Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI)

North Foundation Hall, Room 104
318 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309
(location map)
(248) 370-4404
cmi@oakland.edu

Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m

Keeper of the Dream

Keeper of the Dream

Keynote Speaker

Oakland University will welcome Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor Anthony Anderson to campus as the keynote speaker for its 30th annual Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration. The event will take place on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17, 2022. 

Biography

Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor, Anthony Anderson is the star and executive producer of ABC’s multi-award nominated sitcom “black-ish.” He portrays Andre “Dre” Johnson, a family man who struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white, upper-middle class neighborhood.  The show began its seventh season this fall.

Anderson is currently hosting his sixth season of the ABC game show “To Tell the Truth,” a popular primetime re-imagination of the beloved classic game show of the same name. He is also producing “grown-ish” for Freeform and “mixed-ish” for ABC, both “black-ish” spin offs. Anderson is also executive producing “Road Trippin’” with Rickey Thompson and Denzel Dion which airs on SnapChat.

Anderson appeared in the Emmy award winning pair of ABC live television specials, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience.” He first appeared as Henry Jefferson in “Live in Front of a Studio Audience : Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’”, and then as himself in the second special, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Good Times,” performing the opening song with Patti LaBelle. Anderson is currently developing the film FOOTBALL OR ME, a romantic comedy by AGC Studios, inspired by the Argentinian comedy “Futbol y Yo.”  

Anderson has become familiar to audiences through roles in such prominent films as the Michael Bay blockbuster TRANSFORMERS, Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning feature THE DEPARTED alongside a stellar cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, and the all-star comedy THE BIG YEAR.  Anderson first gained attention as one of Jim Carrey’s sons in ME, MYSELF, AND IRENE and has since appeared in such films as the BARBERSHOP franchise, SCARY MOVIE 3, KANGAROO JACK, EXIT WOUNDS, CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE, TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME, MALIBU’S MOST WANTED, MY BABY’S DADDY, AGENT CODY BANKS 2, HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE, SMALL TOWN CRIME, THE STAR AND the Academy Award nominated FERDINAND. Most recently, Anderson starred in and was the executive producer of Netflix’s film BEATS, alongside Uzo Aduba and newcomer Khalil Everage.

On the small screen, Anderson brought his talent and humor to his own WB sitcom “All About the Andersons” which was loosely based on his life. Anderson also starred in Fox’s “K-Ville” opposite Cole Hauser and had a recurring role in the police-drama television series, “The Shield,” opposite Michael Chiklis and Glenn Close and in NBC’s “Guys with Kids”. He went on to star as Kevin Bernard in “Law & Order.” Anderson has hosted several culinary focused shows on the Food Network including “Eating America, with Anthony Anderson” and “Carnival Cravings with Anthony Anderson,” as well as served as a regular judge on “Iron Chef America." For the past two years, Anderson has hosted “Dear Mama: An Event to Honor Moms,” which is VH1's annual Mother's Day celebration to salute moms everywhere.  In addition, he’s been a frequent guest host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Anderson has received seven consecutive Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series”, two Golden Globe nominations and three Critics Choice nominations for his popular role in “black-ish.” Additionally, in 2021, he won his seventh individual Image Award in the category of “Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series,” adding to his 16 total Image Award nominations in his career. He has been nominated for four Screen Actors Guild awards, BET Awards, and Teen Choice awards as well as one People’s Choice Awards and one Kids’ Choice Awards.  Anderson has also hosted the NAACP Image Awards for the past eight years. In 2020 he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Active in his community as an advocate and philanthropist, Anderson will host his fourth annual Anthony Anderson Celebrity Golf Classic next year, benefiting the American Diabetes Association, Los Angeles Mission and Boys & Girls Club of America.  He also proudly serves on the GOOD+ Foundation’s Fatherhood Leadership Council and was inducted into the Class of 2017 Boys & Girls Club of America National Alumni Hall of Fame.  Anderson has Type 2 diabetes and is an advocate for diabetes awareness and a spokesperson for the “Getting Real About Diabetes” campaign. Anderson has always been a supporter of his hometown, Compton, California.  He has partnered with the City of Compton in holiday food giveaways in the city where they provided food to over 1,000 residents. Last year, he emceed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ground-Breaking Event to support local youths. In the battle against Covid-19, Anderson joined Mayor Garcetti at a South L.A. clinic to urge communities of color to seek COVID-19 testing.  He also co-hosted the “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” special, to support African Americans impacted by coronavirus. And in lieu of participating in the Veteran’s Day Parade due to Covid-19, he co-hosted “The 2020 National Memorial Day Parade: America Stands Tall” television special.

