The Suffolk County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission honored Nina Maung-Gaona, Assistant Dean in the Stony Brook University Graduate School and Director of the Center for Inclusive Education (CIE) with the 2015 Public Service Award at their annual luncheon held on January 16. This year, 10 individuals from the community, education and law enforcement were recognized for work that reflects the mission of Dr. King.
“When you are in the work of diversity in higher education, which is essentially equity in education, receiving an award that bears the name Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is really the highest honor,” said Maung-Gaona.
Maung-Gaona’s work at Stony Brook for the past 15 years has focused on enhancing the academic performance, mentoring experiences and career competitiveness of underrepresented graduate students and postdoctoral trainees, many of whom are in the STEM disciplines. Some of the target populations for these programs are underrepresented racial and ethic minorities, first-generation college students, women in science, and students with disabilities.
In the past three years, CIE collaboration with University faculty has netted $7 million in grants from government agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide direct financial support and professional development for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees. In addition, Maung-Gaona serves on several advisory boards for STEM education training programs and diversity initiatives at Stony Brook and other academic institutions across the country.
In accepting her award, Maung-Gaona acknowledged the support of the CIE staff and reflected on the quote from Dr. King that drives her mission, in which he speaks of having ‘the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 10 percent of STEM doctoral students nationally are underrepresented minorities. Although it is a small population, Maung-Gaona believes it is vital vigorously to support the development of these students for leadership roles in academia, scientific research, government and public policy. “If we are going to compete in a global world where national boundaries are becoming more and more permeable, then we need a more inclusive group of people at the table.”
— Joan Dickinson