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2015 Diversity and Inclusion Awardees Announced

April 14, 2015
By: Worcester State University News

Student Leanne Quackenbush, staff member Isaac Tesfay, and faculty member Prof. Helen Semerjian recently received the 2015 Diversity and Inclusion awards. These three awardees have shown outstanding and extraordinary dedication and enthusiasm for promoting diversity, inclusion and equality for all people, not only at Worcester State University, but in the greater community as well. Please be sure to congratulate these unsung heroes on their wonderful efforts that usually go unnoticed behind the scenes. Please read their bios for information about their leadership in promoting equality for all.

Student: Leanne Quackenbush

Leanne Quackenbush has been working with the President’s Office for the last year to create safe space for the LGBTQIA community. Specifically, Leanne has been advocating to secure more gender neutral bathrooms on campus while also working with various campus offices and officials from the state of Massachusetts. Her approach has not been limited solely to what happens at Worcester State, as she and a group of fellow advocates are advocating for these changes at every other public university in the state.

This has brought Leanne into regular contact with peers at many of the 29 public universities and colleges across the Commonwealth. She has been working very closely with the city of Worcester (meeting with Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty once a month), the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts (HECCMA), the Worcester Police Department, and Worcester Pride to further the safety and well-being of LGBTQ individuals in the city and at our sister colleges.

Leanne has met with the Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Building Authority and our State Plumbing Inspector to discuss how code and design practices may be altered to include a gender neutral classification. She is professional and passionate when expressing the need for change, stating her arguments in a well thought-out manner. At all times, Leanne was an exceptional representative of this University –  fervent with her request and respectful of her audience – a very mature combination of character traits.

Leanne has been forward thinking on this journey as she strategically works for change on campus as well as with state authorities. Leanne has recognized that altering code and perception will not happen immediately but this has not deterred her from moving forward to champion these changes in a way that should be admired by our WSU community.

Staff: Isaac Tesfay

Isaac Tesfay works in Multicultural Affairs and runs Worcester State University’s Upward Bound program, and he is a primary support for our students of color. He serves as an advisor to TWA (the Third World Alliance), our student organization for minority students. TWA brings cultural awareness to the forefront by recruiting high caliber speakers, offering group support and holding inclusive events.

As part of Upward Bound, Isaac provides a platform for young people to envision themselves as college students. Many have said they owe their success to Isaac. He is passionate about access to education for all, and his advocacy and role modeling have impacted countless lives. His support for students goes beyond their entrance to Worcester State. With past award winner Kirsh Donis, Isaac runs an informal Men-of-Color support group at WSU. He goes above and beyond daily to support inclusion and college access for diverse populations.

Faculty:  Professor  Helena  Semerjian (aka the “Dr.”)

Helena Semerjian has been advocating for the rights of women and minorities for decades. She was a feminist before many of our current faculty were born and has made Women’s Health a staple of our curriculum. Helena has always been ahead of her time and a powerhouse! Dr. Semerjian is fearless! She is never afraid to speak up and get involved. She has had a LBGT Safe zone sticker on her door since the 1990’s.

An immeasurable quantity of our students have benefited from her explicit support. She participates in anything and everything that promotes health, creativity, and the rights of the oppressed. She was one of the foremothers of Women’s Studies and has brought countless speakers and programs for women to this University. Students will remember her for decades, as she has been instrumental in helping so many young women finding their voice and the courage to speak out against injustice.

One Comment

  1. Abraham Tesfay says:

    Some people are born to lead and these three people have the foresight and the imagination how to help people of less fortunate to get themselves better. Isaac, I am very proud of you.

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