BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University honored Dr. Claudia Cartaya-Marin, Rabbi Stephen Roberts and the Watauga County Schools Coffee Talk program with the inaugural Chancellor’s Awards for Inclusive Excellence. The awards were presented by Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts during a luncheon held Monday on the university’s campus. The event included a keynote speech by poet and activist Nikki Giovanni.
“At Appalachian, we believe making real and powerful differences in the world is grounded in inclusive excellence,” Everts said in her remarks. She shared the awards were conferred to “help shine a light on some very special individuals whose work demonstrates their active, intentional and ongoing commitment to transformative change.”
Everts noted that from her first day at Appalachian, “inclusive excellence has been a priority,” and that she is proud of the “tremendous strides” the university has taken in diversifying its campus, citing a 47% growth in underrepresented students since 2014 and an 87% “historic high” for retention of underrepresented students this year.
Inclusive Excellence for Faculty
Cartaya-Marin, who received the Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence for Faculty, is a professor in and chair of Appalachian’s A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences and serves on the Chief Diversity Officer’s Advisory Board. She created a summer bridge program designed for incoming students transitioning into STEM programs and helped found APP Unidos, the university’s Hispanic/Latino faculty and staff association.
Cartaya-Marin is an organic synthetic chemist. She earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela; a master’s degree focused on organometallic chemistry from Northeastern University; and a Ph.D. at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She held a postdoctoral position in the Chemistry Department at Cornell University.
Inclusive Excellence in the Community
Roberts received the Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence in the Community. In his acceptance remarks, he noted “this community is committed to inclusion now and in the future,” and for that reason, he was accepting the award on behalf of the Jewish and multifaith community.
Roberts has served as the spiritual leader of the Temple of the High Country since 2013 and is an active member of the High Country Multi-Faith Clergy and Leaders. He has edited two textbooks on pastoral care and founded ChaplainDL, a distance learning continuing education platform for professional chaplains.
He holds degrees from the University of Florida, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Inclusive Excellence for Youth
The Coffee Talk program of Watauga County Schools (WCS) received the Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence for Youth. WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott, Hardin Park Elementary School teacher Cindy Barr and Watauga High School teacher Cynthia Darcy accepted the award on behalf of all those involved with the program.
Coffee Talk began at Hardin Park Elementary in 2004 and expanded to Watauga High in 2008. Through this instructional program, students with disabilities plan, shop and host a coffee shop for faculty, staff, parents and community members that allows the students to refine skills related to academics, vocations, healthful living and social interactions.
Each month, Coffee Talk involves 14 students at Hardin Park Elementary and up to 30 students at Watauga High. The program has also donated to local charities, including the Health and Hunger Coalition, Hospitality House, OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information and Shelter), Western Youth Network and Watauga Humane Society. Notably, eight Appalachian alumni contribute to Coffee Talk.
Everts said the passion and innovation of these honorees “have certainly set the gold standard for future recipients, and I am proud to stand with them today. The lessons they teach all of us about the significance of fostering diversity and inclusion will, beyond doubt, influence the future of our university, the High Country and communities across the state and far beyond.”
Appalachian’s Chief Diversity Officer’s Advisory Board contributed to the Chancellor’s Awards for Inclusive Excellence Luncheon, and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Willie Fleming has been central to the university’s efforts regarding diversity and inclusion.
Nearly 150 people attended the luncheon, widely representing the university and local community. Attendees ranged from Appalachian faculty, staff and students, to community leaders and representatives from the Appalachian Academy at Middle Fork, including student ambassadors, student council members, teachers and administrators.
Academy students met Giovanni after the luncheon, and later in the week, Everts delivered copies of Giovanni’s poetry book “I Am Loved” for each academy student.
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About Diversity and Inclusion at Appalachian
Appalachian State University is committed to developing and allocating resources to the fundamental task of creating a diverse campus culture. We value diversity as the expression of human similarities and differences, as well as the importance of a living and learning environment conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness. Learn more at http://diversity.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.