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BOARD HOLDS ANNUAL DIVERSITY AWARDS RECOGNITION

2/18/2021 - Jackson, Miss.

The Honorable Philip Gunn, Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, receives the Karen Cummins Community Service Award.

Dr. Arthur E. Doctor of the University of Mississippi is named the 2021 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 virtually earlier today. Campus and community leaders were recognized for their efforts in advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect. Dr. Arthur E. Doctor, Associate Professor, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life for the University of Mississippi, was named the 2021 Diversity Educator of the Year.

The Honorable Philip Gunn, Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, 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 Speaker Philip Gunn and Dr. Arthur E. Doctor," said Trustee Shane Hooper, Chair of the Board of Trustees' Diversity Committee. "Speaker Gunn took a bold stance in favor of changing the Mississippi state flag that helped the transition to a new state flag come to fruition. Dr. Doctor has made significant changes at the University of Mississippi to make Greek life more inclusive and works with others across campus to expand diversity efforts and make the campus more welcoming to all students."

As a Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and in his role as Speaker of the House, Speaker Gunn has been a stalwart supporter of higher education and holds an exemplary record of service demonstrating his wisdom, foresight, and courage.

After the June 17, 2015, shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church, Speaker Gunn issued a statement saying, in part, that the Mississippi state flag that incorporated the Confederate battle emblem had become "a point of offense that needs to be removed." Taking this position at that time came at considerable risk to his political career.

Speaker Gunn's leadership on this issue has led to a new flag. Representing all Mississippians, the new flag design was overwhelmingly supported by Mississippians at the ballot box. It is now flying over the great State of Mississippi and represents our state wherever all state flags are flown.

"I am extremely humbled and honored to receive this award. However, I am just one of many people who had a hand in making this happen," said Speaker Gunn. "The courage shown by my fellow legislators in making this positive change for Mississippi is inspirational and must be lauded. Ultimately, however, the greatest acknowledgment must go to the men and women of Mississippi who voted by an astounding majority to effectuate this change. This is a great triumph for our state, one in which each and every Mississippian can be proud."

Speaker Gunn was elected to represent the 56th District in the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2004. Before his election as Speaker of the House in 2012, he served in various capacities as a member of the Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, Conservation, and Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committees.

Speaker Gunn grew up in Clinton, graduated from Clinton High School and attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, and the University of Mississippi School of Law in Oxford, Mississippi, serving as president of the Law School Student Body and earning a Juris Doctor degree.

Speaker Gunn and his wife, Lisa, reside in Clinton with their daughter and three sons, and attend Morrison Heights Baptist Church, where he has served as an Elder, Deacon, and Sunday School Teacher.

As the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Arthur E. Doctor has promoted diversity efforts within his office and the campus broadly as a trailblazer for the university. He has implemented best practices for enhancing the recruitment, engagement and retention for all members of the University of Mississippi community by creating the EMERGE Leadership Program to support the development of diverse student leaders in fraternity and sorority life.

Dr. Doctor has implemented comprehensive diversity training for all recruitment processes for all three councils in fraternity and sorority life. He collaborated with Interfraternity Council leadership to create a student leadership position titled Vice President of Diversity and Community Engagement.

"I am extremely honored to have been named the 2021 IHL Diversity Educator of the Year," said Arthur E. Doctor, Jr., Ed.D., Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life. "This award is a testament to my phenomenal Fraternity & Sorority Life staff, students and other stakeholders who are committed to ensuring that we are fostering an experience where everyone feels not only welcome but affirmed. The great work we have been able to do would not be accomplished were it not for our strong partnership with the Center for Inclusion & Cross-Cultural Engagement, as well as the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement here at the University of Mississippi. It is our vision to provide the premier fraternity and sorority experience in the country and the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion are central to our work."

Dr. Doctor has served on the advisory committee for the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, served on the Bias Education and Response Team, and fostered partnerships with various departments including Student Conduct, Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance/Title IX, the Office of Community Engagement, and the Center of Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement.

He is a member of local, regional, and national civic, community and professional organizations, including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors; Clemson University Fraternity & Sorority Life Advisory Board, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Southern Association of College Student Affairs, and the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County Board of Directors.

Dr. Doctor also received the 2020 Black Student Union Guiding Light Award and the 2020 Division of Diversity and Community Engagement Diversity Innovator Award.

In his letter of nomination, Dr. Glenn Boyce, Chancellor of The University of Mississippi, described Dr. Doctor's impact on the campus, "As the first person of color to lead the fraternity and sorority life community at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Doctor has been instrumental in elevating the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion within this significant community on our campus. He is truly a champion for this issue, and his efforts have certainly not gone unnoticed by students on campus, particularly students of color."

Dr. Doctor earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.; earned a Master of Science degree in Higher Education Administration from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.; and earned a Doctor of Education in Student Affairs Leadership from the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

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:

    Jermiah K. Billa, Ph.D.
    Chairperson and Assistant Professor, Department of Advanced Technologies
    Alcorn State University

    Tomeka Harbin, Ph.D.
    Chair, Associate Professor of Management
    Delta State University

    Timothy Turner, Ph.D.
    Department Chair of Biology
    Jackson State University

    Qiana M. Cutts, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Mississippi State University

    Derris D. Burnett, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Mississippi State University, DAFVM

    Ghanshyam Heda, Ph.D.
    Professor of Biology
    Mississippi University for Women

    John Q. Zheng, Ph.D.
    Professor and Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages
    Mississippi Valley State University

    Ervin Fox, M.D.
    Professor of Medicine, Jackson Heart Study and ARIC Senior Investigator and PI of the RURAL Study
    University of Mississippi Medical Center

    J. Theresa Bush, M.F.A.
    Assistant Professor of Theatre Costume Design and Technology
    University of Southern Mississippi

A video of the Diversity Awards Ceremony may be viewed online.

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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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