SCoBIRC Graduate Student, Erica Littlejohn, receives the Shane Carlin & Annie Sit Inclusion Award.

Erica Littlejohn (PhD candidate, Saatman Lab, SCoBIRC), along with Ese Ighordaro (MD/PhD candidate, Nelson lab, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging) received the Shane Carlin & Annie Sit Inclusion Award (see below) at a recent conference for Interracial Education at Berea College.

Erica is President of the University of Kentucky Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA), and Ese is Vice-Preisdent. Ese also received the John T. Smith Award. In addition to the individual awards, the BGPSA received a Multicultural Opportunities, Strategies and Institutional Inclusiveness Consortium (MOSAIIC) Award.

"The Shane Carlin and Annie Sit Inclusion Award acknowledges outstanding student service and commitment to inclusion and diversity at the University of Kentucky. Shane Carlin graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1995 and has been a Student Affairs Professional since that time. While at UK, Shane was involved in many student organizations. He and his wife want to celebrate and highlight students who strive to make the University of Kentucky more inclusive. The Carlins developed this award to recognize students that do social justice work, and have been committed to the ideals of diversity and inclusion in the most impacting and discerning manner.

No one is able to do this work alone, and it’s only fitting that this year’s recipient of the Shane Carlin and Annie Sit Inclusion Award is a team, a duo. The tow recipients are Erica Littlejohn and Ese Igodaro. Erica is a Physiology doctoral student, and Ese is both a graduate student in Anatomy and Neurobiology and a medical student in the College of Medicine. Both have held several leadership positions in the Black Graduate Professional Student Association (BGPSA); they currently serve as the president and vice president. When an African American dental student approached the BGPSA leadership with a case of racial harassment, Erica and Ese began to build a coalition of support with African American faculty, staff, and other supporters of diversity and inclusion to address the lack of policies and protocols pertaining to racial bias and harassment. Recognizing this incident as a symptom of a larger systemic problem, Erica and Ese met with the university president and key senior leadership, where they challenged the administration to do more to recruit, retain, and graduate African American and Latino students, faculty, and staff. Although both students are on the HealthCare side of campus, their activism rippled all the way across to the Singletary Arts building, where they organized the UK Call to Action Town Hall meeting on February 29th. This program was the definition of inclusion, bringing together over 350 students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community leaders to hear from both undergraduate and graduate students, from both the students and the administrators. The impact of Erica and Ese’s work will be felt at UK long after they have graduated. They have started a conversation. They have recruited students to pick up the mantle after them. They have spoken to the most central values we hold as members of the UK community. Tonight, with great pride and gratitude, it is my honor to present the 2016 Shane Carlin and Annie Sit Inclusion Award to Erica Littlejohn and Ese Ighodaro!"