Equity in Action Awards honor WCC faculty and staff, Sheriff Clayton

January 12, 2024 Rich Rezler

Equity in Action Award Winners
Equity in Action Awards were presented at WCC’s 18th annual MLK Day Celebration. From left are Kathy Wyatt, executive analyst and assistant to Sheriff Jerry Clayton, accepting on his behalf; Mary Mulloland; Susan Dentel; and Alexi McCracken. Award recipients not shown are Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Amy Carpenter. (Photo by J.D. Scott)

In a nod to the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., two individuals and a Washtenaw Community College program were granted Equity in Action Awards for their exceptional dedication to advocacy, leadership and service.

The WCC STEM Scholars program, WCC professional faculty member Mary Mullalond and Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton were honored for their outstanding contributions in the areas of equity and inclusion at the college and in our community during Thursday’s MLK Day Celebration.

Meet the 2024 winners, who were introduced to the assembled crowd by WCC Dean of Student Access, Success, Equity & Inclusion Dr. Eric Reed:

JERRY CLAYTONJERRY CLAYTON

Position: Washtenaw County Sheriff

Summary of Nomination: Clayton, serving his final term as the Sheriff of Washtenaw County, has advanced the office’s mission to “Create Public Safety, Provide Quality Service, Build Strong and Sustainable Communities” over the past 15 years. Sheriff Clayton has been an unwavering voice for integrating human services and policing and believes that strengthening the safety nets for re-entry for formerly justice-involved individuals dramatically reduces recidivism. He works with community partners to develop comprehensive strategies that support the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders in conjunction with enforcement of laws. Sheriff Clayton has continued to support social justice reform in Washtenaw County, and nationally, and believes the quality of life in this community is not just about enforcing laws, but requires engagement with the community. Focusing on how to prevent individuals from entering the criminal justice system, by working with community partners to address their needs for things like housing, education and mental health treatment instead of incarceration.

Clayton says: “I am honored and humbled to receive this award. I accept it on behalf of the men and women of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office who continue to serve the people of this community faithfully. I accept this honor on behalf of those who look like me and came before me, whose shoulders I stand on. Folks who made the necessary sacrifices so I could serve the people of Washtenaw County as Sheriff. I understand this recognition is based on Dr. King's values and ideals relative to advocacy, leadership and service. For 15 years, I have attempted to lead in this community with a commitment to service, equity and a firm belief that extraordinary things do not happen due to a single person’s efforts. The community we all want to experience, one that is well and safe, requires our collective efforts to serve and support each other – and also to have the courage to ensure that the institutions intended to serve the people do so equitably. That continues to be my pledge to the Washtenaw County community. Thank you.”

MARY MULLALONDMARY MULLALOND

Position: English/Writing Instructor

Summary of Nomination: Mary is a true believer in service and advocacy. For many years, she has upheld diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in various roles and spaces at the college, and strived to ensure a sense of belonging for LGBTQIA+ students and other underserved groups on campus. Mullalond’s leadership includes her decade-long role as advisor to the Outspace+ student organization, as well as her instrumental hand in planning the Michigan Community College Gender & Sexuality Conference since its inception in 2019. In addition to her advocacy, Mary has also consistently engaged other faculty and staff in meaningful professional development opportunities to foster greater inclusion for WCC students. Through her service on the Faculty Professional Development Committee and other strategic planning committees, Mary has consistently ensured that student needs and voices are represented at the table throughout all facets of the college.

Mullalond says: “It’s an honor to receive this award. When I was a college student, my friends and I tried to create a Diversity club, but we were not allowed to do so by our campus community because part of the proposed club’s mission was supporting LGBTQIA+ identities. However, I remember a handful of supportive faculty and staff that were my mentors, who respected, humanized, and encouraged me, giving me hope for a better future for myself and my queer peers. To be able to provide that kind of mentorship and support to students at WCC as a faculty member has been deeply fulfilling. I’m so proud to be part of a campus community that works so hard to humanize all students and to give all students hope for a better future.”

STEM SCHOLARS PROGRAMSTEM SCHOLARS PROGRAMSTEM SCHOLARS PROGRAM

Summary of Nomination: The STEM Scholars program has been offering support to students pursuing STEM-related degrees for more than five years and also facilitates student success beyond their studies at WCC. Since 2018, 82 students have completed the STEM Scholars program and transferred to a four-year institution. There are currently 75 students participating, more than half of whom are economically disadvantaged, first-generation college students, or members of underrepresented minority groups. While open to all WCC students, two supporting grants that help fund the STEM Scholars program are aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in STEM fields and assisting financially disadvantaged students in their pursuits. Individuals receiving the team award include professional faculty member Susan Dentel, the STEM Scholar founder and coordinator; advisor Alexi McCracken, who is the dedicated advisor to all STEM Scholar students; and Instructional Support Coordinator Amy Carpenter, who has offered extensive marketing and administrative support.

Dentel says: “It’s an honor for the college to recognize that we’re doing good work with our STEM Scholars students. We have a broad spectrum of students in the group with a variety of ages, backgrounds and interests. Sometimes it’s hard for students from some backgrounds to see themselves pursuing a science-related degree at a big university, but right from the beginning of the program — starting with the summer intensive for new cohorts — we’re focused on life skills and academic skills to actually make it happen.”

Tags: Awards, Diversity, Equity in Action, MLK Day