The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award recognizes outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s scholarship, life, and justice work and who promote the principles and ethos of Dr. King’s extensive global contributions in their research, teaching, leadership, and/or community-building efforts. These awards are of particular significance as they are driven by students. Student participation includes, but is not limited to, award development, nomination, selection, and recognition of faculty honorees who have made a substantial impact within the classroom, in advancing student research and co-curricular projects, and in their work with students across the greater NYU community.
2022–2023 Award Recipients
Arts and Science
Emily Balcetis, an associate professor of Psychology and the director of the Social Perception, Action, and Motivation research lab, has pioneered the scientific investigation of behavioral science and motivation.
In her research, Balcetis uncovered strategies that direct people's efforts to meet their goals. She applies her investigation of motivational strategies to improve the conditions of underserved populations, including those experiencing economic disadvantage, students who are the first to attend college, and minoritized people facing racial and ethnic bias and discrimination, among others.
Her service is committed to creating training programs to address pipeline barriers for equal representation in higher education. Balcetis founded and, for 13 years, directed the Center for Behavioral Statistics and the Study of Motivated Perception, an 8-week in-residence research training program for underrepresented students. She also co-founded the Diversity Undergraduate Research Incubator program and Diversity Summer Student Research Conference.
She serves as a research advisor to the Perception Institute, a not-for-profit consortium of researchers, lawyers, and strategists committed to reducing discrimination in organizations. And in the last decade, she launched an initiative to take her scientific insights into public schools, working with adolescents to diversify their perceptions of what leadership can and should look like.
Michael Sean Funk
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Michael Sean Funk is a clinical associate professor and program director of Higher and Postsecondary Education for the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Funk has worked in higher education for over two decades, serving in various capacities.
He has conducted numerous faculty, administrator, and staff development sessions on transforming institutional cultures by centering holistic advising, inclusive leadership, and dialogical platforms for national and international institutions.
Funk's scholarship focuses on equity, diversity, and inclusion. He is the co-author of “Racism, White Supremacy, and Finding Justice for All” in Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2022) and co-editor of the forthcoming Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (5th edition). Furthermore, he authored "Creating Inclusive Classrooms as an Imperative for Historically Underrepresented Groups in Higher Education" in College at the Crossroads: Taking Sides on Contested Issues (2018).
Funk’s noteworthy accomplishments include receiving the: NYU CMEP Nia Award for Faculty Excellence (2022), Steinhardt Office of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Champions of Equity: Heart and Soul Award (2021), Steinhardt Teaching Excellence Award (2018), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NYU College of Arts and Science's Academic Achievement Program (AAP).
Cecilia R. Mejia
Tisch School of the Arts
Cecilia R. Mejia is a second-generation Filipino American born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She has worked for over a decade in development for nonprofit organizations, including NGOs at the United Nations.
Mejia has a master’s degree in Public Administration and Affairs and has worked with the UN and grassroots organizations, centering underrepresented communities. She produced several films focusing on critical social impact issues.
Mejia is the lead producer of the award-winning, Sony-acquired feature film Yellow Rose, a Social Impact Producer of the award-winning documentary Call Her Ganda, and a co-producer for Array Studios- acquired Lingua Franca. She has a number of projects in development including the docuseries, Kapwa with PJ Raval, and the TriBeCa Film Festival/AT&T Untold Stories fan favorite Johnny Loves Dolores (with NYU Alum Clarissa de Los Reyes).
As the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Art of Me, Mejia has combined her passion for film and philanthropy with supporting under-resourced youth. As a faculty member, Mejia teaches Impact Producing at the Tisch School of the Arts. She is also the owner of Remedias Productions which focuses on social impact storytelling and producing. Most recently, Mejia was brought on as the first-ever Impact Director for the Asian American Documentary Network.
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Mara Mills is an associate professor of Media, Culture, and Communication and co-founder of the NYU cross-school minors in Disability Studies and Science and Society.
A former high school biology teacher, she has BA degrees in Literature and Biology, and a master's in Education from UC Santa Cruz, as well as a master's in Biology and PhD in History of Science from Harvard University. Across these fields, her work focuses on science, technology, and justice.
Mills is co-founder and co-director (with Professor Faye Ginsburg) of the NYU Center for Disability Studies (CDS), where she is currently co-directing the NSF-funded project How to be Disabled in a Pandemic. The CDS promotes disability scholarship, artistry, and activism through public events, a monthly seminar, and collaborations with other academic and art centers nationally and internationally.
Mills is also a co-founder and editorial board member for the award-winning journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. Most recently, she is the co-editor of Testing Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurality (Oxford, 2020) and Crip Authorship: Disability as Method (NYU Press, 2023). She is a past recipient of the NYU Distinguished Teaching Award.
Martha E. Stark
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
Martha E. Stark joined the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service as a clinical professor in 2017. Stark graduated from the NYU College of Arts and Sciences with a BA in Political Science (1983) and received her JD from the NYU School of Law (1986), where she serves as a Life Trustee on the Board.
Stark is a tax policy expert in New York City property tax. She previously served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Finance, a trustee on the boards of the New York City pension funds, and chair of the Teachers and New York City Employee Retirement System. As a board member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, she played a key leadership role in rebuilding the World Trade Center site and establishing the Twin Towers Fund.
Stark has served as a strategist, coach, facilitator, management and leadership consultant, board member, and treasurer for several nonprofit organizations, including the Park Avenue Synagogue, Asphalt Green, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, the Ali Forney Center, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, GMHC, North Fork Women for Women Fund, and the Black Institute. She also served as a White House Fellow (1993–1994) assigned to the United States Department of State.
Stark brings to the classroom her passion for numbers, an undying belief in the important role of government and nonprofit organizations in people’s lives, her playful spirit, an unforgettable sense of humor, and a simple request that students are not content to be confused.
The 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award recipients will receive a research stipend and be announced and celebrated during NYU MLK Week 2023 (February 13–18).