Born in 1970, Anderson pursued his acting career as he continued his education by attending Hollywood High School for the Performing Arts, where he earned first place in the NAACP's ACTSO Awards with his performance of the classic monologue from "The Great White Hope." That performance, along with his dedication to his craft, earned him an arts scholarship to Howard University.

Anderson currently lives in Los Angeles.

About KOD

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 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 one hundred 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.

2022
SPONSORS

30th ANNIVERSARY KEEPER OF THE DREAM SPONSORS

Premier Platinum Reception Sponsor

  • PNC Bank

Event Sponsor

  • Rocket Companies

African American Celebration Month Sponsor

  • Oakland University Credit Union

Benefactor Sponsor

  • Oakland University Alumni Association

Scholarship Sponsors

  • Magna
  • Flagstar Bank
  • Autoliv
  • Willis Towers Watson
  • Lynne A. McIntosh Memorial Scholarship
  • Lynne and Lia McIntosh Scholarship
  • Marshall Family Scholar Foundation

Vision Sponsors

  • Comcast/NBC Universal
  • Adient
  • Oakland University Black Alumni Chapter

Retention Scholarship Sponsors

  • PNC Bank
  • Adient
  • Oakland University Credit Union
  • Oakland University Alumni Association
  • Oakland University Black Alumni Chapter
PAST WINNERS
& PRESENTERS
YEAR
PRESENTER
AWARD RECIPIENTS
2020Lisa Leslie
Three-time WNBA MVP, Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Hall of Famer
Mikal O'Neal
Jennifer Medrano Delacruz
Maya Ford
Raneen Allos
Donovan Hernandez
Zakia Ali-James

Special Recognition:
Isaias Cruz
2019Jeff Johnson
Award-winning journalist and communication specialist
Destinee Rule
Ghazi Ghazi
Flavio Di Stefano
Julia Alexander
Chukwuebuka Unobagha
Benjamin Lane
Gicentroy Henry
Dezirae Robinson
Ernesto Duran
2018Ed Gordon
Emmy Award winning broadcaster
Lakaysha Mitchell
Blake Walton
Kessia Graves
Obadah Asbahi
Hansen Karyakose
Farrah Sitto
Michela Manga
2017Holly Robinson Peete
Actress, author, talk show host, activist and philanthropist
Jacob Semma
Alex Currington
Aditya Tiwari
Daryl Blackburn
Ashley Chillis
Gabriela Saenz
Shayla McCullough
Anders Engnell
2016Levar Burton
Actor, director and author
Christina Root
Carlie Austin
Tasha Tinglan
Myshia Liles-Moultrie
Betira Shahollari
2015Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Award-winning actress and activist 
Joseph Kirma
Zienab Fahs
Chanel Daniels
Aukury Cowart
Taylor Moore 
2014Lee Daniels
Oscar-winning producer and director
Raya Hollis
Paul Marvin
Yen Tran
Daniel Lewis
La'Asia Johnson
2013Daymond John
Shark Tank star and entrepreneur
Steven Wynne
Charlie Lapastora
Bria Ellis
2012Common
Rapper, author, activist
Ben Eveslage
Subha Hanif
Tara Michener
2011Lou Gossett Jr.
Oscar-winning actor
Founder, Eracism Foundation
Emily Tissot
Gerald Son
Rodrina Moore
Aiana Scott
2010Susan L. Taylor
Editor Emeritus, Essence magazine
Founder, National Cares
Mentoring Movement
Chelsea Grimmer
Juquatta Brewer
Melissa DeGrandis
2009Danny Glover
Actor, producer, human rights activist
Norris Chase
Lisa Daily
Jasmine Rudolph
Relando Thompkins
2008Harry Belafonte
Human rights activist and entertainer
Latonia Garrett
Ronée Harvey
Denise Jones
Avery Neale
Yakela Roberson
Jinae Stoudemire
2007Ruby DeeSean Buono
Kwame Everett
Matthew Kelly
Aaron Kochenderfer
Brandon Svenson
Tiffanye Teagarden
2006Former Ambassador Andrew YoungNerissa Brown
Margaret DeGrandis
Kirbionne Fletcher
Michael Lerchenfeldt
2005Coretta Scott KingSheila L. Brooks
Andrew W. Gaines
Kathryn M. Miller
Jameelah M. Muhammad
Ashley K. Seal
2004Daniel G. Mulhern
First Gentleman of Michigan
Lenny Compton
George Davis III
Joi Durant
James Ellout
Sophia Soldana
2003Edsel B. Ford
Ford Motor Company
Crystal D. Allen
Steven D. Townsend
Crystal A. Wilkerson
Sumeera Younis
2002Martin Luther King III
President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Ashli C. Bobo
Rhonda R. Hanna
Joi C. Olden
Diana L. Pochmara

