Kate Koenig, Editor-in-Chief
This past Friday, September 14, the Tapestry of Diversity Award was presented at the Hunt Union Waterfront to Dr. Caridad Souza, a member of the SUNY Oneonta Africana and Latino Studies Department and an involved member of SUNY Oneonta since the 1980s, when she did her undergraduate studies. The award was accepted on her behalf by Dr. Maria Montoya, a professor in the department of foreign languages and literature.
The Tapestry of Diversity Award was inaugurated in 2010, and is designed to annually recognize an individual or group for their exceptional contributions in supporting diversity and inclusion through their leadership and service. Its first recipient was Dale Capristo, student development associate and director of the Center for Multicultural Experiences. In 2011, it was awarded to Trudy Thomas-Smith, of the college’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. This year, Souza was selected to be the recipient of the third annual award.
In the spring of 2010, mosaic artist Haifa Bint-Kadi was commissioned to build the Tapestry of Diversity sculpture, which is now a part of our campus located alongside the paths between the Netzer Administration Building and Schumacher Hall. Seven pillars were constructed to represent the seven continents of the world, with an eighth pillar serving to unite the seven others with weaving patterns from around the world. Each recipient of the award creates a ceramic mosaic tile to contribute to the sculpture, with instruction and materials from the artist.
Souza first joined the SUNY Oneonta faculty in 1993 as a professor in the Africana and Latino studies department. Additionally, she taught courses on women and gender studies and has also been an advocate for the LGBTQIA community. She co-directed study abroad intersession courses in West Africa, was a student advisor, a mentor for new faculty and an internship coordinator. She was responsible for organizing several discussion panels and conferences for faculty and students, and consistently maintained a close and direct relationship with her students and colleagues.
Souza was unable to personally accept the award due to a relocation of employment over the summer. Montoya spoke in her place, and following her speech, an audio recording of Souza’s acceptance speech was played through the Waterfront’s PA system. Others involved with the event were Hilgrove Delancy from the department of physical facilities and maintenance who served as master of ceremonies, President Nancy Kleniewski who gave opening remarks, and Dr. Beth Small, chair of the department of foreign languages and literature who gave a brief history of the award and later recited a poem by Maya Angelou on the subject of diversity. Also present was the a cappella ensemble Hooked on Tonics led by Dr. Paul Carter, who gave a brief performance towards the beginning of the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, Delancy presented a plaque to be hung in the Africana and Latino studies department in honor of Souza, which features her portrait and a description of her contributions and achievements (pictured).
Unfortunately, mostly campus administrators attended the event with very few students present. All who are a part of our campus are eligible to receive the award, and those who have organized it hope for it to gain momentum. For more information on the award, visit http://www.oneonta.edu/admin/oei/tapestry/.