Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI)

North Foundation Hall, Room 104
318 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309
(location map)
(248) 370-4404
[email protected]

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m

Keeper of the Dream 2024 winners posing for a group photo

Keeper of the Dream

The Keeper of the Dream Award was established in January 1993 to recognize Oakland University students who have contributed to interracial understanding and good will. 

  • Applicants must demonstrate academic achievement (a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 at time of application)
  • Have a clear career focus and academic persistence
  • Be an undergraduate student that is returning to Oakland in the fall and winter semester of the following academic year

The Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration honors the legacy of the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and awards scholarships to students that best demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities through their involvement on campus and in the community by breaking down racial and cultural stereotypes and by promoting unity among all people to foster a campus environment rich in diversity and multiculturalism.

It is also an opportunity to publicly recognize students who exemplify Dr. King’s vision, and to award them annual scholarships for their efforts in promoting interracial tolerance and understanding.

A steady increase in corporate contributions has made it possible to increase the initial level of awards from two $1,000 scholarships in 1993 to several $5,000 scholarships. Since its inception, over one hundred students from a wide variety of academic majors have been awarded scholarships.

For more information about the award requirements, please contact the Center for Multicultural Initiatives.

KOD PhotosKOD VideosSupport Keeper of the Dream

2024 Keynote Speaker

Loni Love is a two-time EMMY, two-time NAACP Image & three-time Gracie Award-winning host, comedian, actress, author, and philanthropist. She has performed comedy all over the world and loves to make people laugh.

Loni is the Executive Producer of Little Women Unfiltered: Atlanta – an after show forLittle Women: Atlanta, season six on Lifetime. Loni was also the host of the highly rated post Salt-N-Peppa movie interview with the real legendary artists on Lifetime. She is also the new first narrator for the 13th season of Bridezillas on WETV.

Loni is one of the co-hosts of the GRACIE Award-winning weekend radio show Café Mocha. The show is broadcast on over 40 stations including SiriusXM Channel 141.

From 2015-2022, she was the co-host for the nationally syndicated daytime talk show, “The Real”, on Fox. From 2020-2022, Loni was the co-host for E! Daily Pop and guest co-host for E! Nightly Pop.

In 2019, she became the first female host on the mainstage of the Essence Music Festival in the Super dome in New Orleans. For a lifelong road comic, 50,000 people was Loni’s largest live audience ever. In 2020 she hosted the first-ever virtual Essence festival celebrating the magazine’s 50th anniversary.

Loni’s second book, “I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons “debuted in June 2020 and received a glowing review from the New York Times. The book is an inspiring, hilarious memoir about learning to resist the pressures of conformity, love yourself for who you are, embrace your flaws, and unlock your true potential.

Apply Now

Are you a student leader? Have you contributed to breaking down racial and cultural stereotypes? Have you volunteered or made a difference at OU? If so, you might be eligible to apply for the Keeper of the Dream Award. Established in 1993, KOD recognizes undergraduate students who contribute to interracial understanding and good will.

Awards up to $10,000 and are available to students who have demonstrated strong citizenship, scholarship and leadership in breaking down cultural stereotypes and in promoting interracial understanding. The awards are presented publicly each year at the annual Keeper of the Dream Celebration. Scholarship awards will be distributed and divided evenly during the fall and winter terms.

Nominate a student for the Keeper of the Dream Award

Nominees must possess all of the following attributes:

  • Current cumulative grade-point average of 3.0
  • Demonstrated campus involvement
  • Record of responsible citizenship
  • Enrollment at Oakland University in a minimum of 12 credits each term for fall 2024 and winter 2025 semesters 

Nominations are now closed

All nominations are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, September 29, 2023. To apply for the Keeper of the Dream Award, please follow the below instructions.