Special Recognition:
Erin Liebner
2001Harold Kutner
Vice-President, Worldwide Purchasing &
North American Operations
General Motors Corporation
Angel D. Guy
David Mackinder
Brian S. Jaye
Kimberly Lavan
Ann R. Lefkowitz
2000Robert N. Cooper
President, Ameritech Michigan
Annie O. Chung
Bonefacio F. De La Rosa
LaShanda P. Evans
Kristin J. Kouba
Razzaaq S. McConner
Aniesha K. Mitchell
Tamarcus D. Southward
Ralph E. Williams, II

Special Recognition:
Mychal C. Thom
1999Dave Bing
Chairman, The Bing Group
Jerry W. Autry, II
Adrienne D. Carter
Ronald L. Howell, Jr.
Shawn R. McLernon
Shaunda N. Scruggs
Natasha P. Vanover
1998Robert J. Eaton
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Chrysler Corporation
Delano Davis
Jermaine Evans
Lisa Gregg
Renique Quick
Alysia Roberson
Doron M. Elliott
Dedra L. McGlory
1997William C. Brooks
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
General Motors Corporation
Carla Sabbagh
Tierra Stamps
1996Father William T. Cunningham
Executive Director, FOCUS: Hope
Bridget Green
Kelly M. Schehr
1995Denise Langford Morris
Judge, Oakland County Circuit Court
Natascha Nunn
Gregory Sharp, Jr.
1994Conrad Mallett, Jr.
Associate Justice, Michigan Supreme Court
 
1993Dennis Archer
then mayoral candidate, City of Detroit
Alicia Cunningham-Sampson
Lisa McRipley
2021
Scholarship
Winners
Adriana Colin-Diaz

Adriana Colin-Diaz was born in a city called Toluca and raised in a small Mexican town called Uruapan. Her life didn’t extend beyond the borders of her hometown. Her knowledge of the world came from stories from her ancestors and their struggles. When she was five, her family made a leap of faith, moving to Michigan, but the strife didn’t end there. Despite the hardships, Adriana was able to become the first fully American-educated member of her family.

“The sacrifices made by everyone around me,” says Adriana, “fueled the pursuit of my dreams. I work hard and am full of grit. I will never do less than everything I can, for everything I do.”

