Celebrating Diversity

Photo of Justin Shaw, Taina Figueroa, and Jamal Fulton

From left: 2017–18 recipient Justin Shaw, Taina Figueroa, and son of Dr. Kharen Fulton, Jamal Fulton.

Established in 2016, the Kharen Fulton Diversity Graduate Award annually recognizes a graduate student who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion in her/his/their academic community. This year, the Laney Graduate School presented the award during its annual LGS Diversity Reception to Taina Figueroa, a doctoral student in Philosophy.

Upon learning of this honor, Figueroa reflected on the impact of the award’s namesake, Dr. Kharen Fulton. “I met Dr. Fulton within my first few weeks of being at Emory.  She was hosting the first event specifically geared towards minorities that I had encountered at Emory — a Diversity Reception.” For Taina, the event took place at a time when she longed for a sense of community the most. “I was feeling a bit lost as a Latina graduate student in Philosophy.  Dr. Fulton was so warm and welcoming — she helped me to see that I would find my place at Emory.  She helped make Emory a place where I could thrive.”

The first in her family to pursue a PhD, Taina’s primary source of inspiration is family. “The only reason I have been able to make it this far is because of the sacrifices they have made and the love and support they continuously provide me with.  They are my biggest cheerleaders.” Proud of her Puerto Rican heritage, Figueroa plans to use her platform as an academic to rebuild the island that remains at the core of her being. “Through my scholarship, teaching, and community work, I want to help make space in higher education and beyond for this new generation of Puerto Ricans who will determine the future of the Island and the Puerto Rican people.”

The 2018–19 recipient remains steadfast in her mission to ensure that underrepresented minorities have, not only a community within academia, but a voice. “

 Figuroa appreciates Laney’s efforts both to promote community across programs and disciplines and to recognize students who are helping to lead the way. As a graduate student, the only way progress is usually recognized is through publishing, conference participation, or finishing the dissertation. But, for so many underrepresented minorities, we also feel the call to help build community outside our programs…that community contributes to URMs being able to finish a PhD as well as creating interdisciplinary scholarly connections, but it takes work and time that is rarely recognized.  So, I felt blessed that Laney does recognize this work.”