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Dr. Oyenike Olabisi
Oyenike Olabisi, associate professor of biological sciences, has received this year's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) award for excellence in advocacy.
She is among eight CAS faculty members to be honored in 2019-20 for outstanding achievement in a variety of categories.
Over the past few weeks, CAS Dean John A. Pelesko surprised each of the honorees with a virtual visit during an online class or event to announce and present the award.
Following are more details about Olabisi and the tribute Pelesko offered.
Since joining the faculty, Olabisi has been consistently focused on creating initiatives to foster an inclusive environment. Her record in promoting the success of undergraduate minority students is extensive and multifaceted, and includes seeking innovative strategies to create inclusive environments in the classroom, actively sharing these initiatives through instructional workshops for the University-wide faculty, leading collaborative efforts to promote multicultural programs and improving outcomes for all students as an advocate for institutional change towards inclusive excellence.
In the classroom, Olabisi's teaching philosophy is student-centered and intentionally inclusive. She has been praised by external reviewers for her encouragement of student advocacy and creating an inclusive environment. In her own words, "I create a classroom environment that is welcoming to all students including international non-native speakers by creating many avenues for them to interact with me and each other."
This design and implementation of creative strategies continues to engage students in a "real-world" connection to science.
As a practitioner, Olabisi has been an enthusiastic participant and presenter at seminars, training sessions and inclusion-themed events. As just one example, in 2018 she served as academic co-director for the Mandela Washington Fellowship – Young African Leaders Initiative. This association led her to apply for and receive a grant from the U.S. State Department that will allow UD's Institute for Global Studies to host this event for five years. She herself served as director of this global program in 2019 and 2020.
In conclusion, the College of Arts and Science recognizes Olabisi as a leader, instructor, mentor and advocate for diversity and inclusion at the campus, national and global levels.
"My motivation is simple, better representation of people underrepresented in the sciences, which starts with reaching a handful at a time," Olabisi said. "I offer the mentorship and support they need to persist and to succeed in and beyond UD. My philosophy is to create an inclusive environment in and out of my classroom in which they can thrive. I strive to be someone who offers an empathetic ear, directs them to resources, and speaks positive affirmations can be the difference a student needs to persist and excel. Promoting faculty development and awareness towards this goal is paramount in my professional development efforts.
"I am of the view that ongoing campus-wide diversity initiatives are like one leg of the stool, but inclusion is the missing other leg, without which we can't accomplish the change we desire. This is why I persist in my advocacy efforts towards promoting a truly inclusive campus climate where all can excel."
About the awards
Throughout the college, eight faculty members were honored this year.
Award winners, in addition to Olabisi, were Persephone Braham, associate professor of languages, literatures and cultures, and Jamie Sutherland, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, both for excellence in advisement; Jill Flynn, professor of English education, excellence in advocacy; J. Ritchie Garrison, professor emeritus of history, excellence in mentoring; Kristen Poole, Ned B. Allen Professor of English, excellence in scholarship; James Angelini, associate professor of communication, excellence in service; and Jessica Edwards, associate professor of English, excellence in teaching.
The honorees were selected by the College's Faculty Awards Committee, chaired by Lawrence G. Duggan, professor of history, with members Richard Cunningham, professor of theater, Alenka Hlousek-Radojcic, associate professor of biological sciences, Gladys Ilarregui, associate professor of languages, literatures and cultures, and Brenda Shaffer, instructor in fashion and apparel studies.
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