Five members of UChicago community receive Diversity Leadership Awards

Faculty, alumni, staff and student winners to be recognized during 2021 MLK commemoration

Every year, the University of Chicago honors members of the UChicago community who demonstrate leadership and a sustained commitment to justice and equality. In addition to faculty, alumni and staff, this year’s Diversity Leadership Awards also recognize the contributions of UChicago students.

This year’s recipients are Prof. Anita Blanchard, MD’90; Rami Nashashibi, AM’98, PhD’11; Jessica Jaggers of Chicago Booth; and UChicago students Nova Smith and Demetrius Johnson Jr. They will be honored Jan. 12 during a virtual celebration of UChicago’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration.

The winners are selected by the Diversity Leadership Council, along with the University of Chicago Alumni Board.

Faculty award winner

Anita Blanchard, MD’90, is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UChicago Medicine and serves as associate dean for graduate medical education at the Pritzker School of Medicine, supervising and supporting 126 residency and fellowship programs that include 986 residents and fellows. She maintains accreditation standards, promotes professional development and fosters strategic initiatives and innovation in medical education.

Blanchard is committed to enhancing Chicago’s South Side community by increasing the diversity of physicians and building programs to fulfill community needs. She has created innovative community programs, including seminars highlighting maternal and adolescent health topics. She also founded the Graduate Medical Education Resilience Initiative focused on physician well-being.

This winter, Blanchard’s Graduate Medical Education team will work with UChicago’s Urban Health Initiative team to launch Community Champions, a new program facilitating resident and fellow participation in community engagement.

A practicing gynecologist, Blanchard specializes in the treatment of cervical dysplasia, menopause management and geriatric gynecologic care. She is a member of the board of directors for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) OB-GYN review committee, and the University’s co-PI of the ACGME Pursuing Excellence Initiative.

Alumni award winner

Rami Nashashibi, AM’98, PhD’11, is a community leader building bridges across racial, religious, and socioeconomic divides to confront the challenges of poverty and disinvestment in urban communities. Since 1997, he has served as founder and executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), which fosters health, wellness and healing on Chicago’s South Side by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts and operating a holistic health center.

A 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, Nashashibi has successfully unified a diverse set of constituencies around a shared focus of social justice. Among IMAN’s notable programs are a community clinic providing primary health care and behavioral health services to a largely uninsured and underinsured population and a job training initiative equipping formerly incarcerated individuals with green construction skills through the renovation of foreclosed homes. In 2020, Nashashibi made his debut as a recording artist and songwriter, co-producing an album entitled This Love Thing that included the single “Mama Please.” The single’s accompanying music video was dedicated to Cariol’s Law, which was passed last fall to help transform police accountability in Buffalo, New York.

Nashashibi, who holds degrees in sociology from UChicago, has lectured around the world on a range of topics related to American Muslim identity, community activism and social justice issues and has received many prestigious community service and organizing honors. He also teaches at the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he is a visiting professor of the sociology of religion and Muslim studies.

Staff award winner

Jessica Jaggers is the dean of students and associate dean of student life at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. In this role, she oversees student life, student wellness, international exchange programs and diversity and inclusion for the full-time, evening and weekend MBA programs.

Jaggers strives to impact Booth’s culture in positive ways, both for the student and alumni communities. She is also a key partner in the recruitment of African American and Latinx students and a vocal advocate for underrepresented students. Jaggers has successfully built ally groups among the student body and helped develop an allyship pact in support of LGBTQ students. She coordinates Booth’s annual Fogel Dinner, an event designed to welcome underrepresented students to the campus community and foster a sense of belonging.

Jaggers has created annual alumni diversity receptions in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as during annual conferences hosted by the National Black MBA Association and Prospanica. Committed to supporting the development of women leaders, Jaggers also co-chaired the Booth Women’s Connect Conference in 2020, which drew more than 1,500 attendees to a daylong event focused on developing women as leaders. 

Student award winners

Nova Smith is a PhD candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies whose research focuses on Black cinema—specifically, how Black filmmakers depict and influence whiteness. As a reflection of her interest in diverse lives, histories, and experiences, Smith has also received certificates in both gender studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies.

Smith has served on UChicagoGRAD's Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) since its inception, first as a representative to the general board, then as programming chair and executive board member/higher education intern, and presently as the executive board co-chair. She created Maroon Mates, the University's first and only peer-to-peer mentoring program for graduate students of color. She also created the Graduate Student Diversity Awards and helped revitalize Transcending Boundaries, a research symposium for graduate students of color.  

Smith spent several summers teaching in the Collegiate Scholars Program, an initiative designed to help underrepresented, first-generation or otherwise underserved Chicago high school students prepare for college-level work. For the past two years, she has served as preceptor at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, guiding fourth-year College students through their BA theses in the critical race and ethnic studies major.    

Demetrius Johnson Jr. is a third-year economics major in the College committed to improving the experience of Black undergraduate students on campus. He is president of the Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which he revived at the University.

He is also a member of the University’s Chicago Maroon varsity football team and a two-time Midwest Conference All-Academic selection. After the social unrest that occurred in many parts of the country in 2020, Johnson founded the Black Letterwinning Athletes Coalition (BLAC) at UChicago, an organization designed to amplify and cater to the needs of Black student athletes at predominately white campuses­­­­­­­­­. Several other BLAC chapters have now launched at campuses across the country.

An Odyssey Scholar, Johnson also tutors Chicago high school students on financial literacy through Moneythink Mentors, a program focused on the real-world financial decisions young people face. Johnson is part of the selective Financial Markets Program of the Trott Business Program; a member of UChicago Private Equity; and an analyst in BLK Capital Management, a 100% Black-owned, student-run, long/short equity hedge fund based at Harvard University. He will be an investment banking summer analyst at Morgan Stanley this summer.