Columbus State to Honor Annual Diversity Award Winners at March 29 Banquet

Staff Report

Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

Columbus State University will honor a dozen students, employees, alumni and community leaders on Wednesday, March 29 with its annual Legacy Awards as part of its upcoming Diversity Forum. Each was selected for their dedicated work in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion:

This year’s award winners will be honored as part of the forum’s Legacy Celebration Dinner Wednesday evening and they include:

Jerry “Pops” Barnes is the recipient of the Alumni Award, which is presented to a CSU graduate who has demonstrated service in the community and/or to the university. Barnes, a District 1 Columbus City council member, is a member of the CSU Alumni Association Board of Directors and its Student-to-Alumni Engagement Committee. He graduated from Columbus State in 2001 with a degree in nursing.

Stephanie Ramirez Boca-Negra is the recipient of the Goizueta Foundation Scholarship Award, which recognizes a student of Hispanic or Latino heritage with family residing in the U.S. and who is in good academic standing. Boca-Negra is a junior pursuing a degree in psychology and double-minoring in criminal justice and Spanish. As the president of the Columbus State University Hispanic Association (CHISPA) and a native-Spanish speaker, Boca-Negra is often found helping Latino students and families learn their way around campus as they acclimate to their new community. This scholarship is made possible through philanthropic support from the Goizueta Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jarel Hearst is the recipient of the W.D. Feeney Award. Like the former CSU student and award’s namesake, Hearst’s confidence and success in overcoming his own challenges are inspirations to everyone at Columbus State—whether that be his classmates and instructors or those who benefit from his service in the Computer Science Lab. He is a senior from Beaufort, South Carolina, pursuing a degree in computer science/games programming.

Dr. Rania Hodhod, the Edwin & Florette Rothschild Chair, associate professor and assistant chair of the TSYS School of Computer Science, is the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award. The award recognizes a CSU employee for demonstrating and promoting leadership and service. A faculty member of Egyptian descent, Hodhod is regarded as a mentor to both international and domestic students alike—and well beyond their time as CSU students as they continue their graduate studies and begin their professional careers.

Daryus Jenkins is one of two recipients of the John Townsend Achievement Award—bestowed on the undergraduate male and female students of African American descent who hold the highest GPA. It is named for CSU’s first African American student. Jenkins, originally from Lawton, Oklahoma, enrolled in CSU by way of the military. He is an active-duty Army soldier and member of CSU’s ROTC program pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Alexander Johns is the recipient of the Lavender Alliance Community Award, which is bestowed on an LGBTQ student, supporter, ally or friend who has made a notable contribution, shown significant support, advanced a particular cause or given support within the LGBTQ community. A sophomore from Douglasville, Georgia, pursuing a degree in computer science, Johns is involved in numerous student organizations, including Pride+, through which he has worked to foster belonging and advance opportunities for CSU’s LGBTQ community.

Silvia Beltran Lancia is the recipient of the Kiongozi Award for Outstanding International Leadership—bestowed by the Center for Global Education on a graduating international student who has demonstrated campus involvement and academic leadership. Born and raised in Venezuela, Lancia relocated with her family to South Korea before choosing CSU for her college studies. She is currently a senior pursuing an interdisciplinary studies bachelor’s degree.

Amelia McInnis is the recipient of the Faith-based and Humanitarian Award, which is presented to an individual recognized for building strong, faith-based communities, breaking down religious barriers and seeking commonality in others despite obvious differences. McInnis, a junior] from Newnan, Georgia, pursuing a degree in theatre education, is well known for making others—especially CSU’s international students—feel welcome both individually and through her church affiliations.

Taylor Parker, the recipient of the Women’s Leadership Award, embodies the leadership and advocacy benefiting female causes for which the award is presented. As president of the CSU chapter of the Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honor Society and through other causes in which she’s involved, Parker fosters a sense of belonging for women on campus and in the Columbus community. She is a senior from the Harris County/Columbus, Georgia, area pursuing a degree in marketing.

Kaila Rogers is one of two recipients of the John Townsend Achievement Award, which is bestowed on the undergraduate male and female students of African American descent who hold the highest GPA. It is named for CSU’s first African American student. Rogers, who is a Columbus, Georgia, native, is a senior pursuing a degree in nursing.

The United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley is the recipient of the Civic Engagement Award, which is presented to a Columbus-area business or organization that advocates for or is committed to advancing diversity and inclusion. The organization’s intentional reflection of the Chattahoochee Valley region, its selfless service and its DEI advocacy set the bar for other businesses and nonprofits in our community to follow.

Spencer White is the recipient of the Community Outreach Award, which is presented to a student demonstrating a leadership aptitude while also embodying a sense of service. A senior from Knoxville, Tennessee, double-majoring in music and interdisciplinary studies, White has exhibited those values through CSU-sponsored service-learning trips to Guatemala and his own personal volunteer roles with Habitat for Humanity.

The Legacy Celebration Banquet Awards dinner begins at 6 p.m. in the university’s Frank G. Lumpkin Jr. Center on CSU’s Main Campus. In addition to the awards presentations, it will include keynote remarks from civil rights leader and broadcasting executive Xernona Clayton.

The Diversity Forum continues Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Cunningham Center on CSU’s Main Campus. It will include a full day of professional development sessions and a luncheon keynote by local DEI advocate Jo Anne Hill.

Diversity Forum tickets are $45 for individuals or $340 for a table of eight—and they can be purchased online. Tickets include both dinner Wednesday night and admission to the full program (including lunch) on Thursday.

The Diversity Forum is an annual program presented by CSU’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. For more information, visit the Diversity Forum webpage, or contact CSU’s Diversity Programs & Services at 706.507.8589 or [email protected].