College faculty member, student win 2012 University Diversity Awards

Maria DeGuzman won a 2012 University Diversity Award.

Maria DeGuzman, associate professor of English and comparative literature, and Stephanie Nieves-Rios, a sophomore psychology major, are among the winners of the 2012 University Diversity Awards.

DeGuzman is director of Latina/o Studies at UNC and a member of the working group that established the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative (CLC). Nieves-Rios and sophomore journalism major Viviana Bonilla-Lopez established the group “Rethink: Psychiatric Illness” to spread awareness about mental illness.

The University Diversity Award recognizes significant contribution to the enhancement, support and/or furtherance of diversity on the campus and in the community. The awards are sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.They will join other recipients on April 25 at a ceremony at the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence.

In addition to her prolific scholarship and research on Latina/o literature and culture, DeGuzman has been a visible and vibrant leader in efforts to enhance the climate on campus so that it is more inclusive and equitable. She continues to be involved with the CLC. She has given numerous guest lectures on Latina/o literature and culture in courses across the disciplines. DeGuzman has been actively involved in arranging and facilitating educational and co-curricular programming on campus that supports transformative change and social justice. Her work extends beyond UNC’s borders: She is a member of the steering committee for the Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South at Duke University. She also is frequently interviewed in campus, local and national media, and her conceptual photography has been exhibited in many venues.

Nieves-Rios and Bonilla-Lopez created and lead “Rethink: Psychiatric Illness,” a group of 10 UNC undergraduates who form part of the Connected Learning Program and live in the Cobb Residence Hall. Throughout this school year, the two students have ignited a passion in others for understanding mental illness, from their CLP group, to the entire CLP (consisting of 70 undergraduates), to the UNC and Chapel Hill-Carrboro communities. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 Americans, and yet it is a form of diversity that too often gets overlooked or stigmatized and pushed aside. “Rethink” is dedicated to spreading awareness and educating others around this difficult issue. Inspired by their personal experiences with mental illness, Nieves-Rios and Bonilla-Lopez and the entire Rethink group have devoted and will continue to devote hundreds of hours of this school year to discussion, outreach, planning events, hosting presentations, and designing a skills-training event (much like UNC’s “Safe Zone” or “HAVEN”) that will prepare UNC students to become Rethink Ambassadors. Rethink was featured in UNC’s Blue and White magazine.

DeGuzman won in the faculty member category and Nieves-Rios and Bonilla-Lopez in the student organization category.

Other winners and their categories include:

  • Elaine Townsend: undergraduate student
  • Joseph Erba: graduate student
  • DeVetta Holman Nash: staff member
  • Cathy Rumley: community member
  • Eshelman School of Pharmacy: academic unit.