Statler College announces 2022 Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award recipients
Pedro Mago, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University, and the Statler College Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, announced the recipients of the College’s Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award. The awards were distributed to the recipients in conjunction with WVU’s annual Diversity Week celebration.
Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist
Photos by Paige Nesbit, Director of Marketing
One faculty member, two staff members, and one student were selected for the award in recognition of their dedication to incorporating the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion into their respective roles. The individuals were nominated by their peers in the Statler College and chosen by the DEI Committee.
Kevin Orner, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, received the award for promoting a safe and inclusive environment in the classroom. This fall he is teaching Sustainable Development Engineering, a service-learning course that emphasizes stakeholder engagement and partnerships with underserved communities.
At the beginning of the course, Orner made it a priority to meet with each student one-on-one to learn about their backgrounds and discuss expectations for the semester.
“Providing inclusive and accessible opportunities for all is not only the right thing to do, but it also utilizes all our capacities to make this world a better place to live,” Orner said. “Diverse groups better solve complex problems by improving the groups’ creativity and problem-solving capacity, which means better engineering designs and products.”
Orner’s commitment to serving unrepresented communities through research was inspired by his years of international service. He served in Panama from 2009-2011 as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and in Costa Rica in 2018 as a Fulbright Scholar. Most recently, Orner was awarded $1 million from the Environmental Protection Agency, to investigate nutrient removal in wastewater lagoons, which are common in rural communities.
Orner was also recently appointed as a Maurice and JoAnn Wadsworth Faculty Fellow and a Bridge Faculty Fellow.
Michelle Moirai, assistant director of marketing technology, received the award for her diligence in ensuring that the Statler College’s website’s remain ADA compliant. Moirai currently manages around 200 webpages for the College, including academic, research, faculty, and student organization websites.
According to research by AbilityNet, over 90 percent of websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology. After joining the Statler College in 2016, Moirai was tasked with resolving over 2,200 accessibility issues to make the College’s webpages compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
“Accessibility means more people have access to the opportunities and information we provide at Statler College, while also enhancing everyone’s daily experience with our sites,” explained Moirai. “My work involves understanding that many content elements such as headers and tables are there for structuring information, not design aesthetics. I use my design skills to make the sites aesthetically pleasing, while using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to make sure the site information is available to be accessed on other devices.”
Moirai has been designing websites for over 25 years and brings a wealth of knowledge to the Statler College with over 20 years of specialized marketing experience.
Program Assistant Dianne Stewart was selected for her dedication to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students who visit the Office of Student Services. Stewart is committed to raising awareness of the diverse international communities that are a part of the Statler College.
“I try every day to touch people’s lives and educate them about WVU and many of the wonderful people and resources that are associated with it,” Stewart said. “I especially enjoy working with students that are transitioning to the WVU campus from all over the world. I know that it is hard to uproot your life and travel to a strange place, so I want to help them any way that I can.”
Stewart plays an important role in getting international students to campus once they have been accepted to WVU, which often includes the difficult process of acquiring transcripts from international universities and coordinating with offices across the globe.
“I recognize that every person that walks through my door, or contacts me, has their own story and struggles,” Stewart said. “In Student Services, we strive to make everyone, no matter who you are or your circumstances, feel welcome and that you are among friends. Our students, staff and faculty truly thrive when they are in an environment where they feel safe, supported, and respected.
Ashley McCullough, a senior chemical engineering student from Lumberport, West Virginia, received the award for her work as a DEI and Statler College Ambassador.
As a DEI and Statler College Ambassador, McCullough is tasked with raising awareness of diversity initiatives at the University and the College level. In this role she hosted a panel in the spring semester of 2022, for students and faculty to discuss the challenges individuals in the LGBTQ+ community face in the STEM industry. The event was attended by over 30 people who participated in a conversation about the importance of embracing identity and ways to improve the experience for underrepresented groups in STEM professions.
“The DEI initiatives I’ve involved myself with have simply amplified the voices of other marginalized groups on campus,” McCullough said. “While I recognize that women are often marginalized in science and engineering, I also recognize my position of privilege as a white woman at this university. Inclusivity in engineering colleges such as Statler is not only important, but imperative. Engineers create products and processes that save lives and improve society as a whole. Because of this, it is necessary that we cultivate an inclusive environment for everyone.”
McCullough has served on the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering’s DEI Committee since March 2022, which is tasked with ensuring that all students receive an equal experience in the classroom. She also regularly attends Statler College student organization meetings to make students aware of DEI trainings and events and educates freshman engineering students on the importance of DEI issues.
“I hope that diversity initiatives throughout the Statler College continue to attract Mountaineers from different backgrounds and cultures, and that our university equips them with ever-improving resources and tools to help everyone feel secure for their entire college experience,” said McCullough.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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