2018 Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award recipients

Monday, December 3, 2018

The SEED Award program honors diverse  undergraduate, graduate, and professional students for their outstanding work at the University of Minnesota -- both within and out of the classroom. The awards are presented at the Office for Equity and Diversity's annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast.

See the list and video below highlighting this year's award winners:

Undergraduate SEED Awards

The undergraduate SEED Awards recognize students who are leaders in the classroom and in their communities, demonstrating outstanding academic achievement and a deep commitment to issues of equity, diversity, and social justice. Recipients are full-time juniors or seniors pursuing active community engagement while maintaining a minimum 3.0 cumulative G.P.A.

President’s SEED Award for Outstanding Scholar-Activism

This award is given in honor of academic achievement and outstanding leadership and commitment to social justice through participation in co-curricular activities and/or community service.

ATOSHA RYPA studies the sociology of law crime and deviance and is in the DirecTrack to Teaching program. Now a junior in the College of Liberal Arts,  it was in her sophomore year that Atosha decided to become a social studies teacher. She began volunteering at North High School and was drawn to the Afro Studies course, recognizing the importance of students seeing their experiences reflected in the curriculum. Atosha also uses her spoken word poetry to teach others, and refers to herself as an oral history book. As an educator, Atosha aspires to teach her students the importance of history so that their knowledge can be a catalyst for change.

President’s SEED Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement

This award is given in honor of outstanding academic performance and demonstration of engagement with and commitment to issues of equity and diversity.

HANA SAIFULLAH is a senior in the College of Design and is working towards a degree in architecture. Through her work with Freedom by Design, a group that utilizes students’ education to design-build projects that help underserved communities and neighbors, she learned how people can collaborate and utilize design as a medium of empathetic intervention. As a leader,

Hana has learned the value of listening to her peers and focusing on how to reach a group’s collective interests. Hana is committed to bringing her educational, personal, and extracurricular activities together to continue creating equitable spaces within and beyond the University.

Sue W. Hancock SEEDs of Change Awards

Multiple awards are given to students demonstrating impressive engagement with and commitment to issues of equity and diversity through outstanding academic achievement and activism. The Hancock SEEDs of Change Awards are named in honor of Sue W. Hancock, whose 27-year career of serving students and working for equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota inspired her colleagues and the many students whose lives she touched.

SARAH GONG is a junior in the Carlson School of Management, majoring in non-profit management, human resources, and industrial relations. Driven by a passion to support others, she serves  as a Carlson Outreach Ambassador and mentors local students from underrepresented populations as they strive to reach their academic and personal goals. Sarah is also creating networks to support marginalized students on campus and tirelessly advocates for equitable practices across the University. Through her work with Students fora Democratic Society, Sarah is committed to raising awareness around social issues and advocating for change at the local and national level.

DANI GRUTKOSKI studies integrated elementary and special education in the College of Education and Human Service Professions. She is a senior at University of Minnesota-Duluth and has found a strong community on campus that supports  her passion for education and activism. Her desire to effect change led Dani to pursue a leadership position in the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), a non-profit, student-led, advocacy organization focused on economic, environmental, and social justice issues.  As a future educator, she is committed to utilizing her platform to highlight social justice issues and, “teach peace because students have the whole world at  their fingertips and have the ability to be leaders and peacemakers.”

EMMANUEL OKEMATTI is a  senior in the College of Biological Sciences, pursuing a degree in neuroscience. After noticing racial disparities in healthcare, Emmanuel began working towards his goal of becoming a physician and using his knowledge and skills to encourage people of color to enter into the medical field. Beyond his academic work, Emmanuel serves as a lead mentor in the North Star STEM Alliance Peer Mentor  Program and continuously seeks out opportunities to support underrepresented communities.  Emmanuel is a leader, critical thinker, and role model who “will not rest until the problems minorities face in medicine are understood and addressed.”

MAIA PETERSON is an architecture major in the College of Design and is passionate about understanding how diverse populations experience products and services. A senior on the Twin Cities campus, Maia is involved with Design U, a non-profit student group that brings students together to partner with local startups and nonprofits on product consulting. She is also a University Innovation Fellow through Stanford University’s d. school, and promotes creativity and entrepreneurship on campus through equitable resources for students from diverse backgrounds. Every day, Maia strives to be mindful and empathic to those around her so that she can learn how to effectively advance equity and diversity in her work.

TSION WOLDEYES is a junior in the College of Education and Human Service Professions on the Duluth campus and majors in public health education and promotion. She has worked with the Green Card Voices program, which aims to collect stories of immigrant students in order to educate others about immigrants and immigration in the U.S. During her time at UMD, Tsion has focused on created spaces where students can feel a sense of belonging on campus. To achieve this goal, she served as a Core mentor and founded the Ethiopian Eritrean Student Association (EESU). Tsion hopes to continue supporting others and passing on her belief that education and understanding social issues can lead to transformative change.

Graduate and Professional SEED Awards

JILL FISH is a Ph.D. candidate in counseling psychology and holds a M.S. in mental health counseling from State University of New York at Buffalo and a B.A. in psychology and philosophy from Niagara University. Her research focuses on how systems of oppression that impact Native American peoples can be challenged and transformed. Jill has been awarded a number of fellowships, including the Diversity of Views and Experiences (DOVE) Fellowship and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. Jill believes in the power of mutual story sharing, and creates opportunities where individuals and communities can discuss their experiences. Through her dissertation, Jill is preserving and empowering indigenous oral wisdom by gathering digital stories of those who challenge oppressive systems.

TYEASTIA GREEN is a Master of Public Affairs student focusing on racial equity  and inclusion in public policy. She also holds a B.S. in information technology from Kaplan University. Tyeastia has always been acutely aware of the inequalities within U.S. society and made the conscious decision to be a part of the fight for racial equity. Her research focuses on the disproportionate number of unarmed African Americans who are killed by law enforcement.

JOSÉ MANUEL SANTILLANA is a Ph.D. student in feminist studies in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. He also holds a M.A. and B.A. in Chicana and Chicano studies from California State University, Northridge and UCLA. His research explores Mexican and Mexican American social life in  rural Central California where there is ongoing environmental degradation. He specifically asks: “What can we learn from Mexican American and Mexican immigrant women environmental activists and their contributions to environmental discourses?” As an activist scholar, José is dedicated to finding ways to support underrepresented students on campus, and continuously strives to nurture future generations who struggle in the face of persistent racial, economic, and environmental injustices.


"Perspectives" stories are the views and opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect any official position of the University of Minnesota.