Once on Oakland campus, Adriana was looking for ways to embrace her culture and become an advocate for diversity, leading her to Undergraduate Admissions. Right away, her efforts didn’t go unnoticed. She was always the first to volunteer for extra tasks, was able to speak with Mexican families with first-generation children like her and provided tours in Spanish for those families. And always with a smile on her face.

“From the moment we met her,” says Mae Dennis, visit coordinator for the office of Undergraduate Admissions,” we noticed she was quite a force. When others stayed quiet, she would speak from the heart. When she speaks, people listen and her words are profound.”

Adriana jumps at any chance to help others. When Oakland’s Alternative Spring Break offered a trip to Puerto Rico to aid those affected by Hurricane Maria, she didn’t hesitate to get involved. Despite being the youngest of 18 to go, she was immediately recognized as a leader. She wasn’t afraid to take charge or share her voice. She was the lone Spanish speaker on the trip, working as translator between her group and the people of Puerto Rico. She spent her time in soup kitchens, schools and on the beach cleaning up debris.

“Adriana really excelled at being an advocate from the people of Puerto Rico,” says Jeremey Heinlein, site leader for Alternative Spring Break, “She spent much of the trip learning more about the Culture of Puerto Rico and helping advocate and encourage support for the citizens on the island.”

Advocating and encouraging support, that seems to be at the core of Adriana. She’s been a mentor for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, helping low-income Hispanic students with applications, essays and letters of recommendations to apply to the top universities across the country. She also created the Little Esterllitas program, providing tutoring for elementary and high school students, a program that couldn’t be slowed by a pandemic. They’ve expanded, providing virtual tutoring, benefitting both the students and their families, taking some pressure off of their parents.

“I have had around 150 students in the fall of 2019,” says Andrea Beth Wenz, “ I can unequivocally say she was the strongest. Adriana demonstrates intellectual excellence, unflagging diligence, leadership and compassion for those around her.”


Alaya Freeman

acial injustice has plagued this country for as long as Alaya Freeman can remember, but none hit harder than the loss of Trayvon Martin. Hearing about the tragedy made Alaya experience a feeling she hadn’t felt before: hopelessness. A feeling that would continue as time went on as countless names continue to get swept under the rug. A feeling that would push her to make change.

“Ever since my parents sat down to talk with me about how minorities are born with a disadvantage that we do not deserve,” says Alaya, “I carried these feelings with me like a weight over the years. I decided to do something about it. I needed to do something that would make an impact on a larger scale.”

During the summer of her sophomore year at Oakland University, Alaya took a big step in that direction. She orchestrated a fundraiser, creating shirts featuring the names of those lives lost to racial injustice, Botham Jean, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to name a few, to benefit the Black Lives Matter movement. She created the shirts herself, got the word out on her own, helping raise awareness to the issues that caused her pain. All proceeds from the fundraiser went to the National Police Accountability Project, a non-profit that protects the civil rights for everyone.

“Alaya is driven and dedicated,” says Melissa St. Pierre, a special lecturer in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, “to use her skills and her voice to make contributions to the community to better it and drive progress. She is someone that I hope my own daughter will emulate. I admire her.”

Alaya’s reach extends far beyond racial injustice. She’s assisted with OU’s Day of Service and Kettering University’s Volunteer Day. She’s a Telefund ambassador, using her excellent decision-making, writing and verbal communication skills to have a positive impact on the University.

“Alaya has been a positive presence at work,” says Christina Moss, phonathon manager, “Her positivity, smile and attitude is contagious, professional and it keeps our teams moral high.”

She’s played a role with Care House, a non-profit that helps child abuse victims, providing them with care and necessary needs. During the holiday seasons she created holiday experiences for families in need in Pontiac, helping plan and construct the resources needed for the project. She’s joined OU’s LOVE naturally group, encouraging students to embrace their features that make them unique.

“It has been nothing short of a pleasure to see how much Alaya’s passions have grown over the past year,” says Christina Radowick, an academic advisor for the First Year Advising Center, “Combined with her strong investment in her own education, I know that she will continue to grow into an unstoppable force.”


