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Furman names recipients of Diversity and Inclusion Awards

Last updated May 6, 2019

By Tina Underwood

Furman University’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee has announced the recipients of its Meritorious Diversity and Inclusion Awards. The awards are given to a current Furman faculty member, staff member and student. The recipients have demonstrated an emerging or sustained commitment to advance Furman’s value of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism on campus.

The honorees are Assistant Professor of Sociology Claire Whitlinger; Post-Baccalaureate Fellow of Social Justice and Community-Engaged Learning Emilee O’Brien; and Furman junior Erik Ortiz of Greenville. In addition to receiving an honorarium, the winners will be formally recognized during Furman’s Fall Convocation, which takes place in late August.


Claire Whitlinger, Department of Sociology

Claire Whitlinger
Whitlinger joined the Furman faculty in 2015. Furman’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee looked at Whitlinger’s efforts related to two major campus initiatives—Intergroup Dialogue and the Task Force on Slavery and Justice. In her Intergroup Dialogue class, Whitlinger led semi-structured meetings between individuals from diverse social identity groups to explore personal and group commonalities and differences; locate these different identities and experiences within societal systems of power, privilege and oppression; and find ways to work collaboratively to build more inclusive communities.

Whitlinger’s research focuses on collective memory, social movements and the legacy of racial inequity in the United States. Her forthcoming book, “Between Remembrance and Repair: Commemorating Racial Violence in Mississippi’s Philadelphia,” examines these issues in the context of Philadelphia, Mississippi – the town known for its silence and denial surrounding the 1964 “Mississippi Burning” murders. Her work has appeared in Sociological Forum, Sociological Perspectives, Race and Justice, and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.

Whitlinger holds a bachelor’s from George Washington University and a master’s and doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan.


Emilee O’Brien ’17, Post Baccalaureate Fellow for Social Justice and Community-Engaged Learning

Emilee O’Brien
O’Brien, a 2017 politics and international affairs graduate, is the Post Baccalaureate Fellow for Social Justice and Community-Engaged Learning at Furman where she minored in poverty studies.

The committee examined O’Brien’s role in effecting positive change on campus via Dins Dialogue, Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention (SHARP), and advocacy regarding LGBT+, migrant and women’s issues.

Originally from New England, O’Brien put down roots in Greenville after graduation to serve a two-year stint as a post baccalaureate fellow through the Center for Inclusive Communities. Her interests in social justice are found at the intersection of education, advocacy and community development.

During spring 2019, O’Brien and Communication Studies Professor Brandon Inabinet organized alternative spring break “Seeking Abraham: Slavery and Public Memory” in which 11 Furman students participated in service learning and examined the history of social justice in Greenville and Charleston.

In July, she will pursue a master’s in educational transformation at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). O’Brien serves as a victims advocate for the Julie Valentine Center. She describes herself as a “decent golfer and an avid cook.”


Erik Ortiz ’20 is president of Hispanic Outreach & Latinx Awareness (HOLA).

Erik Ortiz
Furman junior Erik Ortiz of Greenville is the recipient of the Rosa Mary Bodkin Award. Named for the late Bodkin, the award is presented to the student who has encouraged meaningful dialogue among diverse groups and provided leadership in activities and programs which promote understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the many dimensions of diversity.

A psychology major who is minoring in Latin American studies, Ortiz was born in Lincoln Heights, California, but has spent more than half his life in Greenville. He is an intern and counselor for Furman educational success outreach program Bridges to a Brighter Future and is president of student organization Hispanic Outreach & Latinx Awareness (HOLA). Through these groups and through Dins Dialogue and Furman’s Student Diversity Council (SDC), Ortiz has helped shore up advocacy and awareness for his fellow Hispanic and Latinx community in Greenville and beyond. “I have been able to build a platform for individuals to rise above their circumstances and gain momentum in creating their voices and leaving a lasting impact,” he said.

After graduating Furman next year, Ortiz plans to pursue a career in clinical neuropsychology to work with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) survivors to help them develop resilience and coping skills.

For more information about the Diversity and Inclusion Awards, contact the Diversity & Inclusion Committee’s co-chairs, Assistant Vice President for Student Development Neil E. Jamerson at 864-294-2202, and, or Professor of Philosophy Sarah Worth at 864-294-3140, and Or contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.

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