Dang Yang Awarded for Advancing Social Justice

Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton and Caitlin Lee reflect on Yang’s contributions to campus as he moves on to new role at Marshfield Clinic

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May 11, 2022
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Photo by Elliot Adams

“What the campus community will miss from Dang is his willingness to speak truth to power,” Ducksworth-Lawton said.

Dang Yang, the former director of the Office for Multicultural Affairs at UW-Eau Claire, was awarded the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on February 2 virtually. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award is awarded annually to any UW-Eau Claire faculty member who has shown exceptional dedication to representing underrepresented groups and excels in the work of equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a UW-Eau Claire history professor and 2021 recipient of the award, spoke highly of Yang’s contributions to the campus. 

“He is exceptional in how he finds creative ways to bring people without a voice to the table,” Ducksworth-Lawton said. 

Caitlin Lee, an Equal Opportunity specialist at UW-Eau Claire, was described by Ducksworth-Lawton as Yang’s “partner-in-crime.” Lee reflected on her experiences working with Yang. 

“He’s one of the guys that if I want something done, I know I call him up because he’s going to be the one that’s either strategizing with me, co-chair with me or just really collaboratively work with each other,” Lee said. “We were able to find a really good rhythm in that.”

Yang said receiving the award was personally significant. He discussed that the planning committee for the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is already made up of several colleagues who work in the EDI field and are individuals who he respects immensely. 

“Being considered for this award, first and foremost, is a pleasure and privilege,” Yang said. “Being selected as a recipient though amongst my colleagues who already do this work on a day-to-day basis and are people who I very much look up to, it’s very exciting that that was the case.”

Lee discussed Yang’s ability to communicate and advocate for students at UW-Eau Claire. 

“He really listens …  he’s young enough that students can still identify with him in that way so they can feel that the struggle is more a collective struggle.”

Yang recently left his position as director of the OMA to transition into a new role as coordinator for Marshfield Clinic’s Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion department. Yang considered the opportunity to be a case of “right time and right place” as well as another opportunity to continue his work in equity, diversity and inclusion.

The position also attracted Yang due to recent familiarity in the issue of health inequity. 

“Over the last two years throughout the pandemic, in 2020 and 2021, because of all the inequitable outcomes and health outcomes that impacted communities of color in the Eau Claire community, I was heavily involved with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.”

This involvement led to the creation of an equitable health outcomes workgroup that Yang was involved in. 

“The goal of that work group was to disseminate accurate information to vulnerable populations that are oftentimes underrepresented,” Yang said. “It really was also to ensure that there were opportunities for vaccinations when the opportunity came up and that there was communication directed at that population with translation services.”

Yang’s work with the Eau Claire County Health Department inspired him to continue his work in battling health inequity in the Eau Claire community. 

“That was one of the immediate components in the community that I saw has a really big need. So when the opportunity came up when Marshfield opened up a new office of health equity, diversity and inclusion, I jumped at the opportunity.” 

Lee discussed the bittersweet moment when Yang announced his decision to leave UW-Eau Claire. 

“When his initial email came out an overwhelming sense of sadness washed over me because I think that the students are losing an incredible champion,” Lee said. “I think that Dang just has this real understanding, he’s not just an expert, but he’s an incredible practitioner in equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Ducksworth-Lawton also discussed what the university will be missing with Yang’s departure. 

“What the campus community will miss from Dang is his willingness to speak truth to power,” Ducksworth-Lawton said. “He has this incredible ability to be able to call people out when there are issues and do it at an individual level that’s respectful and brings meaningful change.”

While both Lee and Ducksworth-Lawton reflected on how Yang will be missed, Lee also discussed how excited she is to see what Yang can do for the Eau Claire community in his new role at Marshfield Clinic. 

“I’m really appreciative of the time I was able to spend working together and we’ll continue to do so even though he’s not at the university anymore, he’s part of the community,” Lee said. “We’ll continue to have opportunities to work with each other and collaborate.”

Adams can be reached at [email protected].