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Diversity and Inclusion Research Award

As an expression of Capital University’s mission, the Diversity and Inclusion Research Award was established in 2017 to recognize student scholarship that advances our understanding of issues of diversity and inclusion. The intent of this award is to support high-quality undergraduate student research. The Capital University Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship planning committee will select the recipient(s) based on eligibility requirements and selection criteria.

How to apply

Student Eligibility Requirements

  • Student(s) must be enrolled as full time student(s) in good academic standing at Capital University.
  • Student(s) must be planning to present their project at the Capital University Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship.
  • Student(s) must be willing to share their undergraduate research or scholarship experiences with the campus community. 
  • Student(s) must be willing to have the University publicize their name(s), photograph(s) and research project information.

Nomination Procedure

The Symposium planning committee identifies candidates for the Diversity and Inclusion Research Award based on abstracts submitted to the Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship each spring. Faculty mentors of the identified candidates are then asked to officially nominate the student for the Diversity and Inclusion Research Award.

Selection Procedure

Nominated and eligible students for this award give their Symposium presentations to the Symposium planning committee prior to the Symposium. Presentations should follow the format of Symposium oral presentations (15 minutes long with 5 additional minutes for questions). Students who are planning to give poster presentations at the Symposium will be able to share their posters, but must also give an oral presentation. Nominated students must give their presentation to the Symposium committee prior to the Symposium in order to be considered for the award.

The Symposium committee evaluates presentations using the appropriate rating form linked below:

The winner(s) of the Diversity and Inclusion Research Award is announced at the Honors Convocation each spring.

Need more information?

Contact Andrea M. Karkowski, Associate Provost at or ext. 6449, Renner 242.

2022 Diversity and Inclusion Award Winner

Making Others See: Picture Book Illustration and Early Childhood Racial Literacy

Bree Chambers
Mentor: Timberlee Harris, Art

Children's books are foundational to young children's conceptual development, providing both benefits for early literacy and immense potential for growth in understanding of social issues. However, little research exists regarding the role of illustrations, specifically, in the promotion of this understanding. Through this project, I sought to dissect how children's books employ focus, narrative, color, medium, symbolism, size and scope, style and character to convey messages regarding the themes of 1) diversity, 2) race and 3) racism. In doing so, I have not only ascertained which semiotics are most effective in communicating social messaging, but have reflected upon my own experiences of racism through artmaking. I first completed a literature review of sources relevant to the value of picture books, role of illustrations, and childhood cognitive development in tandem with the aforementioned themes. I surveyed 18 of the leading children's books within these themes for artistic commonalities. Finally, I worked to write and illustrate my own picture book, which will be outlined via a thesis paper and presented at a student art show. Understandings resulting from this project may aid in practitioner identification of racial trauma, developing directives that address this and increasing cultural competency.

2021 Diversity and Inclusion Award Winner

In Pursuit of Identity: A Brief Survey of Contemporary Queer Asian Artists

Matthew Zawatsky
Mentor: Ramya Ravisankar, Art

Since 1947, when the British relinquished rule of the Indian subcontinent, artists have experimented with new practices, allowing for more self-exploration in their artwork. Nationalist discourse emerged and thrived in South Asian art practices after the end of British rule. Additionally, questions arose about how artists should depict South Asian culture, with progressive ideas and traditional practices being prominent options. This self-exploration not only questions the importance of the “nation,” but it allows for an exploration of individual subjectivity as well. Queer artists from South Asia and the South Asian diaspora such as Salman Toor, Chitra Ganesh, and Bhupen Khakhar explore sexuality, vulnerability, and loneliness that emerge in contemporary society. Through in-depth art historical analysis of each artist’s work, I delve into the impact that queer South Asian artists have on contemporary art. This project aims to relay the importance of queer artists in the contemporary art world and bring diverse scholarship to the field of art and art historical research that privileges analysis on non-Western and non-heterosexual artists. Exploring diverse contributions to contemporary art is an important task as the contributions of these artists add much-needed nuance to the landscape of art today. 

