University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Four Illinois Faculty and Staff to be Recognized for Dedication to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Headshots of Leslie K. Morrow, JJ Pionke, Shardé McNeil Smith, and Avital Livny

Four University of Illinois faculty and staff members will be recognized for their exceptional dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion as the 2021 recipients of the Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Awards.

The Larine Y. Cowan Awards are presented annually to University of Illinois faculty and staff by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in four categories: Advocacy for LGBTQ Affairs, Excellence in Access & Accommodations, Leadership in Diversity, and Teaching and Mentoring in Diversity.

This year’s recipients include:

Leslie K. Morrow, Director of the LGBT Resource Center in the Office of Inclusion & Intercultural Relations, for her deep influence as a scholar-advocate for social change that positively impacts the lives of LGBTQ students and professionals on our campus and nationally.

JJ Pionke, Assistant Professor and the Applied Health Sciences Librarian in the University Library, for his investment and dedication to make the Library a more accessible and welcoming place for functionally diverse people.

Shardé McNeil Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, for her persistent and courageous leadership to create departmental change that promotes racial justice and antiracist research culture.

Avital Livny, Assistant Professor of Political Science, for her tireless and innovative efforts to provide transformative research experiences and mentorship that have reshaped representational structures with her department.

Named in honor of the past Assistant Chancellor and Director of what is now the Office for Access & Equity, these annual awards reflect the commitment to human rights advocacy and diversity that defined the leadership of Larine Y. Cowan for nearly 20 years at Illinois.

This year’s award recipients will be honored at the 36th Annual Celebration of Diversity on Friday, November 12, 2021 at the I Hotel and Conference Center.