A first-generation college graduate who became a leader in consciousness-raising work on campus, a brave young champion for social justice who tirelessly advocates for her Muslim community and a local fixture in the Hispanic community who became an indispensable collaborator with Clemson University have been named this year’s three recipients of Clemson’s Martin Luther King Jr. Awards for Excellence in Service.
The awards are presented each year by the President’s Office and Division of Inclusion and Equity recognizing an employee, a student and a community member who demonstrate excellence in their service to Clemson and the surrounding community. The awards celebrate advocacy for social or environmental justice and service above and beyond their direct employment.
The winner of the employee award is Sharetta Bufford, assistant director of recruitment and inclusive excellence for the College of Science and current Ph.D. student in learning sciences. Bufford designed and launched new initiatives to support underrepresented students in science and mathematics at Clemson, including COSMIC (College of Science Mentoring and Inclusion Collaborative), a program providing upper-class mentors to first-time, first-year underrepresented students majoring in science.
“Sharetta came into the learning sciences doctoral program with a general goal of improving the learning experiences of students of color and particularly of Black girls with an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields,” one of her four nominators wrote. “Voices like Sharetta’s are crucial in improving our educational system. She is unafraid to challenge inequitable structures and systems. She is learning how to gather, analyze, and present data to support her efforts to improve the educational experiences of populations that have been historically excluded from higher education and from STEM.”
This year’s student to receive the award is Roann Abdeladl, a health sciences major and women’s leadership minor. A devout Muslim, Abdeladl has been a proactive and tireless voice for inclusion and diversity advancing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community” on campus. As president of the Muslim Student Association she helps organize events that aim to reduce Islamophobia and understand ways to combat hate crimes. She was also an early and consistent voice calling for the renaming of the Honors College (through her involvement with Rename & Reclaim) and for more resources for students of color at Clemson.
One of her nominators noted that aside from her consistent positive activism, Abdeladl’s presence on campus helps raise awareness and understanding of the Muslim faith:
“By seeing a woman who wears a hijab as just another peer, friend, classmate and student government leader, Roann is changing the culture in a profoundly positive way.”
The community award was bestowed on Adela Mendoza, executive director of Hispanic Alliance, the largest network of agencies and individuals working collaboratively to advance Hispanic communities in the Upstate region.
As a community partner and member of the Clemson University Diversity & Inclusion Council, Mendoza contributed significantly to the President’s Social Justice & Equity Task Force. According to her nominator, “She brought innovative thoughts and ideas to support the success of her subcommittee. Furthermore, her spirit of collaboration with Clemson University (specifically with the Office of Hispanic Outreach & Division of Inclusion of Inclusion and Equity), has made an important impact.”
In the last few years, Clemson has seen a steady increase of Hispanic/Latinx students (many of them first-generation college students) enroll at Clemson. The Hispanic Alliance has contributed significantly to that success and been a great strategic partner to Clemson University’s Men of Color National Summit and Clemson’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration.
The three were officially presented their awards during an online commemorative service on January 19.
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