Jora Taylor, a Western Illinois University junior social work major from Monmouth, has been named the 2021 recipient of the Western Illinois University Martin Dupuis/Mukti Fund Award for Leadership.

The $1,400 award recognizes a student from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and allied communities who has provided leadership at WIU.

At WIU, Taylor is a social work program student representative, which requires attending weekly meetings to share the needs of students in Jora Taylor Wins Western Illinois University Dupuis/Mukti Leadership Awardthe program. In addition, as a representative, Taylor assists with the creation of student activities, including Zoom and other social media events, and with the social work major newsletter. She is also a member of the Centennial Honors College at WIU. In the community, Taylor has volunteered at Macomb’s Lincoln School’s PreK Family Fun Night. She was also a direct service provider for the Warren Achievement Center in Monmouth for two and a half years.

In Taylor’s essay, she wrote, “as a pansexual/demisexual adult, I help others struggling with identification changes through a social messaging application. As a social work student representative, my job is to help all social work students with any issues they may have and give suggestions or ideas to the social work board. I have helped a female student who identified with having a gender identity crisis when tasked with completing a practice social work forum which included stating a gender. This student didn’t know how to explain their situation when their gender identity was already assumed by the professor. I am an LGBTQ advocate.”

Debra Allwardt, associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Social Work and one of Taylor’s nominators for the award, said, “In the classroom, Jora is an excellent student. She leads her peers by example with simple actions, and she asks questions and contributes to the class dialog. Her leadership skills are evident to me in her work as a social work student representative. This is an elected position among social work students, and she was elected by her peers to represent junior and senior social work students. I noticed immediately she took her leadership role more seriously than many representatives in the past, particularly making herself visible to other students. Her work is consistently of a high standard and thoughtfully completed.”

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In 2004 the Mukti board of trustees voted to establish the Martin Dupuis Leadership Award in recognition of his service to the Mukti Fund and to acknowledge the value Western played in his professional life. The WIU Foundation received a gift of $70,000 from the Mukti Fund, a private grant-making foundation, to establish the annual $1,400 award.

In 1983 Dupuis, a recent Albion (MI) College graduate, and Albion professor Michael Dively, co-founded the Mukti Fund, which has been dedicated to expanding individual awareness and improving the quality of life through community projects. They chose the name mukti, which comes from Sanskrit and means liberation, said Dupuis, who has served as a trustee of the fund since its incorporation.

Dupuis (pronounced Doop wee) served as an associate professor of political science and associate director of Western’s Illinois Centennial Honors College from 1997 until June 2006, when he accepted a position as assistant dean at the Burnett Honors College at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
The selection of the Dupuis/Mukti Fund Award in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Communities is made by the University Committee on Sexual Orientation.

For more information, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access at (309) 298-1977.

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Jora Taylor Wins Western Illinois University Dupuis/Mukti Leadership Award
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.