SIU Board of Trustees Diversity Excellence Lectures and Awards

Diversity Excellence Award Nomination Form [pdf]


The 2020 SIU Board of Trustees Diversity Excellence Lecture was cancelled due to COVID-19


2019 SIU Board of Trustees Diversity Excellence Award Winner - Reclaiming the African American Heritage of Southern Illinois Project

SIUC’s Special Collection Research Center’s “Reclaiming the African American Heritage of Southern Illinois Project” is a joint SIU-local community initiative to collect and preserve archival material documenting the history and experience of African American people, institutions and communities in Southern Illinois. The Project’s team members include: Walter Ray, SIUC Political Papers Archivist; Pamela Hackbart-Dean, former Director of SIUC’s Morris Library’s Special Collections Research Center; Pamela Smoot, Assistant Professor – SIUC’s Department of History; and community member Melvin “Pepper” Holder.

The goal of the RAAHSI Project is to create a centralized collection of resources that will be available to researchers to raise the visibility of the African American contribution to the Southern Illinois Region. The Project has made an invaluable contribution to the preservation of a more inclusive and diverse local and national heritage by identifying, collecting and preserving resources documenting the history and culture of under-represented Southern Illinois communities while building relationships between SIU and these communities.

Guest Speaker - Dr. Charles Neblett

Charles Neblett, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2019, came to SIU Carbondale in 1959 where his activism had a lasting impact on changing campus culture, particularly his efforts in convincing then SIU President Delyte Morris to end the segregation of student housing.

In 1961 Dr. Neblett joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to organize black voter registration. He later became a member of “The Freedom Singers” which sang at protests, marches and other activities in 40 states during the civil rights movement.

Dr. Neblett was among those to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the March on Washington and led participants in song after his “I Have a Dream” speech. He also participated in the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery and the 2001 Million Man March.

During his career, Neblett has performed with musical giants such as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson and Nina Simone.

Dr. Neblett became the first African American magistrate in Logan County, Kentucky in 1989. His career advocating for equality has also earned him the Freedom Flame Award in Selma, Alabama in 2010 and a place in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Currently, Neblett acts as Founder and President of Community Projects, Inc. along with his wife Marvinia Benton Neblett.

2018 SIU Board of Trustees Diversity Excellence Award Winner

Maria Claudia Franca

Maria Claudia Franca is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in the Communication Disorders and Sciences Program of the Rehabilitation Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). Maria Claudia is a two-degree alumnus from SIUC, holding a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation and a M.S. in Communication Disorders and Sciences. Dr. Franca carries leadership appointments including multicultural commitments at the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), from which she has been awarded Diversity Champion and Minority Student Leader.

Maria Claudia has been continuously the instructor of record of the class “Cultural Diversity Aspects of Communication Disorders” - a dynamic course designed to increase multicultural awareness and skills among future professionals. Her experiences in pluralistic education and research have been disseminated through classes, conferences, and peer-review journals. Dr. Franca’s international endeavors include scholar collaboration and development of study abroad programs.

2018 SIU Board of Trustees Diversity Excellence Lecture featuring Craig Clayton

2017 SIU Board of Trustees Diversity Excellence Lecture featuring Tim Wise