On January 12, 2024, Indiana University faculty, staff, students, and community members observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day, attending a special event entitled “An Afternoon Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
The program included student performances, IU’s Building Bridges Award presentations, and a keynote address by Shaun Harper, one of the nation’s leading racial justice and equity experts.
The Building Bridges Award recognizes individuals and organizations that demonstrate Dr. King’s vision, spirit, and leadership in ways both big and small at IU and within communities across Indiana. One student and one additional community member or organization from each campus and IU’s School of Medicine are recognized.
The recipients of the 2024 Building Bridges Award are:
Ramir Williams and Armando Peña, IU Bloomington
For Ramir Williams, the student recipient, his work as a graduate assistant serves as an extension of his personal goal to achieve a more equitable society. Williams participates in equity-focused projects for the Kelley School of Business and the IUB Office of Admissions through collaborations and partnerships. In addition, he contributed to establishing the IU Diversity Education and Cross-Cultural Engagement Cultural Advisory Board.
The community recipient is Armando Peña, whose professional work is critical to ensuring the overall health and well-being of the Latino community. His research addresses the root causes of Type 2 diabetes disparities among the Latino community. Peña also serves as a mentor to underrepresented minority scholars at IU Bloomington.
Oriana V. Fuenmayor Mora and Tabitha Hardy, IU Indianapolis
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Oriana V. Fuenmayor Mora. An undergraduate student majoring in political science and a well-informed advocate for change and inclusion, Fuenmayor Mora works as a writing consultant in the University Writing Center, where she prepares papers, presentations, and essays on various equity-focused topics and encourages other students to become involved with social justice issues.
The community recipient is Tabitha Hardy, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for graduate education and assistant dean for student development and academic affairs at the IU Indianapolis Graduate School. A devoted champion and advocate for equity and inclusion, Hardy is adamant about advocating to her colleagues on and off campus that strength, creativity, and innovation happen when diverse minds and hearts work and learn together.
Megan Kleinhelter and Debolina Ghosh, IU Columbus
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Megan Kleinhelter, a junior majoring in elementary education and the president of the Feminism Club. As part of her activities, she strives to actively engage students and bring valuable resources to the student population. Additionally, Kleinhelter has created diversity programming that extends beyond the campus and promotes positive change for the most vulnerable residents in the Columbus community.
The community recipient is Debolina Ghosh, Ph.D., who makes diversity, equity, and inclusion a prominent theme in her mental health counseling program at IU Columbus. Among her many accomplishments, she has instructed PSY-G575 Multicultural Counseling, led a reformulation of the admissions interview process for the mental health counseling graduate program, and initiated a focus on outreach and recruiting activities for the South Asian community in Bartholomew County and abroad.
Nathan Hogg and Wazir Mohamed, IU East
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Nathan Hogg, a first-year communications major. Hogg is the group's president and has significantly revitalized the Multicultural Student Association at IU East.
The community recipient is Wazir Mohamed, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at IU East. Mohamed consistently demonstrates a deep commitment to exposing students to diverse voices from various cultures and backgrounds. Additionally, he helps coordinate on- and off-campus programs and initiatives to unite the community and introduce members to constructive dialogue and cultural activities.
Kaitlyn Roberts and Aisha-Amina L. Smiley, IU Ft. Wayne
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Kaitlyn Roberts, a second-year medical student at IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne. Roberts has a passion for service and a dedication to engagement and advocacy. This commitment can be seen through her volunteerism and recruitment efforts at Circles of Allen County, where she advocates for those living in poverty, works to build relationships, and helps individuals find resources to improve their situations.
The community recipient is Aisha-Amina L. Smiley, a Bachelor of Social Work program director and clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Work at IU Fort Wayne. She constantly strives to reach, maintain, and improve a culture of acceptance and character. Smiley is heavily involved in campus organizations and community partnerships. She has sought internal grant funding for “I am Healthcare” Roundtables, a program that focuses on mentoring diverse students in health and human sciences majors.
Rene Semple and Nikki Giovanni, IU Kokomo
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Rene Semple, a junior majoring in communications. Semple is an active campus community member, serving on the Student Government Association. She is working to re-establish the International Student Association at IU Kokomo and is looking for opportunities to collaborate with other student organizations.
The community recipient is Nikki Giovanni. Known for her poetry and civil rights activism, Giovanni has served as a visiting scholar at IU Kokomo. Recently, she met with students and community members to provide a public performance of her poetry. She inspires others through her work to create opportunities that allow people to learn, improve their lives, and appreciate culture and community.
Jade Johnson and Ken Patrick Barry, IU Northwest
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Jade Johnson, a senior majoring in criminal justice. Every day, Johnson demonstrates her passion for change by helping to invigorate two student organizations: My Sister’s Keeper – which provides holistic support for women on campus – and the Black Student Union. She is also a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions and president of the Nu Lambda chapter of AKA.
The community recipient is Ken Patrick Barry, director of the John Will Anderson Boys and Girls Club in Gary, Indiana. For more than 30 years, Barry has been a passionate service leader in his community, a change agent, and a champion for youth and their families. He also is considered an innovator, constantly finding ways to help youth succeed. Case in point: Youth participation in BGC programs has increased by 458 percent because of his efforts and the Tolleston Opportunity Campus project.
Brie Simmons and George Garner, IU South Bend
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Brie Simmons, a math education major, Herbert Presidential Scholar, and president of the Black Student Union. Her peers define Simmons as an extraordinary example of leadership and motivation for the Black Student Union, where she is credited with creating visibility and vital programming for the campus. Her unwavering commitment to advocacy, visibility, and critical programming has cultivated a culture of belonging and a safe space to facilitate discussion of complex topics.
The staff recipient is George Garner, assistant director and curator of the Civil Rights Heritage Center at IU South Bend. He has dedicated his career to exploring how museums help people find meaning in traumatic histories and use that work to produce positive change. Garner is also a well-respected advocate for DEI work on campus and within the community, lifting oppressed and marginalized voices through his book, “Placing History – An African America Landmark Tour of South Bend, Indiana,” and his podcast series.
Tatiana Carter and the New Neighbors Education Center, IU Southeast
The 2024 Building Bridges student recipient is Tatiana Carter, a senior studying business and the president of the Black Student Union. In that role, she focuses on making the student experience more inclusive and impactful, organizing events that spotlight diversity, addressing important social issues, and creating spaces for dialogue and understanding with peers.
The community recipient is the New Neighbors Education Center (NNEC), which partners with school districts, parents, and state and community organizations to help with the educational needs of culturally and linguistically diverse individuals and those learning English as a new language. The center actively promotes and advocates for the rights of individuals with a home language other than English and those with diverse cultural backgrounds, bridging parties and moving the needle forward toward social justice.
Aonesti Williams and Maya Cloyd, IU School of Medicine
The 2024 Building Bridges Award student recipient is Aonesti Williams, a fourth-year medical student at IU School of Medicine and president of the DEI Coalition. In this role and her previous time as president of the Student National Medical Association, Williams has initiated multiple outreach campaigns for medically underrepresented students and the broader community. She also participates in a multitude of health equity and DEI-related projects and events.
The additional community member awardee is Maya Cloyd, M.D., a third-year Pediatrics/Psychiatry/Child Psychiatry resident and chair of the Multicultural Physician Alliance. This resident-sponsored committee works to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion among residents and fellows at IU School of Medicine. Cloyd is committed to health equity, advocating for multiple initiatives to increase the number of underrepresented students and residents in medicine and improve the experiences of patients from marginalized and underserved communities.
For more information or to nominate someone for the 2025 Building Bridges Award, please visit mlkcelebration.indiana.edu.