Celebrating Diversity at Award Luncheon

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Quote by Bell Hooks, as said by Dr. Laurie Fuller in her acceptance speech


From Left to Right: DeMara Campbell, Manish Kumar, Dr. Nicole Holland, Saul Manon-Arellano, Gloria Gibson, Jesse Fuentes, Laurie Fuller, Brooke Mullins, Shireen Roshanravan

Leslie Lozada, Editor in Chief

Alumni Hall hosted the second annual President’s Inclusive Excellence and Diversity Awards luncheon on April 26, 2023. Having started in 2022, this luncheon helps to highlight the importance of those that help to “create an equitable, diverse and truly inclusive community,” as stated by the awards committee in the printed program.


Among the eight recipients from the luncheon, there were a few of note. Alumni, such as Jesse Fuentes, who will become the Alderperson for Chicago’s 26th Ward in May 2023, staff, such as Manish Kumar, Vice President for Finance and Administration, and students, such as Saul Manon-Arellano, an undergraduate student who is working towards a B.A. in Justice Studies.

Jesse Fuentes


Fuentes was in attendance with her wife, Becky Medina obtained her B.A. in Justice Studies at NEIU. In her acceptance speech, Fuentes spoke first in Spanish, then English, highlighting the reasons why going to NEIU was a great opportunity for her to grow. “Our children are our revolution,” Fuentes said, later mentioning how NEIU helps to put the information that is learned at the university into practice, as well as speaking to the Latino experience.

Manish Kumar

Kumar, who has been the NEIU Vice President for Finance and Administration since January 2020, received his award with glowing remarks from Shireen Roshanravan, the Executive Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, citing that Kumar is “brutally honest” and “produces results under tough circumstances”.

Saul Manon-Arellano

Saul Manon-Arellano, a Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School graduate, has been noted as a community leader by his peers. He also mentioned, in his acceptance speech, how he witnessed the deportation of his mother. He returned to the U.S. with his mother and is currently a human rights activist. 


Shireen Roshanravan oversaw the event, with assistance from Francys Munoz, the Social Media and Outreach Specialist for the office. Along with her current role, she helped with directing guests, created the printed programming for everyone in attendance as well as creating place cards, up until the day of, as there were an unknown amount of cancellations for the event. 


Munoz, in an interview with the Independent, reflected on Manon-Arellano’s acceptance speech, “Like Saul who touched my heart, especially with – you saw the little introduction he did for his mom.” 


The rest of the recipients were student Brooke Mullins, faculty members, Dr. Nicole Holland and Dr. Laurie Fuller, and staff members Troy Davenport and Demara Campbell, who obtained her B.A. in Psychology in 2017 and M.A. in Higher Education in 2020 from NEIU.


There was also recognition of several scholarship recipients from the Native and Indigenous Student Scholarship, the George Floyd Scholarship and the Dean Murrell J. Higgins Duster Scholarship. There were also four faculty and staff members that received the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois fellowship, out of 103 people that were awarded this year.


“Regardless of what you’re studying, if you’re going to NEIU, you’re gonna be a social justice advocate,” Munoz said, in relation to Fuentes receiving an award, as well as the student recipients.