Apply for the Keeper of the Dream Award

Applicants must possess all of the following attributes:

  • Current cumulative grade-point average of 3.0
  • Demonstrated campus involvement
  • Record of responsible citizenship
  • Enrollment at Oakland University in a minimum of 12 credits each term for fall 2024 and winter 2025 semesters 

Your resume should highlight your involvement and leadership in working to promote racial understanding and to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes at Oakland University. Your essay should be 500 words or less and describe how you have made a positive impact on improving interracial understanding within the Oakland University community. Please include three verifiable letters of nomination or support from Oakland University faculty or professional staff who can address your work at Oakland University on interracial/multicultural issues.

Application is now closed

All applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 13, 2023. Please note that the application cannot be saved once started and references listed will receive an email with a link to upload their letters of recommendation.

For additional information, please contact the Center for Multicultural Initiatives.


2024 Sponsors

32nd Anniversary Keeper of the Dream Sponsors

Program Sponsor

  • Oakland University Credit Union
  • Corewell Health

Benefactor Sponsor

  • Magna
  • PNC Bank

High Achievement Scholarship Sponsors

  • Comerica
  • Whirlpool

Scholarship Sponsors

  • Lynne & Lia McIntosh Scholarship
  • Lynne A. McIntosh Memorial Scholarship
  • Marshall Family Scholar Foundation
  • OU Alumni Association
  • OU Black Alumni Chapter

Student Retention Scholarship Fund Sponsors

  • Oakland University Credit Union
  • Corewell Health
  • Magna

Unity Sponsors

  • First State Bank



Past Winners and Presenters

Hill Harper

Award Recipients:
Mena Hannakachl
Zoe Rosario
Tamia Smith
Guadalupe Avalos
Kyle Griggs
D'Zariah Hopkins
Krystal Davis 


Anthony Anderson

Award Recipients:
Azana Jones
Keyara Pepper-Cameron
Isabella Mahuad
Kelly Knight
Destiny Williams
Markeal Williams
Ta’Niyah Harris 


No Presenter

Award Recipients:
Adriana Colin-Diaz 
Maryam Nissan 
LaCaya Smith
Teyler Thompkins 
Mariama Toure
Alaya Freeman 
Rachel Jackson 
Ja’Laaiyah Gordon
Niajah Hood 


Lisa Leslie
Three-time WNBA MVP, Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Hall of Famer

Award Recipients:
Mikal O'Neal
Jennifer Medrano Delacruz
Maya Ford
Raneen Allos
Donovan Hernandez
Zakia Ali-James

Special Recognition:
Isaias Cruz


Jeff Johnson
Award-winning journalist and communication specialist

Award Recipients:
Destinee Rule
Ghazi Ghazi
Flavio Di Stefano
Julia Alexander
Chukwuebuka Unobagha
Benjamin Lane
Gicentroy Henry
Dezirae Robinson
Ernesto Duran


Ed Gordon
Emmy Award winning broadcaster

Award Recipients:
Lakaysha Mitchell
Blake Walton
Kessia Graves
Obadah Asbahi
Hansen Karyakose
Farrah Sitto
Michela Manga


Holly Robinson Peete
Actress, author, talk show host, activist and philanthropist

Award Recipients:
Jacob Semma
Alex Currington
Aditya Tiwari
Daryl Blackburn
Ashley Chillis
Gabriela Saenz
Shayla McCullough
Anders Engnell


Levar Burton
Actor, director and author

Award Recipients:
Christina Root
Carlie Austin
Tasha Tinglan
Myshia Liles-Moultrie
Betira Shahollari


Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Award-winning actress and activist 

Award Recipients:
Joseph Kirma
Zienab Fahs
Chanel Daniels
Aukury Cowart
Taylor Moore 


Lee Daniels
Oscar-winning producer and director

Award Recipients:
Raya Hollis
Paul Marvin
Yen Tran
Daniel Lewis
La'Asia Johnson


Daymond John
Shark Tank star and entrepreneur

Award Recipients:
Steven Wynne
Charlie Lapastora
Bria Ellis


Rapper, author, activist

Award Recipients:
Ben Eveslage
Subha Hanif
Tara Michener


Lou Gossett Jr.
Oscar-winning actor
Founder, Eracism Foundation

Award Recipients:
Emily Tissot
Gerald Son
Rodrina Moore
Aiana Scott


Susan L. Taylor
Editor Emeritus, Essence magazine
Founder, National Cares
Mentoring Movement