Ja'Laaiyah Gordon

When Ja’Laaiyah Gordon arrived on Oakland University’s campus, she quickly realized that she was at a predominantly white institution, but she didn’t let that isolate her. Through many avenues offered by the university, she was able to find a path to belonging and leadership. Driven by the pain she feels while browsing social media and watching the news, Ja’Laaiyah felt called to make a difference any way possible.

“I strive to interact with everyone that I come in contact with kindness and a smile,” says Ja’Laaiyah, “ I am here to listen with compassion and help in any way that I can by encouraging others and gently pushing them to go a step further and be positive influences.”

Ja’Laaiyah is currently pursuing a marketing major and minor in dance at Oakland.. She was behind experience-wise when she took her first class, but through her hard work and dedication, she had caught up to the other, more experienced dancers within months. She’s since choreographed her own routines and was able to perform an African dance on the main stage of Varner Hall. She actively worked with other students and faculty to bring an understanding of the roots of the performance.

“Ja’Laaiyah is an exemplary student,” says Elizabeth Kattner, an associate professor of dance, “she greatly adds to our department due to her outstanding character and strong work ethic.”

Through dance, Ja’Laayiah has been able to create other opportunities for herself. She’s been able to secure a permanent role as a GroupX instructor at OU’s Recreation and Wellness Center. She is one of the few African American instructors and the lone student instructors. She uses this platform to encourage self care and provides stress relief to students, faculty and community members. She encourages everyone who takes her classes to participate with a smile on their face and hopes they leave refreshed, both physically and mentally.

“Ja’Laaiyah has proved to be a fantastic leader,” says Hailey Forbes, coordinator of fitness programs at RecWell, “I’ve been able to count on her timeliness, spirit and creativity and has shown charisma and leadership through interacting with those in her classes. She continues to shine.”

For the second straight year, Ja’Laaiyah will be a CORE Ambassador at the Center for Multicultural Initiatives. She is committed to helping incoming students have a smooth transition into college. Her mentees are always asking about how they can improve their roles on campus. She helps them prepare and pushes them to dream big and encourages them to work hard for what they believe in.

“Ja’Laaiyah has exhibited perseverance and creativity in pursuit of achieving her goals,” says Gregory A. Patterson, the dance department chair, “I know she has clear goals for her future and the discipline she demonstrates gives me enormous confidence that she’ll achieve them.”


LaCaya Smith

For the past four years at Oakland University, LaCaya Smith has taken advantage of every opportunity to improve the community on campus. Her reach at Oakland is widespread, but her mission is consistent: make Oakland a more diverse and inclusive community. She’s seen first hand how having a strong core of people supporting you can springboard you to do great things.

“I have experienced the importance of having a support system,” says LaCaya, “and through my work and experiences, I have created lifetime relationships and strong bonds with others.”

An elementary education and early childhood development major, LaCaya has thrived in her role with children. She is an energetic, creative and attentive teacher, developing her lessons based on what’s best for her students. She worked as an academic peer mentor for the Elementary Education Special Interests Floor, tutoring students. When students weren’t showing up for tutoring, instead of getting frustrated, she went above and beyond to get students more engaged, creating a safe space for open dialogue and new ways to interact with one another.

“LaCaya has a true passion for education,” says Sarah. J. Robinson, Coordinator for Residential Student Success, “which is apparent in how she interacts with other individuals, lending a listening ear or taking extra time to tutor students in need. She puts her heart and soul into everything.”

LaCaya first got involved with the Center of Multicultural Initiatives (CMI) as part of the Collectively Oakland Retains Everyone CORE program. She was introduced to people that look like her and are striving for the same goals, the same people that she advocated for and ensures that they are adequately represented on campus. She attends weekly meetings with the Circle of Sisterhood, building bonds with other strong women.

