Denison Forward Excellence Awards are recognitions presented to faculty, staff, and students who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and achievements advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism in a tangible way on The Hill. This award celebrates those who have gone above and beyond in promoting a culture of inclusion that embraces diversity and ensures equal opportunities for all who are part of the Denison community.

The 2024 Denison Forward Excellence Award honorees:

Faculty Awardees

  • Toni King, professor of women’s and gender studies, director of the Center for Black Studies
  • Isis Nusiar, professor of international studies and women’s and gender studies

Staff Awardees

  • Emily Vermillion, associate director of the Alford Community Leadership and Involvement Center
  • Adam Wood, associate director of Residential Communities and Housing

Student Awardees

  • Thuong Hoai Tran ’24, politics and public affairs major
  • Taylor Trimble ’24, politics and public affairs major

In addition to the awards luncheon, which featured a keynote by Anna Spain Bradley ’99, law professor and former vice chancellor at UCLA, Denison Forward Day events included a lecture by Spain Bradley and a pre-reception and invitation to attend the student production HERE US. Please enjoy this album with photos from the awards ceremony.

More about the awardees:

Toni King

For many years, Toni King has been at the forefront of Denison’s efforts on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. King has been a linchpin of the Center for Black Studies and the Women’s and Gender Studies program.  She co-founded the Faculty of Color and International Faculty group to support and advocate for diverse faculty on campus.  She was the first associate provost for diversity and in that role, she laid much of the groundwork for the current practices we have to promote more equitable recruitment and retention of diverse faculty.  An overarching theme of King’s scholarship, teaching, and service is the support and empowerment of women of color and marginalized groups who seek to both thrive and transform society from within organizations, families, and communities.

From a nominator: “From the moment I arrived on Denison’s campus, Toni has welcomed me as an integral part of the community and volunteered mentorship on how to navigate the challenges of being considered an incompetent outsider in so many and confounding ways…Toni has a foundational role in creating grassroots and institutional structures that support and promote diversity and equity on campus.”

Isis Nusair

As a member of the Women’s and Gender Studies and International Studies programs, Isis Nusair has been a staunch advocate for diversity and equity. Nusair has been a strong advocacy voice in the Faculty of Color and International Faculty group as well as a mentor for many junior faculty. She is also the organizer of the Middle East Film Festival, which allows students to see people from the regions of the Middle East and North Africa telling their own stories and recounting their own histories.

From her nominators: “Within the classroom, Dr. Nusair uses current events assignments and discussions to encourage students to look up, dive deeper, and educate themselves about ongoing issues of socio-political significance across the globe. Through such exploratory activities, Dr. Nusair encourages students, no matter where they are in their learning journey, to cultivate an awareness and care for their fellow humans across geographic, cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious divides.”  

Emily Vermillion

In her role as associate director of the Alford Community Leadership and Involvement Center, Emily Vermillion has led the restructuring of the Denison Community Service Association to center its work on specific social issues including affordable housing, animal rights, and food security. Vermillion has also added new community partnerships to the DCSA Saturday Service rotation and serves on the MLK Day planning committee, coordinating the service projects for the event. In the fall, Emily helped coordinate a Fall Break Social Justice Experience for a group of Denison students to explore social justice and racial reconciliation through travel to Atlanta and Montgomery and Selma in Alabama, a trip held in partnership with Richard Brown, associate dean of students and director of the Center for Belonging and Inclusion).

In the words of her nominators: “When we state that Emily embodies IDEA work, we truly mean she navigates every moment of life, both professionally, and personally, in a way that centers equity, justice, and creating change to address social issues in our communities.”

Adam Wood

As an associate director in Residential Communities & Housing, Wood has been an advocate for equity, inclusion, and belonging for LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and faculty at Denison. His efforts include bringing Madam Woods and drag bingo to Denison and being actively engaged in pride events in Granville.

In the words of a nominator: “Adam has helped to provide a safe, welcoming, and accepting environment for students, staff, and faculty here at Denison and in the greater community. Adam has encouraged students to embrace and explore LGBTQIA+ culture.”

Thuong (Christine) Tran ’24

Thuong Tran is a senior politics and public affairs major and a mentor for many international students navigating and finding their place at Denison. In her former role as executive director of the University Programming Council, and her current role as UPC’s senior advisor, she has contributed significantly by hosting events that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging on campus. Her nominators also mention many small ways that she has made them find a place of belonging at Denison, including:

  • Giving advice on how to better integrate with the Denison community.
  • Offering careful guidance to students dealing with travel document issues.
  • Helping with reading skills and giving insight on research.
  • Instructing new international students how to enjoy the experience with student organizations and campus events at Denison to the fullest.
  • Cooking Vietnamese food for those who are homesick.

In the words of her nominators:

“As an international student, her encouragement was empowering, leading to academic improvement and meaningful connections with senior friends, contributing me to have a more inclusive campus experience.”

“She is always there when I need advice, whether it is about which class to take or where to find cheap flight tickets.”

Taylor Trimble ’24

Taylor Trimble is a senior politics and public affairs major and a leader at Denison in many ways: as an executive team member of the Black Student Union for multiple years, as a docent for admissions, as a community advisor, and as a peer fellow for the Knowlton Center. As part of the executive board of the BSU, Trimble has devoted her time to making Denison a more inclusive space for the Black student body.  As the Chief Minister of the BSU, Trimble co-organized the first annual Black Men’s Brunch and has led her executive board to host and collaborate on events that build professional readiness, cultural awareness, civic engagement, and focus on mental health and well-being. Trimble embraces working with and highlighting partners all over campus, including the Knowlton Center, Outlook, La Fuerza Latina, and the Denison Asian Student Union.

In the words of one nominator: “Taylor Trimble is a gift to the Denison community. Everything she does for the Office of Admission and BSU makes people feel included and welcomed. She embodies the title of student leader.”

March 27, 2024