Award Recipients:
Chelsea Grimmer
Juquatta Brewer
Melissa DeGrandis


Danny Glover
Actor, producer, human rights activist

Award Recipients:
Norris Chase
Lisa Daily
Jasmine Rudolph
Relando Thompkins


Harry Belafonte
Human rights activist and entertainer

Award Recipients:
Latonia Garrett
Ronée Harvey
Denise Jones
Avery Neale
Yakela Roberson
Jinae Stoudemire


Ruby Dee

Award Recipients:
Sean Buono
Kwame Everett
Matthew Kelly
Aaron Kochenderfer
Brandon Svenson
Tiffanye Teagarden


Former Ambassador Andrew Young

Award Recipients:
Nerissa Brown
Margaret DeGrandis
Kirbionne Fletcher
Michael Lerchenfeldt


Coretta Scott King

Award Recipients:
Sheila L. Brooks
Andrew W. Gaines
Kathryn M. Miller
Jameelah M. Muhammad
Ashley K. Seal


Daniel G. Mulhern
First Gentleman of Michigan

Award Recipients:
Lenny Compton
George Davis III
Joi Durant
James Ellout
Sophia Soldana


Edsel B. Ford
Ford Motor Company

Award Recipients:
Crystal D. Allen
Steven D. Townsend
Crystal A. Wilkerson
Sumeera Younis


Martin Luther King III
President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Award Recipients:
Ashli C. Bobo
Rhonda R. Hanna
Joi C. Olden
Diana L. Pochmara

Special Recognition:
Erin Liebner


Harold Kutner
Vice-President, Worldwide Purchasing &
North American Operations
General Motors Corporation

Award Recipients:
Angel D. Guy
David Mackinder
Brian S. Jaye
Kimberly Lavan
Ann R. Lefkowitz


Robert N. Cooper
President, Ameritech Michigan

Award Recipients:
Annie O. Chung
Bonefacio F. De La Rosa
LaShanda P. Evans
Kristin J. Kouba
Razzaaq S. McConner
Aniesha K. Mitchell
Tamarcus D. Southward
Ralph E. Williams, II

Special Recognition:
Mychal C. Thom


Dave Bing
Chairman, The Bing Group

Award Recipients:
Jerry W. Autry, II
Adrienne D. Carter
Ronald L. Howell, Jr.
Shawn R. McLernon
Shaunda N. Scruggs
Natasha P. Vanover


Robert J. Eaton
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Chrysler Corporation

Award Recipients:
Delano Davis
Jermaine Evans
Lisa Gregg
Renique Quick
Alysia Roberson
Doron M. Elliott
Dedra L. McGlory


William C. Brooks
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
General Motors Corporation

Award Recipients:
Carla Sabbagh
Tierra Stamps


Father William T. Cunningham
Executive Director, FOCUS: Hope

Award Recipients:
Bridget Green
Kelly M. Schehr


Denise Langford Morris
Judge, Oakland County Circuit Court

Award Recipients:
Natascha Nunn
Gregory Sharp, Jr.


Conrad Mallett, Jr.
Associate Justice, Michigan Supreme Court

Award Recipients:


Dennis Archer
then mayoral candidate, City of Detroit

Award Recipients:
Alicia Cunningham-Sampson
Lisa McRipley

2024 Scholarship Winners
Nosaiba Lela

As a senior admissions ambassador, Nosaiba Lela combines her passion for creating an inclusive campus tour experience with her goal of addressing the challenges in seeking higher education. In her role, Lela put her passion into action, and campus tour procedures have been adapted to different cultural backgrounds, significantly improving the OU tour experience for all participants.

