Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards

The Office for Equity and Diversity’s Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards program honors and acknowledges diverse students who are doing outstanding work at the University of Minnesota, both in and out of the classroom.



(For the Graduate student application instead, click here)


We are honored to present the 2017 SEED Award Recipients:


Alexis MurilloALEXIS MURILLO is a junior at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, majoring in agricultural communications and marketing. Describing herself as an “advocate, conspirator, and freedom fighter,” she has dedicated herself to social change by mentoring other students of color and being active with various student organizations. Her commitment to equity, diversity and social justice is central to her roles as a peer educator and as vice president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). As a leader in MANRRS, she has focused on addressing issues of access, retention, graduation, and community-building among students of color in her college, and has worked to create the the inaugural Building Diverse Communities event in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. (Alexis was awarded our President’s SEED Award for Outstanding Scholar-Activism)






Bennett OlupoBENNETT OLUPO is a senior on the Twin Cities campus, majoring in biology and Spanish. Drawing on his own experiences of feeling “on the margins,” Bennett’s engagement on and off campus has been focused on breaking down barriers, and helping to create community for others who also feel underrepresented and marginalized. On campus, he and one of his peers started a biracial/multiracial student group, and off campus, he has been a tutor and volunteers at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis and works students whose first language is Spanish.







Enoch SunENOCH SUN studies the sociology of law, criminology and deviance on the Twin Cities campus. As a senior, Enoch’s own experiences as an international student have informed the ways in which he’s focused his involvement on campus. He has been an Orientation Leader, a community advisor in the Students Crossing Borders living/learning community, a violence prevention educator in the Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education, and a student engagement intern in the International Student and Scholar Services office. He plans to study international education in graduate school and wants to bridge the gap between international and domestic communities.







Fiona WuFIONA WU is a senior pursuing degrees in environmental studies and political science at the University of Minnesota Morris. She got engaged on campus as a first-year student, often advocating for other international students to get involved in organizations. Fiona is the vice president of the student government association and is also connected with the LGBTQIA2S+ office on campus as a Gender/Sexuality Advocate. She is currently working on her environmental studies senior capstone, which focuses on the gender dimension of the water shortage and water policy in Northern Rural China. After college, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in public affairs.







Justin JimenezJUSTIN JIMENEZ is a scholar and activist examining the ways in which difference and social justice are discussed and enacted in teacher education and institutions. As a Ph.D. candidate in organizational policy, leadership and development, his research asks, “Can we recast caring across difference from mere sentimentality to the acknowledgement of the collective responsibility to restore humanity?” Justin explores these questions in a number of ways: as part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, working with school-university partners to help teacher candidates to carry out equity-based teaching; and as a fellow in the Research Advocacy in Critical Education Collaborative, developing symposia on restorative and transformative practices that disrupt racial injustices.






Leah AlemuLEAH ALEMU is a senior studying biology on the Twin Cities campus. She is driven by the belief that wellness should not be a privilege only for those who can afford it, but something that is accessible to all. Her involvement as a food shelf assistant, and as a volunteer in the Vida Sana bilingual health and wellness program at the Waite House has given her insight into the realities of food insecurity, and the ways in which it impacts larger health outcomes. Leah’s experiences at the Waite House, as well as her membership in the Dean’s Scholars Program, and her role as a clinical research assistant have reinforced her goal of becoming a physician, and inspired her desire to specialize in preventive medicine.







Malik DayMALIK DAY is a senior on the Twin Cities campus, majoring in finance and minoring in mathematics and computer science. He believes in the power of education to transform people’s lives, and devotes his time outside of the classroom to supporting others in their education. Malik participates in New Lens Mentorship, where he serves as a resource, tutor and guide to young African American men in high school. He believes that he gains just as much from his mentees as they do from him; this commitment to relationship- and community-building is core to his long-term goal to close achievement and opportunity gaps for underrepresented populations.







Marina KellyMARINA KELLY is pursuing a Master of Human Rights degree in the U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Upon completing her graduate studies, Marina is committed to serving at least five years in the Foreign Service; as a Foreign Service officer, she wants human rights to be at the forefront of United States foreign policy efforts. She believes that U.S. domestic and international priorities are linked and her experience in the areas of equity, diversity, and social justice reflect this belief. Her work has included: developing tactics to address homelessness as a human rights violation; working with a Washington, D.C.-based organization to improve the literacy rates of underserved youth; and interning with the U.S. Departments of State and Education, as well as the Guatemala Human Rights Commission.. 







Mia MortonMIA MORTON is a junior studying child psychology on the Twin Cities campus. She holds many different campus leadership positions, and leverages her engagement to contribute to change-making efforts and to connect with others seeking education and resources. She is a community advisor, a member of the Women’s Center Feminist Ambassador Brigade, an officer in the mental health advocacy organization Active Minds, and a student trainer in the Disability Resource Center. Her commitments are grounded in her understanding of social inequities, and her belief in the inherent worth of all human beings.