2020 Diversity and Inclusion Award Winners

Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe: An Exploration of Queer Experiences in the United States Military during the World War II and the Vietnam War

Catherine Adcock
Mentor: Melissah Pawlikowski, History

This paper analyzes the experience of LGBT+ people who served in the United States Military during the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Through the examination of primary sources like oral histories and letters to loved ones, as well as courts martial and discharge papers, and secondary sources on the wars and American social and political history, my paper explores the Queer experience of being in the military during those specific eras. The purpose of this project and its contribution to the field of history are one and the same: To shine a light on a corner of history that many ignore and few explore, but that is still a large part of the history of the wars and the American view on homosexuality as a whole. 

Perusing Through the Bookcase of Latin American Literature and Emergent Literacy

Rebecca Blanton
Mentor: Stephanie Saunders, Languages & Cultures

One of the most important aspects in education for a student is the ability to see themselves in the classroom. Many strategies support and promote a classroom environment or setting that is inclusive and encourages learning for all students including reading about student’s home cultures, family picture walls, family conversations, and most notably, multicultural literature (Gillet, 2019). Multicultural literature can benefit every student by introducing them to another culture in order to better understand their peers and the world around them. Most importantly, multicultural literature is pertinent for the students whose cultures are reflected in said text. Due to the growing percentage of Latinx families in the United States, there is an increasing need for teachers to understand how to work with Latin American students that come to the classroom with different levels of emergent literacy. This paper explores the necessity of Latin American literature inside the current American classroom. In order to analyze this phenomenon, this presentation employs Esperanza Rising as a cultural artifact that manifests identity transformation in order to provide a concrete example for appropriate classroom literature to exemplify multiculturalism. 

Fraternity or Separate Ties: Integration of Latin Americans in Spain

Riley Cochran
Mentor: Stephanie Saunders, Languages & Cultures

Often we associate Latin American immigration with the United States. After all, the United States is one of the top receiving countries of Latin American immigrants. In reality, however, the United States is not the only country to receive massive influxes of Latin American immigrants. In the past several years, many Latin American immigrants have opted to move to Spain in search of a better life. Due to their shared language and culture, many people assume that this would allow them an easy and efficient transition and integration process. Despite this, many discover that they still feel like outsiders in the community. In this presentation, I analyze the integration of Latin Americans in Spain by observing how diverse factors including the government, jobs, education, and Spanish society affect the integration and wellbeing of these immigrants. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of how this case relates to other cases, I also compare and contrast the experiences of Latin American immigrants in the United States and Brazilian immigrants in Portugal. Thus, we can learn more about what facilitates or impedes integration for comparable yet distinct populations. Are cultural, historical and linguistic ties enough to unite two populations?

Immigration in the United States: An Examination of Cultural Bias and Institutionalized Obstruction

Liza Day
Mentor: Stephanie Saunders, Languages & Cultures

The United States boasts ample opportunities for its citizens: By working hard and being a good person, an individual can achieve the “American Dream.” Unfortunately, for Latinx immigrants, this goal has become impossible to reach, as immigrants face two enormous challenges upon deciding to enter the United States. The first test of the individual is whether or not they receive a legal citizenship status, which is more difficult for non-white immigrants. The second task of the individual is dealing with the racism and bigotry interwoven in American society. President Donald Trump is quick to call attention to the citizenship debate, and as a result has led efforts to tighten immigration policy and actively encourages anti-immigrant discourse. As a result, immigrants face a higher level of discrimination in the United States than the “American Dream” might imply. This paper examines the challenges of immigration to the United States, and shows the greater difficulty that Latinx immigrants face both in the legal system and in society by comparing United States immigration policy, experiences of immigrants, and social media. This multifaceted approach gives a more thorough understanding of immigrant experiences.

Social Studies from an Anglo Teacher: Reflections on Student Teaching on the Navajo Nation

Reagan Stone
Mentor: Olga Shonia, Education

This project examined an Anglo teacher’s understanding of her own praxis as she navigated living and teaching at the boarding school on the Navajo reservation as well as engaging in a service-learning project while on site. Some tribal families are reported to hold unresolved misgivings about public education and a historic mistrust of schools due to forced European-style schooling (Baldwin, 2018). Following the critical framework of Hastie, Martin and Buchanan (2006), this case study examined the student teacher’s own cultural biases going into the experience of living and working on the Reservation, and how these changed over time; apprehension as a teacher and concerns about teacher legitimacy. Specific themes that emerged included cultural appropriation, ethical uneasiness, resolution of apprehension and concerns, community building, developing sense of belonging, appreciation of local diversity, and avoidance of assumptions. The project has implications for a teacher’s expanded understanding of own praxis reflecting on the impact of culturally immersive off-campus student teaching experiences and experiential learning opportunities.