“This includes everything from educating my white peers on various religions, ethnicities and the financial standings of those we bring to our campus. In doing so, I have opened their eyes to things that they were not aware of, thus adjusting the way we approach campus tours and group visits,” Lela says.

As a result, longer diversity training has been implemented in which ambassadors learn to consider perspectives they may not have been aware of.

Admissions Adviser Hannah Stanhope praises Lela’s gift to lead with compassion and her love for building community on campus. “Working in higher education, in any capacity, you learn that every single student is walking through a unique experience that can sometimes be overlooked…,” Stanhope says. “Nosaiba looked past the stereotypes and really learned what these students need and as a result has taught us what we as an office need to improve on.”

Drew Huff, assistant director of Campus Visits, describes Lela as a leader on and off campus. When tasked with assigning a student to attend an off-campus panel discussion that brought local officials and community members together to discuss college access and educational equity, Huff immediately thought of Lela. 

“She was a wonderful speaker and an example to attendees of what bright students attend OU,” Huff says. “Not only did she represent on the stage, but she also had the chance to meet with Governor Whitmer to discuss barriers to higher education and how we can overcome them at the state level. Her future is bright and her passion for the success of others and justice for all people will make her a great leader in any space she inhabits.”

Graduate Assistant Dina Abbas, who has supervised Lela in her role as Senior Admissions Ambassador, has witnessed the impact Lela has made at Oakland University, particularly in the realm of diversity, race relations and her dedication to improving the educational experience for all students.

“As a Muslim Egyptian American, Nosaiba's journey has been marked by unique challenges and adversities,” Abbas says. “Nosaiba has openly shared that she is constantly navigating cultural nuances while bridging the gap between her heritage and her American identity. In the face of these challenges, Nosaiba has exemplified resilience, grace and commitment to advocating for inclusivity and diversity.”

Tayion Williams

Tayion Williams does not let any obstacles slow him down. Raised by his sister after the passing of his mother at a young age, Williams directed his own path by focusing his ideas and thought processes on success.

“Losing my mother is something that I deal with every day, but will never be something I use as an excuse. The things I do are to make her proud,” Williams says. “Instead of using my pain as a cushion to slow down or stop, it was motivation to work even harder and push myself further, and I'd like to be even a fraction of the person she was.”

Starting his educational journey at Oakland University felt like a lonely experience at first, especially when Williams noticed he was one of only a few Black students in one of his classes. However, after becoming a CORE Ambassador in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, Williams found a supportive environment in which he interacts with students and provides them with the guidance he had always sought out. Besides being actively engaged in the CORE program, Williams has established himself as a leader on campus through his work in the classroom and as resident assistant, first year assistant and programs director for Student Video Productions.

“Tayion has shown personal growth and responsibility through the first year assistant role… I have seen firsthand Tayion's commitment to his professional and personal development, his education and the campus community,” says Celeste Black, coordinator of Orientation and New Student Programs.

As a resident assistant, Williams strives to provide an inclusive community for all. “Tay has successfully managed to balance his intensive coursework with his staff and extracurricular responsibilities. Tay has been able to adapt to different conditions and has shown that he is resilient in many different environments,” says Pedro Marin, residence director at Oak View Hall. “His ability to make anyone in a room smile is incredible and his presence is always appreciated. His professional and personal approach to communication is admirable and valued in the work that he does for University Housing, and his coursework.”

Associate Professor and Director of Film Studies and Production Brendan Kredell, Ph.D., describes Tayion as a leader inside and outside of the classroom. Kredell, who lobbies for the passage of a series of bills in Lansing that would reinstitute tax incentives for media production in Michigan and could create a more viable post-graduation future for film and media students, chose Williams to represent OU in the state capital to advocate for a transformative investment in the industry.

“He is a natural leader amongst his peers, the kind of student who can command a room without being overbearing. Whether it be through his sense of humor, his exemplary work, or his general affability, he’s the kind of person that people want to work with, and to work for,” Kredell says.

