AACC staff members receive MLK awards


Photo by Maggie Brown

AACC honored faculty and staff for their diversity efforts on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January. Shown, the Arnold campus has the state’s only statue of the civil rights leader.

Maggie Brown, Reporter

AACC honored four faculty and staff members for their work in equity, diversity and inclusion during the 41st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast on Jan. 17.

The winners of this year’s MLK Zeitgeist Award are: professor Antione Tomlin, the chair of academic literacies; Leslie Parker-Blyther, former interim director of AACC’s Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute; Harold Waterman, a professor of computer information systems; and Sharon Barlow-Hughley, an academic adviser.

“When I found out I won, there was definitely excitement,” Tomlin said. “Then there was this feeling of shyness [because] I do this work for the love of it and I believe in my students. I feel humbled to receive it.”

The Zeitgeist Award recognizes faculty and staff who support students of color and advance affirmative action, diversity, equity and inclusion, Dean of Student Development Deneen Dangerfield said.

Tomlin said he helps students with reading and writing in the academic literacies tutoring lab.

“While working in the tutoring lab, I found a majority of the students that were in need are African American and I wanted to make sure they are getting the resources needed to achieve the next level of learning,” Tomlin said. “[We] achieved this through workshops, professional training and hiring qualified staff.”

He added: “I think what I do is important because it’s always student focused, student centered and student based. I never make a decision without thinking about how my students … are going to be impacted.”

Barlow-Hughley said she loves this year’s award theme, named after an MLK quote: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

“I think the award is to honor people who have worked to advance students of color,” Barlow-Hughley said. “And I think I have done that pretty much my whole career.”

Barlow-Hughley, who has been with AACC for 25 years, said her one-on-one interactions with students may be what earned her a nomination.

“I kind of see myself in [the] students in terms of what they are trying to achieve,” Barlow-Hughley said. “I can really relate [to them].”

Waterman, who has worked at AACC for 19 years, said his work with organizations like the Department of Juvenile Justice, the National Urban League and Technology Works for Good throughout his career led him to win this award. He also has worked with black students as a computer technologies professor.

“I was floored,‘’ Waterman said. “I don’t get awards like this and especially for helping my people or people of color [in] any economically challenged community.”