Charles St. Clair (academic professional/faculty), Lucy Berchini (classified staff/service professional/administrator), Spencer Packer (student) and Teachers of the Future (group).

“These awards and recognition are an important way we can honor those who put a priority on cultural diversity on this campus,” said Sharon Smith, CET chair and director of the TRiO Academic Achievement Center at the West campus.  “Diversity is in our fabric; bringing multiple perspectives, different voices, to the table brings out the best in us.  The people we honor with these awards are those who are living and promoting cultural diversity daily.”

The awards were created in 1996 when West campus social worker Professor Clay Dix was the first honoree.  “Excellence in Diversity” recognition is awarded those who promote a campus-wide appreciation of diversity and respect for all individuals.  Each of ASU’s four campuses has a Campus Environment Team that “promotes a positive, harmonious campus environment that celebrates individual and group diversity, promotes individualism, provides information to the campus community and resolves issues in such a manner as to respect all persons and their dignity."

St. Clair is a regular on West campus cultural committees and activities.  An Emmy Award-winning actor and director, he is a faculty member in the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  He is well known for his stirring rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered each year on the steps of Fletcher Library during the campus celebration of MLK Day.  On one nomination form, the author noted of St. Clair, “Through his various activities, Charles has demonstrated a solid commitment to cultural diversity.  His continuous commitment is a tremendous asset to the university and the cultural programming activities provided for the campus and surrounding community.  His involvement adds value to the university community and to the diverse communities we serve.”

“I have been so blessed in my life,” said St. Clair.  “I am so lucky to be able to educate and inspire students to realize that they can change the world, and provide them with opportunities to do so.  There is no better feeling than knowing you’ve made a positive impact on another person’s life.

“I believe it is our responsibility, due to all of the privileges we have been given, to help build a stronger community, whether on campus, in your neighborhood, state or country.  Service to each other is a way of leaving your mark on the world that enhances your mind and spirit.”

Berchini came to ASU’s West campus in as an administrative assistant in the New College freshman composition program in 2004.  Since that time, she has worked diligently to spread the word across the greater Phoenix community about West campus courses, programs and events, meeting with statespersons, clubs, organizations and Puerto Rican, Cuban and Mexican nationals.  She has chaired the campus Hispanic Heritage Committee the past two years and recently served on the Campus Cultural Advisory Committee that staged the inaugural West CultureFest.  Monica Casper, director of Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, noted in her nomination of Berchini, “All of the activities with which Lucy Berchini is involved benefit from her sense of equity, excellence and fairness.  She truly promotes cultural diversity in every aspect of her life and the life of the campus.”

“My parents always told me to pick my friends, not by their race, ethnicity or gender, but by the people themselves, and that it would enrich my life,” said Berchini.  “It is important to recognize diversity on this campus because we must come to understand our individual differences.  It is that acceptance of racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation that helps us move beyond intolerance.

“A campus such as ours permits us to embrace diversity and realize the benefits to our campus and community.”

Packer, who just completed his junior year, is a New College life sciences major who hopes to attend dental school in the future.  He grew up in a multi-cultural home and had the opportunity as a child to travel throughout South America, absorbing the different cultures and lifestyles.  As a 19-year-old, he turned his earlier experiences into a two-year church mission working with Latino-American communities in Florida and Alabama.  At ASU he has continued his community involvement and was recently awarded a Community Leader Scholarship by the university.  In her nomination on Packer’s behalf, Gina Galindo, a fellow New College life sciences student, wrote, “Spencer has always shown great concern and sincere care for all and any of those around him on and off campus.  In short, Spencer is just one of those people who genuinely loves everyone and, most importantly, he loves them simply for who they are.”

“My childhood taught me not only tolerance, but moreover, a love for all things different and diverse,” says Packer.  “There’s something extremely gratifying about doing things for other people just because it is the right thing to do, and you know they need your help and that you are making a difference in their life.

“Diversity to me is the richness of life.  Our composite diversity at this campus allows for a setting in which we can learn from one another – learn and hopefully cultivate different core beliefs and values that will enrich our lives as well as our character.”

Teachers of the Future, made up mainly of students from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, has been active in a wide variety of charitable drives serving the less fortunate across the Valley.  Among their most recent efforts have been the Christmas Angels, School Supply and Fairy Godmothers drives.  The club has also taken “field trips” to participate in different cultural activities outside the West campus, attending workshops at the Heard Museum, Challenger Space Center, Arizona Science Center and the Art Museum of Phoenix.  This is the second year in succession the club has been honored by CET.

“Teachers of the Future fully commits itself to enhancing the ideals of ASU by encouraging students from all majors and walks of life to come together to support educations,” said club president Irene Arguello.  “We involve students with the community, increase their knowledge of and experience in the education field, and foster a positive environment for personal growth and lifelong friendships.”

The West campus CET is chaired by Smith and includes Tracy Chandler, Facilities Development and Management; Heidi Maxwell, Public Affairs; Meg McConnaughy, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences; Leslee Shell, Fletcher Library; and Jenni Thomas, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.