Tuger Xiong

A proud, first-generation Hmong American, Tuger Xiong (they, them) faces trials and tribulations head-on. After experiencing racial bullying, the musical theatre major co-founded, produced and assistant directed Kaleidoscope Cabaret, “a performance to highlight the hidden truths of students of color in the theatre department.”

“I wanted to champion the voices of the global majority and showcase the intricacies of our lives,” Xiong says. “The first meeting organized was a unique experience. A room full of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] students with the instinctual feeling that we have all gone through similar journeys. There was a reason we all agreed to be there that day.”

Kaleidoscope Cabaret’s two sold-out performances were a smashing success and gave Xiong an opportunity to build an understanding of cultural diversity. One of the stories presented in the performance were Xiong’s relationship with their mother as a Hmong trans nonbinary child told through a rendition of “Reflection” from the Disney movie “Mulan,” translated into Hmong.

“The event was so well-received, Tuger helped expand Kaleidoscope as co-founder into a full-fledged student organization. Tuger currently is secretary for the organization and is a well-sought student mentor for our first-year students in the Musical Theatre Department. I have seen Tuger’s confidence skyrocket in the little time we’ve known each other – with every performance, Tuger puts their all into their work, carefully crafting their approach to their stage character roles, all while maintaining an infectious smile and magnetic personality,” says Cat Dacpano, accompanist and vocal coach in the OU School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Associate Professor of Theatre Lynnae Lehfeldt, who also serves as the faculty advisor to Kaleidoscope, describes Xiong as a serious student, class cheerleader and someone with wisdom beyond their years.

”Tuger has approached their work at Oakland with maturity and joy. Joy might sound like an odd word to praise in a student; however, in performance classes it is desperately needed,” Lehfeldt says. “An instructor needs to quickly instill trust and a sense of ensemble for the students to achieve the most training. Tuger is a student who instructors rely on to be open, truthful, vulnerable – they model this for the other students.”

Xiong also serves as a board member on Infinity, a K-pop Dance Cover Team with a mission to showcase how music can bring cultures together.

“Tuger’s heart, personality and confidence is larger than life and the way that they connect with others is inspiring to observe and experience,” says Assistant Professor of Theatre Kelli Crump. “I can state with confidence that they are a motivated and responsible person with a high degree of integrity. As such, I expect that they will be a beautifully positive representative and role model for our university on multiple levels.”

Ashamoye Mullings

Ashamoye “Asha” Mullings leads by example. From mentee to mentor, Mullings has impacted those around her in a powerful way. Starting her college journey at OU while the country was grieving the murder of George Floyd drove Mullings to become more involved on campus. “I believe in standing up for what is right, so when the Association of Black Students wanted to protest against racism, I jumped at the opportunity to assist,” Mullings says. “Attending the Black Lives Matter protest was an eye-opening experience. It showed me that change is possible if we work together.”

Drawing from the impactful experience, Mullings became a night watch desk worker in Hamlin Hall where she created a welcoming environment and empowered freshmen through her support and guidance. Building on her dedication to community, Mullings also served as core ambassador in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI), where she mentored freshmen through one-on-one sessions, while providing support and making life-long connections.

VaNessa Thompson, CORE program coordinator in the CMI, met Asha during the 2020-21 academic year when Mullings herself was a CORE student participating in the remote Summer Bridge program. Thompson says she first saw Mullings’ “determination shine through the screen,” then later making her mark by stepping up into leadership roles on campus.

“Through her student leadership involvement, she stepped out of her comfort zone and became an active member in Intrigue (Hip Hop Dance Team), Association of Black Students (ABS) and Project Big Sister (PBS). Asha has continued to make amazing contributions to the OU community,” Thompson says.

Determined to use her education to make a difference in health care after graduation, Mullings also shines in the classroom and incorporates her passion into her work, leaving a lasting impression with her research project on the impact of breast cancer in the Black community, focusing on social determinants of health and the inequalities in receiving life-saving information and care.

