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Susan Williams
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011

Multicultural Understanding Awards given at IU Bloomington

March 31, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Commission on Multicultural Understanding (COMU) will honor five individuals and one program on April 7 (Thursday) at the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center, 730 E. Third St. in Bloomington. This event is open to the public, with a reception beginning at 4:30 p.m. followed by the award presentations at 5 p.m.

The COMU awards, created in 1986, are given in recognition of those actively supporting, participating in or encouraging the exploration of cultural diversity in and around the Indiana University Bloomington campus. The awards are given in the categories of undergraduate student, graduate student, staff member, faculty member, community member and program.

Sample Gates

Sample Gates, IU Bloomington

Print-Quality Photo

This year's COMU award recipients are:

Undergraduate Student -- Mercedez McDowell

This year, Mercedez McDowell, a native of Indianapolis and an individualized major student, led a charge to change Indiana University Student Association's regulation to deny funding for religious organizations. In 2010, her funding request for IU's Impact Movement to attend the Impact Nationals was denied based on the fact that it was a religious organization. After composing a letter of dissatisfaction and disappointment that student groups were not given equal access to funding, McDowell, along with support from the Alliance Defense Fund, successfully campaigned for student fees to be distributed on a "viewpoint neutral" basis. McDowell's commitment to justice and fairness exemplifies the goals of COMU and the spirit of diversity.

Graduate Student -- Tomika L. Ferguson

Tomika Ferguson is a first-year doctoral student in Indiana University's Higher Education and Student Affairs Program in the School of Education. As a graduate student in the Office of Scholarships, Ferguson coordinates the 21st Century Scholars Covenant Program. Her work inside and outside of the Office of Scholarships shows she is passionately and personally committed to increasing cultural diversity on the Bloomington campus. She has conveyed the value of the mentor/mentee relationship to success by presenting at undergraduate conferences on campus; personally mentoring at-risk students of color; and volunteering in recruiting underrepresented students to IU. Her commitment to cultural diversity transcends her classroom and work environment as she provides free college advising to middle and high school students of color in the Indianapolis area.

Staff Member -- Sarah J. Nagy

Sarah Nagy serves as the assistant director for leadership and student involvement in the Division of Residential Programs and Services. She also directs the Community and Leadership Development Center, a center that promotes student leadership, especially among underrepresented student populations. Through her work, she advises the Residence Hall Association, helps students and staff with programming on various topics, and contributes in many other ways to the general education and leadership experience that students gain from living on campus. For many years, she also has served on the racial/religious bias incidents teams. Nagy works to provide effective strategies in incident team meetings for responding to bias-motivated incidents, and serves as a mentor to students directly and indirectly connected to her professional duties.

Faculty Member -- Constance Cook Glen

Constance Cook Glen is being recognized for putting forth extra effort to identify and respond constructively to the needs of her students who represent numerous nationalities and ability levels. As a senior lecturer and coordinator of music in general studies in the Jacobs School of Music, it is not unusual for her courses to include a broad spectrum of students; upon several occasions 60 percent of her student roster has been international students. In an effort to ensure every student succeeds, including those with language barriers, Glen has provided tutorial sessions and has sought professional advice on accommodating her students.

Community Member -- Sue Wanzer

Sue Wanzer is being honored for showing how a community member can live what she believes through an inclusive, civil and productive approach to leadership. As an elected member on the board of the Monroe County Community School Corp., Wanzer has been a strong community leader, dedicating herself to working with various organizations and groups including local government and the Girl Scouts, and recognizes the value of diversity in our community by advocating for a school system that meets the needs of all students.

Program -- Savant Peer Educators Program

To use the words of its nominator, the Savant Peer Educators Program raises awareness and shines light in dark places when educating about sexual assault on campus. Savants strive to educate their peers on recognizing, preventing and intervening in acts that exhibit incivility, relationship violence, sexual assault, as well as any acts that are unethical or discriminatory to our campus and the Bloomington community. The Savant Program educates by conducting presentations that are empowering and contain relevant research that can be used by its audiences to become agents of change. Its coordinator is Eric Mokube, and peer educators include Eric Gonzaba, Sarah Robinson, Bob Goode III, Mariah Moore, Heather Orina, Elizabeth Uduehi, Jessica Hill, Sung Chung, Ernest Evan and Jennifer Yu.

Special Merit Award -- Pamela W. Freeman

Pamela W. Freeman is the associate dean of students and the director of student ethics and anti-harassment programs. In honor of many years of service to the university and as co-chair of the Commission on Multicultural Understanding, she is being presented with a special merit award. This award not only acknowledges priceless contributions made by Freeman, but her embodiment of the spirit of diversity. In service to the university she has served as an example of professionalism, creative thought and the spirit of giving. COMU will take time during its annual awards program to thank and honor her for countless hours devoted to diversity and change.

The Indiana University Commission on Multicultural Understanding

COMU has the general purpose of gathering information and encouraging programs and activities that will increase awareness and understanding of the factors which lead to racism and other forms of oppression in society and on the Indiana University Bloomington campus. With education at the core of the commission's efforts, students, staff and faculty are all responsible for contributing to this awareness and understanding. COMU provides a vehicle for members of the campus community to use in promoting greater communication amongst all those on campus, regardless of race, age, religion, ability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and socio-economic status. Through increased communication and deliberate educational efforts that address issues of oppression, the commission can enhance the campus climate and serve as an exemplary role model for society.

For more information about the COMU Awards ceremony and other COMU events, please visit or contact