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CIC welcomes nominations for undergraduates creating lasting campus change

Nominations accepted until May 7 for the Jazzy Johnson Waw-jashk Student Award

EVANSTON, Ill. --- While most student activists aren’t looking for recognition as they pioneer projects and initiatives across campus, Northwestern aims to celebrate undergraduates who have committed to sustainable and ongoing change toward a more inclusive Northwestern.

The Jazzy Johnson Waw-jashk Student Award from Northwestern’s Campus Inclusion and Community (CIC) in the Division of Student Affairs is calling for nominations to give students much-deserved recognition for their dedication to the University.

The award was granted for the first time to Jazzy Johnson in 2018 at CIC’s fifth anniversary. Johnson is a 2013 alum whose work and advocacy, along with that of her peers, helped start CIC.

“CIC was created by students who asked, demanded and protested for a university-led effort aimed at creating a more equitable and just campus culture,” said Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, executive director of CIC. “The Waw-jashk awards honor the wisdom of our native and indigenous communities, and it recognizes the courageous acts of critical hope we continue to build upon.”

The annual honor, now in its second official award cycle this year, seeks to honor student activists of all kinds. Faculty members, staff and fellow students are encouraged to nominate students based on five tenets: commitment, courage, care, service and humility.

The word “Waw-jashk” comes from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the Pokagon Potawatomi Nation, nations upon whose land Northwestern’s Evanston campus and CIC’s office sit. The direct translation of “Waw-jashk” means “muskrat,” a small, humble and tenacious creature, Brown-Henderson said. The muskrat is part of a traditional Potawatomi creation story in which a muskrat helps his animal friends when the world is underwater. Despite its size and apparent lack of strength, the courage of the muskrat shows all creatures have the power to make change.

The award was granted for the second time last year to four students — Kiana Jones, Kimani Isaac, Antonette Narvasa and one student who preferred not to be identified. The honorees were recognized during surprise Zoom meetings in late June with members from CIC and their communities, those who nominated them and the award’s first recipient and namesake, Johnson.

“Winning the waw-jashk award meant that people witnessed what I’d done and wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten,” Isaac said. “To be given an award connected both to the Indigenous stewards of the Chicagoland area and a prominent Northwestern activist means that I now think of my Northwestern heritage differently. This award commemorates that Northwestern is an imperfect place, but it’s willing to grow.”

Now three years after Johnson received the award and the tradition of gifting it began, Johnson is currently pursuing a master of divinity at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, where she studies religious education and justice, peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

“Often, those who labor for institutional and communal change become collateral damage on the journey toward that change,” Johnson said. “No one sees the nights crying in the basement of the library, the 2 a.m. strategy sessions in the Black House, Lisa’s Café or the ASG office, or collecting stories that move us to labor. The waw-jashk awards are reflective of the ways CIC actively seeks to build a new economy in which those who are laboring are valued and honored.”

Nominations will be accepted April 29 through May 7, 2021, and can be made here.