“Caya is not only a capable and intelligent young woman,” says Denis R. Thompkins-Jones, retention coordinator for CMI, “she’s incredibly kind and compassionate. She recognizes the importance of education and growth both within and outside the classroom and this extends to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Working as a parent and family ambassador for Orientation and New Student Programs, LaCaya is able to welcome new students and families, ensuring they are in a diverse and inclusive environment that will allow them to grow. She is also the executive board secretary of Abstract Artistry, an organization that brings men and women together through different forms of visual, performing and applied arts.

“All of LaCaya’s experiences will contribute to her ongoing development as a young woman,” says Dr. Julie Ricks-Doneen, associate professor of Human Development and Child Studies, “who will have an impact on the world around her. I feel energized by the impact she’ll have on children, families, and communities as she continues her journey as an educator.”


Mariama Toure

Mariama Toure spent fifteen years of her life in West Africa. In America, she spent her high school years in a predominately black high school before coming to Oakland University. She realized very early, as a black woman and a Guinean American, she was in a unique spot to represent her culture and improve the racial misunderstandings on campus. She has used her platform to make change, to improve interracial realtionships.

“I always make sure to speak from experience,” says Mariama, “not to try and represent an entire continent. I try to use my two ears and one mouth, listening twice as much and then speaking when my perspective is helpful.”

An industrial systems engineering major, Mariama recognizes that she comes from a much different background from her peers. That hasn’t slowed, but rather motivated her. With a fiery focus, she has thrived as a woman in STEM. Instead of being an outlier based on her heritage and skin color, she has paved a new path, being unique due to her skillset and hardwork.

“Her attention to detail,” says Dr. Richard Olawoyin, associate professor for the School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS), “insightfulness, well-developed intellectual faculty, proficiency in writing, her displays of admirable judgement and her enthusiasm towards learning and interest in innovation research sets her apart from others.”

During her time at Oakland University, Mariama has proven to be a strong leader and takes advantage of every opportunity to help others. She’s a member of National Society of Black Engineers and Society of Women Engineers, supporting their causes and helping break down barriers. During a SECS Career Services virtual event, Mariama answered students questions in chat, without being asked.

“Her natural leadership skills are evident and something I am in awe of,” says Laura Kroger, career consultant for SECS. “I am impressed with her dedication to campus activities and her passion for helping others and engineering.”

Nothing has been able to slow Mariama, she fights through adversity and takes every challenge head on, thanks to her determination and strong supporting cast she has created through the Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI). She is a Collectively Oakland Retains Everyone (CORE) ambassador, part of the Circle of Sisterhood and the CMI’s Women Retreat. These roles have helped her grow as a leader, intellectual and person, giving her the avenues to make change in the world.

“Mariama proves in every aspect,” says Christopher A. Hunter, CORE program director for the Center of Multicultural initiatives, “that every woman is fit to lead and impact the vehicles that drive a society by pursuing her dreams. She is determined to bring justice and equality for women and people of color.”


Maryam Nissan

A chaldean immigrant, Maryam Nissan had her eyes opened at Oakland University. It wasn’t until she got to campus that she realized the full impact being an immigrant had on her life and others like her. Once on OU’s campus, she jumped at the chance to get involved with the Center for Multicultural Initiatives. Through her work with CMI and other students involved, she got a full scope of the injustices that other minorities faced.

“By attending cultural and educational events, I was able to gain insight regarding other marginalized groups,” says Maryam, “and how they struggled with their experiences. Through that, I learned the importance of social justice and how the lack of diversity affects us.”

As a human resource development major, one of the first classes Maryam took at OU was Cultural Diversity in the Workplace. Over the course of the class, the passion for advocacy exploded. She explored the positive impacts having a diverse workforce has on companies in a research paper. That paper was later accepted for peer review and was to be presented at the North American Management Society conference.

“She is always prepared,” says Dr. Chaunda L. Scott, an associate professor for Organizational Leadership, and Maryam’s Cultural and Diversity in the Workplace professor. “She expressed how important it is for college students today to learn about all forms of diversity because we live in a diverse world.”

