Photo caption: Dang Yang, the last recipient of the award, presented Dr. Heather Ann Moody with UW-Eau Claire's MLK Social Justice Leadership Award during the Feb. 7 campus celebration of Dr. King's life and work.
An alumna and longtime champion for students, faculty and staff in matters of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has earned the university’s highest honor for EDI advocacy work.
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, at UW-Eau Claire's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, Dr. Heather Ann Moody was presented with the university's 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award.
This award, established in 2018, recognizes a campus community member who has demonstrated an exceptional ability to advocate for underserved and underrepresented groups and who leads, organizes and engages the community in the difficult work of equity, diversity and inclusion through their voice, vision and actions.
Moody, an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is an associate professor and program director for American Indian studies. Her teaching and research focus on American Indian history and culture, contemporary tribal issues, communities and sovereignty. She is a expert and consultant regarding Wisconsin Education Act 31 requirements for K-12 and higher education in the state.
Moody holds a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies from UW-Eau Claire, a master’s degree in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona and a doctor of education degree in teaching and learning from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Teresa O’Halloran, interim assistant chancellor for EDI at UW-Eau Claire, says she is thrilled with this selection for the 2023 award.
“Heather Ann Moody, one of our most passionate and hardworking faculty members, is so deserving of this honor,” O’Halloran says.
“Heather is a highly regarded professor who has shown herself to be a tireless community builder and advocate for social justice at UW-Eau Claire and beyond. She has provided strong leadership in recent years not only for our American Indian studies program but also for campuswide efforts including the launch of our Center for Racial and Restorative Justice and our EDI Strategic Plan.”
Moody says she is humbled and honored to receive this award, and feels “a little strange” in the sense that she sees her advocacy work as inherent in her job, and something she hopes to see all campus members engage in more and more.
“I just feel compelled to speak up and do what I can to make sure we are both attracting and retaining the people we need here, the people who our students need here to help them succeed,” Moody says. “Honestly, it’s what we should all be doing — advocating for our students and fellow faculty and staff. We need all these hardworking colleagues to make this campus all we can be.”
A letter of nomination for Moody to receive the MLK Social Justice Leadership Award was submitted by one of her former students and now campus sustainability specialist Lily Strehlow. Her submission reads, in part:
“Since joining the faculty in 2007, Heather Ann has demonstrated leadership, courage and compassion in her work advocating for American Indian students, faculty and staff at UW-Eau Claire and across the state of Wisconsin. Her support for students was recently recognized through the 2022 Excellence in Advising Award, which she received after 15 years of helping marginalized students navigate this predominantly white institution of higher education. Dr. Moody has also helped build the American Indian studies (AIS) major and minor into an accessible program for students of all backgrounds. As someone who identifies as white, I personally benefited greatly from her pedagogy during my time as a student.”
Moody says that whether it is in the classroom, on the EDI Strategic Plan team or out in the community, much of her work involves difficult topics and difficult conversations, and it has often been hard to see concrete forward strides being made. This honor, she says, goes a long way in affirming her beliefs in the path she has chosen.
“This award is a nice reminder that I am indeed making an impact, that the things I feel so strongly about and work hard to support are actually making a difference," Moody says.