Duane Dede, Ph.D., and Sarah McKune, Ph.D., M.P.H., are among three University of Florida faculty recipients of the UF Graduate School’s Graduate Education Diversity Champion Award for 2022. This award recognizes faculty members who have enhanced and contributed to the overall graduate environment by actively and positively promoting the concept of diversity and improving cross-cultural understanding and inclusivity in the university environment.
Dede is a clinical professor in the department of clinical and health psychology, neuropsychology area head and co-director of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. He is the founder and chair of the department’s Health Equity, Anti-Racism, and Diversity, or HEARD, Committee. As chair, he oversees all aspects of HEARD’s five subcommittees focused on improving DEI efforts, such as faculty recruitment and retention, education and community outreach. Since HEARD’s founding less than two years ago, the committee has logged several successes, including the creation of a cultural humility course required for first-year students, faculty training around DEI issues, recruiting more underrepresented faculty, organizing community outreach projects on parent education, and increasing access to services. This group has also contributed to efforts to recruit the most diverse graduate student and intern classes in the department’s history.
Dede also organizes “quality of life” events for the department, such as bowling and kickball, and hosts game nights with Black trainees and faculty in order to provide a safe space for fellowship and discussion.
“He leads with a sense of calm assurance that encourages students and faculty alike to face challenges bravely and to hold onto collective resilience in the often arduous movement toward dismantling deep-rooted inequities,” said a group of student nominators. “Dr. Dede is able to navigate difficult conversations with students and faculty of all levels and from all backgrounds. One of his greatest strengths is how he actively listens to needs and concerns.”
McKune, a research associate professor in the department of environmental and global health, has created a supportive lab environment for students from different races, ethnicities, religions, countries and backgrounds. In the McKune lab, students are encouraged to strengthen cultural competencies through activities such as book clubs to discuss texts on anti-Black racism.
“The double pandemic of COVID and racism provided a lens for me to experience Dr. McKune in action,” said Karen Awura-Adjoa Ronke Coker, M.A., a Ph.D. student in public health. “She facilitated, challenged and made room for discourse about white privilege, racism and inequity. I feel comfortable and continue to build a space with her that is important at this institution for my mental well-being.”
As co-principal investigator on a study examining child malnutrition and the gut microbiome, McKune mentors young researchers from Ethiopia.
“Her work in establishing a partnership between Haramaya University in Ethiopia and the University of Florida has helped paved the way for more international scholars from the Global South to engage in development work with UF, amplifying their perspectives and research,” said Karah Mechlowitz, M.P.H., a Ph.D. student in public health. “She has challenged me to be a more inclusive and thoughtful graduate student and researcher and has provided me with countless opportunities to collaborate with and learn from others.”