MLK Jr. Advancing Inclusion through Research Awardees Announced

February 5, 2024

By Beth Brauer, James Madison College Communications

For the past 14 years, Michigan State University’s three residential colleges and Honors College promote research, inclusion and the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. through a contest that honors students for research focused on marginalized populations and that supports the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Established in 2010, the Martin Luther King Jr. Advancing Inclusion through Research Award highlights MSU students who demonstrate King’s legacy through research and analysis. The contest invites students in James Madison College, Lyman Briggs College, the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) and the Honors College to submit a paper or creative research project completed during the previous calendar year.

This year’s award recipients are all enrolled in James Madison College. First prize will receive $600; second prize, $500; and third prize, $300. One Honorable Mention will be awarded $200.

First prize went to Taylor Toth, a second-year student in the Honors College who is double majoring in social relations and policy, and political theory and constitutional democracy with a minor in history.

Toth’s paper, “Environmental Racism and Toxic Air: Exploring the Disproportionate Impact of Air Pollution on Detroit’s Communities of Color,” examines air pollution data and health outcomes for people living in Detroit. Through her research, Toth argues that historically racist practices like redlining and situating factories, refineries, and other air-polluting facilities near communities of color contribute to the higher rates of asthma and cancer in communities of color.

“This information underscores the urgency of addressing environmental racism, as it directly impacts the well-being and health outcomes of African American [communities],” Toth wrote in her application statement.   

Adrianna Roth’s paper “Farm-to-Policy: How Contemporary Immigration Policy Shapes the Landscape,” was awarded second place. Roth, who graduated in December 2023, earned her degree in social relations and policy with minors in Spanish and women and gender studies.

Roth was inspired to begin investigating how immigration policies impact Midwestern agriculture and communities after seeing firsthand how her high school best friend and his parents were affected by U.S. immigration laws when their dairy farm abruptly closed.

“From the day I dropped off my friend at the airport, I knew I wanted to be an immigration attorney,” Roth said. “Although I have so much more investigating to do, this paper was a great start for me.”

Stephanie Adams took third place with “Migration Mosaic: Exploring Views on Immigration in Diverse American Communities.” Adams is a senior majoring in social relations and policy with a minor in leadership organizations.

Adams’ paper examined the immigrant experiences of four different ethnic groups in the U.S.: Mexican, Cuban, Chinese and Vietnamese. “Through an examination of their unique situations, the research seeks to demonstrate how these communities’ complex interactions with the United States immigration system has impacted their stance on immigration policy,” Adams wrote in her application statement.

Jordan Roebuck, a senior majoring in social relations and policy with a minor in African American and African Studies, received an Honorable Mention for his paper “Resilience in Education: The Lived Experiences of Black Students in James Madison College.”

“My research paper has the potential to advance inclusivity by shedding light on the unique experiences of Black students at James Madison College, acknowledging their diversity, empowering their voices, proposing changes and contributing to a more inclusive educational environment,” Roebuck wrote in his application statement.

All award recipients will be honored during the MLK Jr. Advancing Inclusion Through Research Award ceremony on February 9, 2024, in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Following the ceremony and reception, honorees will be recognized at the University DEI Awards.

“The Dr. King Advancing Inclusion Awards provide us with a platform to demonstrate to students that the Honors College and residential colleges collectively value writing and research as powerful forms of advocacy,” said Brian Johnson, assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion in James Madison College.

“The awards also showcase the brilliant work of Michigan State University students who are committed to advancing the ideals of Dr. King through their research interests and academic success.”