Social Justice Awards Honor Two Members of Anselmian Community

February 4, 2022

Described as a “thoughtful leader” with “a strong commitment to racial justice and positive social change,” Anastasia “Ana” Morrison has been an engaged member of the Saint Anselm College community since she began her college career. For her good work she was named the 2021-2022 Bernard Holmes Scholar and this week, she received this year’s Social Justice Award at the annual MLK Jr. Dinner Celebration on Tues., Feb. 1.

The biochemistry and molecular biology major has conducted research in the Biology Department’s labs, peer tutored in the Academic Resource Center (ARC), mentored new students in the Transitions Program and volunteered in the Office of Admission. Through her work at the Meelia Center for Community Engagement’s Access Academy and tutoring collaborative programs, she has built positive relationships with dozens of Manchester-area high schoolers. She has also tirelessly supported efforts on campus for racial justice including as a facilitator for the Anselmian Network for Racial Justice (ANRJ) Dialogue series.

“Much of her community engagement has been focused on working with youth who are members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented, particularly refugee and immigrant students and students of color,” said Director of the Meelia Center Nicole Lora ’06 in her award presentation. “[Ana] Your passion about racial justice and educational equity is inspiring and much needed into today’s world. The important work you are doing now will leave a lasting impact for years to come. You’re leaving our community better than you found it.”

In addition to Morrison, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Planning Committee also recognized Professor Sara Smits Keeney, who is an associate professor in the Sociology and Social Work Department and Director of the college’s Peace and Justice Studies program.

“Not only is she dedicated to social and racial justice in her teaching and her scholarship, she is also committed to justice on this campus,” said Professor Aubrey Scheopner Torres who nominated Smits Keeney and presented her colleague with the award.

Professor Smits-Keeney is an advocate and leader for equity and justice at Saint Anselm as well as in her hometown where she is working to help inform administrators, teachers and staff, and community members about social and racial justice.

She is a co-facilitator for the ANRJ Dialogue series and Director of the Core Curriculum. “She’s also on nearly every committee related to racial justice and broader issues of justice on this campus including the ANRJ, diversity equity and inclusion working group and faculty grievance committee, and I could go on,” said Scheopner Torres.

Smits Keeney teaches courses in research methods, social problems, social movements, social stratification, economy and society, and peace, conflict and war.

The annual celebration, typically, a dinner, was adapted this year to a virtual format. Senior Chance Clency ’22 led attendees through this year’s rich program which included speakers, readings, and poems, in addition to the social justice award winner’s presentation. Fr. Francis McCarty, O.S.B. ’10 offered a blessing and reflection. Amani Clemons ’24 read “I Dream a World” by Langston Hughes, while Jamal Peterson ’22 and Ahmad Brown ’23 read excerpts from powerful texts reflecting on Dr. King’s quote, “the fierce urgency for now,” which became this year’s event theme. Senior Korah Olivier ’22 reflected on her experience moving from Haiti to the U.S. as a child and choosing to attend a predominantly white college.

College President Joseph Favazza, Ph.D., thanked the students for their words and shared his experience visiting the Dr. King memorial in Washington, D.C., where he was moved by the space. He emphasized the importance of the theme of the night noting that “we cannot shrink from the now nor from the tension that recent events of the reawakening, the need racial justice has brought about.”

He continued, “we must continue to make progress, we must make progress to address issues of systemic racism, to continue to bring about justice in our campus and beyond.”

This event was sponsored by Campus Ministry, Martin Luther King, Jr. Planning Committee, Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion, Multicultural Student Coalition, and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

It kicked off the college’s series of events paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his legacy.