A linguistic professor emeritus, a recent Stanford graduate, the Graduate Diversity Staff Council and the Leland Scholars Program each received a 2018 President’s Award for Excellence Through Diversity at a ceremony this week.

Stanford established the awards in 2009 to recognize and honor individuals and programs that have made exceptional contributions to enhancing and supporting diversity within the Stanford community.

This year’s individual winners are John Rickford, a professor of linguistics, emeritus, and Lily Zheng, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in sociology at Stanford in 2017.

This year’s program winners are the Graduate Diversity Staff Council, which provides an infrastructure for collaboration and information sharing among staff members in support of diversity and inclusion, and the Leland Scholars Program, which helps facilitate the transition to Stanford among incoming first-year students who are the first members of their families to attend college or who come from under-resourced high schools.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne presented the awards.

John Rickford

Rickford was honored for “his tireless efforts to expand opportunity for African Americans and other underrepresented students in linguistics, providing personal leadership in recruiting and supporting outstanding graduate students in the field.”

He was commended “for his mentorship of leading African American linguists across the country, which has enriched the field and has had a national impact far beyond Stanford.”

The citation also honored Rickford “for his contributions to diversity through his teaching and research in sociolinguistics, including his important work in African American Vernacular English, and his application of this work to pressing social issues in education, housing and criminal justice.”

He was also commended “for his extraordinary service to Stanford over the course of his career, including as director of the Program in African and African American Studies, as a Resident Fellow and as chair of the Faculty Senate.”

Lily Zheng

Zheng was honored “for raising the visibility of issues critical to LGBTQ+, transgender and gender-diverse communities at Stanford through her activism and advocacy.”

She was commended “for creating impactful understanding and cultural change among students, faculty and staff through her work as a prominent columnist for The Stanford Daily.”

The citation honored Zheng “for developing informational resources to support the trans community at Stanford, including the creation of the 2017 Unofficial Guide to Trans Resources at Stanford.”

She was also commended “for inspiring collaboration between student communities and university leaders in addressing issues of social justice and institutional change.”

Graduate Diversity Staff Council

The Graduate Diversity Staff Council was honored “for providing an infrastructure for collaboration and information sharing among staff in support of diversity and inclusion at Stanford, particularly for graduate students.”

The citation commended the council “for serving as a unifying voice for diversity and inclusion efforts across the campus, connecting staff across all seven schools and key administrative units of the university.”

The Graduate Diversity Staff Council was honored “for advocating for research-based practices and developing cross-cutting efforts in support of graduate student recruitment and retention.”

The council was also commended “for providing leadership for key efforts affecting the lives of graduate students, including but not limited to the graduate fee waiver application process, Graduate Recruitment and Diversity Day, partnership programs with peer institutions and summer research programs for promising undergraduates.”

Leland Scholars Program

The Leland Scholars Program was honored “for creating an effective and welcoming transition program to Stanford for incoming first-year undergraduates who are the first in their families to attend college or have attended under-resourced schools.”

Students in the Leland Stanford program

John Okhiulu and Bao Phan work together to test how different gasses affect a lighted candle. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The citation commended the program “for providing an important foundation of community and belonging for incoming students, beginning with a four-week summer residential program and continuing throughout their Stanford years with activities, advising and mentoring.”

The program was honored “for establishing a place where incoming undergraduates build the skills, confidence and friendships to help them thrive at Stanford and make the most of their educational opportunities at the university.”

The Leland Scholars Program was also commended “for offering a stimulating introduction to Stanford cited by students as ‘the best decision I have ever made,’ ‘everything I could have hoped for and more’ and a program that ‘set up the best support system we could ever ask for.’”