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Prior Awards Recipients

Gyda Swaney - 2012

Professor Gyda Swaney, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, graduated with a PhD in Clinical Psychology from The University of Montana and teaches and conducts research in the Department of Psychology. The breadth and depth of her accomplishments, not only on campus but also in Montana, the region, and the nation are impressive. Professor Swaney has administered the Indians into Psychology Program, which is funded by the Indian Health Service, for fourteen years. She was the co-Principal Investigator for the Mental Health Career Opportunities Program, has written and been awarded numerous grants, teaches a three-credit multicultural course required in the Psychology department, and has served as a teacher and mentor to many students – all while keeping up a rigorous schedule of publication and service. She is creating real change in the discipline, in the academy, and in communities and she is obviously a valued colleague, mentor, and teacher.

"As a mentor to students, Dr. Swaney is excellent, and her efforts often exceed what can reasonably be expected from a faculty member. She cares deeply about education, the critical and revisionary pursuit of knowledge, and daily imparts this passion to the students she supervises. The care and attention to detail that she takes in the supervision and guidance of her students is nothing short of inspiring."

"Dr. Swaney has mentored and guided a large number of Native PhD candidates. Her program alone will soon have graduated ten PhD-level Native American clinical psychologists, increasing the national total by 10%."

"A top-notch scholar, she is always ready to supply a reference on an important topic, to read one's written work critically and closely, and to expand the intellectual foundations of what one is thinking about. . .she is intellectually rigorous and generous with her knowledge and experience, and I have been grateful for her pointing me towards important Native scholars and academicians in my own research."

"As one of the very few Native American tenured faculty members in the entire state of Montana, she has always served as a role model and example of astute professionalism. . .Dr. Swaney has served as an important mentor to me during my first year and a half of experience as a Native American faculty member. She has supported me as a professional and a person."

"Dr. Swaney's unique voice demonstrates a perspective too often overlooked or minimized within the academic realm. She provides a powerful representation for Native American communities."

"I regularly notice Dr. Swaney's commitment to the encouragement of her students to think creatively, thoroughly, and critically about issues specific to Native American populations. . .she wants students to think hard about questions in the context and perspective of issues that are specific to Native American populations. The sense of encouragement that she provides students in evaluating issues from a critical and historical perspective is easily noticeable, and her level of commitment to understanding diversity issues as they relate to Native American populations is outstanding. "

Penny Kukuk – 2011

Professor Kukuk received her PhD in Systematics and Ecology from the University of Kansas and is a research professor in the department of Biological Sciences at UM. In addition to her work in that department, she serves as the Director of Research Opportunities for Native Americans (ROSNA) program, Director of Project TRAIN, an NSF funded project in partnership with Salish Kootenai College and was until 2010 the Special Assistant to the Provost for Comprehensive Equity and Director of Project PACE. Through the PACE program, the representation of women in science departments at UM increased from 17% in2003-2004 to 26% in 2008-2009. ROSNA strengthened relations between UM and tribal colleges and provided opportunities and support for Native undergraduate and graduate students. According to her nominator she has written and secured a  “steady stream of successful grant proposals, totaling over $6 million in awards, that have directly increased the ability of UM to attract diverse faculty, increase enrollment of Native American students, and help to support the educational success and employment prospects of Native American students.”

“Dr. Kukuk has provided invaluable advice, professional insight, and embodied a deep and abiding respect for and commitment to upholding tribally-based values of leadership expressed with humility. Her pledge to supporting Indigenous scientists and scholars extends beyond ‘diversity,’ ‘inclusion,’ and ‘equity,’ efforts to the realm of community consciousness creation, perhaps more appropriately termed a ‘making of relatives’.”

“Penny inspires students to succeed. Whether she is speaking encouraging words or actively involved in locating funding sources, Penny has made a difference in many lives. Over the years she must have helped over 50 students to achieve their goals. Penny is a huge asset to the Native community on campus at UM.”

“Throughout her career she has worked tirelessly to ensure opportunities for others on this campus, especially for traditionally under-represented groups. Her courage and leadership resulted in the recruitment and retention of many faculty women in the sciences.”

“Penny worked tirelessly to meet the goals of the Partnership for Comprehensive Equity program. She directed a team of principal investigators. She established working committees to press hard for recruitment and retention policies. She made improvements in the workplace environment and in mentoring for all faculty. She brought highly visible speakers to campus that changed attitudes. She developed outreach programs to women scientists throughout the state, and most notably with those at tribal colleges.”

