Civil Engineering Department Honored for Promoting Inclusiveness

Recognition includes a plaque and $2,000 stipend to advance successful efforts

The Civil Engineering Department received the Graduate School’s “Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education” award during the 2015 doctoral hooding ceremony. Accepting the award were (front, from left) Yacoub Najjar, Ahmed Al-Ostaz and his wife as (back, from left) Don Cole, John Kiss, Chancellor Dan Jones, and Provost Morris Stocks looked on. (Submitted photo by Katie Williamson)

Accepting the Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education award for the Department of Civil Engineering are (front, from left) Yacoub Najjar, Ahmed Al-Ostaz and Hunain Alsaid Alkhateb. Don Cole (back, from left), John Kiss, Chancellor Dan Jones and Provost Morris Stocks were on hand for the presentation. Submitted photo by Katie Williamson

The Department of Civil Engineering has a history of promoting inclusiveness at the University of Mississippi. Last month, the successful efforts of the department’s administration, faculty and staff were recognized with the 2015 Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education Award.

Presented by the UM Graduate School, the award is given annually to an individual, group or academic program that exemplifies a commitment to the cause of enhancing diversity at the graduate level. Honorees receive a plaque and a $2,000 stipend to advance their inclusion efforts.

“I was so thrilled to know that the civil engineering department was selected for this award,” said Yacoub Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering. “The award is a testament to the excellent work done by the CE faculty over the years to promote inclusiveness in graduate education. I am very proud of my department and its outstanding faculty.”

The purpose of the award is to highlight best practices and to honor the individuals or department who are responsible for creating or enhancing an inclusive environment in graduate education. A committee selects the winner, which is announced at the university’s doctoral hooding ceremony.

“The civil engineering department is a welcome addition to our growing list of honorees,” said John Z. Kiss, Graduate School dean and professor of biology. “Previous awardees include Drs. Donald Cole, Joe Ward, Alan Gross, John Williamson, Gerard Buskes, Michael Johannson, the mathematics doctoral program, the communication sciences and disorders master’s program, the chemistry graduate program, the sociology graduate program, accountancy graduate program and the MFA graduate program in creative writing.”

The department is certainly deserving of the accolade, said Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.

“Composed of both civil and environmental engineering programs, this department has worked diligently towards diversity and inclusion in its operations,” Cole said. “Bringing students and faculty from all across the globe to our beloved campus and preserving a culture of academic greatness, maintaining an inclusive atmosphere and creating a harmoniously welcoming environment requires more than a mere shuffling of papers. It requires an intentional bridge-building effort by many well-intentioned individuals.”

Najjar discussed the call for award nominations with the CE faculty during a faculty meeting. With its graduate student body representing 15 countries, faculty representing eight countries, three of nine faculty members being female, weekly technical/cultural seminars and an international food-tasting day, the department was a viable contender for the honor, the faculty concluded.

“We agreed that the department’s efforts over the years nicely match the criteria for the award,” Najjar said. “Based on this, we prepared the nomination file.”