A Campus of Inclusivity; 2024 Black Heritage Awards

    Duchelynn Joanne Fanfan, Picture provided by her
    Duchelynn Joanne Fanfan, Picture provided by her

    The 22nd Black Heritage Awards took place on Feb. 23, 2024, and were hosted at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS).

    Since the early 2000s, it has boasted several recipients throughout the last decade such as “alumni, faculty, civil service staff, administrators and student leaders,” according to a statement from Sylvia Daniels, one of the members of the Black Heritage Committee, to the Independent. Past years have had the event at the main campus in Alumni Hall. The recipients are given a hand-carved Sankofa statue.

    “The event began as a student-run event, and has grown into a celebration of excellence and achievement,” Daniels stated to the Independent, which also sent out the targeted announcement to NEIU students, faculty and staff on February 16 of the winners for the 2024 year. Daniels is also the director of development for the NEIU’s Office of Institutional Advancement.

    The Independent sat down with one of three student winners for this year, Duchelynn Joanne Fanfan, who won the Student Leadership Award of Excellence. A senior who is graduating at the end of the Spring 2024 semester, Fanfan has been heavily involved on campus, not only in the honors programs but also in two different leadership positions. 

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    “I was kind of shocked at first, when I first realized it,” Fanfan said of her nomination by Ebony Jimenez-Lee, who works at the Student Counseling Services as well as the Peer Wellness Coach Coordinator. “She has sent me a lot of things about myself that I had no idea that I had – very intentional about people – have a passion for helping people, and a lot of leadership skills too.”

    “They [Black–identified people] kind of get the short end sometimes, so I was very surprised that, for one, there was an award that was awarded to people of that ethnicity,” Fanfan said, referring to the Black Heritage Awards  “And it kind of shows a lot of that diversity at NEIU and how much that it has. But I am happy to be recognized for it because I feel like we have literally a campus of inclusivity.”

    Fanfan went on to say that of the different graduate school options she is looking into, she is taking a focus on the community aspect, “NEIU has the same program, and it’s really enriched with people that look like me, who in others that love people for who they are, and what they believe in. It just makes me more comfortable.” 

    Along with working as a Peer Wellness Coach, Fanfan has also been involved as a senator for the Student Government Association (SGA). “I feel like it’s very rewarding to hear the voices of students, hearing the concerns on campus… not just sitting there, but actually doing something about it.”

    She has recently been featured in NEIU’s A Day in the Life of Student video series in the Fall 2023 semester. She is also hoping to stay at NEIU after graduating in the spring, with the goal of getting a Masters degree.

    The awards are often named after past leaders who were involved in the NEIU community. Daniels stated the following regarding this, “The Dr. Wamucii Njogu Outstanding Student Award, which highlights outstanding students and honors the nearly 30-year career of the former Interim President, Provost and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; the Dean Murrell H. Duster Legacy Award, honoring those who serve students with distinction and named for the former Dean of Academic Development and Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives, and founding Associate Vice President for Intercultural Affairs and the Angelina Pedroso Center; and the Sheena L. Warren Staff Award of Excellence which honors a civil service employee and was named for the beloved director of adult and women student programs.” 


    • Dr. Sheena L. Warren Staff Award of Excellence: Wanda Dukes Administrative Assistant, Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies
    • Wamucii Njogu Outstanding Student Award: Maurissa Williams, Student, Psychology
    • William “Doc” Speller Lifetime Achievement Award: Ebony Jiminez-Lee, Staff Psychotherapist and Mental Health Case Manager, Peer Wellness Coach Coordinator
    • Dr. Melvin Cleveland Terrell Award in Research and Literature: Kyle P. Goodwin, Ph.D., Instructor, Counselor Education
    • Dean Murrell Higgins Duster Legacy Award: Gina Wells, Ph.D., Instructor, TESOL


    The rest of this year’s winners are: 


    • Administrator Award of Excellence: Katrina Bell-Jordan, Ph.D. Interim President, NEIU
    • Alumni Award of Excellence: Lisa Cooper-Gavin Double Alumna, Author and Wealth Coach
    • Community Service Award of Excellence: Cedric Frison, Student, Urban City Studies Changemaker Fellow, NEIU Great Lakes Fast Fund Consortium
    • Faculty Awards of Excellence: Kamau Rashid, Ph.D., Professor and Founding Director of the NEIU Urban Ed.D program; and Christopher Merchant, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Psychology

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