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
Wednesdays with extended hours: 8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Keeper of the Dream

Keeper of the Dream

Apply

Are you a student leader? Have you contributed to breaking down racial and cultural stereotypes? Have you volunteered or made a difference at OU? If so, you might be eligible to apply for the Keeper of the Dream Award. Established in 1993, KOD recognizes undergraduate students who contribute to interracial understanding and good will.

Awards range from $2,500 to $5,000 and are available to students who have demonstrated strong citizenship, scholarship and leadership in breaking down cultural stereotypes and in promoting interracial understanding. The awards are presented publicly each year at the annual Keeper of the Dream Celebration. Scholarship awards will be distributed and divided evenly during the fall and winter terms.

Nominees must possess all of the following attributes:

• Current cumulative grade-point average of 3.0
• Demonstrated campus involvement
• Record of responsible citizenship
• Enrollment at Oakland University in a minimum of 12 credits each term for fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters (8 credits each semester for graduate students)

To nominate a student for the Keeper of the Dream Award, please click hereAll nominations are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, September 27, 2019.

To apply for the Keeper of the Dream Award, please follow the below instructions. All applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 18, 2019.

Apply for the Keeper of the Dream Award
Applicants must possess all of the following attributes:

• Current cumulative grade-point average of 3.0
• Demonstrated campus involvement
• Record of responsible citizenship
• Enrollment at Oakland University in a minimum of 12 credits each term for fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters (8 credits each semester for graduate students)

Your resume should highlight your involvement and leadership in working to promote racial understanding and to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes at Oakland University.

Your essay should be 500 words or less and describe how you have made a positive impact on improving interracial understanding within the Oakland University community. 

Please include three verifiable letters of nomination or support from Oakland University faculty or professional staff who can address your work at Oakland University on interracial/multicultural issues.

Apply Now Here

For additional information, please contact the Center for Multicultural Initiatives.
ABOUT
KOD

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 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.

PAST WINNERS
& PRESENTERS
YEAR
PRESENTER
AWARD RECIPIENTS
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
2019
Scholarship
Winners
DESTINEE RULE
While in high school, Destinee Rule moved from the west suburbs of Chicago to a small, rural town outside of Kalamazoo. She remembers being in a state of “culture shock,” as she encountered people from different backgrounds. This experience led her to become an advocate for diversity and inclusion. When she came to OU, the political science major found numerous ways to pursue her interest in social activism,particularly in regard to gender inclusive housing.

“I was upset that this campus reduced gender inclusive housing down to a checkbox,” she said. “This passion gave me a pathway into supporting the Gender and Sexuality Center by participating as a panelist to educate staff on how to support LGBT+ students.”

Grace Wojcik, coordinator of OU’s Gender and Sexuality Center, found Rule to be “solution-oriented, professional and determined.”

“She is able to bring much-needed student perspective to conversations with high-level administrators, with the aim of pushing Oakland University to be better and aim higher in its pursuit to be a truly inclusive campus for all,” Wojcik says.

Along with her work in support of the Gender and Sexuality Center, Rule has served as a peer mentor for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, a parent ambassador for Orientation and New Student Programs, a success coach for the First Year Advising Center, and as Diversity and Inclusion director for the Oakland University Student Congress.

She contributes to the surrounding community through her role as philanthropy chair of OU’s Gamma Phi Beta-Delta Omega sorority. In this capacity, she has planned fundraising events to benefit Grace Centers of Hope and HAVEN in Pontiac, as well as for Girls on the Run International, a non-profit program that works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles.

“What makes Destinee still more impressive is her insistence to be an ally of disregarded communities that she, strictly speaking, does not belong to,” says Alan Epstein, special instructor of political science. “She once explained to me that to fully liberate African Americans, it is important to be supportive of all the identities that they possess.” Reflecting on her past, Rule understands how her experiences have made her the person she is today.

“Working with a multitude of students and staff has shown me that the young black girl from the west suburbs of Chicago was not culture shocked,” she says. “She was just being introduced to a number of new identities and communities and how to support them.”
GHAZI GHAZI
Since emigrating from Iraq, Ghazi Ghazi has immersed himself in a variety of cultures and helped other immigrants find their footing in the U.S. During his freshman year, the international relations major helped found OU’s Arab-American Student Association, which is devoted to increasing cultural awareness and inclusion among the Arab-American student population.

Dunya Mikhail, special lecturer of Arabic points out that Ghazi took all four courses the university offers in Arabic language and has consistently shown an enthusiastic desire to explore Arabic language and culture.

“Ghazi doesn’t stop impressing me with his awareness of new books and discoveries and with his foreign language skills,” she says. “I see and teach many students every year, and Ghazi is among the top students who stay in mind due to his exceptional dedication, creative curiosity towards foreign languages and people, and kind, positive attitude.”

