2024 MLK Champions
The MLK Champions recognition program celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MLK by recognizing the power of community action to honor local partners, students, faculty, and staff who have dedicated their talents to enhancing a movement of justice, equity, and dignity. It is sponsored by the MLK 2024 Commemorative Planning Committee.
Dr. Margareth Etienne
Carl L Vacketta Professor of Law, College of Law
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
As the Carl L Vacketta Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, her scholarship focuses on institutional decision-making in Criminal Law, Sentencing, Education and Children’s Law. Her work has been published in the Stanford Law Review, The New York University Law Review, the California Law Review, the Illinois Law Review, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and too many other venues to name. Professor Etienne has also presented her work internationally and served as a Fulbright scholar to conduct judicial training on white collar crime in Senegal, West Africa.
Margareth Etienne is also the Associate Dean for Graduate and International Programs at the University of Illinois College of Law, where she oversees the College’s JSD, LLM, and MSL programs.
She received her undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University. She clerked for the Honorable Diana G. Motz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Before joining the faculty, she practiced as a public defender in state and federal courts for several years.
Her work as a practitioner, educator, scholar and administrator has consistently focused on helping people to change the trajectory of their lives.
Dr. Darnell Leatherwood
Lecturer, University of Chicago
Darnell Leatherwood is an investor and academic. He currently lectures at the University of Chicago. He is also a Young Scholar on The Journal of Negro Education Editorial/Advisory Board out of Howard University in Washington DC, Faculty Affiliate at the University of Michigan Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being, and Board Member on the Matteson School District 162 Board of Education. Additionally, he serves as Co-Principal Investigator on a National Science Foundation funded project entitled Promoting Equity and Research Using Adaptive Testing to Support Individualized Instruction at Scale.
He recently served as Visiting Faculty at Saint Louis University and Senior Quantitative Research Fellow at the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University. He is a former National Science Foundation Fellow in Advance Quantitative Research Methods at the University of Chicago/Michigan State University, Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences Fellow, Illinois Board of Higher Education Fellow, and Expert Mentor for the IVenture Accelerator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is founder of the Black Male Educators Alliance of Illinois (BMEAIllinois), the Black Boys Shine campaign [501(c)(3)], and he was a founding member of the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBKChicago) Action Team in 2019.
Darnell is a recipient of the 2023 C.H.A.M.P.S Male Mentoring Community Award, 2023 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Research Development Award, the Simon Doctoral Teaching Award from the University of Chicago Crown Family School, Allison Davis Research Award from the University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences, and has been named to the Chicago Scholars 35 under 35 list.
Darnell holds a Ph.D. in Social Policy and Social Welfare, Certificate in Education Sciences, and M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago; he holds a B.S. in Management (concentration: Entrepreneurship) and Business Process Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Dr. Desirée McMillion
Assistant to the Head, Instruction Curriculum and Instruction Co-Advising, Department of African American Studies, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Desiree Y. McMillion earned her BA from Eastern Illinois University with an emphasis in Psychology and an MA and PhD from the University of Illinois in the College of Education in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois. Currently, she serves in an administrator role in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois. She assists the head of African American Studies, provides co-advising across campus disciplines, assist with the development of curriculum and instruction, and serves as instructor of various African American Studies courses and other campus units. She has taught a variety of courses such as the Introduction to African American Studies, Black Women in Contemporary US Society, Civil Rights Movement, American Families in Film, Black Women & Popular Culture and co-designed an introductory level course used to support the ethnic studies requirement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Throughout her career, Dr. McMillion has engaged in diverse university, national, and most recently international committee work both in the academic world and various communities. Many of her labors spread over the last 20+ years and her connection to different committees, has led her to many successful engagements with students and collaborations with various communities throughout the Illinois and most recently in Africa.
Dr. McMillion is the recipient of numerous awards across campus and within her community for scholarship, leadership, volunteerism, teaching, campus and community engagement, community action, and program development. Recent awards include but are not limited to: Not on My Watch Mother of the Year Award, Most Impactful Mentor and Commitment to Students Award, Academic and Community Development for Underrepresented Students Award, and the International Award for Embracing the Community. One of her most recent prestigious awards was the Inaugural 2023 Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award (CSEA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senior
Major in Social Work, minor in Gender & Women’s Studies
Malika Sampson is a Senior majoring in Social Work and minoring in Gender & Women’s studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She holds the following positions on campus as a student leader: President of the Central Black Student Union, Vice President of the Alpha Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Treasurer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People UIUC Collegiate Chapter, Charter Member of the Women of Nobility Chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs Inc., Office of Minority Student Affairs Ambassador, and Shelley Ambassador.
Dr. Chrjysafis Vogiatzis
Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
He received a M.Sc. and a Ph.D. degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering from the University of Florida, as well as a Dipl. Eng. degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. His academic interests lie in network analysis and optimization, along with their vast applications in modern socio-technical systems. At the University of Illinois, Chrysafis is teaching Probabilities and Statistics for Engineers for the undergraduate program, and Analysis of Network Data for the graduate program. For his teaching, he was recently recognized as the 2023 Teacher of the Year by the American Society for Engineering Education IL/IN Section. He is a member of INFORMS, IISE, and ASEE and is currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of INFORMS. Chrysafis is passionate about creating socially and culturally relevant case studies in his classes; he received the second place award at the 2023 INFORMS Case Competition for his case study entitled “Racial bias in automated traffic law enforcement and the price of unjustness.”
Director of Curriculum Development and Education in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Ross Wantland is a farm-raised, social justice and violence prevention educator. He is currently the Director of Curriculum Development and Education in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at the University of Illinois. During his 20 years at the University, Ross has worked to develop social justice education programs and sexual violence prevention initiatives.
Throughout Ross’s career, he has been an advocate for marginalized communities, assisting in reshaping how we address sexual violence, and creating structures to build intercultural/interreligious dialogues and engagements. From chairing the Interfaith Conference, to authoring multiple publications on masculinity, Ross contributes to growing discourse of community in action. He also works closely with the University YMCA, serving as the past board chair, on campus and community interfaith initiatives.
Prior to his current role, Ross served as the director of diversity and social justice education and the coordinator of sexual assault education in the division of student affairs. Ross has served as the NASPA Region IV-E Spirituality & Religion in Higher Education Knowledge Community Chair, and is the recipient of NASPA Region IV-E Mid-Level Professionals Award, and Lorraine “Cathy” Acevedo Award for Promoting Diversity within Campus Police.