2019 Diversity and Inclusion Award Winner

The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Garden Collaboration with United Columbus

Brianna Young, Katie Gerchy, Thomas Knapke, Sam Knight, Andrew Simmons, Carly Woolwine
Mentors: Nate Jackson, Philosophy; Dr. Sherry Mong, Sociology; and Staccee Green (United Columbus)

The community-engaged learning project for the Social Problems and Ethics courses with United Columbus and the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.’s Ohio Memorial Chapter attempted to address structural racism in the Driving Park neighborhood as it has affected the educational and socioeconomic prospects of youth (Green, personal contact, 2018). By conducting historical and sociological analyses on African American involvement in World War II, the impact that the Tuskegee Airmen had on promoting social change through education was found. This information was used to create memorial plaques for the Tuskegee Airmen to spread their message on the importance of education as an equalizer. In our context, a goal was that the accomplishments and perseverance of the Tuskegee Airmen served as a source of inspiration for children to continue their educations despite the challenges posed to them because of the effects of oppression (Green, personal contact, 2018). These plaques will be displayed in the Driving Park community gardens, which have been a long-term project for United Columbus. The conducted research and fabrication of plaques were important for the fields of sociology and ethics because they emphasized the impact that individual and collective agency has had on social change (Eitzen, Zinn, & Smith, 2014).

2018 Diversity and Inclusion Award Winner

Authentic Imagery Between Cultures: Portraits from the Classroom

Hannah Westhoven, Education
Mentor: Olga Shonia

Ohio K-12 visual art content standards require that students understand how artistic decisions and interpretations are influenced by social, environmental, and political views. Teachers must engage in authentic praxis to meet these standards effectively. Art educators can use authentic imagery to enhance students’ perceptions of culture by considering perspectives of artists and fellow students around the world. This project examined the effectiveness of an overseas exchange as an instructional technique to combat stereotypical imagery and increase cultural awareness. In this case study, two elementary school classes in the U.S. and Ireland participated in a self-portrait exchange, which included three phases: (1) an entrance questionnaire asking students to describe themselves and a member of the other culture, (2) the creation of a self-portrait, and (3) an exit questionnaire that recorded their reactions to the self-portraits from the other culture. By engaging with authentic imagery from peers, students were able to find similarities/differences, and gain appreciation for members of the other culture. This exploration of student identity and culture is an important step toward engagement with social action, and it further supports the argument for K-12 art educators to use authentic imagery and cultural exchange projects in their praxis.

NOTE: Hannah also won the Bruning Award for this project

2017 Diversity and Inclusion Award Winner

Living in Dystopia: Comparing American Water Crises

Hannah Butler, Psychology and Criminology
Gabrielle Tole, Psychology and Sociology
Mentor: Laura Kane

On the morning of August 2, 2014, nearly half a million people in Toledo, Ohio, woke up to find “they could not wash their hands, take a shower, or fill up a bowl for their pets” (Kozacek, 2015). The city’s water crisis was immediately addressed. In April of 2014, a similar crisis surfaced in Flint, Michigan. After numerous complaints were made by residents, it was not until August of 2014 that city officials began to make efforts to detect pollutants in the contaminated water (Kennedy, 2016). It is important to critically evaluate the actions that were taken by these cities and understand why Flint is still facing these issues years later. This study performs a secondary data analysis using information from the U.S. Census and news articles. After analyzing these sources we found that actions taken by the two cities varied due to the types of water pollutants. However, we have uncovered underlying problems including structural racism and environmental classicism that add to the complexity of this issue. The findings of this study expose the poor decisions made by Flint officials and offer alternative solutions based on sociological and criminological research in the event of an environmental crisis.