Since arriving at Sullivan Foundation partner school Duke University, Liyu Woldemichael, a senior majoring in public policy studies, has been guided by her passion for social and environmental justice, especially as it relates to prison reform. And that passion has earned her the 2022 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, one of Duke’s most prestigious student honors.
The award also went to Duke Law student Amanda Joos—coordinator of a project that has helped many Durham tenants understand their rights and avoid eviction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the non-student Sullivan Award, given to an outstanding Duke community member, went to Sam Miglarese, deputy chief administrator with the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs and the instructor of a course for undergraduate students called the Durham Giving Project.
The awards recognize one graduating senior and members of the faculty, staff or graduate student body from Duke University or Duke University Health System for outstanding commitment to service. After reviewing this year’s Sullivan Award nominations, a selection committee recommended the 2022 honorees to the Office of the Provost.
Woldemichael was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and raised in Montgomery, Alabama. During her four years at Duke, Woldemichael has been a member of the Baldwin Scholars program, worked on DukeEngage projects exploring environmental issues, interned with League of Conservation Voters and the Southern Environmental Law Center, and served as a student employee of the Franklin Humanities Institute.
She’s also been a leader of Duke’s chapter of the NAACP, serving as president and organizing testing programs for HIV and other diseases, leading voter registration drives, bringing in guest speakers and connecting students with community service opportunities.
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Woldemichael’s research focus is on prison ecology, which confronts the intersection of mass incarceration and environmental justice. According to the Franklin Humanities Institute, mass incarceration “has resulted in a 500 percent increase in our prison population due to a tough-on-crime rhetoric that shifted policy over the past 40 years. This alarming expansion of the prison-industrial complex has led to an unregulated, overcrowded [prison] system increasingly concentrated in geographically isolated areas.”
Woldemichael has organized prison advocacy campaigns in the Durham County Jail, and her work with the NAACP resulted in connecting around 300 people there with absentee voting ballots and stimulus payments.
“As a woman of color, she has been immersed in justice and equity causes and is a thoughtful yet demanding activist,” said Colleen Scott, director of the Baldwin Scholars. “We have seen Liyu’s transformation from potential to action. Her work is significant. She is significant.”
Described as “an extraordinarily generous member of the Duke Law School community,” Joos has lent her sharp mind and boundless enthusiasm to a range of worthwhile causes.
Prior to arriving at Duke, Joos earned a math degree and toured as an opera singer. As an energetic member of the Duke Law School community, she serves on the boards of her law journal, the Transactional Law Society and the Moot Court Board. She’s dedicated more than 400 pro bono hours to the Civil Justice Clinic, Veterans Assistance Project, Fair Chance Project and the Health Care Planning Project.
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Additionally, she has helped Duke Law faculty run a weekly eviction advice clinic for Durham residents facing housing challenges and helped clients in need through the law school’s Pro Bono Program. The clinic is staffed by four to five students from either the Civil Justice Clinic or the broader student body. According to an October 2021 article about the clinic, Joos earned a paid internship as the Eviction Advice Clinic coordinator. “I’ve had the opportunity to develop our interview intake questionnaires, where we get to learn more about the clients and really become familiar with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program,” Joos said at the time. “Now, I’m there every week to answer student questions and keep things running smoothly for the three hours that we hold the clinic. It’s exciting to see students’ confidence increase weekly as they work their way through the questionnaire and assist the community.”
Stella Boswell, assistant dean for the Office of Public Interest & Pro Bono, said many students volunteer for student-led and independent projects. But, she added, “It is rare for students to even come close to Amanda’s level of volunteerism. She volunteered with four separate projects during her first year and has continued to expand upon her engagement this academic year.”
Since joining Duke in 1999, Miglarese has served as an energetic, friendly, knowledgeable and compassionate connection between Duke University and the Durham community it calls home.
His work with the Duke-Durham Partnership, Duke-Durham Campaign, and other initiatives from the Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs strengthen the bond between the university and the wider community. That’s resulted in long-standing partnerships with organizations working to improve affordable housing, education and health for Durham residents. He’s also connected Duke students with the Durham community by co-directing DukeEngage from 2007-19 and advised more than 15 community-minded student organizations over the years. His undergraduate course, the Durham Giving Project, has taught students about issues facing Durham and how they can play a role in social change.
Outside of Duke, Miglarese serves on boards of Student U, the Bennett Place Historical Site and the Miracle League of the Triangle. He’s also given his time and expertise to the Walltown Ministries and the Rotary Club of Durham, while serving as an associate pastor with Durham’s First Presbyterian Church.
“He has embodied Duke’s mission to ‘seek to engage the mind, elevate the spirit, and stimulate the best effort of all who are associated with the university; to contribute in diverse ways to the local community, the state, the nation and the world; and to attain and maintain a place of real leadership in all that we do,’” said Vice President for Durham and Community Affairs Stelfanie Williams.
This article has been edited and expanded from the original version, written by Stephen Schramm, appearing on the Duke University website.
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