This past Friday, Jan. 24, President Seligman awarded the UR’s 2014 Presidential Diversity Award during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address to John Cullen, a  research associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the Medical Center, and the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA). President Seligman instituted the Presidential Diversity award in 2009. The Award includes a $2,500 prize for each recipient. Half of the individual prize and the entirety of the group prize will be given to support an office or department on campus.  This prize money will be used to help continue campus-wide efforts to embrace diversity.
During his time at UR,  Professor Cullen has served as an advocate for the University’s LGBT community. His efforts have resulted in the creation of activist groups, educational programs, and revisions to university policy.
Cullen worked closely with Vice President and Senior Advisor to the President, to update the University’s Anti-discrimination Policy Paul Burgett.
“John has been an intellectual and organizational force for change,” Burgett said. Additionally, Cullen started a series of workshops and conferences on a variety of topics including healthcare in the LGBT community and disparities in medical treatment.
Cullen will be giving his financial award to an organization on campus that he helped start in 2006. Cullen describes the Pride Alliance at the University of Rochester (PAUR) as “the LGBT affinity group for faculty, staff and their allies.” The most visible display of Pride’s work around campus is their Safe Space initiative.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to have received this award,” Cullen said, “It highlights that the University of Rochester is committed to becoming a more diverse and inclusive environment around all aspects of diversity.”
The second recipient of the Award was the Office of Minority Student Affairs  (OMSA). They have been working for 45 years to help students that are underrepresented in higher education. OMSA hosts a number of programs to assist students – from the admissions process all the way through graduation and beyond.
“OMSA has quietly and consistently championed the cause of academic achievement and retention of underrepresented students,” wrote assistant director of Wilson Commons Student Activities Lydia Crews. What makes OMSA a true leader in campus diversity is the programs and special events they offer for the entire university community. Each year, they host the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative address,  the Early Connections opportunity program, the Academic Achievement Reception, and publish the OMSA Chronicle.
One of the most moving events OMSA hosts is the annual Seniors Dinner.
“Some of them assert that they ‘never would have made it’ without those staff members,” wrote Dean of Students Matthew Burns.
O’Brien is a member of the class of 2016.

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