Board of Trustees holds annual Diversity Awards recognition

February 27, 2023

(L-R) are Trustee Dr. Ormella Cummings, Chair of the Board of Trustees Diversity Committee; Dr. Rochelle McGee-Cobbs; and Dr. Jerryl Briggs, President of Mississippi Valley State University.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning celebrated Black History Month by holding its annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards ceremony at the meeting held in Jackson. Campus and community leaders were recognized for advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect. In addition, Dr. David R. Buys, Associate Professor for Delta State University, was named the 2022 Diversity Educator of the Year.

Tupelo resident Shawn Brevard received the Karen Cummins Community Service Award. In 2017, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Community Service Award in memory of Trustee Cummins, recognizing that her life epitomized what the award is all about, helping to improve Mississippi's communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit.

In addition to the Educator of the Year, the Board honored faculty from each of Mississippi's public universities for advancing diversity at their institutions. For example, Mississippi Valley State University's Rochelle McGee-Cobbs, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Lead Official of MVSU's Prison Education Partnership Program, was honored during the event.

"The Board of Trustees is very pleased to recognize Shawn Brevard and Dr. David Buys," said Dr. Ormella Cummings, Trustee and Chair of the Board of Trustees Diversity Committee. "Mrs. Brevard has made a tremendous difference in her community, devoting countless hours to arts programs, education, and nurturing a welcoming environment in Tupelo, the region, and the state. Dr. Buys' work, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, has highlighted health disparities within our state's population. He also works tirelessly to address these disparities."

Community volunteer Shawn Brevard generously gives her time and talent to enhance the quality of life in her community, throughout the Northeast Mississippi region, and across the state. She has volunteered to serve on numerous boards, and her leadership has helped them to excel and thrive.

Brevard serves as Chair of the Committee for King. This civic organization plans and executes numerous activities and events, particularly in the days leading up to and on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. With a mission of seeking love, compassion, respect, and racial harmony for all people, the Committee for King makes a difference in the community through various initiatives, including hosting dynamic speakers, recognizing individuals making outstanding contributions to the community through an awards program and allowing the region's youth to showcase their talents through a Talent Show.

Brevard has focused many of her volunteer and advocacy efforts on public education and the arts community. She was active in the Tupelo Public School District with two daughters who attended Tupelo's public schools and was named TPSD Parent of the Year. She also served on the TPSD Board of Trustees and was involved in Tupelo's Association for Excellence and Education.

Brevard has served on the boards of numerous cultural organizations, including the Cultural Alliance of Tupelo/Lee County, Tupelo Community Theatre, and the Link Centre Performing Arts Commission. She and her husband, David, also sponsor the Gumtree Museum of Art at the Renasant Gallery in Tupelo.

In 2016, the Mississippi Trailblazers organization recognized her efforts with the "Tupelo Civic and Community Service Award." An alumnus of the University of Mississippi, Brevard is an active First United Methodist Church member in Tupelo.

Mississippi State University Associate Professor and State Health Specialist Dr. David R. Buys have fostered intellectual spaces that stimulate thought about inclusive excellence, diversity, and access. He is a recognized voice in the academy in exploring social causes of inequity in health and disease, particularly for people of color and aging adults.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, societal and environmental factors amplified the sense of loss, both physically and symbolically, experienced by many people. Dr. Buys utilized social media, including live discussions, to examine and share essential data on racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 9 outcomes. His steadfast commitment to an inclusive environment has been demonstrated through numerous activities representing teaching, research, and service.

In his letter of nomination, Dr. Mark Keenum, President of Mississippi State University, outlined how Dr. Buys has demonstrated his commitment to advancing inclusivity and equity, writing, "Dr. Buys' commitment to an inclusive environment has been demonstrated through numerous activities representing teaching, research, and service. In partnership with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, he led educational, and learning initiatives focused on working with underrepresented populations to advance equity. Through his continued engagement, he allowed diverse groups of students to feel empowered as leaders while also elevating his colleagues' understanding of the need for culturally responsive leadership practices."

In addition to the Educator of the Year, the Board honored faculty from each of Mississippi's public universities for advancing diversity at their institutions. These honorees include:

Ping Zhang, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. Alcorn State University

Sylma Samuel-Ferreira, Instructor of Spanish and ESLDelta State University

Frances C. Dancer, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Jackson State University

David R. Buys, Ph.D., Associate Professor and State Health SpecialistMississippi State University

Antonio J. Gardner, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Health PromotionMississippi State University, DAFVM

Catherine L. Cotton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Speech-Language PathologyMississippi University for Women

E. Gray Flora, IV, Ph.D., Director, Grove Scholars at the University of MississippiUniversity of Mississippi

Roberto P. Santos, M.D., Professor of PediatricsUniversity of Mississippi Medical Center

Adina Narcisse Green, Ph.D., Director, TRIO-Student Support ServicesUniversity of Southern Mississippi