By Anne E. Bromley
Two members of the University of
Virginia, a faculty member and an undergraduate, embody the ideals
and spirit of the 2014 John T. Casteen III Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Leadership Award.
The University of Virginia Office for Diversity and Equity has chosen Hajar Ahmed, a Fourth Year
student in politics, and Martin Davidson, a professor of
leadership and organizational behavior in the Darden School of Business, to receive this year's annual award, now in its fifth
year. They will be recognized Friday at a private luncheon. It's
the first time U.Va. has named two winners of the annual award, and
the first time a U.Va. student has won.
The honor recognizes students, faculty or staff members who have
demonstrated a deep commitment to diversity in the U.Va. community.
The award was
established to recognize the accomplishments of former President
Casteen, who was the award's inaugural recipient in 2010.
Specific criteria for the award include playing a leadership
role in increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at U.Va. and
making a sustainable and quantifiable impact in these areas.
Ahmed, a member of the Most Passionate Pi Chapter of Theta Nu Xi
Multicultural Sorority Inc. and vice president of the Multicultural
Greek Council, led students beginning last year in a campaign,
"Davidson literally wrote the book on diversity," said Darden
Dean Robert F. Bruner, who nominated him. "His 2011 book The End
of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How
Leveraging Difference Can Succeed is widely accepted in
the business world," Bruner wrote.
"The two award-winners have demonstrated leadership and a deep
commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at the University in
substantive ways," said Dr. Marcus L. Martin, vice president
and chief officer for diversity and equity. "This is the first time
the committee has selected two awardees and the first time a
student was selected. We had a record number of nominations this
year — all stellar candidates for the award," he said.
Rukhaiya N. Amir, a Fourth Year student in the Curry School of
Education's kinesiology program, also majoring in South Asian Languages &
Literature, wrote in nominating Ahmed that her favorite quote
is: "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall
"Hajar stands out because she has found a way to effect change
in an important aspect of advancing diversity at the University:
financial aid," Amir wrote.
"At the University, Hajar thinks more broadly than just about
recruiting diverse populations in a single academic department like
law or education or for a single culture like Nubians, but rather
access to higher education as a whole."
Although Ahmed is graduating this year and will not personally
be affected by the changes to the AccessUVA program,
"She participates in the campaign because of her concern for the
students who will come after her, students who may not get the same
chances she did to attend this university," Amir wrote.
In August, U.Va.'s Board of Visitors made
changes to the program that will result in capped loans being
included in financial aid packages of all students beginning in the
2014-15 academic year. Previously, the lowest-income students
received all-grant packages, but the board determined program
changes were necessary to place the University's financial aid
program on a sustainable path for the future. Institutional funds
allocated for need-based student aid have increased from $11
million to more than $40 million since AccessUVa's founding in
"Hajar possesses a selfless devotion to uplifting others
without expecting recognition," wrote Daniel Driscoll, program
coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority
Life in the Office of the Dean of Students.
"As vice president of the Multicultural Greek Council, Hajar
helped to elevate the vision and mission of the council by
developing strategic and action-oriented plans to more seamlessly
connect a values-based fraternal experience with rich cultural
identities at the University.
"One quality that I particularly admire in Hajar is her
commitment to embodying a consistent values-based lifestyle. Her
commitment to scholarship, service, equity, leadership,
multiculturalism, inclusion and empowerment are personified in her
daily walk as a servant leader," Driscoll wrote.
The same can be said of Davidson: The U.Va. community has also
benefitted from his daily walk, bringing the concepts of diversity
and inclusion from intellectual ideas into action. He served as
Darden's associate dean for diversity from 2008 to 2011. In 2012,
the Office of Equal
Opportunity Programs recognized him with an EOP Champion
award for his efforts to improve diversity and equity on
"Martin is the quintessential example of an educator/change
agent whose passion is making his world a more inclusive place,"
Bruner wrote in his nomination. "Since joining the faculty in 1998,
Martin has actively taught MBA and executive students in the field
of leadership. In these courses, he has been able to introduce the
topic of diversity and managing differences. His skill allows
students to find a voice to discuss sensitive topics, including
gender, race, country of origin and sexual orientation, and to
respect the variety of perspectives of their classmates."
Davidson has served as a resource and adviser to other U.Va.
schools and units, in addition to outside businesses and
organizations. He has worked with Student Affairs,
the School of Nursing, the Curry School of Education and the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
"Diversity is not an easy topic to address," wrote Kellie Sauls,
Batten's director of admissions and financial aid, "laden with
historical pain-points as it relates to race and gender, and more
recently a virtual landmine as it relates to religion and sexual
orientation. Not only does Martin navigate this space with
adeptness, but he also uses it to teach students, business leaders
and colleagues how to think about diversity differently.
"His work has been lauded by his peers and has garnered great
attention for the University and the Darden School. Darden was
actually recognized in 2013 with a grade of 'A' for its diversity
work and climate, due in large part to Martin's efforts," she
Davidson's drive to raise awareness and his academic rigor makes
the case for inclusion unavoidable and yet relatable, wrote Peter Rodriguez, senior associate dean for degree programs and
Darden's chief diversity officer.
"His arguments are thoughtful and targeted. His effortless
charisma powers a deeply important message about who we are, who we
should be and how to get there. He's neither quiet nor loud,
neither zealous nor tepid. He's an artist with words and just the
type of leader who makes big changes that endure," Rodriguez
The second Casteen Award went to Angela Davis, special assistant to
the vice president and
chief student affairs officer and former director
life. Curry School professor Bob Covert received it in 2012. Last year, Kim Forde-Mazrui, William S. Potter Professor of Law and founding
director of U.Va.'s Center
for the Study of Race and Law, received the award.
About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the
world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive
Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case
study method, top-ranked faculty whose research advances global
managerial practice and business education, and a tight-knit
learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders
who are ready to make an impact.
For questions or information, contact Matt Charles or a member of the Communication team.
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