For the third consecutive year, SOC is proud to announce the recipients of its Inclusive Excellence Awards. Each year, SOC recognizes one faculty and one staff member for going above and beyond their regular responsibilities to promote diversity, inclusion and equity.
On May 6, SOC Dean Laura DeNardis announced this year’s recipients, Sumaira Akber for the staff award and Lynne Perri for the faculty award, who will each receive a $500 bonus and a certificate acknowledging their outstanding contributions to supporting a diverse and inclusive culture at SOC.
"Inclusive excellence is a guiding value of the School of Communication,” said SOC Dean Laura DeNardis. “We are grateful for the exemplary leadership of our colleagues Professor Lynne Perri and Undergraduate Director Sumaira Akber in advancing this ideal in our programs, courses, community, and in the discipline."
Director of Undergraduate Student & Academic Affairs Sumaira Akber has been a member of the SOC Diversity Committee for the last two years and has contributed significantly to generating ideas to engage the SOC community on diverse topics. This year, she spearheaded efforts to identify and confirm panelists and co-sponsors for an event on Islamophobia in the media, which was slated to take place in April. The event had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 related cancellation of in-person events, but will be a featured event in the 2020-21 academic year.
Sumaira leads a team of academic advisors with an emphasis on making all SOC students feel heard and supported. In her search this year for an open academic advisor position, she prioritized candidates’ sensitivity to the diversity of issues that students face. Lastly, working with the SOC Ambassadors, Sumaira arranged an open house for students to meet members of the SOC Diversity Committee and learn about their work.
“Sumaira is so deserving of this award,” said Priya Doshi, Public Communication Division faculty member and SOC inclusion officer. “She goes out of her way to be accessible to our students, SOC ambassadors, staff, and faculty. Moreover, she incorporates inclusion efforts into everything she does, whether it is identifying speakers for a preview day panel or hosting events for students to feel part of the community. We are so lucky to have Sumaira as part of our team.”
Journalist-in-Residence Lynne Perri, a faculty member and managing editor of SOC’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, has been promoting diversity and inclusion efforts at SOC for a number of years. Formerly co-chair of the SOC Diversity Committee, Lynne co-founded and oversees SOC’s collaboration with the Politico Journalism Institute (PJI), an intensive 10-day program that recruits primarily diverse students and young professionals and offers hands-on training for those interested in being a part of the largest politics- and policy-focused newsroom in America and beyond. American University and the Maynard Institute have partnered with PJI since its inception. Now in its seventh year, some participants have already moved into jobs in the field and related work, a tremendous pipeline for the next generation.
"Lynne's quiet competence and humble manner mask the extraordinary efforts she brings to SOC, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion," said Amy Eisman, director of the Journalism Division.
"The best example is the brilliantly planned PJI, which she created with Politico and the Maynard Institute. Now its own institution PJI, and Lynne, are steadily seeding the political media landscape with a new and diverse group of reporters whose voices are sorely needed.”
While it’s always a challenge to identify just two champions of diversity, equity and inclusion, SOC is proud that so many staff and faculty strive to make the school’s curriculum, work culture, and environment so inclusive. Congratulations again to Lynne Perri and Sumaira Akber for their outstanding achievements.