Penn State Lehigh Valley professor wins Diversity Award

April 13, 2016

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Jennifer Parker, associate professor of sociology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, was awarded with the 2016 John Romano Faculty/Staff Diversity Recognition Award at an awards ceremony April 6 at University Park.

Presented by the Multicultural Resource Center at Penn State, the Romano Award recognizes permanent faculty and staff from Penn State who have consistently promoted multiculturalism and demonstrated concern for and sensitivity to the needs of multicultural students at a level above and beyond their job responsibilities.

Parker has been at Penn State since 1998. For the past 18 years, she has been involving the growing diversity of Lehigh Valley's communities into the classroom experience and incorporating it in student research projects. Some of her students have presented at conferences in Montreal, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. Parker has had classes interacting with immigrant communities and visiting immigrant-owned establishments and neighborhoods since she started at Penn State Lehigh Valley. 

“My students have interacted with classes in India as early as 1998 when my students connected with a class at Delhi University, India, to do a comparative study of urbanization and food franchises in Delhi, India, and Lehigh Valley. This resulted in one of our students studying abroad and a student in India coming to study in the United States,” said Parker.

Her students have also been involved in professional research grants involving local immigrant communities. David Livert, professor of psychology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, and Parker had a team of bilingual students working on a project interviewing immigrant entrepreneurs with the Latino Economic Council in 2008 that resulted in a publication with the economic council. 

More recently, Parker’s classes have worked with the Lehigh County Historical Society on original research on the earliest immigrant populations in the Lehigh Valley. Students in her classes have also worked with organizations that focus on challenging circumstances affecting racial minorities disproportionately, including the Sixth Street Shelter of Allentown and the Third Street Alliance in Easton. 

Parker has consistently promoted multiculturalism and demonstrated concern for and sensitivity to the needs of multicultural students. She is heavily involved in endeavors that have significantly contributed to diversity, including the Penn State Lehigh Valley International Food and Entrepreneur Series. The series was started by about 12 faculty and staff at Penn State Lehigh Valley.

As home to one of the largest Syrian populations in the U.S., the Lehigh Valley provides ample opportunities to connect with the culture and the people. According to those who nominated Parker for the award, "Parker chose to celebrate this culture at the most recent International Food and Entrepreneur Series dinner since more than 3 percent of the campus' student population is Syrian. More than 80 students, faculty and staff attended and celebrated the Syrian culture and cuisine. Given the national conversation about Syria, this event provided an outstanding opportunity for the campus community to continue the dialogue of inclusive excellence."

  • Jenn Parker Penn State Lehigh Valley

    Jennifer Parker, associate professor of sociology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, was awarded with the 2016 John Romano Faculty/Staff Diversity Recognition Award for promoting multiculturalism and demonstrating concern for and sensitivity to the needs of multicultural students.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 14, 2016