University recognizes Diversity Award winners

Mississippi State’s 2018 Diversity Award winners are EXPRESS Yourself! artist Candace Stephenson, pictured in front; back, from left, MSU Assistant Professor of Sociology Margaret A. Hagerman, EXPRESS Yourself! trackers Laurie Craig and Judy Duncan, David Clark (accepting on behalf of MSU graduate student Brittany Radford-Clark) and JP Abercrumbie, MSU assistant athletic director for life skills and community engagement. MSU President Mark E. Keenum, right, congratulated the honorees during an April 4 awards ceremony. PHOTO: Megan Bean | Public Affairs

Mississippi State honored a group of student, faculty and staff members last Wednesday [April 4] for actions that enhance campus diversity.

University students, faculty, staff and team honorees received their respective 2018 Diversity Awards during a ceremony hosted by the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities. The commission is led by committee chair Tracey Baham, associate director of MSU’s Office of Instiutional Research and Effectiveness.

“I believe that when we celebrate our strengths and work on improving our weaknesses we become better as a society,” Baham said. “We all have unique aspects about ourselves and it is because of these unique perspectives that we can survive as a society.”

The 2018 Diversity Award honorees are:

-- Brittany Radford-Clark, a graduate student in MSU’s School of Human Sciences from Cleveland, Ohio. With a focus on youth development, Radford has based her research on the connection between faith and race relations within the Christian church. She is the former director of Youth Community Explosion, an outreach program geared toward underserved youth in Starkville. Prior to relocating to Mississippi, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in locations such as New York and Washington, D.C. This fall, she plans to begin work on a doctorate in MSU’s Department of Sociology.

-- Margaret A. Hagerman, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and faculty affiliate for both MSU’s African American and Gender Studies programs. In addition to notable academic work on race and youth, Hagerman has developed and coordinated MSU’s Race in America Lecture Series, which has featured more than 20 scholars, providing undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to meet and engage with some of the nation’s leading experts on race. Hagerman also has organized and participated in a wide range of panels, workshops, film screenings and presentations on campus that offer community spaces to examine existing forms of inequality in society.

-- JP Abercrumbie, assistant athletic director for life skills and community engagement. Abercrumbie is responsible for MSU Athletics personal and leadership development programs, professional and postgraduate preparation, and community outreach and engagement opportunities supported by the athletic department’s Pay It Forward initiative. She leads the Athletics Diversity Council with Athletic Director John Cohen and has served as a mentor for MSU’s Day One Leadership Program, among other campus service. Abercrumbie is a 2017 selection into the NCAA’s prestigious Dr. Charles Whitcomb Leadership Institute and devotes her time to the advancement of several NCAA Leadership Development programs and Women Leaders in College Sports initiatives.

-- EXPRESS Yourself! artists and trackers with MSU’s T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. The T. K. Martin Center’s project EXPRESS Yourself! (EXperiencing Painting as Recreation & Express the Spirit within YourSelf) uses the techniques of Artistic Realization Technologies to provide a means for Mississippians with the most severe disabilities to feel the power of self expression through art. The trackers being honored are Laurie Craig, a speech language pathologist at the T.K. Martin Center, and Judy Duncan, a case manager at the center. Both Craig and Duncan have served as trackers in the program for more than 10 years. The artists being honored include Amanda Williams and Candace Stephenson of Ackerman, Demetria Gilbert and Dustin Sudduth of Tupelo, Kendrell Davis of DeKalb, Mark S. Jones of Columbus, Monica Heard of Eupora and Shannon Herod of Columbus.

During Wednesday’s ceremony, MSU President Mark E. Keenum thanked the honorees for what they have done to help make MSU a better place.

“Diversity empowers and enriches any institution, as well as the people in it,” Keenum said. “Diversity allows people to come together and communicate when they might not otherwise come together. That communication replaces fear and prejudice with understanding and respect. That’s what diversity does for any institution, and that’s why it enriches any institution.”

For more on the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

James Carskadon | Public Affairs

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