Social Justice Awards Sweep


Faculty, staff earn statewide honors for pioneering educational work on equality.

Early in 2008 a number of racial conflicts erupted at Ithaca High School, affecting the entire community. Associate professor of theater arts Cynthia Henderson wanted to help high school students express their feelings about what was happening, and she wanted to make the community aware of the problems. This fall the College Student Personnel Association of New York State, a professional student affairs organization, honored Henderson for her commitment to social justice. She worked with a group of high school and Ithaca College theater students to produce the theatrical piece “Voice Suspended.”

Henderson wasn’t the only one from Ithaca College to be recognized. The CSPA-NYS also honored Deborah Mohlenhoff ’92, assistant director of community service and leadership development, John Rawlins, assistant director of multicultural affairs, and Doreen Hettich-Atkins, coordinator of special services and programs, with the Outstanding Social Justice Innovation Award for managing the committee that put together the campuswide series of events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (“A Day On, Not a Day Off,” ICView 2008/1). “It was very hard to put together because we’d never done anything like it before,” Hettich-Atkins says. 

Both efforts contributed to educating the community on social inequality. Guided by Henderson and IC students, high school students without any previous theater training learned to write, rehearse, direct, design, and produce a piece that shared their experiences; they performed the piece in several venues throughout the community.

The students performed the play at Ithaca College’s 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, “A Day On, Not a Day Off.” This event, organized by Mohlenhoff, Rawlins, and Hettich-Atkins, included service projects, presentations, discussions, and performances on a social justice theme.

This was the first time CSPA-NYS gave out these two awards. Hettich-Atkins thinks this is significant. “For us to sweep the two new awards shows a lot about what Ithaca College does, and its commitment to social justice,” she says. “We’re hoping that will grow.”

— Jessica Bachiochi ’09 with Maura Stephens