UND honors seven with MLK Jr. Social Justice awards

Award recognizes exemplary work to advance social justice in the UND community

Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Seven leaders were presented with the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award at UND’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day brunch, which was held Monday in the Memorial Union. The award was created to recognize the exemplary work that’s been done to advance social justice and equity within the UND community.

With biographical information provided by UND’s Office of Student Diversity & Inclusion, this year’s winners included:

  • As a 13-year-old in the 1960s, Rosalyn Pelles began fighting for social and economic justice for all people. In 2016, she came to UND as a guest of the Black Student Association and presented to faculty, staff and students. She returned to campus this year to give the keynote address at Monday’s brunch. She has made a profound impact on all who have heard her story. She says everyone has a role to play in the fight for justice. Each role may look different, but each role is necessary and important.
  • Jordon Apienti-Gyapong is a junior at UND majoring in commercial aviation and specializing in aviation business. He is a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and National Gay Pilots Association and also serves as a UND student government student senator and board member for the Student Aerospace Advisory Council. In 2020, he helped launch the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, the first such group at UND. Founded in 1976, OBAP has helped build inclusive environments for the development of aerospace students and professionals from historically excluded communities.
  • In Scott Corell’s role as registrar, he has made a significant impact for LGBTQ+ students at UND and in the North Dakota University System by creating inclusive systematic structures that reduced many barriers and stressors for students. His work included updating Campus Connection so students are able to update their name and gender identity, along with adding pronouns and sexual orientation to their information. His advocacy at the system level has created structures to prevent institutional misgendering of students in campus communication, classroom rosters, advising appointments and more. In addition, he has been active in the development of a gender-inclusive policy on campus to strengthen commitment to gender diversity and to create a more just and inclusive campus for students to thrive.
  • Anne Kelsch is the director of faculty development in the Teaching Transformation & Development Academy and a professor of history at UND. She has made a determined commitment to raising awareness and educating and supporting the advancement of inclusive educational pedagogy and practice in the classroom. She has worked with faculty and staff across campus to strengthen understanding and engagement around diversity, equity and inclusion, and she’s been pivotal in bringing people together for these efforts.
  • Sharon Carson, a Chester Fritz Distinguished professor in English and a professor of philosophy and religion at UND, has dedicated much of her professional career to advancing the knowledge, importance and influence of Black scholars. Her professional portfolio includes courses dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of Black literature, and she has spent the past few years developing a Black Studies minor and a library dedicated to Black and African American literature and history. Carson also has worked hard to create equitable and inclusive climates, as well as support and spaces for students from historically excluded communities. She has served as the advisor for the Black Student Association for a number of years, and she has continued to lead efforts on the Black Studies Project. Carson also recently served on the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion taskforce and the diversity, equity and inclusion statement working group at UND.
  • Cara Davis, assistant director of UND’s TRIO Educational Opportunity Center, works with individuals who want to earn their high school diploma, GED or pursue a college education. Through her advocacy work, she provides services to adults, high school students and veterans who are looking to further their education. She provides academic and financial resource support, educates and raises awareness of inequitable educational policies and opportunities, as well as advocates regularly for the removal of barriers. She is an active and involved member of ASPIRE, an organization focused on increasing the educational and success opportunities for low-income and first-generation college students through advocacy, professional development and legislative awareness.
  • Sarah Owens, a senior at UND majoring in airport management with a minor in sustainability studies, is an actively engaged student organization member and leader. She serves as the treasurer of Students for Sustainability, an organization actively involved in raising awareness on campus and in the community for environmentally sustainable practices. She also is the vice president of the F Word, an inclusive group of feminists focused on promoting equality through action. During the fall semester, she helped organize the F-Word’s Period Kit Project, centered on the fight against menstrual inequality. In addition, she is the vice president of community service for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and is a member of the 2022 Black History Month planning committee.

Rosalyn Pelles accepts her award at the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Day brunch at UND. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.