Congratulations to our faculty member Paul Mencke and doctoral candidate Joan.Osa Oviawe, who are among recipients of the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards. They’re being honored at the Washington State University MLK Community Celebration today in Pullman.

Paul and Joan embody the College of Education’s commitment to diversity — a commitment that, in Paul’s words, “is fulfilling and exhausting.” The following information about them is from WSU News.

Clinical Assistant Professor Paul Mencke
Paul Mencke

Mencke is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, has a passion for promoting social justice.

Graduate student Bryan Wiggins recalls attending one of Mencke’s classes where students were asked to give a short presentation about someone who had an impact on their field of study. Much to Wiggins’ surprise, Mencke instructed the students to only consider people from underrepresented backgrounds.

“When I asked him why he limited the class to focusing on diverse populations, he responded by saying our students learn about people who look like them every day, and it is important for them to learn how other people have made positive contributions to society too,” said Wiggins.

Mencke is actively involved in WSU’s student recruitment efforts, often serving as a keynote speaker or workshop presenter for events such as Visionaries Inspiring Black Empowered Students (VIBES), Shaping High School Asian and Pacific Islanders for the next Generation (SHAPING), and the Multicultural Student Services banquet.

The former Cougar quarterback said receiving the MLK award helps motivate him to continue this challenging work. “Having a commitment to social justice is fulfilling but often exhausting,” he said. “This award demonstrates that the march is long, but worth every difficult step.”


A reminder of great people, great ideals

Doctoral candidate Joan.Osa Oviawe
Joan.Osa Oviawe

Oviawe is a doctoral candidate in the College of Education whose involvement in social justice extends far beyond Pullman and the Northwest. She established the Grace Foundation in Nigeria, which promotes education and human rights – especially for women and children.

She also organizes cultural conferences, such as one that took place last summer when participants visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta. While working in WSU’s Dean of Students Office, she organized a trip to hurricane-ravaged Galveston Island, Texas, where students helped renovate homes of low-income residents and volunteered at a homeless shelter.

As coordinator of V-Day WSU, Oviawe introduced a new program during the 2011 Week Without Violence called the “V-Day Until the Violence Stops Festival.” More than 500 students participated in the activities, along with faculty, staff and community members.

“This award makes me feel like my little contributions to the betterment of my local and global communities matter and are worthwhile,” Oviawe said. “It will be a constant reminder for me to continue to imbibe the ideals and principals of MLK and all the other great men and women who have impacted our world in extraordinary ways.”