Assistant Professor Nicole A. Cooke is the 2016 recipient of the Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award for Teaching and Mentoring in Diversity, given annually by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The award honors Dr. Larine Y. Cowan, past director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access. There are four award categories, including Advocacy for LGBTQ Affairs, Excellence in Access and Accommodations, Leadership in Diversity, and Teaching and Mentoring in Diversity. Cooke received the award at the University's 31st Annual Celebration of Diversity on November 11 in Champaign.
At the iSchool, Cooke has led the development of three graduate courses directly addressing diversity: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Information Professions (LIS 537), Social Justice in the Information Professions (LIS 545), and Information Services for Diverse Populations (LIS 547).
"I have had the pleasure of being a student in two of Dr. Cooke's classes: Information Services to Diverse Populations and Social Justice in the Information Professions," said doctoral student Cass Mabbott in the nomination materials. "I can easily say she has been one of the most influential professors I have ever had in all of my education. I believe this is because she has a gift for creating trust in the classroom, something that is much needed when discussing diversity and equity. From the first day of class, she presented and demonstrated the ground rules for respect. She allowed us to make mistakes, recover, and eventually, transform into more culturally fluent individuals."
Cooke recently collaborated with the School's student affairs staff to ensure the integration of cultural competency training for all new students. A member of the iSchool's Diversity Committee, she took the lead in organizing workshops for faculty and staff addressing racial microaggressions.
Cooke's publications in the areas of social justice and diversity includes articles in The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy; a chapter on "Reference Services for Diverse Populations" in the 5th edition of Reference and Information Services: An Introduction; and her book on Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals (2016). In addition she has co-edited the book Teaching for Justice: Implementing Social Justice in the LIS Classroom (forthcoming in 2017).
Cooke was named a "Mover & Shaker" by Library Journal in 2007 and was the 2016 recipient of the American Library Association's Equality Award. Her research and teaching interests include human information behavior, particularly in the online context; critical cultural information studies; and diversity and social justice in librarianship with an emphasis on infusing them into LIS education and pedagogy. She holds an MEd in adult education from Penn State, and a Master of Library Science and PhD in communication, information, and library studies from Rutgers University, where she was an ALASpectrum Doctoral Fellow. Cooke serves as a member of the Spectrum Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the American Library Association Committee on Diversity.
"Receiving this award is an overwhelming honor, and I'm so grateful that my work is being recognized," Cooke said. "Not only is my award named for an amazing scholar and activist, but I was nominated by Dr. Linda C. Smith, which is an honor in and of itself! I am very fortunate to teach these courses at the iSchool and I’ve been blessed with some amazing students who have helped me make them successful."