The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced the recipients of the second annual 2022 ACC UNITE Award, which was created to honor individuals affiliated with the league who have made an impact in the areas of racial and social justice. The UNITE Award is an initiative of the ACC's Committee for Racial and Social Justice (CORE - Champions of Racial Equity) and was developed and approved by its 15 member institutions. Mike Howard and Gracie Johnson were named Duke's winners.
Howard is the Managing Director of Recreation Facilities at Duke University and also serves as co-chair with Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator Heather Ryan on the Duke Athletics Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Advisory committee. In this capacity, Howard emulates a level of passion and commitment to creating a community for student-athletes and staff of color in the athletics department which is felt and witnessed by many. His leadership on this committee, as well as in the department, has been instrumental in Duke's efforts to create a safe and inclusive culture. For the last year and half, Howard worked tirelessly in co-leading and facilitating the development of the Duke Athletics DEIB Strategic Plan. He has been, and continues to be, intentionally interacting with numerous members of administration, staff and students in gathering input and having genuine conversations to capture feelings and insights.
This past semester, Howard served as a mentor to the student-athlete led United Black Athletes (UBA) organization. He also was one of the first staff members to participate in and help pilot the current partnership with "A Long Talk" anti-racism education program which engages both staff and students. Howard was also part of the ACC Selma Unity Trip last summer with two student-athletes – creating more relationships and shared experiences from which to build and expand educational and engagement initiatives related to social justice and racial equity. Howard is also Duke's representative on the ACC CORE committee.
The UNITE Award is presented annually to individuals who:
- Best exemplify ACC CORE's mission to promote and encourage racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement and advocacy
- Have helped create meaningful, lasting change by improving systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes
- Have been a pioneer and/or helped pave the way for minorities either at the institution or in the community
Each school selects its two recipients based on the above criteria and can choose to celebrate their selections at campus events throughout the academic year.
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