Members of CSE earn four MLK Spirit Awards

For “exemplifying the leadership and vision of Dr. King,” four CSE students and faculty were honored as part of U-M’s annual MLK symposium.

The MLK Spirit Awards are given annually to recognize members of U-M’s community “who exemplify the leadership and vision of Dr. King through their commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Recipients include students, student organizations, staff, and faculty members.

This year, three CSE undergraduate students and one faculty member were recognized with the honor.


Trevor Gullstad
Gullstad is a senior studying Data Science and Computer Science. He was formerly the President of Out in STEM. He now volunteers his time with The Coding School, a non-profit that provides programming education and mentorship to students from backgrounds underrepresented in the tech industry. After graduation, he will be working as an engineer at Salesforce in San Francisco.

“I am fortunate to have worked with many passionate students, faculty and staff members committed to making the College an inclusive place for all gender identities. It is heart-warming to see so many members of our community joining the effort by including their gender pronouns in their email signatures and class syllabi. I look forward to continuing to work on DEI projects in the future.”


Prof. Chad Jenkins
Jenkins strives to improve the state of diversity in computing and robotics with the goal of realizing excellence in scholarship and equal opportunity for all. For the past four years, he has led students from underrepresented backgrounds to participate in the Tapia Conference for the Celebration of Diversity in Computing. He is an active mentor of undergraduate projects, including hosting a large number of summer interns from diverse backgrounds (including from the U-M SROP program) and independent study projects. He also formally and informally provides advising, mentorship, and guidance to students from all walks of life. As the Robotics Institute’s Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs, he is leading our efforts to create an undergraduate curriculum that will be accessible to all students interested in Robotics, not just those privileged enough to be offered high school AP courses. He is the faculty advisor of the group Minoriteas in Computing, a weekly social to foster participation in computing by underrepresented minorities, and he served as Chair and a founding member of the University of Michigan College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Committee on Faculty of Color.

An excerpt from his nomination:

“If you want to call Professor Chad Jenkins a leading roboticist, you must also call him a leading roboticist who understands the great equalizing potential of robotics, a roboticist who integrates that belief into his cutting-edge research, outreach, and everyday faculty duties, and a roboticist who is determined to include others into his aspirational efforts. The Robotics Institute is grateful for Professor Jenkins’ leadership and the constant challenge to lead roboticists for good.”


Akira Nishii
Nishii is a senior in chemical engineering and cell and molecular biology, with a computer science minor. He is the founder of Perch, an organization dedicated to making research opportunities available for everyone. Perch has organized various initiatives that promote undergraduate research on- and off-campus, including offering for-credit University of Michigan courses taken by over 100 students every year, creating an annual university-wide research symposium attended by hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students, and developing an online research platform employed by over 16 universities across the nation.

“I’m very grateful for receiving this award because I think it shows the positive difference any student can make on the lives of others. In the future, I look forward to continuing to give back to my community as a practicing physician and an administrator in the healthcare industry.”


Casey Wong
Wong is a senior in CSE and currently serves as the President of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She is passionate about community outreach and continues to advocate for STEM education through her student organization involvement. In addition to working with K-12 students in the Greater Detroit area, Wong is also working towards helping students succeed at the university level by creating communities for students of all identities, including identities that are not visible.

“I am incredibly honored to receive the MLK Spirit Award alongside so many amazing students and faculty. I am a first-generation student, and SWE’s outreach programs were one of the main reasons I chose to pursue engineering. It means a lot to me that I can give back to the organization and the community. With this award, I hope to inspire others to engage with their community and have conversations about identity to enact social change.”