“Asha's approach was both creative and inclusive. She created an informative brochure that highlighted the signs, risks and local resources for breast cancer among women of color in Detroit,” Wellness and Health Promotion Assistant Professor Kathryn M. Rougeau, Ph.D., says. “What made her project stand out was its universal approach – it wasn't just for women but for everyone. She believed that educating about health is a collective effort and her aim was to have this brochure not only in clinics but also in everyday places like grocery stores, schools, churches, pharmacies, convenience stores and restaurants. Her vision was that more exposure would lead to better health education and fewer disparities.”

Special Lecturer Charlie Rinehart has seen both Mullings’ passion for community and her drive to strengthen her academic skills. “Asha consistently came to class with a good attitude and a desire to improve herself as an academic,” Rinehart says. “She was prepared, organized and appeared interested in many different topics. She interacted well with her peers during class discussions and developed confidence as a Wellness and Health Promotions student.”

Shamiah Woods

Shamiah Woods describes her journey at Oakland University as a “path of self-discovery and a commitment to breaking down racial barriers.” Influenced by health issues and a challenging upbringing early on, Woods learned the value of endurance and the importance of developing healthy coping mechanisms for hardship lessons she continuously incorporates into her work at OU. 

At Oakland University, Woods found support and community in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives “Collectively Oakland Retains Everyone” (CMI CORE) program, and was determined to give back the support she had received herself to students from similar backgrounds. 

“As a CORE Ambassador, I mentor many first-generation students of color, sharing my own experiences and empowering them with essential skills such as networking, self-advocacy and seeking help when needed,” Woods says. “By fostering a sense of belonging among underrepresented students, I've actively contributed to improving interracial understanding on campus.”

Woods’ sense of service does not stop there: From serving as Orientation Group Leader, First Year Assistant and Undergraduate Admissions Ambassador, she makes it her mission to leave a lasting, inclusive and positive impact on each person she encounters.

“Shamiah is passionate about everything she is involved in and provides a contagious, positive energy whenever she is around. She is driven to maintain relationships, motivate others and advocate for change. Shamiah is a hard worker and strives to meet each of her goals,” says Celeste Black, coordinator of New Student Programs, who describes Woods as an active and academically driven student who leads by example. 

As a human resources development major and Honors College member, Shamiah consistently includes lessons learned in her program into her work, such as supporting the creation of training by applying activities, campus presentations or resources, and coursework to create a more inclusive work environment.

Shaun Moore, Ph.D., director of e-Learning, immediately noticed Shamiah’s dedication to her education in the Honors College. “From the first day I met Shamiah, I saw in her indicators that put her in the forefront of my students,” Moore says. “It quickly became clear in class that I could give her a task with just a few details and count on her to carry it out with the utmost professionalism. Her reliability, patience, attention to detail and overall work ethic are unsurpassed by other students.”

Drew Huff, assistant director of campus visits, says Woods plays a vital part in embodying and demonstrating the values and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in her role as Admissions Ambassador. “Shamiah approached every day on our team with positivity, enthusiasm and empathy,” Huff says. “She is a natural leader who takes her role as a representative of Oakland University very seriously. She has great pride in her community and never shies from an opportunity to educate and assist others. She also is a staunch advocate for others and would often take any opportunity she could to advocate for her fellow ambassadors and their wellbeing and safety.”

AJ Joseph

Growing up Indian American and gender non-conforming, AJ Joseph felt invisible. Early on, Joseph noticed a lack of representation in the media and also later when starting their college journey. “Oakland University is a white-majority institution, something I noticed as a person of color on campus. Being the minority in the new space, I wanted to blend in, making myself feel more invisible,” Joseph says. “Being gender non-conforming did not lessen my feelings of invisibility. Being transgender and South Asian can feel more isolating, as I do not fit the traditional Indian demographic as well as the stereotypical member of the LGBTQ+ community.” 