Along with his academic achievements, Ghazi has taken part in various volunteer activities, working with the E’rootha Youth Refugee Mentoring Program, where he tutored refugee students, and with KEYS Grace Academy, a school where many students are war refugees from the Middle East.

“Getting to have a positive impact on these students meant the world to me,” he says. “Especially since I was in their shoes just some years ago.”

Ghazi is also involved in Oakland’s CAIR Program, which pairs American students with international students to learn more about each other’s cultures and customs. Through the program, he’s interacted with students from Sri Lanka, China, and Saudi Arabia. He was among a select group of students chosen as fellows for PEN America at OU, an immigration storytelling project. When he became legislative affairs director for OU’s Student Congress, he was tasked with increasing civic engagement of students by coordinating voter registration drives and other events.

“I have made it a priority to register as many students on OU’s campus as possible because voting is not only a right, but a privilege that not many in other countries get to have,” said Ghazi. “I want to encourage students to go out and vote for the change they want to see in their communities, regardless of political ideology.”

Dave Dulio, political science professor and director of OU’s Center for Civic Engagement, says Ghazi’s efforts have made a positive impact on diversity and civic-mindedness on campus. “He played a crucial role in organizing a visit by former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed to campus,” Dulio explains. “It is a great civic engagement opportunity for the campus and is also tied to celebrating diversity.”
FLAVIO DI STEFANO
Whether he’s organizing a trip to downtown Detroit for Hispanic Celebration Month, putting together an authentic Quinceañera for International Night, or planning a Diwali event for the Hindu Festival of Lights, Flavio Di Stefano does all he can to promote a culture of dignity and acceptance.

As a double major in international relations and French Language and Literature, he strives for academic excellence while making positive contributions to society. He has served as a peer mentor for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives and the Gender and Sexuality Center, supporting the academic, social and personal growth of a diverse group of students.

“Through my peer mentoring positions, I am able to support students throughout their college career and watch them grow into successful leaders,” he says.

He’s also a member of OU’s Alpha Lambda Delta chapter, which recognizes academic excellence of first-year students, and Nu Omega, the university’s chapter of the National Political Science Honor Society. He’s served as secretary and treasurer of the French Club and drawn praise from professors, such as Rebecca Josephy, who notes his ability to “see and understand nuances in literature and to discuss difficult questions with openness, intelligence and empathy.”

“The texts we study in class often deal with difficult subject matters, from racial inequality, to gender disparity, to deep-seated cultural biases,” said Josephy, an assistant professor of French. “Flavio’s comments are insightful, and he demonstrates a keen sense of social awareness and justice.”

Grace Wojcik, coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center, calls Di Stefano “a dedicated, studious, justice-oriented leader” who took the initiative in re-launching Transcend at OU, a student organization that provides a supportive space for transgender and gender-expansive students.

“He was instrumental in leading the executive board team through the student organization approval process and exhibited understanding and professionalism during moments of intragroup tension,” she says.

In his role as diversity director for the Student Program Board, he has collaborated with the Gender and Sexuality Center and other campus organizations on events, including a Trans Day of Remembrance to honor lives lost as a result of anti-transgender violence.

“My passion and work ethic are what drive the work I do at Oakland every day,” Di Stefano says. “I will continue to devote my time to ensure that every student understands the importance of a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment.”
JULIA ALEXANDER
Growing up the child of immigrants, in a single-parent home, within a largely well-to-do community, Julia Alexander remembers struggling to fit in. Now, that struggle is helping her stand out in the best ways.

“I was constantly trying to keep up with my peers academically and socially without the resources or opportunities they had,” she says. “This led to my passion for activism and becoming heavily invested in my community.”

The political science major has taken on numerous roles to make a difference at Oakland and beyond. These include serving as associate chairwoman of the Student Activities Funding Board and as a peer mentor for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives. As a legislator on OU’s Student Congress, Alexander serves on committees focused on legislative affairs, campus health, and diversity and inclusion.

“I strive to be as empathetic as possible in order to understand the feelings of those around me in a constructive, positive way,” she says. “A world full of empathy is not tolerant, but accepting, and that is what I attempt to create in my daily life.” Mayra Schmalzried, a special lecturer of Spanish, recognized Alexander for her strong leadership skills and commitment to open-mindedness.

“Spanish classes focus not only on the language itself, but on the cultures and societies surrounding it,” Schmalzried says. “Julia’s passion for furthering interracial and gender equality, and dedication to promoting a wide variety of causes was instrumental in broadening the thought processes of many of her fellow students.”

Alexander also made an impression during a data analysis class she took with Matthew Fails, associate professor of political science. The class involved a service learning project in collaboration with Oakland County Parks and Recreation. Students analyzed a recent countywide representative survey to better understand patterns of community usage of the parks and recreation facilities.

