Pennsylvania is home to many talented individuals who are dedicated to supporting students of all backgrounds, including some from Shippensburg. On Tuesday, university and commonwealth leaders involved in efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion were recognized with “Keeper of the Flame” awards in the CUB MPR.
Many of the awardees were recognized for their work in pursuing standards in their community and respective universities. Each awardee was introduced by an individual who vouched for their work and why they are deserving of the achievement.
One of the awardees was Shippensburg University First Year Experience coordinator and history professor Steven Burg. Burg specializes in the preservation and documentation of African-American cemeteries across Pennsylvania. Burg has worked relentlessly for minorities and fought for proper treatment since the 1970s.
One of Burg’s projects involved Locust Cemetery, one of the oldest African-American burial grounds, He first became involved in Locust Cemetery when reading about a car driving through gravestones, inspiring him to start preserving what little African-American history we have.
Burg and other Shippensburg students researched and published a book to create more tangible historical documentations of African Americans. Burg says that he and others in the same work have raised over 800 sunken tombstones across Pennsylvania.
Seated next to Burg were othe coordinators in Pennsylvania universities, such as Kutztown University’s Deryl Johnson, the first director of LGBTQ+ support groups back in the early 1990s. Despite the great changes he hass been able to implement, he claims “there’s still work to be done.”
Johnson feels very strongly about continuing to keep changes in his community.
“Even though you think it’s over for you, there’s another group in the tent that needs your help,” Johnson said. “If someone else wins, it doesn’t mean you lose.”
Another awardee was Rick Schulze from Lock Haven University, the first creator of any support groups targeted toward minorities in universities. Schulze was introduced by an emotional Albert Jones, a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University who maintains a critical role in meeting the goals and objectives of the strategic plans for the universities.
Schulze gave all credit to his supporters saying, “The journey that we have taken and how far we have come due to people like Albert.” He also encouraged allies to get active since “allies might underestimate how important you are.”
Seated next to Schulze was Millersville University’s Cheryl Desman, who has worked for her community for over 20 years, focusing on racial inequality in higher education. Carlos Wiley, a Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer at that university, described Desman as an “outstanding recipient and representation of the work we are doing at Millersville as it relates to its inclusive essence.” Wiley had no doubt in his mind that Desman was deserving of the award.
Right after, Cheney University’s President Aaron Walton joined via Zoom and introduced fellow awardees and audience members to Vincent Huges,
Huges was “humbled by the work that the other individuals are doing great work.” He looks forward to positive change that he and others are able to make, dreaming of new students who are “extremely diverse, first year students, different students, students that never had the opportunity to because of the way education was funded historically.”
One of the main coordinators actually involved in Shippensburg University helping the summit become successful was Manny Ruiz, assistant vice president for inclusion and belonging, who was very pleased with the overall outcome.
“One of the things I liked was it was a team of folks from across PASSHE, and what's great about it is that folks represented from every institution that live and breathe this work on a daily basis, are very passionate,” Ruiz said.