Facilitating lasting change begins with great leaders

Dorian Smith; Keith Dempsey; legacy awards; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration
Five Oregon State University community members received legacy awards at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration for their progressive, inclusive and inspirational work. Read on to learn more about their many accomplishments:


Nya Buckner

Oregon State graduate student Nya Buckner is kind, empathetic and dedicated to lifting up those around her. As chief of staff for Associated Students of Oregon State University, she oversees more than 15 staff, approves expenditures, connects with community partners, plans ASOSU events and programs and advocates for underrepresented student groups. Buckner was also co-founder and president of Dam Change, a campaign to empower student-athletes from historically underserved communities and address systemic racism in the U.S. through awareness, education, engagement and action. 


Keith Dempsey, ’93, M.S. ’96, Ph.D. ’10

Keith Dempsey has dedicated his career and personal life to empowering African Americans throughout Oregon. He has worked as a therapist and clinical social worker in Portland and has presented nationally on issues of diversity and racial trauma. At Oregon State, Dempsey was instrumental in the development of the Black Alumni and Friends Network, was the first major donor to the Black Student Access and Success program and was the first Black member of the OSU Alumni Association Board of Directors. 


Janet Nishihara

As executive director of the Educational Opportunities Program, Janet Nishihara is a compassionate educator and mentor. She has a diverse group of academic counselors in her unit and supports underrepresented students through grant writing and programs like the College Assistance Migrant Program and Student Support Services. She is a faculty advisor for the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center, the Association of Faculty and Staff for the Advancement of People of Color and the Asian Pacific American Student Union. Nishihara has also written curriculum for the Difference, Power and Discrimination Academy, which helps educators cover topics like racism, classism, xenophobia and sexism. 

Dana Sanchez

An associate professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Dana Sanchez isn’t afraid to start hard conversations about oppression and offer solutions to address it. Sanchez also created her department’s Vanguarding an Inclusive Ecological Workforce program, which provides underrepresented students in ecology programs with skills and guidance to help them get into graduate school. In addition, she is continuously looking to recruit new students by attending the SACNAS conference, the largest diversity event in the U.S. that focuses on STEM education. 


Dorian Smith

Director of Dr. Lawrence Griggs Office of Black and Indigenous Student Success, Dorian Smith encourages Black students in K-12 schools to see themselves at Oregon State at an early age. As a mentor for the Project Harvest program — a pre-college partnership between Oregon State and Portland Public Schools serving middle and high school students — he shares insights about attending college. Smith also created a summer camp for African American middle school students to expose them to STEM-related careers. As coordinator of OSU’s Black Student Access and Success Initiative, Smith has recruited students across the Pacific Northwest, developed the Black Student Access and Success Strategic Plan and more.


Mathilde Fayette

Mathilde Fayette of Riverdale High School in Lake Oswego was awarded a $2,000 scholarship to Oregon State from the Skanner Foundation at its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast in Portland. Scholarships were awarded to students who have completed community service hours, submitted an essay regarding improving the school system for underrepresented communities and maintained a 2.5 GPA.

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