‘Building the Dream’ award winners named at joint MLK celebration

Photo (left to right): Sherri Lawson Clark, Jenny Vu Mai, William Gibson, Jessica Lee Johnson and Dana Walker. Courtesy of Winston-Salem State University.

For 18 years, Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University have collaborated to host events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year as part of the joint celebration, author, speaker and Georgetown sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson, delivered the keynote address in Wait Chapel.

“America is great because it has the possibility to be great,” Dyson said in his talk delivered to a crowd of approximately 1,500.

“The potential for greatness is always there but you have to work towards it... You and I can join in the project to make America great by loving all people.” Michael Eric Dyson

Each year, both Universities present ‘Building the Dream’ awards to professors, administrators or students who exemplify King’s qualities and promote diversity within their communities.

‘Building the Dream’ Faculty/Staff Award Winners

Sherri Lawson Clark, assistant professor of cultural anthropology, was named Wake Forest’s 2018 “Building the Dream” faculty award winner.

Lawson Clark’s research focuses on the challenges facing low-income families in public housing.

“Sherri has a long record of teaching, service and research committed to confronting those practices that continue to otherize, marginalize and deny individuals their inalienable rights,” said Wake Forest sociology professor Ana Wahl, who nominated Lawson Clark. “She pulls students of color into her research, and cultivates the next generations of scholars committed to keeping social justice issues center stage.”

Read more about Lawson Clark’s commitment to building a strong community: Comfortable with conflict: WFU faculty help students navigate political divisions.

At Winston-Salem State University Dana Walker, coordinator of community service at WSSU received the award. Walker oversees WSSU’s Project GIVE, Getting Involved through Volunteer Efforts program. During the 2016-17 academic year, 2,144 students volunteered 42,328 hours to local agencies – an economic impact of $937,158.00. Walker recently received the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for his work matching members of the WSSU community with non-profit organizations.

‘Building the Dream’ Student Award Winners

Senior sociology major Jenny Vu Mai was named Wake Forest’s student “Building the Dream” award winner. Mai led a Wake Alternative Break trip to Asheville, N.C., that focused on domestic violence and sexual assault. She interned at Samaritan Ministries, a local nonprofit providing food and shelter to the needy in the Winston-Salem community. She also served as a mentor with the Freedom School program, which provides summer and after-school reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books.

“As an administrator who has guided Jenny along in multiple community engagement opportunities, particularly in the realm of social justice education and programming, I have seen first-hand Jenny’s ability to lead and inspire her peers to engage,” said Fahim Gulamali, who nominated Mai.

From Winston-Salem State University, William Gibson, a sophomore political science major from Charlotte and Jessica Lee Johnson, a senior psychology major from Greensboro were both recognized with “Building the Dream” awards.

Gibson has been elected twice as president of his class (freshman and sophomore). He is one of 62 students nationwide named to the 2017-18 class of White House HBCU All-Stars. At age 6, he and his father immigrated to the United States from Liberia.

Johnson is a member of the University Choir and the Burke Singers. To support herself at WSSU, she works late at night and on weekends at the library. She has hearing only in one ear and was unable to speak until she was well into grade school.

About the award and the MLK Day celebration

Faculty, staff and students at Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State University submit “Building the Dream” award nominations for their respective universities and a committee of representatives from each school selects winners. The recipients were recognized at an annual banquet celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held at Winston-Salem State University on Jan. 22.

Information on Winston-Salem State University winners provided by Jay Davis, director, communications and media relations at WSSU. For additional information on these winners, email davisjr@nullwssu.edu.

Building the Dream Award Winners

Wake Forest University

  • Sherri Lawson Clark, assistant professor of cultural anthropology
  • Jenny Vu Mai, senior sociology major

Winston Salem State University

  • Dana Walker, coordinator of community service at WSSU
  • William Gibson, a sophomore political science major from Charlotte
  • Jessica Lee Johnson, a senior psychology major from Greensboro

Lead photo (left to right): Sherri Lawson Clark, Jenny Vu Mai, William Gibson, Jessica Lee Johnson and Dana Walker. Courtesy of Winston-Salem State University.

Categories: Events, Top Stories, Valuing Diversity