During the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Lecture, UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs honored three students and two unsung heroes with awards for embodying the spirit and legacy of Dr. King.
For the past 30 years, students who have made significant contributions to improving the quality of life for all in our University have been awarded the annual MLK scholarships. Each year, a committee of students, faculty, and staff review applications and nominations for juniors who have demonstrated the ability to achieve and excel academically. Candidates are judged on the basis of their activities that demonstrate a record of commitment to improving the quality of life for others in the university community.
Students Scholarship Winners
This year’s three finalists were Marty Davidson II, Michael Morrison, and Cecilia Polanco.
Marty Davidson is a junior from Fanwood, New Jersey, studying Political Science. He has a strong interest in educational policy and mentorship. His interest has led him to join roles such as a co-chair of the Carolina Millennial Scholars Program, an Orientation Leader, and as a student educator at the Morehead Planetarium. He has also serves as the dock manager for the UNC Honor Court, an appointee to the Provost’s Committee on Inclusive Excellence and Diversity, and a member of the UNC Men’s Project.
Mr. Michael Morrison is a junior from Jacksonville, North Carolina, studying Public Relations and pursuing a double minor in History and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. By majoring in Public Relations he hopes to adequately serve as a voice for those whose voice is either overlooked or underrepresented. Mr. Morrison is the current Programs/Facilities Coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a brother in the Mu Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Campus Coordinator for the service group Building Bonds Breaking Bars, a Buckley Public Service Scholar, and a member of Honors Carolina.
The third finalist and winner of the UNC Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship top honor was Cecilia Polanco. Ms. Polanco is a Junior Global Studies major with a minor in Latino/a studies at UNC Chapel Hill. A native of Durham, NC, Cecilia is a first generation college student with Salvadoran heritage. A Morehead-Cain scholar, Polanco was part of the first group of Global Gap Year Fellows that enabled her to take a year off to be a global citizen and do volunteer work abroad. While at Carolina, she has worked with the Diversity and Multicultural Affairs office as a counselor for Project Uplift, encouraging students from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds to pursue higher education. Polanco has worked closely with the Carolina Latino/a Collaborative as President of the Carolina Hispanic Association and is a participant in the Carolina Cultural Leadership Institute this year.
Two who have championed diversity at Carolina were awarded the Unsung Hero award.
Unsung hero Tiane Mitchell Gordon, is founder and Principal of Square One, a consulting practice with subject matter expertise in diversity and inclusion from a theoretical and operational perspective has worked with Diversity and Multicultural Affairs as the Diversity Expert-in-Residence—consulting with staff and students enrolled in the Cultural Competence Leadership Institute. She has had a career-long history of developing effective partnerships and strategic alliances in for profit and not-for-profit organizations. Ms. Mitchell Gordon’s last corporate position was as Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for AOL, LLC.
The second unsung hero is Mr. Larry Hicks who is recently retired after serving nearly 30 years at Carolina. In his final role as Director of Housing and Residential Education, Larry championed issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within his department and across the University. He and the housing staff established diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values for the department, encouraging staff and students to actively engage and challenge one another in exploring issues and initiatives. These accomplishments include a Multicultural Competence Committee, an Equity and Inclusion Professional Development plan for all staff, a Multicultural Advisor program for student staff and diversity advocates, frequent programs and presentations on issues of inclusion, modification of hiring practices to ensure more diverse applicant pools, the push to provide gender non-specific housing in the residence halls to assist LGBTQ students in acclimating to the campus environment, working with campus colleagues on international student engagement issues, and supporting the highly successful Tunnel of Oppression program hosted by students and assisted by staff and campus partners.