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Caltech’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity Celebrates Community Members

Published on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 | 6:06 am

Each year, the Caltech Center for Inclusion and Diversity (CCID) Celebration of Excellence recognizes and rewards the work of campus community members who have contributed to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility initiatives at Caltech.

This year, the CCID dedicated two additional awards to the transformative efforts of Bil Clemons, professor of biochemistry and chair of the President’s Diversity Council, and Sarah Sam, graduate student in neurobiology. For this inaugural presentation, the namesakes of the awards are also the recipients:

  • The Dr. William “Bil” Clemons Agent of Change Award is given to individuals who embody servant leadership through demonstrated commitment to steering social change within the Caltech community, taking initiative, and having the vision to translate a need into actionable steps to create a more inclusive campus climate by engaging in advocacy and organizing efforts with clear deliverables.
  • The Sarah Sam Activist Scholar Award is given to individuals who demonstrate excellence within their discipline and research while engaging in complex social justice issues, leading and/or participating in advocacy campaigns centering on the experiences of minoritized identities, and providing vision and leadership through the formation of affinity spaces and targeted supportive programs.

“Sarah and Bil both have been exceptional in their efforts to challenge and support the Institute,” said Taso Dimitriadis, interim director of the CCID. “It was a difficult year in so many ways, but Bil and Sarah persevered, poured themselves into projects, and worked through barriers to continue to do the work that they found to be important, and it felt important to us to recognize their activism as extraordinary.”

Added Dimitriadis: “Sarah worked with us to ask, ‘What needs to be done so that historically marginalized communities cannot just survive but thrive?’ She wants to make Caltech a place where anyone can be successful. Bil is a pillar in our community. He brought us together in a space where we could have very honest conversations that are identity focused, and it took a great amount of strength to be so open.”

Dr. William “Bil” Clemons, Jr. Agent of Change Award

Bil Clemons

“At the end of the day, I’m just a professor, but I’ve been driven by how important these issues are, and I’m in a unique position as a tenured faculty member from a diverse background. As the award says, actionable steps and clear deliverables are necessary in order to make change. I hope the things we built this year will have continuity, which means they need to be community based and supported at the Institute level with resources and infrastructure. I’ve learned that if you want to see change, you have to be realistic about what the problems are and be prepared to be wrong, to make mistakes, and to learn as you go.” — Clemons

Sarah Sam Activist Scholar Award

Sarah Sam

“Community is an emergent part of human society. It’s so important to invest in your community. Everyone has skills, ideas, knowledge, and wisdom that could benefit somebody else. What I’ve learned: look at what you value and identify your strengths, then focus on utilizing those strengths to serve your community and do advocacy work. At Caltech, we do incredible science and engineering, but we can do more to invest in our community. I want to see Caltech live up to its fullest potential. The CCID is a really special place for a lot of Caltech students; it’s kept a lot of us sane, grounded, and connected with our community. I am honored to be a part of the CCID for years to come through this award.” — Sam

To read more about each award and recipient, visit the CCID website.

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