Kennesaw State’s new diversity center appoints first fellows

 Kennesaw Hall

10 faculty members will do research and engagement projects to advance University’s diversity focus

KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 30, 2016) — Kennesaw State University’s recently created Center for Diversity Leadership and Engagement announced the appointment of 10 Diversity Fellows — faculty members who will conduct research and engage with the campus and local communities on diversity-related issues. 

The fellows, who begin work this fall, are appointed to do research in five of the University’s six priority areas of focus within diversity — disability, gender, GLBTIQ, race/ethnicity and sustainability — through spring 2017. No fellows were appointed in the veterans’ priority area.

The fellows program represents the first initiative of the new Center, which launched in spring 2016 to support engaged scholarship by faculty from all disciplines on issues pertaining to the six priority areas and their intersections with other areas of the University.

“Both the Center and the Diversity Fellows program reflect Kennesaw State’s commitment to its strategic goal of enhancing the collegiate experience and fostering a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment,” said Erik Malewski, the University’s chief diversity officer. “At their core, the Center and the Fellows program represent a commitment to rigorous scholarship and community engagement that positively impacts the campus, region and the state.”

Kennesaw State’s 2016-2017 Diversity Fellows are:

  • Joya Hicks, associate professor of special education, will utilize the Universal Design for Learning Lab (UDLL) to assist Kennesaw State in fulfilling its commitment to provide equal access to curriculum and instruction for students with disabilities. (Disability Fellow)
  • Heidi Scherer, assistant professor of criminal justice, will focus on gaining a greater understanding of why persons with disabilities reported lower perceptions of campus climate, identifying barriers to success or inclusion on campus, raising awareness of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and providing resources and materials on disability best practices (Disability Fellow)
  • Roxanne Donovan, professor of psychology, will implement a mentoring program for Faculty Women of Color (FWOC) to increase research productivity, connection, and well-being, all factors associated with career success, retention, and promotion of FWOC. (Gender Fellow)
  • Gail Markle, assistant professor of sociology, will conduct a study to develop understanding of how women experience gender microaggressions while at KSU, using the data to develop a campus event to increase awareness and reduce the occurrence of gender microaggressions on campus.(Gender Fellow)
  • Kat Gray, lecturer of English, will conduct a short longitudinal study of the rhetoric students use when asked to engage with communities that may be unfamiliar to them, and create a sequence of English classes that encourages collaboration and considered thought towards those with different experiences. (GLBTIQ Fellow)
  • Daniel Farr, lecturer of sociology, will develop training programs for new faculty/staff and admission counselors on topics of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression diversity, improving Kennesaw State’s score in the Campus Pride Index. (GLBTIQ Fellow)
  • Darlene Rodriguez, assistant professor of social work and human services, will use data and stakeholders to establish a Civic Engagement Academy (CEA) for increased immigrant orientation and integration to Georgia and the U.S. (Race/Ethnicity Fellow)
  • Seneca Vaught, associate professor of history and interdisciplinary studies, will research best practices for improving the campus climate by “centering” anti-racism at Kennesaw State, develop a series of case studies based on oral interviews and host public workshops with campus and community stakeholders using insights from the collected data. (Race/Ethnicity Fellow)
  • Pegah Zamani, associate professor of architecture, will concentrate on the critical role of the ecological construction and passive environmental design strategies in energy-efficient designs around Kennesaw State to underline the gap between theoretical design and actual performance of sustainable architectural systems across campus. (Sustainability Fellow)
  • Roneisha Worthy, assistant professor of civil engineering, will utilize the ecoPartner Program to reduce the ecological footprint of the campus and surrounding communities and implement this values-based engagement model to equip faculty, staff and students with the necessary tools to become environmental sustainability change agents in their colleges, departments, dormitories, and/or student/social organizations. (Sustainability Fellow)

Fellows will spend five to 10 hours per week conducting research, participating in professional development and engaging with one another and the campus and external community. As with all scholarship produced through the Center, the fellows’ projects are designed to raise awareness, foster engagement, and encourage discussion on the University’s diversity priority areas.

Malewski described the fellows’ application process as “competitive,” an indication of Kennesaw State faculty members’ desire to help shape the campus environment.

“Based on the number and quality of submissions in response to the Center’s call for proposals focused on engaged scholarship on issues of diversity and inclusion, I think we can look forward to a number of high-impact, data-driven initiatives that will add to the campus culture and build community,” Malewski said.  


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit