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Campus Community to Tell Stories about Living ‘The Dream’

January 18, 2013

  Encouraging Others: Angelica Cox, a sophomore mathematics major from Indianapolis, donated money in hopes of attracting more central Indiana high school students to participate in Rose-Hulman’s Operation Catapult summer science and engineering exploratory program. (Photo by Chris Minnick)

While presenting his famous 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. departed from his prepared text, prompted by Mahalia Jackson’s cry, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”

Now, nearly 50 years later, Rose-Hulman students, faculty, and staff members will share stories about their dreams and personal struggles as the institute celebrates diversity and King’s grand legacy on January 21-25.

“There is a saying, ‘Facts can explain us, but a story will save us.’ So, we’re going to listen to others tell their stories during this special week on our campus,” says Luanne Tilstra, director of the Center for Diversity.

Throughout the week, members of the campus community can voice their dreams in messages placed on “Dream Walls” located in the lobby of the Hulman Student Union and Moench Hall’s Student Commons Area.

Then, telling their own personal reflections during a special Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner, on January 21, will be Angelica Cox, a sophomore mathematics major from Indianapolis; Carlotta Berry, PhD, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Nadine Shillingford Wondem, PhD, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering; and Dexter Jordan, associate director of admissions and multicultural recruitment.

   Carlotta Berry

Cox donated $1,000 last year to set up a program to encourage one central Indiana high school student to attend Rose-Hulman’s summer Operation Catapult program, which encourages future scientists and engineers. This summer experience helped make her decision to attend the institute. Now, she wants others to share the same educational adventure.

As part of her dinner presentation, Cox will quote passages from Desiderata, an inspiring poem written by Terre Haute native Max Ehrmann. She will also urge people to be sensitive when making comments that are insensitive to others, no matter the minority group. “Racial slurs still cut deep, even when those hurt don’t show their scars,” she says.

Berry points out aspects of King's dream are still unfulfilled. For instance, she is among a small contingent of female African-American professors across the United States. "If you count full professors, it is probably less than 200…I am looking for the day when people are no longer surprised to find out that I am an engineer, a doctor, or a professor."

In 2011, Berry received the institute’s Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award for being a champion for campus diversity. She created the ROSE-BUD scholarship, mentoring, and professional development program, along with colleague Debra Walter, PhD. The program helps increase the recruitment, retention, and preparation of women and minorities in electrical and computer engineering careers. 

       Nadine        Jordan
  Nadine Shillingford Wondem
      Dexter Jordan

Berry also helped establish Rose-Hulman’s multidisciplinary academic minor program in robotics, and is serving as director of the FIRST Robotics Competition’s inaugural Crossroads Regional on campus this spring. These programs are inspiring college, high school, and middle school students toward careers in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.

Meanwhile, Shillingford Wondem has experienced both sides of diversity. She was among the racial majority while growing up in the Caribbean. Now, she’s in the minority while living and working in the Wabash Valley.

Jordan, a 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award recipient, has helped increase diversity in Rose-Hulman's student body and serves as advisor of the student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.