Eric Yoichi Shibuya, a graduate student in political science, is this year’s recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship. The award is given to a graduate student for outstanding achievement in academics and the advancement of minority education.
"Eric is not someone for whom diversity is a passing interest, but it is a life commitment," said Dimitris Stevis, associate professor of political science and advisor to Shibuya. "He loves life and people and is committed to broadening social and democratic rights."
"The award has a long history," said Rajinder Ranu, professor of molecular biology in the department of bioagriculture sciences and pest management and chair of the Minority Faculty and Staff Caucus. "The award was established in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the time, the faculty and staff of Colorado State wanted to create an award that would perpetuate Dr. King’s ideas and honor him for his contributions."
Over the years, the award, which was inspired by King’s philosophy of justice, peace and human dignity, had provided small supplemental and emergency grants to more than 70 graduate students. In 1996, an endowment fund was established and scholarship recipients now are fully supported for one year of graduate study, with a stipend of $9,000 and graduate school tuition for an entire academic year.
"Our goal now is the same as it was then – to create a society where diversity is celebrated and we all work for the common good," said Loren Crabtree, interim provost and founding member of the original award board of directors. "This cannot happen when we systematically exclude certain people from opportunities."
"The scholarship allows a lot of people to complete their degrees when they otherwise wouldn’t have," said Shibuya. "I’m thrilled that it is a scholarship, and it comes at the right time to help me finish my dissertation."
For his doctorate in political science, Shibuya is writing a dissertation on the South Pacific islands and global climate change. Shibuya has a master of arts in political science from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Hawaii. While working toward his doctorate at Colorado State, he has taught classes in international relations, comparative politics, world problems, ethnicity and Asian/American aesthetics.
"Eric is a person who is committed to both academics and the goals of a more open and diverse society," said Stevis. "He is friendly, creative and open to learning and teaching by example as well as in the classroom."
Shibuya’s favorite class to teach is an introduction to ethnicity. "I like what comes out of it," said Shibuya. "It’s where I make the largest contribution to minority studies."
He said that interaction with students is rewarding and enjoyable. "If more of my students leave feeling there has been some interaction, some growth, then I feel I’ve done something right."
Wayne Peak, associate professor of political science, described Shibuya’s instructional style as cheerful, hardworking, open and accessible. Peak pointed to the ways in which Shibuya has contributed to diversity education at Colorado State.
"He came here with a background of working effectively with diverse students at the University of Oklahoma," said Peak. "He participated in Colorado State’s Multicultural Diffusion Project and subsequently incorporated multiculturalism into courses where he served as a teaching assistant and then into courses in which he was the instructor."
Shibuya has been involved with both the political science department and the Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity. "Because I work in two departments, I can get two different perspectives and intellectual interaction," said Shibuya.
In addition to teaching, Shibuya has presented a number of conference papers and served on several university committees. His other interests and hobbies include juggling and photography.
Shibuya credited several people as mentors, including Stevis, CASAE Director Paul Wong, King and Mohammed Ali. He added that Karen, his wife of four months, is his biggest hero.
This year’s thirteen nominees excelled academically in their specialties and contributed actively to the education of individuals from diverse populations. In addition, the nominees were positive role models for diverse students on campus. Scholarship consideration was competitive and open to students of all ethnic backgrounds.
"With the establishment of the Martin Luther King Scholarship Endowment, Colorado State hopes to continue to inspire future leaders who serve as role models and present a unifying force in the United States," said Ranu.