Each year, the University of Oregon’s (UO) Division of Equity and Inclusion (DEI) honors faculty, staff and students who embody the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to peace, justice and equality. It’s a high bar to meet.

To earn a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award, faculty and staff must demonstrate not only vision, creativity and originality, but also moral courage, adherence to the principles of nonviolence, dedication to social harmony, and a track record of encouraging diversity, social justice and equity on campus or in the community. This year, MLK Student Essay Contest entrants were prompted to write about King’s dream for true equality and how that continues to play out in modern society.

Proving just how dedicated its community is to diversity, equality and justice, the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) contributed two of the eight 2016 MLK Award winners, Associate Professor Gabriela Martínez and student essay contest winner Romario Garcia Bautista.

Gabriela Martinez receiving 2016 MLK AwardMartínez honored for documentaries, Latino Roots in Oregon

Martínez, who directs the SOJC’s professional Journalism master’s program, was recognized for her work as an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her documentaries have focused on subjects ranging from textile workers in the Andes to human rights in Central America to feminist research here at the UO.

“I strongly believe in the richness that a diverse environment provides, and we should constantly strive for it,” said Martínez. “I’d like to think that the MLK Award signifies the importance of recognizing that issues of social justice, equity and diversity are crucial for this university, and that the work I and many other colleagues do around these issues should have a relevant place in this institution.”

Martínez was also honored for establishing the Latino Roots in Oregon Project and adding an interdisciplinary course addressing the Latino experience in Oregon to the SOJC/UO curriculum. “The Latino Roots Project continues to grow,” she said. “This digital site and the materials produced in the course have become an important resource for researchers, students and teachers interested in the Latino experience in the state of Oregon.”

“Dr. Martínez’s interdisciplinary work across campus, her international research and creative work and her leadership in the school, university, local and international communities have truly made and continue to make significant differences across boundaries of race, nationality, gender and disciplines,” said Julianne Newton, the interim Edwin L. Artzt Dean of the SOJC. “We are blessed that she brings her passion for human rights to our community.”

Romario Garcia BautistaGarcia Bautista wins student essay contest

Romario Garcia Bautista, a second-year SOJC student majoring in journalism and anthropology, was one of two students to earn top honors in the 2016 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Essay Competition.

Bautista’s winning essay, which will be posted on the DEI website, described his experiences as a Zapotec Indian and aspiring journalist in the United States, where indigenous people are often discriminated against and marginalized in the media. “It meant a lot for me to win this award,” Garcia Bautista said. “Being at an institution where there is a low indigenous population can be very intimating and difficult. However, the fact that I am given the opportunity to receive an education and represent my indigenous community in the SOJC motivates me to continue moving forward and strive for greater things.”

Martínez and Garcia Bautista received MLK Award plaques in recognition of their accomplishments at the seventh annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Luncheon, held in the Ford Alumni Center Ballroom on Jan. 20.

“Both of these awards are so well deserved,” said Newton. “The work of Dr. Martínez and Mr. Bautista exemplify the best of SOJC’s commitment to strengthening the school and the university by strengthening diversity in all we do.”