Kelley Sullivan Receives Shirley M. Collado Faculty Award

By Laura Ilioaei ’23, July 21, 2022

The award honors faculty members who take initiative to make education more inclusive.

Kelley Sullivan, associate professor of physics and astronomy, was the 2022 recipient of the President Shirley M. Collado Faculty Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Ithaca College Community. The award is given annually to a faculty member who takes initiatives to make education more inclusive.

That’s been one of the hallmarks of Sullivan’s time at IC. One noteworthy initiative stemmed from the urge to take action after George Floyd’s death in 2020.

“We wanted to do more than just say something. We wanted to do something,” she said. “So we worked with our students and came up with an antiracism plan as part of an effort to put words into actions.”

The plan listed forty actions that sought out to combat bias and ostracization of people of color in physics and astronomy.

Sullivan then put together another team with the initiative to double the number of black undergraduate physics majors by 2030. As part of this initiative, The American Institute of Physics worked with groups and provided access to webinars, conferences, and assignments.

Additionally, this past January, she was named to the American Physical Society’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Fellows program. One of six inaugural fellows selected from a nationwide pool of applicants, Sullivan will work with critical conversation specialists to learn how to lead conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion.

“People think of walking into a physics classroom and talking about balls down inclines and energy, but we don’t necessarily think ‘this is a space to talk about race and racism,’ but it is a space to talk about race and racism. There’s no reason to think that physics or any of the other STEM disciplines are immune from the systemic racism that permeates all of society.”

Kelley Sullivan, associate professor of physics and astronomy

Sullivan has also collaborated with computer science professor John Barr and mathematics professor David Brown in the National Science Foundation S-STEM program, a national competitive grant program that provides funding for scholarships and programming to support high-achieving low-income students interested in pursuing careers in STEM. The team focuses specifically on students majoring in physics, mathematics, and computer science and provides support by creating a robust community of scholars and engaging them in significant career preparation activities.

“Our goal is to create a faculty development workshop to help physics educators facilitate critical discussions of race and racism in the classroom. This is particularly difficult in physics and a lot of STEM, where folks don’t necessarily expect those conversations belong,” she said.  “People think of walking into a physics classroom and talking about balls down inclines and energy, but we don’t necessarily think ‘this is a space to talk about race and racism,’ but it is a space to talk about race and racism. There’s no reason to think that physics or any of the other STEM disciplines are immune from the systemic racism that permeates all of society.”

“These efforts are not recognized by a lot of schools. It is just wonderful that IC recognizes and is promoting these efforts.”

Kelley Sullivan

Sullivan’s efforts also extend beyond college undergraduates. In her own community, she’s part of her child’s PTA. She created an initiative to have a “pay what you can” school supply area, so that socioeconomic barriers wouldn’t prevent children from not having access to the school supplies that they need.

In receiving the Collado award, Sullivan feels proud and validated.

“Joining the ranks of prior winners, [associate professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Culture Race and Ethnicity] Belisa González, [associate professor of music education] Baruch Whitehead, and [associate professor in the Department of Education] Nia Nunn is really humbling,” she said. “These efforts are not recognized by a lot of schools. It is just wonderful that IC recognizes and is promoting these efforts.”