On campus, Joseph began connecting with others in the Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI) and the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), which gave them the confidence to become a peer mentor for both, helping mentees navigate their college experience. In their role in the GSC, Joseph participates in events, such as Lavender Graduation and Queer Trans Person of Color discussion, challenging “the stereotype that Indians cannot be a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” they say. Joseph also serves as secretary of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), making it their mission to add to the diversity of the alliance. 

Blake Ilan, coordinator of the OU Gender and Sexuality Center, describes Joseph’s strongest qualities as their ability and commitment to lead by example. “By choosing to be a leader in our community, AJ has taken on significant personal risk, and I commend their bravery immensely,” Ilan says. “They are focused on the greater good over themself, without ignoring their needs, and holding firm boundaries. They are a model student leader, and a profoundly important member of our OU LGBTQ+ community.”

VaNessa Thompson, CMI CORE Program Coordinator, says when the CMI was looking for students who would be a great fit as student leaders, AJ’s name was one of the first to come up.  

Thompson first met Joseph when they ran for secretary of the GSA. “I was thoroughly impressed with AJ’s poise during the election speech,” Thompson says. “I also appreciated that AJ spoke about connecting more students of color to the Gender and Sexuality Center and GSA. AJ unapologetically advocated for the intersection of those students, many of whom could not have been present during the election.”

Joseph does not only shine as a leader on campus, they also stand out academically. Professor of Chemistry Ferman A. Chavez describes Joseph as one of the top students he has taught and mentored, consistently scoring at the top of the class and also excelling in the laboratory where Joseph quickly learned and “demonstrated diligence and patience and contributed to a positive atmosphere in the lab.”

Kayla Smith

A keen knack for leadership and a deep dedication to community service play an integral role in Kayla Smith’s life. Inspired by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who said “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish,” Smith empowers those around her by creating a sense of belonging and opportunity.

During her time at Oakland University, Smith has made an impact in various leadership roles. She has created the Queen Collective (QC), an organization that aims to elevate Black, collegiate women through service, empowerment and womanhood.

“During my first-year, there were not many inclusive organizations for Black women, therefore, I decided to start my own called the ‘Queen Collective’ (QC),” Smith says. “The QC was created for all Black identifying women to feel a part of a sisterhood and showcase their efforts when it comes to giving back to the community.”

Smith also serves as a resident assistant, where she supports her peers in overcoming struggles they may face and by creating a comfortable environment while residents adjust to campus life.

To her academic adviser Ashley Finkley, Smith stands out as someone who invests in others. “What sets Kayla apart is her genuine passion for creating an inclusive environment. She goes beyond the surface level, continuously striving to learn and grow as a leader. Kayla has not only created opportunities for underrepresented voices but has also served as a mentor and advocate for others, inspiring a sense of belonging among their peers,” Finkley says.

Off campus, Smith has served as a volunteer at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen for the past nine years. She also sings on the praise team at Grace Church International and helps plan their events and fundraisers.

Smith has established herself as an academic standout as well. History Professor Rochelle E. Danquah says she immediately realized that Smith is a student heading for success. Smith’s outstanding history capstone project focused on Nannie Helen Burroughs, a civil rights activist for African American women.  “...Kayla has the passion, spirit and dedication of Burroughs as a social activist and student leader at Oakland University. I am proud to know that she is a part of our student population and a student scholar and leader,” Danquah says.

Smith’s creativity and talent also weaved into her other classes. “Some students are happy with just giving the minimum of what is required but Kayla will always put her full creative energy into it,” says Special Lecturer Timothy Gralewski. “Most of the time her assignments are the best in the class and I can use her work as examples of how to successfully complete each assignment. She also has a very strong work ethic.”

Looking ahead, Smith aims to continue her journey of leadership and service. “In my next few years here at OU, my plan is to continue inspiring and encouraging my peers while making growth within myself,” she says.