2015 Keeper of the Dream Keynote Speaker Jurnee Smollett-Bell,
Award-winning actress and activist
The Keeper of the Dream Award was established in January 1993 to recognize Oakland University students who have contributed to interracial understanding and good will.
- Applicants must demonstrate academic achievement (a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 at time of application)
- Have a clear career focus and academic persistence
- Be returning to Oakland in the fall and winter semester of the following academic year
The Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration honors the legacy of the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and awards up to six scholarships to students that best demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities through their involvement on campus and in the community by breaking down racial and cultural stereotypes and by promoting unity among all people to foster a campus environment rich in diversity and multiculturalism.
It is also an opportunity to publicly recognize students who exemplify Dr. King’s vision, and to award them annual scholarships for their efforts in promoting interracial tolerance and understanding.
A steady increase in corporate contributions has made it possible to increase the initial level of awards from two $1,000 scholarships in 1993 to several $5,000 scholarships. Since its inception, over eighty students from a wide variety of academic majors have been awarded scholarships.
For more information about the award requirements, please contact the Center for Multicultural Initiatives.
Joseph KirmaBeaumont Health System
Keeper of the Dream Scholarship
Before enrolling in his first class at Oakland University, Joseph “Joey” Kirma learned about the power of diversity and inclusion in breaking down racial and ethnic barriers. As a high school senior, he took part in the Future Physicians Program at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB), an experience that opened his eyes to health disparities among various ethnic groups. He was inspired to study biomedical science at OU and take a leading role in promoting diversity in health care and beyond.
After completing his freshman year at OU, he became student program coordinator for theOUWB Diversity and Inclusion office and helped organize the 2013 Future Physicians Program. At the same time, he also began working with Dr. Florence Dallo on a grant-funded research project examining the prevalence of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other leading causes of death among white, black, Arab and Asian American patients in Beaumont Health System.
“From my conversations with Joey, it is clear to me that he understands the issues that affect health disparities, such as discrimination, social justice and other factors,” Dr. Dallo says. Joey founded the Organization of Diversity in Health (ODH), a student group that offers networking opportunities for aspiring health professionals and promotes understanding among people of all backgrounds. The ODH co-sponsored the Pre-Medical Students of Color Luncheon, which received the award for Outstanding Diversity/Multicultural Program from Oakland’s Center for Student Activities, and also spearheaded an anti-bullying campaign.
With more than 4,000 followers on social media, ODH keeps people informed and inspired regarding diversity efforts. Joey points to one posting – a Maya Angelou quote – that garnered more than 100 “likes” from followers: “In diversity there is beauty and strength.” Joey says, “As one who embraces diversity, I hope to continue impacting students and their understanding of multiculturalism so they can find the beauty and strength in diversity.”
Along with his work with the ODH, Joseph is also the founder of the Medical Association of Chaldean Students, President of Students Against Destructive Decisions and Vice president of Alpha Lambda Delta.
Zienab FahsOakland University Credit Union
Keeper of the Dream Scholarship
As an Arab American and Muslim woman, OU student Zienab Fahs is keenly aware of social labels and stereotypes. Yet, she knows that human character is not defined by gender, religion or ethnicity only. As she puts it, “I may be characterized by the country I come from and the God I pray to, or the shade of my skin, but those features do not qualify, nor solely define me in any way.”
A recognized leader on campus, the sophomore nursing major serves on OU’s Muslim Student Association, Lebanese Student Association and African Student Association. She is also a mentor in the Department of Pre-College Programs and an employee at OU’s bookstore.
Along with her campus contributions, Zienab served her community as president of the Muslim Youth of North America-Franklin Mich. Chapter and as a counselor at the Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. In these roles, Zienab mentored elementary school and high school-aged youth, promoting both social and spiritual development.
As a student in Basma El-Bathy’s Introduction to Islam class, Zienab has been, in the instructor’s words, “a brilliant catalyst for a very fertile dialogue.”
El-Bathy adds, “She was quite comfortable at representing herself as a young Muslim American and in her humorous and remarkably open approach shared herself in personal ways, in addition to raising questions, providing examples, challenging and substantiating scholarly views by drawing on her life and those of others whom she knows in her social circle. In a way unique to her, she allowed non-Muslims in our small class to feel comfortable at expressing their views, questions and positions without fear of offending her, in part because she has become friends with almost all of them.”
With wisdom beyond her years, Zienab feels a responsibility to encourage others to seek truth and knowledge.
“To crack open the intellect of those closest to me, my fellow Oakland University students, it is my absolute duty to speak and reflect on my experiences...but spark an ongoing flame that carries its light” throughout campus.
Chanel DanielsOakland University Alumni Association
Keeper of the Dream Scholarship
In many ways, Chanel Daniels is the embodiment of diversity. Her ethnic background is a virtual kaleidoscope of cultures and her life experiences have given her unique insights into longstanding human challenges. These experiences, far from being a hindrance, have given her a sense of purpose and fueled her life’s work.
