March 31, 2010
Diona Johnson, a senior majoring in human development and family studies, has been awarded the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s 2010 Outstanding Women of Color in Education award, an annual honor given to students, faculty or staff to recognize their contributions to diversity and the status of women within the UW System.
Johnson, one of 16 winners in the UW System, will receive the award at the 15th annual Outstanding Women of Color in Education award ceremony and reception to be held Saturday, April 17, at the UW System annual Women’s Studies Conference, hosted this year by UW-Whitewater.
One of 14 children, Johnson was raised in St. Paul. She was encouraged by supportive parents to choose her own path. “With my parents’ support, I’ve been able to grow and flourish,” Johnson said. “I always strive for the best because I was taught that I deserve the best and that is in all areas of life.”
Johnson thinks her success is due in large part to her mother’s influence. “I try to carry myself in a way my mother taught me to, with class, self-pride and respect,” she said. Her mother told her time and again that she was her own greatest challenge and others would see her as she saw herself, she said.
Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen said he has met “many outstanding students at UW-Stout and I can say without hesitation that Diona is one of the most talented and focused individuals I have met. She is truly an outstanding role model for other young women of color, and I would add that she is a role model for all students here. She is an activist working for change who does so with grace and sophistication. I am extremely impressed as was the nomination committee.”
Johnson and one of her brothers were the first in the family to go to a four-year university. “It was mainly my parents and a few high school teachers that influenced my decisions about college,” she said.
She chose UW-Stout and human development and family studies because of her long-standing desire to work with families and children. Through its diverse curriculum, the HDFS program at UW-Stout increased her understanding of the family dynamic. She is appreciative of the guidance received from the faculty and specifically her adviser, Susan Wolfgram.
While at Stout, Johnson made it her business “to be involved, to take a stand and to be a leader.” Her activities include project manager of a social action project for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April 2009 and as a volunteer for community events such as Take Back the Night, Women Rise at the Raw Deal and Empower the Purple. As a resident adviser in a residence hall, she organized events and seminars concerning bullying, sex education, self-confidence, empowerment and self-defense. She served as president of the Black Student Union and was involved with the interactive program Boxes and Walls to improve understanding of the effects of racism and intolerance.
Johnson presented a paper at the university’s Research Day 2009 and was published in the Journal of Student Research, eighth edition, 2009. She has maintained a 3.8 GPA and has received the Chancellor’s Award for academic excellence for nine consecutive semesters.
The award, which recognizes her impact on campus and in the community, is one of her greatest accomplishments, she said, adding that she is thankful for the opportunities afforded to her through attending college.
Johnson expects to graduate in May. She has been accepted to a master’s program in family and child welfare at UW-Milwaukee for the fall.