UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Julio L. Palma, assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State Fayette, has been selected to receive the 2019 Dr. James Robinson Equal Opportunity Award.
The award, sponsored by the Penn State Alumni Association, was established in 1988 and renamed in 1998 to honor the late James Robinson, a distinguished alumnus and former member of the Alumni Council. It recognizes a full-time faculty or staff member with at least two years of active service who has promoted equal opportunity through affirmative action and/or contributes to enhancing the educational environment of the University through improving cross-cultural understanding.
Colleagues say Palma’s ability to balance his efforts to promote equal opportunity while effectively teaching and aggressively conducting research makes his accomplishments even more impressive.
Palma is committed to improving diversity while opening doors for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields in several ways.
He creates opportunities for underrepresented minorities to conduct undergraduate research, which has been shown to lead to more graduate level opportunities. He also takes a leadership role on campus, encouraging students, faculty and staff to have open and productive discussions about diversity and inclusion.
In 2017, Palma joined Fayette’s Coalition for Equality and offered a session at the “All In” diversity summit on campus. The following year, he organized a session on immigration for the summit and participated by sharing his own immigration experiences. Recently, Palma became a facilitator of the Global Engagement and Leadership Experience (GELE) program of Penn State, bringing together a diverse population of students to talk about cultural experiences. He also co-founded the Fayette Dialogue Group, a faculty organization focused on establishing productive conversations about issues the campus and community face.
Colleagues said Palma embraces his role as a mentor for women and minorities interested in STEM fields. Palma leads chemistry day at the campus’ summer STEM camp for high school students. He also participates and helps to organize the campus’ annual STEAM event that brings about 125 high school girls to campus to learn about STEAM fields. Additionally, six of Palma’s seven undergraduate researchers are women.
“Palma’s impact on the campus community has been truly profound,” a nominator said. “While Penn State certainly has many outstanding chemists who do an excellent job in the classroom, Julio’s myriad efforts to facilitate cross-cultural understanding, to model civil dialogue about and across differences, and to mentor a diverse group of future scientists distinguishes him from his peers.”