CHSS students, faculty, alumna recognized at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Evening of Reflection

On February 15, Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity and Empowerment (CCEE) and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration Committee presented the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Evening of Reflection. With this year’s theme of “dangerous unselfishness,” the event centered on coalition building and on King’s “Mountaintop” speech, where he urged his listeners to “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”

A highlight of the yearly event is the recognition of Mason faculty, staff, and students who have worked to amplify the inclusivity at Mason and in the larger community, with the Resounding Voice, Emerging Alumni, Superior Service, Yara Mowafy, and Spirit of King Awards.

CHSS winners at MLK Evening of Reflection

From left to right: Shelby Adams, Alaina Ruffin, David Corwin, Ayondela McDole, Shauna Rigaud, Corwin Matthews, Fiona Klotz.
Photo credit: Sierra Guard, Creative Services, George Mason University

“Recipients of these awards have made an exceptional contribution to the development of an inclusive environment, openly advocating for marginalized and subordinate identities, and upheld the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Austin Deray, assistant director of Graduate Student Life, and chair of the awards and selection committee for the 2022 Evening of Reflection. He added that the award recipients were nominated by Mason students, faculty, and staff members.

Tauheeda Yasin Martin, PhD Cultural Studies ’21, received the Emerging Alumni Award, which is “given to an alumni who embodies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., embracing the university’s commitment to diversity, well-being, and innovation in their career, academics, and personal values,” said Deray.

Yasin Martin is a professor of religion, humanities, and English as a second language at Northern Virginia Community College. Her nomination described her as an outspoken leader within Northern Virginia’s Muslim community, who helped organize many of the regional efforts within the community to support Afghan refugees settling in the region.

The Superior Service Award went to Mason’s NAACP college chapter. Chapter president Shelby Adams, a student in the criminology, law and society program, and vice president Alaina Ruffin, an English major, accepted the award on the chapter’s behalf.

The Yara Mowafy Award is “presented to a student who has led, implemented, or initiated a service project towards a more equitable and justice environment,” said Deray. Integrative studies major Fiona Klotz was recognized for her work in helping to bring the Bonner Leadership Program to Mason. Cultural studies student Ayondela McDole received the graduate student award for her advocacy as president of Mason’s Black Graduate Student Association, of which she is also a founding member. McDole serves on the student voice committee and the steering committee of Mason’s ARIE task force, as well as on the research subcommittee.

The Spirit of King Awards are presented to students, faculty, and staff who have made exceptional contributions to the development of the inclusive environment, have openly advocated for marginalized and subordinate identities, and have upheld the legacy of Dr. King.

Global affairs student Corwin Matthews received the undergraduate Spirit of King Award, nominated for being “a stalwart student leader in multiple capacities at Mason, breaking ceilings and barriers with their thoughtful advocacy, consistent presence, and vocal advocacy.” Matthews has served as a peer advisor for the Black Male Student Initiative class, a STEP Summer Bridge Mentor, a resident assistant with the LGBTQ+ Learning Community for the past three years, a UNIV Courses & Programs Senior Peer Advisor, Student Government undersecretary for Housing and Residence Life, and Phi Delta Theta Fraternity member and risk management chair. “He goes far beyond expectations in creating space for marginalized students, especially for queer and trans students of color.”

Cultural studies PhD candidate Shauna Rigaud received the graduate student Spirit of King award. She is an officer in and founding member of the Black Graduate Student Association. She currently serves on the student voice committee of AIRE and is on the teaching and classroom subcommittee. She has been a graduate assistant in the offices of the African and African-American Studies program and Social Action and Integrative Learning, and has advised and worked with undergraduate student groups and students around community engagement, social justice, and civic duties. She is the newly-hired assistant director for Mason’s Community Engagement and Civic Learning office.

The faculty Spirit of King Award is presented to a faculty member who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of an inclusive learning environment through their teaching, research, or work that involves advocacy for equality and social justice.

David Corwin, faculty member in the School of Integrative Studies and the Women and Gender Studies program received the award for their impactful teaching.

“This person is a strong advocate and voice for students and faculty around issues of social justice, gender, race and the intersections of each of these,” said Corwin’s nomination. “They teach courses that are fun, engaging and explore the various lenses around social justice and equality. From discussions around friendship, to the intersections of race and gender, they are a force for good in this world. They are not one to shy away from difficult conversations and students overwhelmingly love their courses.”

"These awards recognize individuals and groups who are truly doing the work that makes real the ideals articulated by Dr. King,” said CHSS dean Ann Ardis. “I am proud and inspired that this year, the committee has recognized people who reflect so many parts of our CHSS community: students, faculty, and alumni. It is a recognition of the impact that each of us can have."