See the Winners of NSBE’s Black Girls Rock!

On the night of March 25th, starting around 6 o’clock, Auburn’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) held their inaugural award show of Black Girls Rock! Calling it their “our own take on the BET Awards show,” NSBE and the event coordinator Carmen Stowe put on dinner and a show to honor black faculty members and students who had been recommended for their work, their service, and their community impact (NSBE, AuInvolve). There were seven award winners: four faculty and three students.


Living Legend—Dr. Adrienne Duke, Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist of Human Development and Family Studies

The first award was Living Legend, an award given to a faculty member "who has gone above and beyond to leave her mark on Auburn’s campus." Dr. Duke's love for her fellow women started at an early age, and was in her youth the "epitome of girl power." She played several instruments, sports, and obtained a full athletic scholarship. She later then earned a Bachelors, two Masters, and a PhD—all before 30. Today she works as the Director of the Young Women Leaders Program here in Auburn. She also serves on the advisory board for the Women’s Center, the Africana Studies Program, and an after-school tutoring session for Auburn youth, “I am My Brother’s Keeper."

Rockstar—Dr. Julia Charles, Assistant Professor of English Literature

The second award was the Rock Star, a faculty member "who has done exceptionally well in the classroom and professionally and also has a remarkable passion for their field." Dr. Charles is, as her students and colleagues would say, proudly and unapologetically black. She is confident in her identity as a black woman and inspires her students to share that same confidence. She encourages her students to pursue their “truest self.” She has a number of decorated awards for her work in African American studies. In her career, she has had a number of publications and a "plethora" of conference presentations on the racial identity, the state of the black woman, and others—in her work and her career, she exudes such pride in her culture.

Social Humanitarian—Dr. Cheryl Seals, Associate professor in Auburn University's Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering

The third award, Social Humanitarian, is given to a faculty member "who shows her love and passion for Auburn by giving back to the university." Dr. Seals has been such a humanitarian at Auburn for nearly 14 years. She has transitioned from working for companies such as Bellcore, Polaroid, and IBM, to sharing her knowledge and experiences with students as an Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Software Engineering department at Auburn University. Since 1998 she has worked with a retention and outreach scholarship program to improve STEM education, and has served on numerous Advisory Boards, such as the Academic Advisor for the Society of Women Engineers; she has as also served as a judge for numerous computing conferences.

Tiger Stripes—Davonya Person, former Instructor of Human Anatomy and Biology, Posthumous Award

The Tiger Stripes award is a commemorative award "given to a faculty member who has passed, but her Auburn spirit still very much remains on Auburn’s campus," and is being awarded to a former Auburn teacher who inspired students and colleagues. Davonya Person was a "highly respected and inspiring lecturer" in the department of biological sciences for 14 years (from 1998-2012) who passed away at the age of 46 on December 14, 2016. 

She was born in Buffalo, NY, where she got her BS in Biology at Tuskegee University, and she received her MS in Zoology at Auburn University. After she earned her MS degree, she was hired as a Senior Lecturer and Head Lab Coordinator of Auburn University’s Department of Biological Sciences Physiology Instruction Program. She taught human anatomy and physiology, clinical pathophysiology, and nursing pathobiology. She was a co-author of several papers and a book, "Animal and Mammalian Physiology Handbook for the BIOPAC System," which is still used by students in physiology instruction labs. She taught hundreds of thousands of undergraduates, mostly pre-health profession majors, in her time at Auburn. In 2005, 2007, and 2010 she received Outstanding Lecturer Awards at College and University levels in recognition for her "outstanding instruction." She was also the recipient of three Daniel F. Breeden Endowment Awards from the Biggio Center, awards that "support learning projects that directly benefit instruction at Auburn University." She trained many students who have gone on to academic and medical careers. Her impact continues and is far-reaching and important to those who have been taught by her. Her spirit and her push for excellence will be missed. Her goddaughter Justice accepted the award on her behalf. 


Change Agent—Daphney Portis, Liberal Arts Undergrad 

Change Agent Award is given to a student "who has dedicated herself to making positive changes in her community." Daphney currently serves as a mentor at Camp Star, a program for students at Camp Hill that provides weekly Saturday breakfast as well as classes on civil rights for ages 5-18. As a member of Auburn Mosaic Theatre Company, she conducts diversity workshops for young men at Mount Meigs Juvenile Correction Facility and has also served as Cultural Ambassador for Auburn's Black Student Union.

Shot Caller—Bria Butler, Chemical Engineering Undergrad

Shot Caller Award is given to a student "who has exemplified the characteristics of a leader in her organizations, on campus, in the classroom, and in her communities." A pre-law student majoring in social work, Bria wants to one day become a child advocate attorney. In her time at Auburn, she has worked in seven "major campus organizations" including Membership and Public Relations chair for the Auburn Social Work Club, Administrative VP for the Black Student Union, and President for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Her passion for service work led to her receiving the President’s Award for Community Service, which was endorsed by President Obama, for committing 400+ hours of service in helping at-risk youth. On top of this, she also works with the Auburn Expressions of a Braveheart program, a "one-to-on buddy program for teens with moderate to severe disabilities."

Rockstar—Charmaine Tutson, Chemistry and Bio Chem PhD student

The Rock Star Award is given to a student "who has done exceptionally well academically and professionally." Charmaine's first love for research began when she participated in an accelerated learning program at Tuskegee University, and that love propelled her to win first place at the Alabama Academy of Science's Annual meeting with her work on a chemotherapeutic project. Her PhD research has focused on uranium contamination, and her success in these projects helped her to get a job at the Environmental Protection Agency. Throughout all of this hard work, she has maintained a 3.6 GPA while obtaining a PhD in Organic chemistry when also teaching introduction chemistry courses to undergraduate students.

**Descriptions of award winners and their achievements courtesy of Carmen Stowe**