JMC professor receives prestigious diversity award

Carley Hull

Gene Shelton, associate professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, received Kent State’s 2013 Diversity Trailblazer Award for his commitment to diversity before the Presidential Speaker Series event Nov. 14.

“It’s probably one of the greatest achievements of my life simply because it was given to me by the president of Kent State University, and my 85-year-old mother and 87-year-old father were in the audience when I was called up on stage,” Shelton said. “So it was a moment for them and it was a moment for me.”

The award recognizes faculty, staff or a departmental group who have made significant contributions to diversity and inclusion at Kent State, according to the university website. Shelton is the fourth recipient of the award.

Shelton has a history at Kent State. The university was the first place he experienced diversity while attending the summer journalism institute as a high-school student. A few years later, he graduated from Kent State in 1972.

“I spent most of my four years at this university sitting in classrooms in my JMC and print journalism and broadcast news journalism classes being the only African-American,” Shelton said.

When Shelton came back to Kent State to teach, he continued to foster diversity.

Shelton co-chairs the JMC Diversity and Globalization Committee that created a new diversity plan for JMC last spring, and he also serves as JMC’s coordinator for diversity initiatives.

Shelton said he credits winning the award to his work recruiting African-American and Latin-American students as well as his work with the Robert G. McGruder Award ceremony that recognizes accomplishments of diversity in the journalism field.

McGruder was the first African-American editor of the Daily Kent Stater, first African-American reporter of the Plain Dealer, first African-American president of the Associated Press Managing Editors group and the first African-American editor of the Detroit Free Press, according to the award’s website.

“(My work) is his legacy, and the respect I have for his widow, Annette McGruder, and her support of the diversity equity here at Kent State because that’s what her husband did,” Shelton said.

A committee of the University Diversity Action Council called the Diversity Trailblazer Award Committee ranked nominations and unanimously chose Shelton from a pool of strong candidates, said Michquel Penn, the committee’s co-chair and Kent State Police community resource officer.

“I think it’s great (a JMC faculty member won the award),” JMC director Thor Wasbotten said. “Our faculty in the past year has done a lot for diversity, and diversity is very important to us.”

Similarly, Shelton said he is the person he is today because he accepted and had the opportunity to learn from diverse cultures.

“(Diversity is important) simply because this country is changing ,and some people fear the change, some people welcome the change, but it will change,” Shelton said. “And I believe the best way to embrace change is to welcome the change. Open your minds, open your hearts to people who are different than you are because you can learn something.”

Contact Carley Hull at [email protected].