“Julia and her group provided objective statistical evidence that the lack of signage in languages other than English and a general sense that some community members did not feel welcome in the parks were the most important barriers preventing citizens from attending,” says Fails. He also noted that Alexander took the lead in presenting these findings to members of the Parks and Recreation staff.

“I raise this example not just to demonstrate Julia’s skills, but also to demonstrate that she is a person who is committed to putting her beliefs into action,” he says. “I can think of no quality more central to the Keeper of the Dream Award than this.”
CHUKWUEBUKA UNOBAGHA
What’s in a name? Quite a bit, if you ask Chukwuebuka Unobagha. “As a kid – and even sometimes as an adult – I was made fun of for my name and ethnicity, and have accumulated many nicknames throughout the years, both derogatory and friendly,” says Unobagha, a Saginaw resident and first-generation Nigerian-American.

Though he often goes by “Ebuka” for short, he says he made the decision to have his full name displayed on his nametag as an affirmation of his identity and background. “It allowed me to feel more confident in having people not brush off pronouncing it, but actively working on saying my full name,” he says. “This change has helped me when it comes to interacting with people. What I have experienced in my own life can not only help others learn about different cultures, but it can also help them feel comfortable in their own skin.”

Unobagha, a clinical diagnostic studies major, is known for going above and beyond to share his knowledge and experience with others. He works as a senior academic peer mentor, providing tutoring services to campus residents and training other academic peer mentors to do the same.

He’s also served as a math teaching assistant for OU’s CORE Summer Bridge Program, which helps incoming freshmen from underrepresented backgrounds prepare for the academic and social challenges of college.

According to Michelle Applebee, assistant director for residential student success, Ebuka’s willingness to share his personal journey has been incredibly impactful to those around him. She notes that when he shares his personal experiences with others that “there is no anger, no shame, no judgment of others; just a genuine willingness to educate and inform those who have not lived the same life.”

Sarah J. Robinson, coordinator for residential student success, calls Unobagha “a scholar, leader and responsible citizen.”

“He has helped many students cope with the transition to college and assisted them in getting involved on campus,” she says.

Unobagha has participated in several service opportunities, including volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank to support families in Detroit and taking part in OU’s Make a Difference Day, helping clean up homes. He also assists with campus recycling efforts as part of OU’s Sustaining Our Planet Earth program.
BENJAMIN LANE
Benjamin Lane describes himself as an “advocate for inclusion” who is never afraid to “go against the grain.” “I want to encourage students to step out of societal comfort zones and be who they want to be, instead of who others believe they should be,” he says.

One way that Lane promotes an inclusive campus is through his work as an orientation assistant for OU’s Office of Orientation and New Student Programs (ONSP). In this role, he trains new orientation group leaders to guide new students through the orientation process.

“My commitment to ONSP has allowed me to show new students that this is a campus that anyone can call home,” says Lane, a communication major from Novi. “During this training, it is necessary to instill ideals of equality and acceptance in each of our student leaders.”

Lane also serves as a peer mentor for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, a position that allows him to positively impact the lives of freshman and sophomore students from underrepresented backgrounds. Having received Oakland University’s Trustee Academic Success (OUTAS) Scholarship, which is given to high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds, Lane is uniquely positioned to help these students chart a path to success.

He’s also made his presence felt in the classroom by helping students engage issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and class. L. Bailey McDaniel, an associate professor of English, took note of Lane’s impact in her Literature of Ethnic America class. “When cautious silence could have been the norm for fear of saying the wrong thing,” she says, “Lane helped cultivate an atmosphere of open dialogue.”

“Ben goes above and beyond to convey the importance of understanding,” she says. “This in turn encourages a higher level of respect for differing viewpoints during difficult conversations, and forces those that he interacts with to challenge their own views in a healthy and productive manner.” Nick Desrochers, assistant director for assignments and summer conferences, recognized Lane for his “unique ability to unite diverse groups of students with love, support and empowerment.”

He says, “While most would opt out of participating in discussions that would be deemed socially uncomfortable, Ben has the gift of making these types of discussion accessible. He provides the type of out-of-classroom learning that organically breaks down barriers to bring people together.”
GICENTROY HENRY III
Empathy. Selflessness. Compassion. Goodwill. These are among the most admirable human virtues, and they have all been attributed to Gicentroy “Troy” Henry III by people who have crossed his path.

Henry exemplifies these qualities in his roles as a COR Ambassador for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, as co-host of a WXOU campus radio show, and in his interaction with classmates. Rebecca Mercado Jones, an assistant professor who teaches courses focused on critical and cultural communication, describes Henry as “purposeful and thoughtful.”

“He always weighs his words before he uses them,” she says. “This is evident in a class like mine that often explores sensitive issues; such as race, class, ability and gender.” VaNessa Thompson, CORE program coordinator, recalls a time when Henry stood up for a student who espoused differing political beliefs during a class discussion.