Michelle BrownleeMICHELLE BROWNLEE says that one of the most important benefits she’s gained as a student at the University of Minnesota Morris is the opportunity to learn about and connect to people of many different cultures, including her own Ojibwe culture, history and language. That desire to learn and explore has been at the foundation of her campus involvement. She is a peer mentor for the Native American Student Success Program, which is dedicated to assisting first-year Native American students successfully transition from high school to college. Michelle is also co-chair of the Circle of Nations Indigenous Association, which has provided her with even more ways of paying it forward to students who are also in need of support and community.






Mickey CappsMICKEY CAPPS is a senior on the Morris campus studying psychology. When he came to the University of Minnesota Morris, his career aspiration was to become a teacher. Now, based on his experiences as a community adviser and gender/sexuality advocate, he plans to work in the student affairs arena within higher education. Mickey finds value in working with other students, particularly around issues of identity, privilege and equity, because it allows him to connect with people “who each have their own story.” His dedication to the work of social justice is evident in his efforts on and off campus; he’s facilitated SafeZone trainings for staff and student groups, and organized the Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference..






Prashasti BhatnagarPRASHASTI BHATNAGAR is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, studying sociology, and minoring in neuroscience, public health and social justice. She has a passion for health equity, and that passion has led to internships with the Office of Senator Al Franken, the Program for Health Disparities Research and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In those experiences, she has been able to work on projects that informed Minnesota health care professionals about issues ranging from mental health virtual support groups to best practices to support and engage LGBTQ+ communities. Her values, educational experiences and extracurricular involvements are reflective of her dreams of pursuing a JD/MPH and making healthcare a human right for all. (Prashasti was awarded the President’s SEED Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement)






Rebecca St. GermaineREBECCA ST. GERMAINE is a Ph.D. student in social and administrative pharmacy with a long-term goal of improving health for all Native peoples. Drawing upon her experiences as a tribal health board chairman, and extensive volunteer time with the National Indian Health Board, Rebecca’s current research is focused on the development of culturally relevant patient care models. Specifically, she advocates for a Cultural Health Belief Model based on cultural and spiritual belief systems that will inform pharmaceutical practices and works toward reduced health disparities and improved cultural understanding of the greater tribal population, especially within rural Anishinaabe reservations.






Sabrina RoowalaSABRINA ROOWALA is a Master of Public Health student whose research focuses on depression in Muslim American adolescents. She feels that, as a future public health professional, she has  a responsibility to prevent disparities by determining how issues of inequity can be addressed and alleviated. Utilizing research about the negative effects of historical trauma on health outcomes in underrepresented populations, Sabrina hopes to create an instrument assessing the current state of stigma towards depression in Muslim communities, and to implement a training program enabling religious scholars to assist Muslim American adolescents dealing with depression.







Sebastian Nemec

SEBASTIAN NEMEC is always thoughtful about how important it is to speak up and fight for those who may not have the energy or the privilege to do so. This belief is at the core of his lived experiences and his work in the arenas of equity and social justice. As a senior on the Duluth campus majoring in cultural entrepreneurship, he has been engaged on and off campus in organizations and efforts focused on the LGBTQIA community. Both prior to and after his military service, Sebastian was involved in the Queer and Allied Student Union. He has also crafted a business to help trans+ people called Folx, and is a community organizer with the local group, Trans+, which hosts work groups to work on trans+ issues in the Duluth/Superior area.







Snider Desir

SNIDER DESIR is a Ph.D. candidate in integrative biology and physiology, and also holds a B.S. in molecular cell biology from Kutztown University. His research involves investigating tunneling nanotube formation and their role in cancer cell invasion, progression, tumor recurrence, and chemotherapy resistance. Driven to advance the progress of underrepresented students in the sciences, Snider has impacted others through his teaching and has won several awards recognizing his contributions in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, his passion for creating a supportive environment for graduate students of color led Snider taking on leadership roles in the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association (BGAPSA) and working diligently to engage black graduate and professional students in interdisciplinary collaboration, cross-cultural friendship, and professional activities like mentoring and career networking.






Troy Yamaguchi

TROY YAMAGUCHI is a junior studying psychology and sociology whose commitment to diversity has led him to become thoughtfully and intentionally engaged with his community. He has been conducting research on suicide rates within cultural subgroups, and has discovered - via data and interviews with local community members - critical information about the mental health challenges prevalent within some Asian populations. Passionate about finding collaborative mental health solutions for Asian communities, Troy has since applied for public policy opportunities in the Office of Governor Mark Dayton and joined the Asian American Student Union Board on the Twin Cities campus.