LSU AgCenter Recognizes 2003 Diversity Award Winners

Vallerie A. Maurice, Merrill, Thomas A., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  4/28/2005 7:37:01 PM

News Release Distributed 01/17/03

Baton Rouge - The LSU AgCenter recognized three individuals and one team for outstanding contributions to its diversity initiatives during a reception Friday afternoon (Jan. 17).

The four awards were presented during the LSU AgCenter’s Annual Diversity Conference at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

The conference, which has been held for three years, included a variety of workshops aimed at teaching LSU AgCenter faculty and others about the importance of diversity – and it operated under the theme, "The Power of Diversity: Growing One LSU AgCenter For All."

The LSU AgCenter’s formal diversity initiative began in April 1998 and was the first of its kind in the LSU System, according to Vallerie Maurice, director of multicultural diversity and assistant to the chancellor for the AgCenter. Since that time, the initiative has included community outreach forums to determine how to better serve all Louisiana citizens, diversity training for faculty and staff and a variety of other programs to ensure the AgCenter is an inclusive organization that capitalizes on the diversity of its employees and its clientele.

"We are proud of the strides we’ve made over the past few years, and we know the people we are recognizing with these awards have played a part in contributing to our vision of a more diverse faculty and staff that is serving more diverse clientele," said LSU AgCenter Chancellor William B. "Bill" Richardson. "We know that through such efforts we truly can achieve our mission of improving the quality of life for all the people of Louisiana through the best research and educational programs we can conduct."

The diversity award winners at this year’s conference included a South Louisiana county agent, two faculty members from Baton Rouge and a team from the New Orleans metropolitan area.

The awards went to Gerald Roberts, a Southern University county agent who oversees LSU AgCenter programs in St. Landry Parish; Dr. Milton Rush, an AgCenter professor of plant pathology in Baton Rouge; Dr. Joachim Singelmann, an AgCenter professor of agricultural economics; and a team of AgCenter agents from Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes – Duane Carkum, Lauren Faust, Beverly Madere, Jan Morgan and Jamie Roy.

Maurice said each of the winners was nominated by peers or supervisors, and all awards were accompanied by cash stipends.

"These are people who are doing great work for the LSU AgCenter, and their co-workers recognize that," Maurice said. "But it’s still difficult to pick the winners from all those who are nominated, because all of them do fascinating work."

Roberts, who is the first Southern University Cooperative Extension Service employee to serve as a parish administrator for the LSU AgCenter, won the Diversity Initiative Award for Excellence, which honors an individual who has exceeded the average standards of personal growth, commitment and dedication towards the inclusion of all people. In addition to supervising day-to-day operations of the programs of both Southern and the LSU AgCenter in St. Landry Parish, Roberts also conducts horticulture educational programs in St. Landry and Evangeline parishes and sweet potato education in Acadia, St. Landry and Evangeline parishes.

"Even before Gerald became involved with the diversity initiative, he had always had a commitment to help people regardless of race, gender, religion and so forth," said LSU AgCenter Regional Director Steve Linscombe, who serves as Roberts’ supervisor. Linscombe also said if anyone needs services, Roberts is committed to helping them.

Rush received the Diversity in the Workplace Award, which recognizes an individual’s efforts in outreach/recruitment, hiring and retention of a diverse workforce/student population.

LSU AgCenter professor Dr. Gerard Berggren, who nominated Rush for the award, said his colleague has actively worked for the past 32 years to recruit and hire women and foreign graduate students.

Berggren also stressed that in addition to Rush’s work and a variety of international activities in which Rush is involved, he still takes time to work personally with his students.

"For 12 years Dr. Rush has conducted an open house at his home on Thanksgiving Day," Berggren said, adding, "This allows many foreign families to become familiar with one of the United States’ most significant holidays."

Singelmann, who received the Diversity in Research Award, is a professor of rural sociology for the LSU AgCenter. He was recognized with the award that acknowledges the outstanding contributions of research efforts to underserved audiences and/or new audiences.

"Throughout his career, Dr. Singelmann has addressed research issues associated with the underprivileged, disenfranchised and marginal members of society both here in the United States and abroad," said Dr. William Bankston, professor and chair of sociology, in nominating Singelmann.

Bankston said the U.S. Department of Labor funded Singelmann’s first major research project on the role of women and racial and ethnic minorities in the emerging service industries. "His efforts were part of the 1984 World Population Conferences, which passed several policy recommendations to promote rural development and decrease rural-urban disparities."

For the past six years Singelmann has led a large study of welfare in Louisiana, examining the consequences of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act in Louisiana. "Most of this research addresses the African-American population in both urban and rural areas," Bankston said.

The group winners of this year’s Diversity in Programming Award are all LSU AgCenter youth development agents in and around New Orleans.

Carkum and Roy are assigned to Orleans Parish, Faust to St. Bernard, Madere to Jefferson and Morgan to Plaquemines.

This award celebrates the outstanding contribution to an individual or group’s outreach and educational efforts to underserved audiences and/or new audiences.

"This group designed and conducted an overnight camping experience where youth from different parishes, backgrounds and ethnic groups came together to participate in workshops relating to character development, diversity training and team building exercises," the nomination said, explaining this Character Counts! Camp began as a learning opportunity for one parish but has since grown into a multi-parish activity.

According to the supervisors of these agents, the group is encouraging co-workers across the state to learn about this opportunity and plan similar events in their regions.

"These awards are designed to celebrate our success at reaching a diverse population of clientele throughout the state of Louisiana with creative, useful services and research," Maurice said of the presentations. "We have made some great strides in the area of diversity during the past few years, but we couldn't have come this far without the dedication of a lot of people like these award winners.

"It’s good to be able to show them how much we appreciate their work – but we also need to say there are a lot more people out there doing great work who have yet to be recognized with an award."


Vallerie Maurice at (225) 578-4163 or
Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-5896 or 

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