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Intergroup Relations Center lauds agents of change

April 29, 2008

ASU’s Intergroup Relations Center (IRC) honored and celebrated the contributions of students, faculty and staff members committed to increasing diversity, education, tolerance, inclusion and intergroup relations within the university.

IRC, identified by many as an agent of change in its 10 years of existence, gave awards to 16 individuals within the ASU community who may be different in appearance and background, but who are extremely similar in their strong commitment to the advancement of their causes.

Cecilia Saenz, recipient of the Students Against Discrimination Organization Action Award, is in her early 20s but already has a wealth of experience in community outreach. That experience includes her efforts to increase the number of U.S. citizenship applications and voter registration in the state.

“I always thought that I wanted to be a chief executive officer, but being part of the center made me realize that having money is not the only way to be successful,” Saenz says. “People sometimes don’t recognize the contributions of workers who are equally valuable to make a business or a country succeed.”

Saenz, who came from Mexico when she was 4, recently completed a summer internship in Prague, where she was studying the effects of the European Union in a global economy. This summer she will head to South Africa, where she hopes to shift her focus from economics to civil rights.

“I want to be able to see how South Africa was able to become successful in so many aspects, and see if I can implement some of those concepts in the different projects where I plan to work,”  she says.

Saenz believes that a big part of her success as a student at ASU stems from the interaction she had with IRC members, in addition to her involvement with different community organizations.

“The center allowed me to find programs where I could get involved with the community, and the outside community kept reminding me why it was essential to continue my education,” she says.

Teri Murphy, interim director of the IRC, is convinced that in a time when technology has shortened the distance between peoples, it is essential to have programs that build bridges between them. Through dialogue, education and skill-building, we can learn how to more sensitively engage one another’s differences.

“Diversity can be an exciting catalyst for change, but it can also be intimidating,” she says. “Differences cause discomfort because they challenge our assumptions and identities. We need to learn how to more effectively understand and deal with different paradigms, values and cultures to promote a healthy, vibrant and safe world.”

The list of IRC awards recipients includes:

• Patricia Gurin Scholar-Activist Award – Carol Mueller (New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences faculty, Division of Social and Behavior Sciences); and William Simmons (New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences faculty, Division of Social and Behavior Sciences).

• Alexander Astin Spirituality Award – the Rev. Fred Lucci (All Saints Catholic Newman Center).

• Dondrell Swanson Advocate for Social Justice Award – Christine Marin (Chicano Research Collection); and Madelaine Adelman (School of Justice and Social Inquiry).

• Erin S. Murphy Intergroup Relations Service Award – Charlene Shovic (Barrett, the Honors College); and Kimberly Novak (Student and Campus Community Development).

• Student(s) Against Discrimination Organization Action Award – Cecilia Sãenz (University College).

• Kelly Maxwell Outstanding Graduate Student Award – Tobie Milford (School of Life Science’s Biology and Society Department); and Sydella Blatch (School of Life Sciences).

• Monalee Ewing Naming and Claiming Women’s Space Award – Society of Women Engineers (SWE); Dena Hester (Wellness and Health Promotion); and Alesha Durfee (Women and Gender Studies).

• Jesus Trevino Book Award – Vicky Chung.