Thursday, March 31, 2016
In recognition of more than 30 years of advocacy on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus and in the Richmond community, Dorothy Fillmore will receive the President’s Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award.
“At first I thought, ‘I’m too young for anything that has lifetime and achievement in the title,’” Fillmore said with a laugh. “There are so many people over the years who have made huge contributions to VCU.”
Fillmore and five others will be honored during the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment ceremony, which will be held Monday, April 4, at 3 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom at the University Student Commons. The event will include performances by the VCU Black Awakening Choir and musicians from the Department of Music.
“It’s caused me to do a lot of self-reflection. I’m very honored,” Fillmore said. “I’ve seen real progress and change. I think we’ve still got a way to go at the same time.”
She came to Richmond to attend seminary, but found it was not the right fit.
“Women were just at that time going to seminary and there was a lot of sexism. As well, it was not a welcoming, inclusive place for gay people,” Fillmore said.
After working at the Richmond Medical Center for Women and completing her graduate degree in English at VCU, Fillmore taught as an adjunct instructor and lecturer at VCU. She sought a combination of teaching and counseling with a position in academic advising.
Every day is different. You’ve got to have an open door and be available.
“Academic advising was the perfect synthesis of those for me,” she said. “No day is the same, at all. Every day is different. You’ve got to have an open door and be available.”
Today, she works as associate director of academic operations in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Fillmore troubleshoots, schedules and otherwise supports the program’s 1,600 undergraduates, 130 doctoral students and 50 faculty and staff.
“I hope that I continue to contribute to VCU, because I know how lucky I am to have a career I love and to have been in a place that has helped me do that,” she said. “We need to continue to make sure this is a safe learning environment for our students, no matter what faith, race, ethnicity, orientation or gender identity they bring.”
Fillmore is a 2012 recipient of VCU’s Burnside Watstein LGBT Award and a 2013 honoree of the Catalyst Award from ROSMY, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ youth issues. She plans to celebrate with her wife, Lisa Furr; a sister, Helen Fillmore who is traveling from England; and friends and colleagues.
“I see lots of places for us to continue to grow and progress, and keep listening to one another,” Fillmore said.
This is only the second time VCU’s President's Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award has been awarded. Henry Rhone, Ph.D., now-retired vice provost for student affairs, was the inaugural recipient in 2014.
“I can see how [Fillmore] takes on initiatives. She’s passionate about it and she works so well with others,” said Wanda Mitchell, Ph.D., vice president for inclusive excellence. “She’s really made a difference in the community on campus.”
Along with Fillmore, PACME honorees include:
Nakeina E. Douglas-Glenn, Ph.D., who will receive the administrator award. Douglas-Glenn serves as director of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and as an assistant professor in the Wilder School.
“Her commitment to social equity and to enhancing the leadership opportunities and potential of individuals across a wide range of settings and experiences is apparent and exemplary,” wrote a nominator. Douglas-Glenn has directed the institute since 2007.
Blue E. Wooldridge, D.P.A., and Clarence W. Thomas, Ph.D., who will receive faculty awards. Wooldridge, a professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, teaches public and financial management with a research focus on government programs designed to promote social equality.
A faculty member since 1989, Wooldridge founded the FAME program to support underrepresented faculty members in 1992.
“You will find a consistent theme throughout Wooldridge’s life and career that is marked by service and a commitment to enhancing diversity,” a nominator wrote.
Thomas, an associate professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, designed and teaches the Diversity in the Media course. Expanding from an earlier class, it follows a colloquium format including guest lectures, communication theory and a critical eye on the past and future of media representations.
“We definitely pay attention to all of the things going on in the news,” Thomas said. “The media is related to everyone in the country no matter what you do, no matter if you’re going to work in it or not.”
Thomas credits his late mother, Floretta Virginia Sears Thomas, for creating a family legacy at VCU. She was a graduate of the segregated St. Philip School of Nursing at the Medical College of Virginia.
“It all goes back to her. This is her school,” Thomas said. “She went on to instill in me and my siblings a love of my fellow man.”
Nicholas R. Garcia, a two-time VCU graduate, will receive the staff award. Garcia guides students as senior undergraduate adviser in the Wilder School. He earned a political science degree in 2011 and a master’s in public administration in 2013, and is currently working on a doctorate in the School of Education.
“It’s funny to think that diversity is what initially drew me to VCU, and now, nine years later, when I meet with our new freshmen at orientation many of them give the same answer,” Garcia said. “I’ve come to realize how each individual student — with their varied backgrounds and experiences — plays a critical role in the creation of this diverse community we call VCU.”
Tania Valencia, a sociology major and psychology minor, will receive the student award. A recipient of the Staff Senate’s 2015 Virginia Caring University Scholarship and a volunteer with the Marquita Aguilar Walk-a-thon, she will graduate in May.
A Woodbridge native, Valencia was drawn to VCU after meeting current students who led a workshop.
“I knew then that VCU was the school where I wanted to grow as a leader. There were so many student organizations that I knew it would be easy for me to find my niche at such a large university,” she said.
Valencia feels that VCU must continue “embracing and celebrating our diversity.”
“We have to build up our faculty and staff to better reflect underrepresented demographics. We also have to continue to support student organizations that are catered towards cultural enrichment. I am confident that we are headed towards a better direction in embracing our diversity and look forward to the continuing development of such a wonderful university,” she said.
I am confident that we are headed towards a better direction in embracing our diversity.
PACME honors those who have contributed to promoting civility, building community, establishing effective cross-cultural initiatives, advocating equity and nurturing tolerance and inclusive excellence throughout the university.
“For a university this size and as diverse as this institute is, we need to recognize people who give so much of their time and efforts. I know they don’t do it for recognition but it’s important to spend this time to celebrate them,” Mitchell said. “I see them being dedicated members to the campus community, but their work extends beyond their positions at VCU to impact change in the broader community.”
One of the recipients will be twice-honored during the ceremony, as the Riese-Melton Award will be awarded to one of the winners. It is offered for efforts in cross-cultural communications.
For more information, visit http://www.inclusive.vcu.edu/diversity-awards/pacme/ .
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