“As a Bengali, Iraqi, Caucasian, African American and Native American woman raised by a single mother, and now being one myself, I have been exposed to certain prejudices and stereotypes that have existed for decades,” Chanel says. “However, my upbringing has also given me the desire and opportunity to inspire others not to be constricted
by societal limitations.”
Chanel, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history with secondary teaching certification, devotes her time to many campus activities, including serving as a peer mentor in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, student mentor in the Department of Pre-College Programs and as secretary for Student Veterans of Oakland University, which brings together veterans for social and volunteer opportunities. Chanel is a member of the Air National Guard in the U.S. Air Force and embraces her role as an advocate for student veterans.
“My passion is to break stereotypes and encourage others not to accept the judgments our minds present,” she says. “Regardless of obstacles put in front of me, I will continue to pursue an inclusive classroom, military unit and college campus by connecting with various individuals to spread appreciation, rather than toleration, of diversity.”
Jean Ann Miller, director of the Center for Student Activities and Leadership Development, describes Chanel as “a living example of the ideal Oakland University student.”
“She reflects the best in how a passionate student can generously contribute her time, talents and positive attitude to enrich the lives of her peers,” Miller says. “Chanel lives and breathes the concept that being involved and being of service is impactful and that she can and will make a difference in the lives of others at OU, as well as locally and globally once she has graduated from OU.”
Jeffrey Schuett, OU veteran liaison, says Chanel has helped expand outreach efforts to ensure that veterans of all backgrounds are welcomed on campus. “I have been awed and inspired by her consistent devotion to diversity,” Schuett says of Chanel.
Aukury CowartL&L McIntosh Scholarship
Keeper of the Dream Scholarship
“I can only be me,” says Aukury Cowart.
Aukury Cowart sees all human interactions as opportunities to be a positive example for others.
“People are always watching,” he says. “When people see the consistency of my interactions with people across all backgrounds and cultures, I believe that is what has the biggest impact on breaking down cultural and racial barriers.”
The Pontiac native and electrical engineering major is president of OU’s chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and President of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He is also a mentor in the Department of Pre-College Programs, an Apartment Resident Assistant for University Housing and a former Peer Mentor in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives. Without reservation, his mentors all attest to his strong character and work ethic.
“Aukury constantly provides our department with a positive energy that makes him a joy to be around,” says Tiffany Elliott, assistant director of Pre-College programs. “His ability to create an inclusive environment among both our student staff and the students we service is both impressive and imperative to the work we do.”
With an eye toward career development, Aukury is a part of OU’s Chrysler Learning and Innovation Center, an academic center comprised of industry experts, university faculty, scholars and students. The program offers paid internships at companies such as FCA US LLC (formerly Chrysler Group LLC), Schuler Inc. and United States Steel Corporation. Students gain experience working with industry professionals on real-world projects.
Aukury says his bi-racial background and urban upbringing have empowered him to improve relations among people of different cultures. His experiences as an Oakland University student have brought that mission into sharper focus as he strives to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
“Every interaction has the potential to alter the outlook of someone’s day,” he says. “I believe that consistency is key, the tip of the iceberg that leads to more understanding and a more cohesive community.”
Taylor MooreAutoliv Americas
Keeper of the Dream Scholarship
As one of more than 20,500 students on Oakland University’s campus, Taylor Moore realizes how easy it can be to get lost in the crowd. But instead of getting lost, she uses her voice to stand out and make a difference – drawing inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Dr. King is a prime example of how one voice can make a huge difference,” Moore says. “This is why I choose to use mine.”
Majoring in nursing, Moore makes her voice heard through numerous platforms on campus. As vice president of the National Black Nurses Association at Oakland, she works with others to promote enrollment and retention of underrepresented students in the nursing program and help persons of color gain access to quality health services. Through the School of Nursing, she participated in Camp RN, a summer program that teaches middle school students about careers in the nursing profession.
Since 2013, she has served as a resident assistant for University Housing and helped bring together students from diverse backgrounds.
“I have hosted programs that focused on different negative stereotypes and how we as a community can help demolish them,” Moore says. “I also believe in the importance of standing out among the crowd to discuss topics such as race that are often deemed sensitive.”
Calling her an “ambassador for diversity and multiculturalism,” on campus, Graduate Residence Director Hans Kivari recognizes Moore for “giving a voice to those who may not have the courage or ability to speak up for themselves.”
“Taylor consistently sets a great example of how to have conversations which may be seen by some as awkward or difficult,” Kivari says. “She is not afraid to speak up and politely correct a misconception or offer advice when necessary.”
A resident of Pontiac, Moore serves the community by volunteering at Grace Centers of Hope and Gleaners Community Food Bank. April Thomas-Powell, an academic adviser in the School of Nursing, has taken notice of Moore’s high level of engagement on campus and in the community.
“Through her multiple roles on campus and off, Moore personifies diversity,” Thomas-Powell says. “Her charismatic personality enables her to easily form relationships with people regardless of racial or economic divisions.”