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.

We are honored to present the 2015 SEED Award Recipients:


Luna Allen-BakerianLUNA ALLEN-BAKERIAN is a senior at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, majoring in political science and gender, women, and sexuality studies. In addition to her work at the campus Women’s Center, her campus involvement extends to her role as a DJ at Radio K, and her participation Weisman Art Museum (WAM) Collective. She has interned in the office of Minnesota Senator Sandra Pappas and the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. Luna is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts/Master of Public Policy early admission program in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.




Anish ChandakANISH CHANDAK is a junior honors student on the Twin Cities campus pursuing degrees in finance and economics. He is focused on the intersection of the arts and social justice. In 2014, he founded Jazba (a Hindi-Urdu word meaning “passion”), an organization that spreads South Asian cultural awareness through dance. Jazba also raises awareness for South Asian women’s empowerment in the Twin Cities community and beyond: under Anish’s leadership, Jazba also raised money for the non-profit organization, Women In Need (WIN), which works with impoverished South Asian women who have suffered from sexual assault, HIV/AIDS, and leprosy. 



Feven GerezgiherFEVEN GEREZGIHER is a junior double majoring in economics and global studies on the Twin Cities campus. She is the chair of the Minnesota chapter of Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, and has volunteered as an America Reads Literacy Mentor. Some of her areas of interest are closing achievement gaps and advocating for cost-effective housing for the underserved. Her future plans include a focus on global economic development.





Aduramo Lasode

ADURAMO LASODE is a senior studying mechanical engineering. She believes that by engaging in social justice efforts, she is investing in the academic success of people from underserved backgrounds. She does this through her involvement in organizations like National Society of Black Engineers, Prepare 2 Nspire, and the North Star STEM Alliance. Within these groups and others, she has served as a mentor supporting students’ success in STEM fields. One of her long-term goals is to establish an organization that focuses on guiding and supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds, in their preparation for college.



Kyle Lau

KYLE LAU is a senior biology major who is passionate about human and health rights. His passion was the catalyst to him co-founding a global public health group called Emergency USA: Minnesota. The group has raised awareness on issues like infant mortality rates, lack of access to healthcare, and the Ebola epidemic. He is committed to bridging scientific approaches and community engagement in order to create health equity and improve the human condition. In the future, Kyle wants to become a culturally-relevant physician in rural and global areas.




Letitia Martinez

LETICIA MARTINEZ was born in Chupicuaro, a small town in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. at the age of five. She is a junior studying criminology and French studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is driven by a desire to help people, and to provide opportunities for people in Latino communities to defy stereotypes and use their collective voice. Her goals is to pursue a career in law enforcement, a decision supported by her involvement in programs like the Waukesha Sheriff Explorer program, and organizations like the Criminology Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions.



Ashley Perry

ASHLEY PERRY credits the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Civil Rights History Trip as a key moment in her academic journey and community engagement and says that the 2014 experience transformed the way she thought about her history and her path forward. She has gone on to organize other Civil Rights History Trips, as well as serve on the executive board of the Black Student Association and intern for the Urban Leadership Academy. As a junior at UMD, she is majoring in psychology and minoring in communication, and plans to further her education in the areas of psychology and law. 




Pajau VangayPAJAU VANGAY is a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology (BICB). She chose to pursue her graduate studies specifically at the U of M because of the opportunities to positively impact the diverse group of refugees and new immigrants in Minnesota. Her research involves how bacteria changes upon migration from a developing country to the U.S., in response to westernization. Her research asks: how does this knowledge lay the groundwork for future therapeutics and community interventions in the treatment of obesity in immigrant populations. Pajau’s research has appeared in various publications, including the Journal of Food Protection, Microbiology and Genome Medicine.



Yolanda Williams

YOLANDA WILLIAMS understands the value of Black music not just as an intellectual exercise but as inspiration and as a history of the lives, hopes, and dreams of a people. As a Ph.D. candidate studying music education, her dissertation addresses the role of Black music teachers as “transformative intellectuals.” Her research focuses specifically on the Black Music Educators of the Twin Cities (BMETC), an organization which existed in the Twin Cities from 1974-2004. Yolanda also received her Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the U of M, and her commitment to music education has been influenced by her work with two of her mentors, Drs. Reginald Buckner and Geneva Southall.



Aaryn Wilson

AARYN WILSON is a junior studying plant science at the Twin Cities campus, a decision that grew out of his love for food and his belief that underrepresented communities should have access to healthy food. His commitment to food justice has led him to be active in community initiatives like Create the Community Meal and the Windom Community Garden. He is also working with Project Sweetie Pie, a North Minneapolis non-profit, to develop a survey to identify gaps and needs for healthy, fresh food and improved nutrition in North Minneapolis.