William & Mary’s spring Values in Action awards, established by two anonymous donors, recognize William & Mary student organizations, faculty and staff who demonstrate the university’s values of belonging, curiosity, excellence, flourishing, integrity, respect and service.
Faculty and staff award recipients are Isaiah Johnson, an officer with the William & Mary Police Department, and Christian Olver, a member of the Dining Services/Sodexo staff. They were selected from a pool of nominees including professors, administrators and other employees representing departments, schools and units across the university.
Honorees from student organizations are the Latin American Student Union, Matoaka Bottom Feeders, Society of Women in Computing, Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the Veggie Society.
Individuals will receive $2,500 each and student organizations $500 each.
Faculty & Staff
Isaiah Johnson, Officer
William & Mary Police Department
Johnson was selected for his embodiment of numerous university values. He displays leadership, kindness, professionalism and overall excellence while juggling responsibilities of being a single parent of three young children and being enrolled in college courses, one nominator wrote.
“Officer Johnson regularly directs his efforts to marginalized and underrepresented students and groups on campus,” the nominator continued. “He serves as our department’s liaison to (William & Mary) Athletics and endeavors to build bridges and relationships with student athletes. In doing so, he has played a tremendous role in helping students of color feel comfortable with our police officers and know that they can come to us in a time of need. In helping students be safe and feel safe, it’s most helpful to have their trust. Isaiah has had a huge impact in gaining our community’s trust.”
Johnson participates in campus activities and performs non-traditional police functions daily. He attends meetings, such as the Center for Student Diversity’s “barbershop,” and can often be seen cooking hamburgers on the grill at student events.
“In general, police officers don’t embody the term ‘belonging’ in the minds of many, particularly those from historically marginalized groups,” a nominator wrote. “Isaiah Johnson works diligently and effectively to make ALL members of this community feel as though they belong. He meets with underrepresented students, groups, and organizations regularly. He listens to their concerns and perspectives and provides caring and empathetic responses and solutions.”
Christian Olver, Dining Services
Marketplace Campus Center
Olver’s cheery personality and kindness have made an impression on many who have come through his cashier lines at the Marketplace Campus Center. Olver, a member of the Dining Services/Sodexo staff, demonstrates all of the university’s values, said multiple nominators.
“His enthusiasm, kindness, and joy show great respect for dining hall patrons and create an inclusive environment where all are loved and all belong,” one nominator wrote of Olver, who was selected for his embodiment of numerous university values. “Further, Christian is a devoted worker who goes above and beyond to execute his service. Christian is well-known across campus; anyone who attends William & Mary, even those who don’t eat at Marketplace, know about Christian and have consistently adoring views on him.”
Many students consider him a friend. His positive demeanor means a lot to those he comes into contact with, particularly during recent difficult times brought on by the pandemic.
“Christian Olver has always made me, my friends and many of my peers feel incredibly welcomed and acknowledged at Marketplace,” a student wrote. “Mr. Olver goes above and beyond to greet me, let me know what food options are available during that day/time, and even chats with me about academics, life updates, the weather or anything that comes to mind.”
Latin American Student Union
The Latin American Student Union (LASU) exemplified the value of service by promoting the academic excellence of Latin-identifying students in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC) while also helping to bridge the gap to ensure students can achieve personal academic goals.
Two ways LASU achieved that was through a tutoring program with WJCC that assisted in a range of academic disciplines and also provided SAT prep. LASU also created a Books for All project to ensure students have access to books and establish a positive relationship with reading.
In addition to tutoring students, LASU has provided English lessons to parents who have children in the WJCC school district.
LASU is also in the process of starting Read to the Kids, an initiative of the Books for All program where LASU members, working with the Village Initiative, read to local children at the Merrimack Apartment Complex weekly.
Matoaka Bottom Feeders
The Motoaka Bottom Feeders were honored for the value of flourishing. William & Mary’s first fishing club started during the Spring 2021 semester as a group of friends getting together to fish as a way to cope with the stress, fear and isolation caused by the pandemic, and it has grown to close to 100 members, making it one of the largest clubs on campus.
Participation requires no skill or equipment. Members have embraced the role of teachers to those with little or no experience, sharing knowledge and equipment when needed. This year, the club was granted permission to use Campus Rec boats to launch into Lake Motoaka and also conduct research for Keck Environmental Field Laboratory.
The club serves many roles, helping members meet new people and empowering them to get outside and find peace in nature. The club also promotes the learning of new skills and instills an appreciation for ecosystems and living creatures.
Society of Women in Computing
The Society of Women in Computing (SWC) was honored for the value of curiosity. SWC’s mission is to dispel insecurities of being a woman in the computer science field and provide a community of women that demonstrate curiosity, creativity and learning specifically in the world of technology.
Two ways SWC seeks to accomplish this is through mentorship among students on campus and within the local Williamsburg community, as well as via skill building workshops and events. For example, this semester, the organization hosted a computer science faculty panel of female-identifying faculty members of the department that discussed their foray into the technology field and their passions and offered advice for students.
SWC seeks to remove barriers to make knowledge as accessible as possible. Its executive board members offer weekly office hours to provide advice on interview tips, resume help or other general questions. Moreover, the organization has extended its membership to the community beyond the W&M campus. For example, club members teach a weekly Girls Robotics Club at Berkeley Middle School.
In addition to membership, SWC also hosts workshop sessions where members develop skills that are beneficial in the industry but not typically covered in class.
Student Athlete Advisory Committee
The Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) exemplified the value of belonging through its You Belong Campaign led by Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Chair and volleyball player Sydney Taylor.
You Belong was created to demonstrate the universal inclusivity William & Mary athletics is striving for. It kicked off in October 2021 with an interactive poster in a high-traffic area of Kaplan Arena, where student athletes were encouraged to post sticky notes of what belonging looks like to them. It was covered in notes in a matter of days.
Another element of the campaign was a series of interviews Taylor and the D&I Committee did with student athletes, coaches and athletics department staff from underrepresented groups to give a platform to D&I issues not typically discussed in athletics.
Finally, SAAC partnered with the women’s lacrosse team to host a You Belong Game on March 22, where the Black national anthem was played before the game and You Belong merchandise was sold to benefit D&I-focused charities.
The Veggie Society
The Veggie Society was honored for the value of flourishing. Started in the fall of 2021 to provide an on-campus meeting space for vegan and vegetarian students, this organization has grown into a community that promotes physical, mental and environmental wellness to its members.
This club is not exclusive to those with plant-based diets. It believes that simply eating more vegetables, regardless of dietary restrictions and preferences, is important to overall physical wellness. It also believes plant-based eating is the most sustainable option to ensure the health of the planet.
Bi-weekly meetings present members a positive space where they can participate in relaxing, creative and engaging activities via crafts, games and sharing opportunities.
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