George Mason University


News at Mason

Spirit of King Awards given to those who made Mason a more inclusive place

February 21, 2018   /   by John Hollis

Isaiah West says it’s been humbling to receive an award that in any way likens the contributions he’s made to the George Mason University community to those made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 22-year-old senior kinesiology major from Piscataway, N.J., was selected as the recipient of the 2018 Spirit of King Student Award after being cited for tirelessly advocating on the behalf of others and taking risks for issues and concerns greater than himself to help make Mason a more inclusive environment.

“It’s a tremendous honor just to be mentioned in the same breath as Martin Luther King,” said West. “A man like that lived such a selfless life.”

Graduate student Carrie Hutnick is this year’s recipient of the Spirit of King Faculty Award, which recognizes members of the faculty who make an exceptional contribution to the development of an inclusive learning environment through their teaching, research or advocacy work for equality and social justice.

The Spirit of King Awards are presented by Mason’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) as part of the campus-wide celebration of the slain civil rights leader. The 2018 Spirit of King awards were presented at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Evening of Reflection event on Jan. 24.

Other winners included Lisa Snyder (Spirit of King Staff Award); Noah Shoates and Gary Hooker (The Yara Mowafy Award); Hawatu Davowah (Resounding Voice Award); Rodrigo Velasquez (Emerging Alumni Award); Teejay Brown (Emerging Alumni Award); and the National Society of College Scholars PACE (Superior Service Award).

West, who recently returned from Senegal, where he was interning with the NBA Academy Africa, played a key role in helping those in need as the chapter president of the Eta Delta Delta chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. It was during his tenure that the fraternity developed a number of supportive programs, including a Bra Drive for Breast Cancer, school supply drives, a self-defense seminar and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for autism.

“During my time as president, I tried to use my platform to uplift and give back to others,” he said. “I was never really concerned about myself getting the credit because I was always reminded that I represent something larger than myself.”

Hutnick, a 33-year-old Providence College graduate, continues moving forward in her work on a PhD in public sociology at Mason. Her dissertation project examines how incarcerated and university students learn from one another and relate to one another across social distance and difference as they engage in a discussion-based college class together inside a prison.

Hutnick’s research was developed and is being conducted with an incarcerated graduate student who is completing a master’s thesis on a corresponding topic to reflect the model of learning they’re studying.

“Making positive social change alongside one another in critical, compassionate, engaged communities is what Dr. King stood for,” Hutnick said.