The 2017 Jennie Elder Suel Distinguished Woman of Color Award honorees: Marsha Robinson, Patricia Ellis and Michelle Thomas.
The 2017 Jennie Elder Suel Distinguished Woman of Color Award honorees: Marsha Robinson, Patricia Ellis and Michelle Thomas.

Miami recognizes three women for their contributions to student success

Miami University faculty member Marsha Robinson, staff member Michelle Thomas and community member Patricia Ellis each received the 2017 Jennie Elder Suel Distinguished Woman of Color Award.

The award recognizes spirited women of color, particularly those who have been warm and welcoming to others. They were recognized at the Celebrating Global Sisterhood reception March 7.

The award is named after Jennie Elder Suel, who received recognition in 1994. Suel volunteered in the Miami and Oxford communities by providing housing, meals and entertainment for Miami students.

Roxanne Ornelas, associate professor of geography and global and intercultural studies, gave the keynote address, talking about the significance of “place” in our lives.

Student presenters.

Student presenters: Mary Shoufan, Megan Zimmer and Lydia Yellow Hawk.

Student testimonials also highlighted the event.

  • Mary Shoufan, from Damascus, Syria, a first-year graduate student in the department of architecture and interior design. She spoke about the difficulty of finding a place to belong — “Always searching for a place to be is not easy.”
  • Lydia Yellow Hawk, from Rosebud, South Dakota, a junior anthropology major. A member of the Lakota Indian Tribe, she said, “We believe we’re related to each other, the land and the animals and plants.”
  • Megan Zimmer, from Finneytown, a junior international relations and French double major. She began wearing a hijab her senior year of high school. She said she is conscience of the fact that some see her as representing all Muslims.

Marsha Robinson

Robinson is a visiting assistant professor in human and creative arts at Miami Middletown. She is a globally-recognized scholar whose recent work has focused on matriarchy in Africa, women’s rights and African Americans in United States history.  Her innovative approaches and commitment to diversity and inclusion showcase her approach to making the world smaller. Robinson has worked for causes such as rape prevention, teen empowerment and feminist issues. She also works to prevent human trafficking. Robinson has a doctorate in women’s history from Ohio State University with a focus on African American and African studies, a master’s in U.S. history from Connecticut State University and a bachelor of science from Georgetown University. 

Michelle Thomas 

Thomas is the director of business student organizations and diversity for the Farmer School of Business, where she also mentors students of color. The students that she mentors help shape and improve the institution and its culture and become ambassadors for Miami after their departure. Because of Michelle’s commitment and guidance, diverse students can more easily navigate a myriad of academic and personal challenges posed by life events. She is said to receive more thank-you notes from students in a year than some people receive in a career. She is a graduate of Miami University with a bachelor’s in technical writing.   

Patricia Ellis 

Ellis taught for 36 years in the Hamilton City School District. She has led efforts to teach and preserve African American history and culture. Her mission has been to make a difference in the lives of people by exposing them to multicultural experiences.  She has organized and managed educational tours throughout the United States and Canada that covered the route of the historic Underground Railroad and other significant sites of the Civil Rights movement.  She is a member of the Underground Railroad Speakers Bureau, acts as a consultant to the Canadian-African Heritage Tour, and served as a chaperone on the Rosa Parks Pathway to Freedom Tour. As an actor and presenter, she has written scripts and delivered dramatic presentations and speeches throughout the United States, Canada, Bahamas, Bermuda and Senegal, West Africa.  She has studied cultural heritage in courses at Miami, Xavier University and the University of Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s in political science from Central State University.