2020 Alumni Award Recipients in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Public Service

The Distinction for Public Service is awarded to alumni who promote the public good. Their involvement at the local, regional, state or national level shapes public practices. These alumni value diverse perspectives and work toward a more fair and just society.

Marcella Richardson Marcella Richardson

Master of Public Administration, August 20

Being a voice for the unheard

Marcella Richardson is nothing short of a superhero. Like Superman jumped tall buildings in a single bound, Marcella leaped from Highland Park, Michigan, to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The fuel that led her leap was the desire to help the countless unheard people she encountered throughout her service in Detroit, Michigan, and the skills she learned in her MPA program. Marcella uses her role as a staff member on Capitol Hill to improve the lives of people and society. As the director of operations for Senator Gary Peters, she manages many aspects of the senator's day-to-day activities, including the budget, policy and staffing. She loves to give interns a good experience because she remembers how her internship shaped her professional career

In addition to her job on Capitol Hill, Marcella is committed to helping young adults in her community thrive, and she's very passionate about empowering women. In 2016, she created MarcellaMonet.com: a blog to empower, inspire and encourage women to live their best life and walk in their purpose. She is also a mentor and speaker who returns to inner-city schools and churches to share the challenges and obstacles that she had to overcome and motivate young people to do the same.

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Professional Practice

The Distinction for Professional Practice is awarded to alumni who are highly skilled practitioners in their field. These are people who make a difference in the lives of people every day through a deep understanding of the human condition.

Eric Bartelink Eric Bartelink

Bachelor of Science, Anthropology and History, December 1995

Examining bones to tell the stories victims never shared

Virtually no one in the world is more qualified to identify human remains than CMU anthropology alumni Eric Bartelink. As co-director of the California State University, Chico, Human Identification Laboratory and the Stable Isotope Preparation Laboratory, he works at one of the world’s most renowned forensic labs. Working on large-scale investigations, such as mass grave excavations in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the United Nations ICTY forensic team (2000), the World Trade Center victim identification effort (2002-2003), and California Camp Fire (2018), Bartelink helped to provide answers about the identity and trauma of skeletal remains.

Bartelink takes great enthusiasm in sharing his knowledge. His research focuses on the analysis and interaction of diet, stress and skeletal health within prehistoric populations as studied through stable isotope analysis and paleopathological and nutritional stress indicators. He has served on many boards for anthropology, including as a past president of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. He is a board certified diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and a certified instructor for California’s Peace Officers Standards and Training.

Eric Bartelink uses his expertise to train future anthropologists as a professor of physical anthropology at California State University, Chico, and also publishes prolifically. His textbooks are used widely across the nation.

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Global Engagement

The Distinction for Global Engagement is awarded to alumni who make a positive impact with a global reach. Whether working domestically or abroad, these alumni have acquired the cultural proficiency and skills to improve the lives of people and communities all over the world.

Emily Rickert Emily Rickert

Master of Arts, Political Science, December 2011

Bachelor of Science, Comparative Politics and International Relations, Legal Studies Minor, August 2009

Empowerment – Meeting needs and making sure people know they matter

Emily Rickert’s accomplishments after receiving her degrees from CMU have been the embodiment of abundant compassion and inviolable perseverance. She is the founder of the Hope for Huruma Foundation, a nonprofit that feeds, clothes and educates 300 to 400 children at the Huruma Children’s Home in Ngong Hills, Kenya, and the co-founder of Lasting Smiles Uganda, a nonprofit that helps support and build facilities for approximately 500 children in Kyajja Village, Uganda. After beating breast cancer, she also took on the role of motivational speaker with the Susan G. Komen organization and the goal of helping everyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly young people, to find beauty in the battle and know that there is life after cancer. Currently, Rickert is focused on caring for her three children and serving her local community while remaining as an advisory board member for the aforementioned nonprofits and working on a children’s book inspired by the legacy of her mother.

Rickert feels that her time at CMU, and particularly her meaningful interactions with faculty, laid the groundwork for all of these things, leading her first to local government then to serving all around the world. “All of these smiling faces of these children are in large part due to what I gained at Central and what I gained in the political science department.”

Though her passion to serve cannot be contained to one area, her overarching goal is to let everyone — impoverished children to cancer patients and survivors to other stay-at-home moms — know that they matter, that they can follow their dreams and that they, too, can affect change.

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Scholarly Activity

The Distinction for Scholarly Activity is awarded to alumni who have contributed to our understanding of the human condition through their scholarly or creative endeavors. They are experts in their field and share their knowledge widely.

Cajetan Iheka Cajetan Iheka

Master of Arts, English Language and Literature, May 2011

Depicting the need for environmental policy change through African literature

One of the world’s prolific scholars in the area of African ecological literature honed his writing skills in CMU’s Master of Arts in English language and literature.

Cajetan Iheka’s research and teaching focus is on African and Caribbean literatures and film, postcolonial studies, ecocriticism, ecomedia and world literature. He is the author of Naturalizing Africa: Ecological Violence, Agency, and Postcolonial Resistance in African Literature (Cambridge UP 2018), winner of the 2019 Ecocriticism Book Award of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. He co-edited African Migration Narratives: Politics, Race, and Space (Rochester UP), and is currently working on two projects. The first is a book signaling the media turn in African ecocriticism with its focus on film, photography and other visual arts (under contract with Duke UP). He is also editing the MLA volume Teaching Postcolonial Environmental Literature and Media. His articles have appeared in refereed venues such as Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Environmental Ethics, Research in African Literatures, and the Oxford Handbook of Nigerian Politics.

His awards and fellowships include the Best Article Award of the African Literature Association, the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship, and the Andrew Mellon Research Fellowship from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin. He is one of the editors of African Studies Review, the multidisciplinary journal of the African Studies Association.

Dr. Iheka shares his expertise at conferences and invited talks around the world including presentations in the U.S., Nigeria and Germany. He is an associate professor at Yale University and continues to work toward environmental policy reform by raising awareness of the environmental degradation as depicted in African literature.