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SOC Announces 2020-21 Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

Online Content Manager Brianna Williams and Assistant Professor Saif Shahin have been selected as the recipients of the 2020-21 SOC Inclusive Excellence Award.

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The School of Communication (SOC) announced that Online Content Manager Brianna Williams and Assistant Professor Saif Shahin have been selected as the recipients of the 2020-21 SOC Inclusive Excellence Award. This award recognizes their contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within their work and the School. Since 2018, SOC has recognized the efforts of faculty and staff who enhance inclusive practices, programming, and leadership. 

Both Williams and Shahin have demonstrated recent and significant contributions toward creating a diverse and inclusive SOC community through one or more of the following:  

  • Embedding diversity and inclusiveness into a structural/institutional aspect of SOC (e.g., policy, procedure, tradition, vision statement, curriculum, etc.)

  • Creating a welcoming and supportive climate through visibility, communication, and education.  

  • Involvement in initiatives that support one or more of the school’s goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Williams is this year’s staff SOC Inclusive Award recipient. She is a member of SOC's DEI committee and has collaborated with the committee to improve the DEI web presence and raise awareness of its initiatives. She spearheaded extensive social media campaigns for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Women's History Month, and is in the process of developing campaigns to highlight various minority groups as it relates to communication fields. 

Tia Milledge, Director of Communication and Outreach at SOC, nominated Williams. “Brianna scripted these campaigns and strategically identified content for each platform,” she said. “Each required research, graphic design collaboration, and a good deal of planning to execute while continuing to promote SOC's other events, news, and accomplishments. Her campaigns went well beyond anything done by any other AU school or the University, itself.”

Shahin has demonstrated a deep commitment to diversity through his research in online extremism and nationalism, his inclusive teaching approach, and his service contributions. He led an effort to revise the Communication Studies curriculum to ensure that a required course, COMM-365, became recognized as a DEI course within the AU Core Curriculum. He also co-wrote a winning grant proposal to develop a repository of DEI materials, so that any faculty teaching this course would have access to this wide range of perspectives. In addition, Shahin serves on the SOC DEI Committee and recently served as a panelist for the event entitled “Cultivating Fear: Anti-Muslim Bias in the Media and Society,” which explored the demonization of Muslims in American society. 

“Saif is an unstinting mentor to international students and students of color exploring research questions that feature DEI topics,” said Professor Patricia Aufterheide in her nomination of Dr. Shahin for the award. “He has also been active in recruiting diverse students for the Ph.D. program, spending hours meeting with diverse potential candidates. He is a stalwart colleague who does not shy away from hard questions.”

Congratulations to Brianna Williams and Saif Shahin for their outstanding achievements in diversity and inclusion at American University. SOC proudly recognizes the faculty and staff that seeks to make the school’s coursework, environment, and academic life inclusive. Past winners have included:

2018: Professor Priya Doshi and Ellen Jimenez 

2019: Professor Sherri Williams and Aja Goode 

2020: Professor Lynne Perri and Sumaira Akber