The Building Connections and Bridging Differences committee at William & Mary recently recognized four people and one department for their efforts to foster greater compassion and community on campus.
The 2023 BCBD awards were announced at this summer’s Employee Convocation. The individual awards were later presented to doctoral student Amy Wallace; Mark McLaughlin, teaching professor of South Asian religions; David Milby, trades utility senior worker; and Ivana Marshall, former assistant director of alumni engagement and inclusion initiatives. The team award went to W&M Athletics.
Launched in 2021, the awards are presented to one student, one faculty member, one student and one group. They were created to honor those at W&M “who exemplify our commitment to a community that fosters deep human connection, engages diverse perspectives and seeks wisdom in bridging differences."
“This year’s winners were wonderful examples of how real community impact is possible through a humble and quiet focus on relational connection and a genuine curiosity and compassion to understand first before being understood,” said Kelly Crace, vice president for health and wellness and director of Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence.
Get to know this year’s winners:
Student recipient: Amy Wallace
Wallace is a doctoral student in the W&M School of Education’s Educational Policy, Planning & Leadership program. She works as a graduate assistant in the Center for Gifted Education and – according to an award nomination – has spent countless hours revising its high school curriculum so that it would be more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
As a result of her work, more than 65% of the literary works now included in the curriculum are by authors from diverse racial, religious and neurodivergent backgrounds.
According to the nomination, her work will ensure that high school students using the curriculum “will be exposed to a wide variety of cultures and ideas to help them build connections with students different from them as well as learn to bridge the differences that exist.”
She has also joined the School of Education’s “Courageous Conversations” series in order to help extend such changes into the wider community and its schools.
Faculty recipient: Mark McLaughlin
McLaughlin is a religious studies scholar and professor who “strives to make his classroom an open space for students to discuss life's most important and uncomfortable questions,” according to an award nomination.
According to his departmental website, McLaughlin’s research “utilizes sacred space as a lens to better understand lived religion and its philosophical roots.”
The person who nominated him for the BCBD award said that their entire worldview shifted because of McLaughlin.
“One of the most notable differences is that I am much more open toward those who do not share the same views as me, in any realm,” the nominator wrote. “I am more compassionate as I have this new understanding that we are all trying to make our way through the world, and we should listen to what others have to say.
“The sheer amount of knowledge that McLaughlin has is just astounding. He is a walking encyclopedia for his area of scholarship, yet he somehow never does so in a condescending way and always meets students where they are. He values student relationships above all else and recognizes the importance of teaching us not just in the classroom but outside as well.”
Staff recipient: David Milby
Milby works in Facilities Management at William & Mary, and nominators say he exemplifies all of the university’s values.
“His curiosity and intellectual agility provide insights to the workings of the college,” said one nominator.
Along with his work at W&M, Milby has volunteered to assist with disasters in Haiti, Mexico and other locations around North America.
“His respect for all people and the recognition of a person's worth help to make individuals strive to attain a healthy and fulfilling life,” the nominator wrote.
Staff recipient: Ivana Marshall
While at William & Mary, Marshall served as the staff liaison to four of the university’s five identity-based alumni communities.
She was assigned to three of those communities when she was hired, but, recognizing a need, she then created a whole new one for Asian, Pacific Islander and Middle Eastern alumni.
“In service to W&M alumni, Ivana’s goals are primarily two-fold in prioritizing the needs of each individual alumni community while honoring the intersections that exist across identities and communities,” wrote a nominator. “This balance is critical to ensuring alumni belong.”
Marshall has left William & Mary to pursue a doctorate at another institution, but her impact is still felt by many.
“Ivana has built trust with individual alumni, alumni communities and helped repair alumni trust towards the institution,” a nominator wrote.
The coaches and staff members within W&M Athletics take great care in welcoming people into their spaces and providing them support and assistance that goes above and beyond their work duties.
“As an alum and as a long time employee of W&M, I have never been more proud to be a member of William & Mary and especially of the Athletics Department,” one nominator wrote.
Belonging, one of the university’s core values, is also of utmost importance to W&M Athletics, according to an award nomination. Earlier this year, they hosted “A Long Talk,” a program dedicated “to put an anti-racist at every dinner table in America.”
They also interviewed students for the opportunity to attend the 2023 Black Student-Athlete Summit. Three students were selected to attend along with Jasmine Perkins, assistant athletics director for student-athlete development.
Other efforts within W&M Athletics have included the creation of the Black Student Athlete Alliance by a student-athlete; tours of Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved for administrators, coaches and student-athletes; a trip to the Museum of African American History and Culture by the women’s basketball team; and a partnership between the men’s soccer team and the nonprofit Team Impact, which pairs special needs children with college athletic programs.
In addition, the W&M Athletics community looks for ways to engage in simple acts of kindness. For instance, two facilities crew members helped a visiting tennis team fix the rear door of their minibus. And many student-athletes participate in community service opportunities throughout the year.
“It is heartwarming to hear of their work from so many outside sources,” a nominator wrote.