Maryam remains involved with CMI. When she first transferred to Oakland University, she was awarded the Oakland University Trustee Academic Success (OUTAS) Scholarship and is a member of the Circle of Sisterhood. As a CMI peer mentor, she’s proven to be an exceptional, charismatic and compassionate leader. She connects with students from all different walks of life and goes above and beyond to ensure they continue to succeed.

“Maryam has been able to use her voice to share knowledge and experiences to shed light to educate others,” says Denise R. Thompkins-Jones, retention coordinator for CMI. “She strives to to identify and break down biases.”

Her involvement on campus and in the community expands beyond CMI. She was named the president of The Feminists at OU. Maryam will be a student speaker at the Diverse Voice Conference in 2021. She is a student assistant for the School of Education and Human Services (SEHS), passing on the knowledge of what she’s learned through CMI through training sessions to improve mentorship skills.

“Maryam is an inspiration to work with and will continue to be a student leader at Oakland University,” says Roberta Rea, the director of advising for SEHS and Maryam’s supervisor. “She embodies the characteristics of a student envisioned when the Keeper of the Dream award was established.”


Rachel Jackson

Growing up, Rachel Jackson never felt comfortable in her own skin, constantly being told she was “too white” by her back peers, or “too black” for her white peers. There was a constant back and forth between cultures, trying to pull her in each direction. She was discouraged and frustrated by the cookie-cutter expectation of how races should act. During this internal battle, Rachel was seeking the gray area.

“Coming to Oakland University was culture shock, but not how I expected it,” says Rachel, “Instead of seeing people act a certain way based on the perceptions of their race, ethnicity, or cultural background, I finally saw a middle ground.”

At Oakland, Rachel was blown away at how people defined expectations and lived as they wanted. It was something that she wanted to become a part of, and was able to do so as an orientation group leader (OGL). She worked to encourage incoming freshmen to pursue their own thoughts, opinions, personalities and interests, showing them that there is more than one definition of positive representation.

“Rachel is strong, dependable and motivated,” says Kiley M. Kallenberger, coordinator for Orientation and New Student Programs, “She’s a great leader and has made lasting impressions on new students having a difficult time in the transitional process.”

Rachel works closely with the School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) in her HTech mentor role. She works with transfer students of diverse and non-traditional backgrounds, providing them with guidance and academic support. She meets with her students at least once a week, getting updates and ensuring that their transition is going smoothly.

“She is an engaged community member,” says Yoel Joa, assistant director for residence life for University Housing, “seeking to promote ideals related to inclusion, connectedness and diversity. Without students like Rachel, who care for other members of the OU community, these students would have a hard time navigating and achieving academic success.”

Her roles on campus don’t end there. She’s a resident assistant for Vandenberg Hall, a success coach for the First Year Advising Center and a CMI CORE ambassador. In all of those roles, her goal is helping others, from all walks of life, feel accepted and comfortable and pushes them to be great inside and outside of the classroom. She volunteers at the Oakland University Food Pantry and is the vice president of the Association of Black Students.

“Rachel is a student who continues to thrive and show her dedication to others,”says Bianca Bryant, assistant director of Outreach for the SECS, “she is a leader and a fabulous member of the OU team. She is always optimistic, despite trying times and has a wonderful ability to look on the bright side, no matter what.”


Teyler Thompkins

Don’t let Teyler Thompkins’ quiet and humble demeanor fool you. She is a driven and determined individual who will do whatever it takes to get things done. Her impact on Oakland University’s campus has been historic, impassioned and impressive. While pursuing a degree in communications, she has been an advocate for minority equality, black owned businesses and representation of minority groups on Oakland University’s campus.One of her biggest goals was to transform Homecoming.

“When I was in high school, I got the opportunity to visit and participate in several different Historically Black Colleges and Universities Homecomings,” says Teyler, “I wanted to capture the sensations and the spectacle of a HBCU’s Homecoming and bring it to Oakland.”