George Dennison – 2010

George Dennison served The University of Montana as its president from 1990-2010. He received his BA and MA from UM before going on to earn a PhD in History at the University of Washington. Under his leadership, diversity became a central value of UM and as president he established the ADA/540 Team and the Diversity Advisory Council. He was also instrumental in developing the first diversity plan for the University. According to his nomination, “his legacy of support for diversity at The University of Montana will have long lasting benefits. . .he has been actively supportive of all efforts to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff of all cultural backgrounds and his leadership has made possible a campus culture that does not tolerate discrimination and, more importantly, celebrates diversity. Virtually every diversity-related activity has either directly or indirectly received support from President Dennison.” He retired in 2010 after forty-plus years of service as a University executive and administrator, and will return to his roots as an historian, researching and writing the history of The University of Montana.

Following are excerpts from a few of his nominators:

  • “His passion, commitment and dedication to diversity in all its forms have paved the way for all who have received this award to flourish. His vision of a diverse and thriving campus paved the way for students like me and multiple others to succeed in this globalized world.” (Josh Peters-McBride, Program Advisor, University Center).
  • “When I attended President Dennison’s first State of the University address. . .in 1990, I heard him state that on his short list of priorities was increasing diversity at The University of Montana. It was clear early on that President Dennison was ready to make UM the leader within the Montana University System in the area of diversity.” (Ray Carlisle, Director, TRiO Student Support Services).
  • “President Dennison was the prime sponsor of the 2003 “American Indian ‘Trail Tribes’ Conference on the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. . .The National Park Service later called this national conference. . .the best scholarly conference wherein a diverse group of scholars and speakers – both Indian and non-Indian – worked together to present the most complete and informed picture to date of the meaning and significance of that expedition.” (Raymond Cross, Professor, School of Law).
  • “I have come to understand that despite all of our best efforts to promote diversity and equal opportunity across campus, we cannot do so without a strong leader who supports and encourages such efforts. President Dennison has been that leader for the past 20 years. It did not take me long to gain the confidence that president Dennison can be counted on to “do the right thing” when tough diversity-related issues arise.” (Lucy France, Director, Equal opportunity and Affirmative Action Office).
  • “President Dennison made diversity the face of his administration. . .he and Jane Dennison demonstrated their personal commitment to assisting American Indians in furthering their education by endowing a scholarship for enrolled members of the Salish and Kootenai tribes. His importance to Montana Indians was also demonstrated by the Blackfeet tribes bestowing on him a traditional Indian Name, Fast Buffalo (Ee-nik-i-yee-ay).” (Carol Van Valkenburg, Chair, Print and Photojournalism Department, School of Journalism).
  • “After I came to campus in 1994 and started to develop UM’s first courses on gay and lesbian literature, President Dennison spent many hours on the phone defending my right to teach this material.” (Casey Charles, Professor, Department of English).
  • “President Dennison’s vision has made UM an attractive and welcoming place for international students, faculty members, and researchers from around the world.” (Udo Fluck, Director, Multicultural Learning Solutions).
  • “President Dennison has regularly visited all of the reservations in Montana to work with Tribal elders and Tribal College Presidents to promote and encourage Native American students to continue their education at The University of Montana. Through his leadership, The University of Montana has established several programs which have made this institution a place where Native American students can succeed and prosper.” (Juana Alcala, Director of Marketing & Recruitment).
  • “President Dennison’s largest contribution to diversity hasn’t been a policy, a program, or even a great lecture series. His largest contribution has been that of attitude. He has supported diversity through his fostering of free speech and steadfast belief in the value of discussion. It is this open mindedness that has lead to the creation of countless student groups and campus organizations that create the diversity that makes The University of Montana a better place.” (Jon Pielaet, Life long student and former Director of the Alliance for Disability and Students).

2009 - Greg Larson

2008 - Udo Fluck

2007 - Dennis McAuliffe

2006 - Bernadine Gantert

2005 - Terri Gruba, Financial Aid

2004 - David Schuldberg, Psychology

2003 - Casey Charles, English

2002 - G.G. Weix, Women's Studies

2001 - David Strobel, Graduate School

2000 - Award Not Given

1999 - Maureen Curnow,Foreign Languages and Literatures

1998 - Mary Kamensky, Graduate School

1997 - Rustem Medora, Pharmaceutical Sciences

1996 - Larry LaCounte, Curriculum and Instruction

1995 - Paul Miller, Sociology

1994 - Larry Gianchetta, School of Business Administration

1993 - James Flightner, College of Arts and Sciences