Inaugural Trailblazer Awards Celebrate Diversity Leadership

Mary Baldwin University’s new Trailblazer Excellence in Diversity Awards were created to recognize the efforts and contributions of students, student organizations, staff, faculty, and alumni in advancing MBU’s commitment to embrace, enhance, and celebrate diversity at all levels of the university enterprise and community. The inaugural ceremony was held on March  24.  

“This is the culmination of the Office of Inclusive Excellence’s many programs and initiatives throughout the university, and is presented by the OIE in collaboration with Minority Clubs United,” said Chief Diversity Officer Andrea Cornett-Scott. “These awards recognize individuals and groups who actively advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in transformative and sustainable ways at Mary Baldwin.”

Awards were presented in seven categories, recognizing exemplary groups, teams, and individuals. Below are photos from the ceremony and Cornett-Scott’s personal reflections:


Dr. Edward Scott
Associate Professor of Philosophy

As we pondered bestowing an Excellence in Diversity Lifetime Achievement Award, we considered one name. Because when you think about someone at Mary Baldwin University who has a substantial body of work in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the first name that comes to mind is Dr. Edward Alan Scott. 

Dr. Scott was MBU’s first faculty member of color — his presence denotes a rare and special commitment to fill our campus with voice, history, and story. This special award represents a lifetime of work: 33 years of teaching, participating, advocating, and making a difference. 

Dr. Scott’s trailblazing years have been marked with what John Lewis would call “Good Trouble.” He has helped shape diversity within our community in his reasoned, passionate way. He was the muse for creating the Annual King Celebration. He was firmly grounded in the room when the Office of African American Affairs (now the OIE) was conceived. He was there when we expanded our study abroad explorations to include South Africa. It was his brainchild to develop the African American Studies Minor — an interdisciplinary marvel that has emboldened, empowered, and changed the lives of many of our students. His course offerings on Martin Luther King Jr., African American religion, and African American thought were early exercises in decolonizing our curriculum.

Dr. Scott has been like a force of nature in our midst — not necessarily like a bull in a china shop,  or a bellowing whirlwind — but more akin to a gentle stream that steadily carves and shapes the rock that surrounds it. Through his steady activism, he has helped make our community healthier and more open to the celebration of difference. He is the type of educator, critical thinker, and humanitarian we should all aspire to be. He is a revolutionary that ignites a fire in the minds of every scholar he encounters, and his legacy is immense.

Remarks Honoring Dr. Edward Scott
By: Dr. Roderic L. Owen, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy and Religious Studies

Wow, Edward, here you are on the cusp of retirement from MBU. Of course, anyone who knows you well realizes that you will never fully retire from teaching and preaching.

This award is referred to as a “Trailblazer,” and when you arrived at MBC in 1990 there were just a handful of minority students, no African American faculty, no Office of Inclusive Excellence, no meaningful or visible commitment to support African American and other minority students, staff, and faculty;  and hardly any curricular focus on diversity as defined in any number of ways. And right now I need to point out that Edward did not arrive in Staunton on his own, he brought his bride along (and baby Ellington too). Within a couple of years of their arrival, Andrea was in a leadership role and also blazing the trail for MBC. Of course, we wouldn’t be here tonight if it were not for Rev. Andrea too. No way …

Now when one is a trailblazer, you have some choices to make: both implicit and  explicit. I think Edward must have asked himself at some early point: Why did I come to MBC and not go to an historic Black college or to a larger and more diverse university? What role might I play beyond being an excellent and caring instructor in the college’s Philosophy and Religious Studies Department? Edward might have thought: Well I could just blend in cautiously, not kick up too much of a fuss with the powers-that-be and settle in as a productive faculty member for the next several decades. Or, he might have thought: these seem to be nice people but they have a hell of a lot to learn and a long way to go in order to truly address the systemic effects of racial discrimination. It would be best to not only teach philosophy but aggressively live my philosophy and faith by challenging loudly and frequently the sleepy  status quo of this mildly liberal women’s college knowing that it could make many people very uncomfortable, if not defensive and angry … but that’s how to ensure lasting change.  

But then there is the Rev. Dr. Edward Scott way — drawing upon such a unique and powerful set of tools and characteristics to blaze the trail. There are his considerable credentials as an existential philosopher, his experiences teaching in Nigeria, his pride in the tradition and practices of the African American Episcopal Church and the legacy of Richard Allen. And there is his love of the music of  John Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Duke Ellington and the jazz greats. For Edward there is a sacred connection between the flow, rhythm, the sound of jazz and Christian faith. How many philosophy professors teaching aesthetics around the world have been able to truly integrate and connect the visceral experience of jazz with the intellectual analysis of what constitutes an artistic experience?

When Edward teaches ethics he brings a dual engagement with both the students in his class and with the rich, nuanced, and critically insightful theories and ideas about right and wrong; what it means to lead a good life; the place of reason, emotion, faith, and skepticism — while also subtly exposing centuries of implicit assumptions and values so often rooted in gender, race and ethnicity. Like all great professors, Edward has been engaging all along with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Kant, James, and many others while bringing students into the centuries-long dialogue. But being “Dr. Scott” he has done this in a way that avoids an authority-driven homage to intellectual tradition and instead opens doors and encourages thoughtful skepticism while avoiding cynicism. Years ago, I audited Edward’s newly introduced course on African American Philosophy, and I learned so much about W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and I also was introduced to the works of such current influential philosophers as Anthony Appiah, Cornel West, and Angela Davis. Indeed, what greater compliment can a fellow teacher give than to say “I learned so much from you over the years” … and Edward I have!