She was presented with the opportunity to have an impact on Homecoming from the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), who reached out to WXOU 88.3 FM, Oakland University’s on-campus radio station, asking for ideas for Homecoming. Teyler reached out to her high school’s marching band, and communicated with OSI to get them on campus to perform. During Homecoming Weekend, the marching band marched through the Oakland Center, catching the attention of students, staff and visitors.

“She is an amazing young woman,” says Jean Ann Miller, senior director for OSI, “with an unstoppable future before her. She leads with confidence, conviction and composure, getting things done effectively, efficiently and without fanfare.”

When Teyler first arrived on campus, she immediately got involved with WXOU. She started as a volunteer DJ, creating weekly radio shows, and worked her way up the ladder. First, she was promoted to the director of social media before being named the assistant program director. After a year in that role, she was named general manager of the radio station. She is the first African American woman to hold that title. She is working to bring improvements and strengthen the reach of the station in her new position.

“Teyler has demonstrated she is able to communicate professionally,” says Marty Shafer, WXOU advisor, “delegate tasks to her employees, promote a collaborative work environment and has a future vision for the station.”

Using her platform at the radio station, Teyler has continuously highlighted black entrepreneurs. She planned and facilitated a Black Business Mixer alongside other minority student organizations for the 2020 African American Celebration Month (AACM). She also pushed to increase student engagement for the election, highlighting the importance voter registration and participation among her peers.

“Teyler is persistent in her efforts to seek out the campus community partnerships,” says Lawrence Young, chairperson and Teyler’s point of contact for AACM, “to enhance awareness of programming that centers black narratives. She uses her platform to provide education about the impact voting has on matters that significantly impact underrepresented groups.”


Niajah Hood

For her two years on Oakland University’s campus, Niajah Hood has made it a point to have a positive impact on campus and the surrounding community. The linguistics major is also minoring in teaching English as a second language (TESL). Through her work with the Center for Multicultural Initiatives (SMI) and TESL, she has gained a new understanding of how privileged she has been to have her courses be taught in her first language.

“These past two years at Oakland,” says Niajah, “have been the most eye-opening, self growing and culturally tasteful years that I’ve ever had. Choosing Oakland has been the best choice, it’s allowed me to impact my community and will continue to do so.”

In the classroom, Niajah is always one of the first to ask questions, creating an open dialogue for herself and her classmates. Her opinions and voice are always creating fruitful, healthy discussions that greatly improve the class experience. As part of her TESL, she will be involved with the Hispanic Outreach Program in Pontiac, teaching an English Second Language course.

“I have no doubt that her students will benefit,” says Sam Rosenthall, an associate professor for the Linguistics department and Niajah’s professor for two courses. “The students will be taught by an instructor with an understanding of cultural sensitivity. She serves as a model for students we place in this program.”

Through her roles as a resident assistant and CMI CORE ambassador, Naijah has received Student, Administration, and Faculty for Equality (SAFE) training and CMI social awareness training. These training sessions have given her a unique perspective and understanding of social identities, privilege, LGBTQIA terminologies and social justice, paving new ways for her to have a positive impact on others.

“She participates in on-campus activities that focus on the interracial and multicultural issues others face,” says Rebecca H. Gaydos, a special instructor and ESL coordinator, “She enjoys getting to know people from different backgrounds and cultures to expand her worldview and perspective.”

Niajah is a member of OU’s hip-hop dance team, Intrigue, who performed at CMI’s annual Welcome Cookout. Between dance, her roles with CMI and teaching at the Hispanic Outreach Program, Niajah doesn’t have much downtown, but that doesn’t stop her from volunteering what little free time she has to helping others. She also meets with Oakland University’s international students, providing ESL teachings.

“Niajah is dedicated to enriching diversity and race relations in our community,” says Daniel Brengel, a lecturer for the Department for Linguistics, “She volunteers her personal time to meet with international students, practicing conversations, help with homework and familiarize students with campus life.”