“The other students immediately disagreed and the class became very heated,” she says. “Troy then spoke up and defended the student. He didn’t have to do that, but he understood the importance of speaking up for people, regardless of their individual views.”

Henry, a political science major, is also a member of the Awkward Pause Theatre Troupe, whose mission is to provoke thought and inspire social change.

“Through excelling in my major and by being an example of what other black students can do, it serves as a form of empowerment,” he says. “I’ve often worked with and learned from people of many different backgrounds, helping to create a bridge over racial relations where all involved can understand better.”

The campus radio show he co-hosts serves as a platform for insightful commentary on social and cultural issues. “It’s a creative space for our listeners to be encouraged throughout the school year,” he says. “I feel we can set an example that being well-rounded and in touch with the community beyond one’s own race opens the door to even greater opportunities to inspire people.”
DEZIRAE ROBINSON
Dezirae Robinson admits to feeling frustrated at seeing few people of color in her chosen career field. But instead of letting these feelings bring her down, the Doctor of Physical Therapy student uses them as motivation to achieve her goals and set a positive example for others.

“Though I get discouraged, I continue my journey to become a physical therapist, an entrepreneur, an author, and whatever else I dream of, so that those who come after me have someone they can look to for guidance,” she said. “I hope that other black students and students of color can envision the goals we can achieve and the positions we can hold.”

At Oakland, Robinson has held a variety of leadership positions, including First Vice President of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated - Nu Nu Chapter and Leadership Chair of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity - Eta Eta Chapter. She has organized events, such as putting up Christmas lights around Grace Centers of Hope, encouraging members of both organizations to participate.

“I introduced the predominantly black organizations at Oakland to the benefits of Phi Sigma Pi, a predominantly white organization, and vice versa,” she says. “I was able to share my experiences with members of both organizations, increasing their understanding of each other.”

Robinson is a member of the Black Graduate Student Association and Graduate Student Physical Therapy Association. She formerly served as a peer mentor and college coach for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, as well as a program assistant and admissions ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Along with her campus involvement, Robinson has gained experience in the physical therapy field by working as a physical therapist technician at Specialists in Rehabilitation Medicine, P.C. Robinson’s drive to succeed caught the eye of Kristine Thompson, special instructor of physical therapy and chair of Human Movement Science. Thompson recalled, “As we communicated over several years prior to her applying to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Dezirae consistently and with great determination pursued opportunities to develop her leadership skills, to get experience in the field of physical therapy, to maintain good grades and at the same time to support and serve her fellow students.”

For Michelle Southward, director of academic advising and student services, Dezirae’s persistence is a testament to the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “If you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving forward.” Dezirae has not conceded,” Southward says, “nor has she allowed adversity to overshadow her goals.”
ERNESTO DURAN-GUTIERREZ
“It’s human nature to stick to what we know,” says Ernesto Duran-Gutierrez, “but the most valuable opportunities lay right beyond our comfort zone.”

As a dance major and Honors College member, Duran- Gutierrez has made it his mission to become the best version of himself and serve his community. Along with being a dance teacher in Oakland County and in his hometown of Saginaw, he is President of OU’s D.A.N.C.E.R.S. student organization and a member of the Student Advisory Group in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. He has also served as an orientation group leader, admissions ambassador and admissions programming assistant.

He was chosen out of a group of 60 students as Ambassador of the Month for September 2017.

“This honor is voted on by students for students,” says Visit Coordinator Denica Holzworth. “Ernesto’s peers see him as a leader and role model.”

Senior Recruitment Adviser Patrick Cassady has known Duran-Gutierrez since he was in high school and decided to attend Oakland.

“Since the moment I was able to award him his academic scholarships at Saginaw Heritage High School’s Senior Awards Night, Ernesto has put his best foot forward, particularly by dancing, to accomplish his goals and make the most of his college experience.”

Duran-Gutierrez says his experience at Oakland has allowed him to pursue a wellrounded education and reach beyond his comfort zone.

“Continuing to push boundaries within my dance major has not only taught me more about myself, but also about how I can shape my own perspective on such a diverse world,” he says. “Digging deep into my Honors College courses has taught me that sometimes the student can be the teacher, and that the purpose of school is not to instruct information, but to share ideas.”

According to Cassady, Duran-Gutierrez’s emergence as a top-notch performer, teacher and leader makes him a fitting recipient of the Keeper of the Dream Award. “I believe that his personality, hard work, empathy, positivity, and self-awareness are attributes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of, because these attributes guide Ernesto to keep the dream alive,” says Cassady. “He has kept his dream at the forefront of all that he does, and that dream is not limited to his success, but expands to the success of everyone he interacts with.”