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System Diversity

2/16/2023 - Jackson, Miss.

Tupelo volunteer Shawn Brevard receives the Karen Cummins Community Service Award.
Dr. David R. Buys of Mississippi State University is named the 2023 Diversity Educator of the Year.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning celebrated Black History Month by holding its annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards ceremony at the meeting held earlier today in Jackson. Campus and community leaders were recognized for their efforts in advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect. Dr. David R. Buys, Associate Professor and for Delta State University, was named the 2022 Diversity Educator of the Year.

Tupelo resident Shawn Brevard received the Karen Cummins Community Service Award. In 2017, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Community Service Award in memory of Trustee Cummins in recognition that her life epitomized what the award is all about, helping to improve Mississippi's communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit.

"The Board of Trustees is very pleased to recognize Shawn Brevard and Dr. David Buys," said Dr. Ormella Cummings, Trustee and Chair of the Board of Trustees' Diversity Committee. "Mrs. Brevard has made a tremendous difference in her community, devoting countless hours to arts programs, education, and nurturing a welcoming environment in Tupelo, the region and the state. Dr. Buys' work, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, has highlighted health disparities within our state's population. He also works tirelessly to address these disparities."

Community volunteer Shawn Brevard gives generously of her time and talent to enhance the quality of life in her community, throughout the Northeast Mississippi region and across the state. She has volunteered to serve on numerous boards and her leadership has helped them to excel and thrive.

Brevard currently serves as Chair of the Committee for King, a civic organization that plans and executes numerous activities and events, particularly in the days leading up to and on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. With a mission of seeking love, compassion, respect and racial harmony for all people, the Committee for King makes a difference in the community through various initiatives, including hosting dynamic speakers, recognizing individuals making outstanding contributions to the community through an awards program and giving the region's youth the opportunity to showcase their talents through a Talent Show.

Brevard has focused many of her volunteer and advocacy efforts on public education and the arts community. With two daughters who attended Tupelo's public schools, she was active in the Tupelo Public School District and named TPSD Parent of the Year. She also served on the TPSD Board of Trustees and was active in Tupelo's Association for Excellence and Education.

Brevard has served on the boards of numerous cultural organizations, including the Cultural Alliance of Tupelo/Lee County, Tupelo Community Theatre, and the Link Centre Performing Arts Commission. She and her husband, David, are also sponsors of the Gumtree Museum of Art at the Renasant Gallery in Tupelo.

In 2016, the Mississippi Trailblazers organization recognized her efforts with the "Tupelo Civic and Community Service Award." An alumnus of the University of Virginia, Brevard is an active member of First United Methodist Church in Tupelo.

Mississippi State University Associate Professor and State Health Specialist Dr. David R. Buys has fostered intellectual spaces that stimulate thought about inclusive excellence, diversity, and access. He is a recognized voice in the academy in exploring social causes of inequity in health and disease, particularly for people of color and aging adults.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, societal and environmental factors amplified the sense of loss, both physically and symbolically, experienced by many people. Dr. Buys utilized social media, including live discussions, to examine and share important data on racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-l 9 outcomes. His steadfast commitment to an inclusive environment has been demonstrated through numerous activities representing teaching, research, and service.

In his letter of nomination, Dr. Mark Keenum, President of Mississippi State University, outlined how Dr. Buys has demonstrated his commitment to advancing inclusivity and equity, writing, "Dr. Buys' commitment to an inclusive environment has been demonstrated through numerous activities representing teaching, research, and service. In partnership with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, he led a series of educational and learning initiatives focused on work with underrepresented populations to advance equity. Through his continued engagement, he allowed diverse groups of students to feel empowered as leaders, while also elevating his colleagues' understanding of the need for culturally responsive practices in leadership."

In addition to the Educator of the Year, the Board also honored faculty from each of Mississippi's public universities for advancing diversity at their institutions. These honorees include:

Trustee Dr. Ormella Cummings, Chair of the Board of Trustees’ Diversity Committee; and Karen Cummins Community Service Award recipient Shawn Brevard

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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