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UW-Eau Claire historian, professor and advocate earns Regents Diversity Award

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton is the co-author of "Minority and Gender Differences in Officer Career Progression." She is working on a new book titled "Honorable Men: Armed Self Defense and the Deacons for Defense and Justice," under contract with the University Press of Mississippi.

For the fourth time in the last five years, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is represented among the recipients of the UW System’s highest honor for achievement in educational diversity, with Blugolds earning two of the three awards on Feb. 1.

Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, professor of history, and the Counseling Services program at UW-Eau Claire have both been awarded the 2021 Board of Regents Diversity Award. This distinction is awarded annually to three individuals, programs or departments in recognition of their exceptional efforts in fostering greater equity and diversity across their institutions and communities.

Regent Olivia Woodmansee, speaking on behalf of the selection committee, stated, “We selected three outstanding awardees for increasing opportunity and making a lasting impact on their UW campus communities. We are proud to recognize their exceptional dedication to expanding partnerships that support student success for all student populations.”

Ducksworth-Lawton is honored by this recognition for her campus and community impact, all of which is in alignment with the longstanding philosophy of higher education in our state.

“I am very grateful to be recognized in this way,” Ducksworth-Lawton says. “My work with the city of Eau Claire, Uniting Bridges, Converge Radio and UW-Eau Claire opens the door for the public-private partnerships and community-led partnerships that are the heart of the original ‘Wisconsin Idea’ — the use of expertise to help communities improve and adapt to change.” 

Dr. Louisa Rice, professor and chair of the history department at UW-Eau Claire, says she is proud to congratulate her friend and colleague for this well-deserved honor.

“Dr. Ducksworth-Lawton is such a deserving recipient of this award, particularly regarding her tireless efforts to promote knowledge, dialogue and understanding among the diverse members of our community,” Rice says.

“She has a unique ability to both speak truth to power and engage people from very different backgrounds and experiences. This is an exceptional recognition for exceptional work.”

27-plus years of campus, local and state leadership

Selika Ducksworth-Lawton

Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a familiar figure both on and off-campus, is frequently seen and heard on local and regional media outlets, tapped for her unique ability to contextualize current events within both historical and cultural frames.

Among Ducksworth-Lawton’s chief collaborators over his tenure at UW-Eau Claire, Chancellor James Schmidt feels he cannot overstate the invaluable asset she has become to the campus and community alike.

“So well-known in our community that she is referred to by her first name alone, Selika has helped to create change for our students, our campus and our region,” Schmidt says. “As chancellor, I have looked to her for valued perspective and counsel on a range of issues affecting our campus and community. She is frequently called to lend her voice to public issues and has become a highly respected resource on current social justice topics.”

Named by the Black Power list of 2018 as one the most influential Black leaders in Wisconsin, Ducksworth-Lawton’s impact is hard to quantify but includes an impressive and ever-growing list of credentials and contributions:

  • Ph.D. in 20th-century American military history and a bachelor of arts in history from Ohio State University.
  • 27 years at UW-Eau Claire, teaching courses offered in both the history department and the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program.
  • One of the early equity, diversity and inclusion fellows at UW-Eau Claire, leading efforts in the 2015 EDI implementation plan for campus.
  • Decades of service as an academic and social mentor to scores of students, faculty and staff of color to navigate learning and working in a predominantly white institution.
  • Facilitating or leading countless professional development opportunities in collaboration with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning; designing reading and focus groups for EDI training for the campus community.
  • Consistent active participation in shared governance helping to establish a mandate that all faculty and staff have an element of EDI as a consideration within their performance evaluations, including tenure decisions.
  • Serving as vice president of Uniting Bridges of Chippewa County, a nonprofit organization promoting racial peace and unity, and sponsoring the annual Juneteenth Celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.
  • Led community efforts to reimagine the local Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day events resulting in vastly increased student and community participation in the event, as well as understanding of diversity issues beyond that celebration day.
  • Community Advisory Committee member for the Transformation Project, a regional anti-racism and inclusivity effort.
  • Co-regional lead for Toward One Wisconsin, an annual state conference to build awareness and action around the intersections of inclusion and the economic, social and emotional health of Wisconsin communities.
  • Eau Claire-area liaison to the ACLU of Wisconsin.
  • Co-host of the weekly radio show and podcast, “Conversations in Color,” community conversations around race and creating an inclusive community.
  • Frequently called upon expert in media coverage of local and national news regarding race, policing, African American history, military matters, immigration and other topics.

Leaving a lasting impact

Busy, engaged faculty and community members like Ducksworth-Lawton do not often have or make the time to reflect on the entirety of their careers, but an added perk of such distinguished recognition from the UW System is that it offers an occasion to do just that.

“Helping the community welcome students from marginalized backgrounds, without stereotype or discrimination, is one of the most important things I can do for student, faculty and staff retention,” Ducksworth-Lawton says.

“I hope that my legacy will be one of breaking barriers between groups and busting silos that prevent cooperation. Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley lead the state in the kinds of cooperation and maximization of resources needed to face and adapt to challenges of the future. Instead of fighting demographic and technological change, we try to harness it and use it for good — I am proud to be a part of that.”

See related story featuring the Regents Diversity Award for UW-Eau Claire Counseling Services.