The list of Edward’s Mary Baldwin accomplishments and awards is lengthy but given Andrea’s time constraints,  I am only mentioning a handful. I want to make sure that you all know that Edward served as the interim vice president for academic affairs and the dean of Mary Baldwin for three years; that he is the recipient of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Award for Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year; and he has been the chair of our philosophy/religion department for many years. With his department’s support, Edward began the annual Rev. King shared college and community service, coached our distinctive ethics bowl team, and has regularly taught in our honors program.

But the greatest gift Edward has given us is Love Supreme: (Note: we’ve been listing to Coltrane’s Love Supreme) Rev. Dr. Edward Scott has generously given Love Supreme to his students, colleagues, to Mary Baldwin, to Allen Chapel, and to the larger community. Edward,  from the heart and soul: Thank you not only for blazing a trail and for all you have done for this college and community but for being you.


Barbara Lee 

Staunton resident Barbara Lee is a staple of MBU’s Office of Inclusive Excellence and has been a supporter from day one. She comes to campus to welcome new students and to put parents at ease. She’s served as an alumni mentor to numerous students and attends every event we put on. She helps us with annual voter registration, and tirelessly promotes community and civic engagement opportunities. Barbara is a community role model who mirrors the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 


Eric J. Wallace
Manager of News & Media Relations 

Eric has written a series of feature stories that showcase the historic work of the OIE and its students. After reading his Kwanzaa at MBU 25th Anniversary piece, a student came to me and said: “He really gets it. He understands why we do what we do.” Another student cried when she read his piece celebrating Latine traditions among students and faculty. This work is so affirming to our students. They work so hard, and storytellers like Eric help the university community to understand that work and its incredible value. 

Gabe Glassmann ’22
Social Media Manager

Students have been overwhelmingly excited about Gabe’s extraordinary job promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the social media space. They wanted to encourage and celebrate Gabe for the work she is doing to ensure our students feel seen, celebrated, and supported.


Jaliyah Bryant ’23

Jaliyah is the director of the Kuumba Players, MBU’s theatre troupe dedicated to exploring African American stories. She helped spearhead a collaborative relationship with MBU’s theatre department to direct a Jackie Sibblies Drury play with theatre professor Molly Seremet. Fairview is a drama that addresses race and prejudice head-on. The play had a racially mixed cast, and all involved students were engaged in racial sensitivity training throughout the production. On opening night, they engaged the audience in what would normally be a difficult conversation about race and surveillance culture. 


Shalia Purce ’19

Shalia has been doing great work at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum to make that space more inclusive, help uncover our historical connections to the enslaved, and steadily build an institutional bridge with MBU. She championed support for this year’s Ida B. Wells Lecture, and provided extra Black History Month resources to students. As a local alumna, she routinely helps with all OIE programs and events.

Tiffany Riddick Foreman ’04

Tiffany has been a major supporter of OIE since its inception. She served as a past director, assisted with recruitment — and often fills-in in the absence of a current director. The students know and love her, and she knows and loves them. Tiffany assists with first-year orientation, Kwanzaa, and our Sista Friends program. She crafts our Black History and Latine Heritage month posters, choreographs mimes and dances for Kwanzaa, and helps direct our gospel choir. She carried the OIE 25th anniversary celebration last year, pouring her own resources into the event. Tiffany works tirelessly to motivate alumni to stay involved.        


Dr. Kerry Cooke
Assistant Professor of Theatre

Dr. Cooke has worked tirelessly to decolonize the theatre curriculum, and she has made a point of including our theatre students in that process. She has exposed her classes to well beyond that which is in the ordinary classical canon. This work is personal to her and it shows. She is a true ally, and a star.

Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown
Professor of History

Dr. Tillerson-Brown has been leading the African American Studies program for many years, bringing history alive for our students in what is sometimes an inhospitable space. She has been a vocal presence and leader on the ongoing Coalition of Racial and Social Justice, and a strong advocate for inclusive excellence. She is also the first tenured African American female faculty member — which is no small achievement.


Cast of Fairview 

We celebrate the cast and student director of Fairview, which was much more than a collaboration with Kuumba Players, but a true exercise in diversity. The growth gained by both the students involved in that project, and the audience, was palpable. They planned with careful forethought to prepare for the presentation of a conversation-sparking narrative centered around sensitive racial issues — so much so they conducted weekly diversity training. I was thrilled to help support this project. It was an incredibly important investment for the university and our community. 

Office of Integrated Communications

We are especially excited to celebrate the storytellers who have made a special effort to shine a light on the work of all facets of the Office of Inclusive Excellence — its organizations, events, history, works, and people. The OIC has been intentional with this work and everyone sees it. Most importantly: The students see it, and feel less invisible because of it. This is no small achievement, and we applaud it.

Undergraduate Theatre Department

The theatre department’s Kaleidoscope Project will be honored not for what they wrote, but for what they are actively doing. They are asking the right questions, and listening to feedback from students. They are getting their students to listen to one other and dialogue. They need to be encouraged. We want them to know that we see them, and that the entire university community is benefiting from their efforts.