MLK at podium with text 'Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award: teaching excellence, leadership, social justice, and community building'

The New York University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award is sponsored by the Offices of the President and Provost, in partnership with the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation. The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism, and community building. In addition, these faculty make a positive impact within the classroom and in the greater NYU community. Current NYU students nominate faculty and recipients are chosen by a committee of past recipients and student leaders.

2019–2020 Faculty Award Recipients

Photo of Sheril Antonio

Sheril Antonio, Tisch School of the Arts

Dr. Sheril Antonio is an Associate Arts Professor in the department of Art and Public Policy, and Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives. Her courses include: Anatomy of Difference: The Other in Film, The World Through Art, and Language of Film.

Photo of Maria Brea-Spahn

María Rosa Brea-Spahn, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

María Brea-Spahn is a Clinical Associate Professor and the Director of the Bilingual Extension Program in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Dr. Brea-Spahn is a bilingual-biliterate Speech-Language Pathologist. She graduated with an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of South Florida.

Photo of Arlene Davila

Arlene Dávila, Faculty of Arts & Science

Dr. Arlene Dávila is a Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, and founding director of The Latinx Project at NYU. She studies the political economy of culture and media, consumption, immigration and geographies of inequality and race.

Photo of Caroline Dorsen

Caroline G. Dorsen, Rory Meyers College of Nursing

Caroline G. Dorsen, PhD, FNP-BC, is an Assistant Professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing whose passion is the interface between health and social justice, with a focus on the reduction of healthcare disparities among sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ+).

Photo of Kirk James

Kirk "Jae" James, Silver School of Social Work

Dr. Kirk "Jae" James is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. Dr. James completed his doctorate from the School of Social Policy and Practice at The University of Pennsylvania in May 2013. His dissertation, "The Invisible Epidemic in Social Work Academia," examined the complex phenomena of "mass incarceration" through a historical and contemporary lens.

Photo of Darcey Merritt

Darcey Merritt, Silver School of Social Work

Dr. Darcey Merritt is an Associate Professor at NYU Silver School of Social Work and a Faculty Fellow at the school’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. She is also an Associate Editor for Children and Youth Services Review (CYSR), a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), and Vice-Chair of the NYU Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty Senate.

Photo of Vasuki Nesiah

Vasuki Nesiah, Gallatin School of Individualized Study

Professor Vasuki Nesiah teaches human rights, legal, and social theory at the Gallatin School. She is also faculty director of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights. She has published on the history and politics of human rights, humanitarianism, international criminal law, global feminisms and decolonization.

Photo of Dean Saranillio

Dean Itsuji Saranillio, Faculty of Arts & Science

Dean Itsuji Saranillio is an associate professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. His teaching and research interests are in settler colonialism, militarism, Indigenous food systems, Asian American histories, and Native Pacific cultural studies.

Photo of Heather Woodley

Heather H. Woodley, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Heather Woodley is a Clinical Assistant Professor of TESOL and Bilingual Education, and co-director of the Childhood Education program in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Her teaching, scholarship, and community collaborations focus on anti-racist, creative and critical classrooms, and empowering multilingual families and youth.


The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award will be presented during NYU MLK Week in February 2020. Winners of the award will receive a $2500 research stipend and be recognized at the Faculty Award Reception on Wednesday, February 5th during a special ceremony.

The Deadline for 2019–2020 Award Nominations was Tuesday, December 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.