Barnabas Gikonyo, director of introductory chemistry labs and lecturer at SUNY Geneseo, has received the prestigious 2023 Stanley C. Israel Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences from the American Chemical Society (ACS) Committee on Minority Affairs. The award recognizes individuals or institutions who have advanced diversity in the chemical sciences and significantly stimulated or fostered activities that promote inclusiveness within the region.
“Barnabas is highly deserving of the award, and it’s a fitting recognition for all his efforts in the last 15+ years,” says Jeffrey Peterson, associate professor and chair of chemistry. “His commitment is epitomized by his motto, ‘Stay happy. You have incredible value.’ He not only speaks this belief, he lives it as well, and I have observed first-hand the transformative power of this simple act, particularly for students from underrepresented groups.”
ACS, the largest international professional organization in its field, awards the honor to those who have created and fostered ongoing programs or activities that result in increased numbers of persons from diverse and underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, or women who participate in the chemical enterprise.
“Barnabas has worked with thousands of students in the classroom and hundreds in his research group,” says Peterson. “Approximately 50% of his research students are BIPOC students, five times greater than their departmental representation. Moreover, he mentors and advises students from underrepresented populations at a frequency approximately ten times higher than other chemistry faculty mentors.”
Gikonyo also participates in GROW STEM at Geneseo (a learning community program targeted to underrepresented students) and the chemistry department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. In concert with Geneseo’s AOP office, he developed a summer bridge course to prepare high school students for college-level work that has improved students’ performance and retention at the College in their first year. He has also helped develop a STEM summer camp for students from the Rochester City School District—89% of whom come from minority households—that improved student process skills and attitudes about STEM subjects.
“Barnabas takes the time and extra effort to reach out to underrepresented students of all kinds at our institution,” says Eric Helms, associate professor of chemistry. “He is active in research with a group that is mostly comprised of minority students, he’s a good instructor whom minority students seek out, and he delivers service to the College and greater community with a smile.”