Texas Tech University

Spotlighting Award Winners

Spring 2017 President's Excellence in Diversity and Equity Awards

Award Winners

Rula Maabra Al-Hmoud

Arabic Instructor, Director of Arabic Program
Dept.: Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures
College of Arts & Sciences
Nominated by: Linley Melhem,
Director, International Teaching Assistant Workshop
Faculty Award

As an Arabic instructor, Rula has a unique opportunity to represent her heritage language, culture, and history to students who may be encountering international diversity for the first time. Rula's commitment to introducing the diversity within Arabic culture has a profound impact on students' perceptions of culture in general. She does this by creating opportunities for students to taste, see, and feel a variety of features of Arabic culture through visits to local restaurants, watching films followed by moderated discussions, and experiencing cooking lessons, just to name a few such events. Rula creates many of these opportunities through the Arabic Club, which she facilitates in addition to her duties as an instructor.

Johanna Valencia

Unit Coordinator
Dept.: Recreational Sports
Nominated by: Kami White-Waden, Assistant Director
Staff Award

Johanna is considered to be an outstanding individual that I hold in the highest regards. Johanna has worked as part of the Texas Tech Recreational Sports Fitness and Wellness team since July 2012. Based on Johanna's capabilities, experiences and work ethic, I feel she would be an excellent recipient for your award. Through her time here at Recreational Sports, Johanna has been able to create an environment where students feel safe to be themselves regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. They feel a sense of belonging and respect for each other and enjoy learning about new cultures. All students regardless of race, ethnicity or gender have equal opportunity to thrive and contribute fully.

Victor Moore

Area of Study: Political Science
College of Arts & Sciences
Nominated by: Rula Al-Hmoud
Student Award

Victor's life has revolved around the concept of inclusiveness, in thought and deed. He was raised in downtown Houston, Texas during the 1980's, by his grandparents and single mother. His grandparents instilled in him the concept of respect for others that transcended concepts of difference; such as, age, race, economic status, etc. These principles were reflected through his early years, for instance in middle school in a small town in Tennessee, where his family moved to for a time. This small town, in the 90's still had racial tension, to include nooses in trees, burnt crosses, and pressure for the Ku Klux Klan within its politics. He chose to take a stand and befriend many in the African American community, at times to his own detriment of other friends or activities.

Vijayanta Jain

Area of Study: Computer Science
College of Engineering
Student Award

Vijayanta is a sophomore in Computer Science and through his research, volunteering, and leadership, I he strives to increase diversity and make Texas Tech a more inclusive University. Vijayanta is a research assistant at the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research and he is currently working to create robot-assisted therapies for autism intervention. Such therapies will help children with autism better learn the social skills and allow them to be more inclusive in our society. He also actively volunteers at autism related events to increase his outreach for the community. Apart from his research and volunteering, he is the secretary of Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). SACNAS is a student chapter that helps increase diversity in STEM by motivating underrepresented undergraduates participate in research.

Gayle Jeffers

Area of Study: Curriculum & Instruction-Bilingual Education
College of Instruction
Nominated by: Dr. Comfort Pratt
Student Award

Gayle has been an outstanding and invaluable asset in advancing excellence in diversity and equity in very effective and impactful ways that have brought a lot of recognition and visibility to Texas Tech University. As president of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, a position she has held for the past two years due to her exceptional work, she has led and participated in a number of cross-cultural activities to promote the awareness of the Spanish language, its people, heritage and culture. Such activities include being a member of the team that created the Lubbock Spanish Day, which was established in 2014 and is celebrated on September 15 of every year and organizing academic programs such as "Legends from the Hispanic World." She has also consistently included other cultures in the programs of Sigma Delta Pi. "Beginning and End of Year Traditions from Around the World" is a program she has been coordinating for the past three years. For this program, she contacts students from different parts of the world to come together and share their traditions. Some of the countries that have participated so far are Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Ghana, Nevis, and Spain.

Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar

Dept.: Environmental Toxicology
College: Arts & Sciences
Nominated by: Professor, Dr. Ronald J. Kendall
Faculty Award

Dr. Ramkumar started his career at TTU 19 years ago as a staff member and has slowly progressed to the rank of full professor by meeting some challenges, including facing employment termination at one time. Since his nomination last year, his stellar achievement to showcase his efforts towards improving diversity is his effort in drafting an OP for Third Year Tenure Review, which impacts almost all junior faculty. Particularly, there have been instances of perceived discrimination towards minority and international junior faculty in third year review and a proper streamlined process will be of great benefit to the University. Dr. Ramkumar initiated the effort and is drafting the policy, which will be effective, Fall 2017. Ram has served as Faculty Advisor for the India Student Association, which is not limited to only Indian students.

Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion