Each year, as part of its annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, the University of Chicago honors faculty, students, staff and alumni who have demonstrated a commitment to following in King’s footsteps by fostering equality and justice on campus and around the world.
This year’s recipients of the University’s Diversity Leadership Awards are Prof. Doriane C. Miller, alum Grace Chan McKibben, AB’90, AM’90, recently retired staff member Cynthia Cook Conley, graduate student Radhika Santhanagopalan and College student Dinah Clottey.
They will be recognized during the University’s MLK Commemoration Celebration, which will be held on Feb. 21.
Faculty recipient: Doriane C. Miller
Doriane C. Miller, MD’83, is a professor of medicine at UChicago Medicine and director of the Center for Community Health and Vitality. She has dedicated her career to advancing health equity and addressing health care disparities.
Among her many accomplishments, Miller developed the Community Grand Rounds program, sharing information and research to improve health on the South Side. She educates trainees and faculty on the historical context of health disparities through lectures for the Pritzker School of Medicine’s Health Disparities course, tours of the South Side and service-learning experiences. Miller addressed COVID-19 issues on the South Side, meeting with local organizations and using her monthly radio program to share reliable information and encourage vaccination and other safe practices. She is also a senior investigator on a $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, working to establish a center to address multiple chronic diseases associated with health disparities.
Previously, Miller served as national program director of New Health Partnerships, program vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a faculty member at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the University of California, San Francisco. She received a Community Health Leadership award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is the author of two plays that address domestic violence and post-traumatic stress disorder in youth exposed to community violence.
Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Miller received her M.D. from the Pritzker School of Medicine and completed her medical training and fellowship at UCSF.
Alumni recipient: Grace Chan McKibben
Grace Chan McKibben, AB’90, AM’90, is a senior leader committed to building coalitions between race and class to create safer, healthier and more equitable communities.
As executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, Chan McKibben empowers Chinese American communities across Chicago through planning, advocacy and organizing. She recently chaired the 2020 Census outreach effort to increase participation among low-income immigrants in the greater Chinatown area and the northern Cook County suburbs. Currently, she is advocating for a first-ever Asian American majority ward through Chicago’s redistricting process.
Chan McKibben is co-founder of the Chinatown Pro-Bono Legal Clinic, housed at the Chinese American Service League. She maintains an active freelance practice in translation and language research, and she engages with many community and civic organizations. A longtime board member of the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union, Chan McKibben currently serves as the Illinois representative to the ACLU National Board. She is also a member of the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund Board, the Chicago Community Development Commission and the State of Illinois Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Board.
Chan McKibben began her career at the University of Chicago, serving as an associate dean of students and overseeing health and safety initiatives. Chan McKibben earned her bachelor’s degree in linguistics and sociology and her master’s in linguistics, both from UChicago; and she also earned an MBA from DeVry University.
Staff recipient: Cynthia Cook Conley
For more than 40 years, Cynthia Cook Conley has exemplified the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through her dedicated work as a staff member. She develops and fosters inclusive environments in which students, faculty and staff can thrive, with a focus on communities of color. A beloved member of the University community for decades, Conley also recently announced her retirement.
As a Ph.D. program academic advisor and executive assistant to the deputy dean in the Harris School of Public Policy, Cook Conley has worked to create a supportive and inclusive community for students. She also provides leadership and guidance to senior administrators about best practices related to diversity, inclusion and social justice. Cook Conley advises the Minority in Public Policy Studies student group and founded an informal staff affinity group for people of color that has grown to include more than 150 members and hosts 20-plus annual events. Through the creation of this group, she equipped staff with critical insights and connections to fuel campus-wide diversity efforts, enhance student and alumni programming, support staff development and retention, and amplify the research of faculty of color. She has constantly championed diversity work outside the boundaries of her job description and was a past recipient of the Marlene F. Richman Award for service to students.
Prior to joining Harris in 1994, Cook Conley was an administrative assistant for student affairs in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics, among other positions at the University. She studied psychology at Chicago State University.
Graduate student recipient: Radhika Santhanagopalan
Radhika Santhanagopalan is passionate about finding pathways to foster diversity and inclusion and connecting graduate students to related resources and opportunities at the University and across the city of Chicago.
A Ph.D. student in psychology and business in the Division of the Social Sciences and the Booth School of Business, Santhanagopalan served on the Graduate Council as vice president of diversity and inclusion during the 2020–21 academic year. She organized and convened the inaugural UC Juneteenth initiative, a monthlong series of events, which included a keynote address by scholar and activist Angela Davis, anti-racism workshops, and a fundraiser for Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ center located on the South Side of Chicago. She also served as the graduate student representative on the University’s Graduate Course Evaluation Committee, working with the Office of the Provost to create standardized course evaluations across graduate divisions and incorporating questions about inclusion.
Santhanagopalan regularly seeks and develops cross-campus partnerships to expand the reach of various diversity initiatives and has worked closely with the Black Graduate Coalition and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs to advance the Graduate Council’s diversity goals. Santhanagopalan and the Graduate Council Diversity and Inclusion committee launched an anti-racist book distribution program in partnership with the Semicolon Bookstore. In addition, they developed a diversity and inclusion toolkit to help graduate student organizations foster more inclusive environments and encouraged graduate student participation in inclusive pedagogy workshops.
Beyond UChicago, Santhanagopalan is involved in mentorship programs such as iMentor and the Hyde Park Refugee Project. Santhanagopalan earned a bachelor’s degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience from the University of Michigan and a master’s in psychology from Cornell University.
Undergraduate student recipient: Dinah Clottey
Dinah Clottey is a fourth-year College student majoring in sociology. A resident of Chicago’s South Side since moving to the United States from England at age seven, she is committed to creating meaningful opportunities that bring students together.
For the past three years, Clottey served as a board member of the Organization of Black Students, including one year as president. Under her leadership, and in partnership with the African and Caribbean Students Association, the group developed and launched the annual Black Convocation, an event designed to welcome and celebrate the accomplishments of Black students. Held each year during the Autumn Quarter, Black Convocation is organized with support from University administration and brings approximately 300 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni and family members together for the ceremony.
Clottey is the outreach manager for Kinda Sorta Brown, a Spotify and NPR award-winning podcast that discusses policies affecting Black and Brown communities. She also works as a student coordinator in the Center for College Student Success, where she plays an active role in providing resources to marginalized students. Beyond campus, Clottey served as an organizer and communications fellow for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign in Iowa and as a communications intern for All In Together, a nonprofit organization in New York that strives to lessen the gap in civic and political engagement among women. She recently created her own clothing company, T’kor Couture, and uses social media platforms to discuss how race interacts with fashion.
Clottey will graduate from the University of Chicago in June.